Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said Tuesday he will seek re-election in 2014, arguing that he was best equipped to continue the progress the county has made in recovering from the recession.
The past few years had required many tough choices, including layoffs, furloughs and pay-freezes for county employees, Leggett said in an interview. But the savings had helped maintain the county’s triple-A bond rating and its financial reserves were now the highest in the county’s history, he said.
Leggett also wants to continue work in areas that had to be “set aside” so the county could put its fiscal house in order, including affordable housing and transit projects, which needed a recently-enacted infusion of state funding.
“You’ve made all these tough decisions,” Leggett said. “You’ve made progress under unprecedented circumstances. Why would you leave at this point?”
Leggett had previously said he planned to serve only two terms.
In a letter to supporters announcing his re-election bid, Leggett touted the closure of more than $2.7 billion in budget shortfalls over seven years and economic development projects such the Great Seneca Science Corridor, the White Oak Science Gateway, and the White Flint area, which he said will help create 100,000 new jobs in the county.
He said he made his final decision about seeking another term Sunday, when his wife gave him her approval.
Leggett, 67, served on the County Council from 1986 to 2002 and has been county executive since 2006. He ran unopposed in the 2010 primary, and won 65.6 percent of the vote in the general election. If re-elected, he’ll be 73 when his next term ends.
In the coming primary, he’ll face challengers including former County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), who announced his candidacy in November.
Leggett said he’s not really focused on who else is running.
“I simply look at what it is that I’m capable of doing, and why I think the case should be made as it relates to me. That’s the decision the voters will make,” he said.
A race between Leggett and Duncan is likely to be “very heated, very contentious,” former County Councilwoman Gail Ewing said.
Each candidate brings his own style and personality to the table, she said. Leggett focuses on working with his fellow officials and the public, “trying to make people as happy as he can while still getting his agenda through.”
Duncan operates more like a CEO in a private company, sticking to his vision and plans because that’s why he was elected, she said.
County Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, is the only candidate to file with the county’s board of elections. Councilmembers George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) of Takoma Park, Marc Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park and Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring are also considering running for the office, as is Republican attorney James Shalleck.
Former Councilman Michael J. Knapp told The Gazette on Tuesday he was watching the field of candidates closely and had not ruled out a run for the executive seat.
Since he’d only made the decision run a few days ago, Leggett said he didn’t have a campaign apparatus in place. But the team would likely be people from outside of his current county staff, he said.
He also downplayed the recent controversy over the stalled $120 million Silver Spring Transit Center project, the opening of which has been delayed for nearly two years since cracks were found in the structure and disparities found in the thickness of the concrete.
Leggett said the project may be a “slight bump” in the campaign, but that it was his decision not to accept the project in its current condition and seek more thorough evaluations.
“If I had to do it again, I’m going to err on the side of safety,” he said. “If it needed to be delayed to get it right, that’s the decision I’m going to make.”