As Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) seeks re-election in 2014, he’ll likely have the support of many lawmakers from the county who say he’s done an admirable job leading during the recent economic downturn.
“It’s going to be hard for the challengers to make a case for defeating him,” said Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Dist. 14) of Burtonsville, who praised Leggett’s work balancing the county budget and advocating for additional state transportation funding.
All of the candidates who declared that they’re seeking the position — the others are county Councilman Phil Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg and former County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who held the office from 1994 to 2006 — are “pretty solid people,” Luedtke said.
Luedtke is one of several lawmakers who said they expect to support Leggett.
Others, such as Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Derwood, said it’s too early in the campaign, and they haven’t committed to any candidate, but they also praised Leggett’s record. Both he and Duncan have done well in leading the county at different times, Kaiser said.
Leggett announced his re-election bid Tuesday, arguing that he was best equipped to continue the progress the county has made in recovering from the recession.
The past few years 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 previously said he planned to serve only two terms. He said he made his final decision about seeking another term Sunday, when his wife gave him her approval.
Andrews told The Gazette that the county has unfinished business, but Leggett, who has had seven years to address those issues, isn’t the one to should finish it.
Leggett has not been an advocate for the county in Annapolis and was unable to secure a fair share for the county of its own tax dollars, Andrews said.
Leggett also committed the county to pay raises for employees that will prove untenable in future years, he said.
Duncan said in a statement that he anticipates a vigorous, constructive debate with Leggett and the other canidates in the year preceding the 2014 primary.
Campaign finance reports filed in January showed Leggett with $418,815 in the bank, having received no contributions in 2012.
Andrews had $53,256 on hand after receiving $47,859 in contributions last year.
Duncan had $243,314 in the bank after receiving $10,000 in donations during that time.
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.
Andrews was the only candidate to officially have filed for the race as of Thursday afternoon.
Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park and Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring also have been considering running for the office, as has Republican attorney James Shalleck.
Councilman George L. Leventhal was considering running for executive but said Wednesday it’s “highly likely” he now will run for re-election to a fourth term in his at-large council seat.
“I think Ike Leggett is going to be re-elected,” Leventhal said Wednesday.
State Del. Benjamin F. Kramer — whose father, Sidney Kramer, served as executive in the late 1980s — also said he will not challenge Leggett for the job.
Kramer (D-Dist. 19) of Derwood said in November he was mulling an executive bid, but he would wait for Leggett to announce his plans.
Now that Leggett is in, Kramer said he is out and most likely will seek re-election to his Maryland House of Delegates seat.
Former Councilman Michael J. Knapp told The Gazette he was watching the field of candidates closely and had not ruled out a run for the executive seat.
Previously, Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park would only say she was running for some elected office in 2014.
She said Thursday she will seek re-election to the county council.
Leggett 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 might be a “slight bump” in the campaign, but 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.”
Staff writers Kevin James Shay and Kate S. Alexander contributed to this report email@example.com