Thursday, December 6, 2012

Can Doug Duncan Really Make a Comeback for Montgomery County Executive? Politicos, Pundits & Residents Weigh In

ROUND-UP OF COMMENTARY ON DOUG DUNCAN'S ATTEMPTED RETURN TO POLITICS - Last week former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan announced he would be running to reclaim his old job in 2014. It's been six years since his three-term reign as MoCo Exec from 1994-2006, but many residents still seem to harbor strong feelings about Duncan. Though some think he would enter a 2014 Democratic Primary in a strong position, many others are already scoffing at the idea. Some newspaper articles covering the Duncan campaign have generated dozens of comments from readers, and the pundit-class is beginning to weigh in on the development.

MOCO POLITICOS WEIGH IN: Below we highlight a worthwhile new op-ed about Duncan from a MoCo politico, along with thoughts grabbed from ordinary readers at news sites. But first, Maryland Juice asked a small group of political observers to anonymously weigh in and provide their first-blush assessment of Duncan's chances. These folks are no fools, and here's what a few of them had to say. Note that it also appears that Ike Leggett's inability to make a decision on whether or not to retire is creating incentives for politicos to debate and point out his flaws:
SOURCE #1: Doug will have to reintroduce himself to a very different Montgomery County electorate and build bona fides on issues like the Purple Line, but a lot of unlikely people are interested in his candidacy. Unlike many members of the Council, he's got political backbone and cares about more in politics than media coverage. And unlike Ike, he's an effective executive - Ike's great but at heart he's a legislator and not an executive.

SOURCE #2: A complete step backward, bordering on ridiculous. He engages in serial job hunting.

SOURCE #3: In the past I supported Doug and I still appreciate his vision, strength and executive style while in office.  However, I don't see his current passion about returning to office.  It seems more about knocking off Ike Leggett.
SOURCE #4: I want a County Exec who wants the job, not one that needs the job. A paycheck is never a good reason to run for office.

ARE DOUG DUNCAN & IKE LEGGETT OUT OF STEP WITH TODAY'S MOCO? - Maryland Juice and the site's sources are not the only ones questioning the viability of a Duncan comeback. Dan Reed, a young Montgomery County blogger, posted a pretty thorough review of the issue at the Greater Greater Washington blog a couple days ago. Reed titled his piece "Montgomery County has changed. Has Doug Duncan?". In particular, Reed fleshes out new issue dynamics in Montgomery County and points to evidence that both Duncan (and incumbent executive Ike Leggett) may be out-of-step with today's voters. He highlights the two politicians' recent opposition to the Purple Line and advocacy for a MoCo youth curfew as examples (excerpt below):
DAN REED (VIA GREATER GREATER WASHINGTON): While [Doug Duncan] presided over 12 years of prosperity and growth, it's worth asking whether he's prepared to guide a county that looks quite different than it did just a few years ago....

More important is the possibility that Duncan, who pushed for growth in the county but staunchly opposed the Purple Line between Bethesda and Silver Spring, is no longer in tune with what Montgomery voters want.

As this shift occurs, the old guard of anti-growth civic leaders are gradually being replaced by a new, diverse group of young adults and families, minorities and immigrants, that somewhat resembles the "coalition of the ascendant" that reelected President Obama. These groups are generally open to growth, especially if it provides much-needed jobs, affordable housing or other amenities....

As a result, the pro-growth and no-growth coalitions are becoming more dynamic. In 1994, Duncan earned the support of Montgomery's business community by supporting the Intercounty Connector, which would support development on the fringes of the county, while opposing the Purple Line between Bethesda and Silver Spring, which he called "spending millions to go nowhere." He continued to fight the Purple Line as an administrator at the University of Maryland.

But today, it enjoys strong support from nearly all of the county's elected officials and a cross-section of business, environmental and civic groups, who all agree that the project can support a new generation of infill development, reduce traffic and pollution, and revitalize older neighborhoods....

At the same time, Leggett's administration has often held the county back, suggesting that an old-school Montgomery politician can only bend so far. He tried to strip funding for the Purple Line from this year's budget and spent most of 2011 promoting an controversial and ineffective youth curfew....

DOUG DUNCAN'S COMEBACK ATTEMPT GENERATES VIGOROUS DEBATE ONLINE - Maryland Juice was intrigued to see that news of Duncan's comeback was generating vigorous debate among readers at various news sites. Some of the negative comments can likely be attributed to the fact that the County Exec race is already heading up, and at least some politicos and residents may have favorites in the race. But my suspicion is that most residents do not fall in that category. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that Duncan could survive decades in political office without having made numerous enemies along the way or producing voter-fatigue. The reader comments seem to verify that possibility, as numerous people mentioning this-or-that land-use project that they opposed, but Duncan supported. Check out a random smathering of reader comments from The Washington Post & articles discussing Duncan's comeback attempt:
  1. Great. Duncan is the reason we don't have a Wegmans in Bethesda. He was protecting Giant's labor unions.
  2. And he's why the jail is in Boyds, moving the undesibable county stuff out of his neighborhood and into ours, where there are fewer votes. And personally, I wouldn't miss Wegman's if it weren't going in to Germantown. I was a member of the UFCW (back when it was called the RCIA), BTW so I appreciate any protection we workers can get; sorry we have to have the Dunk to get it.
  3. I'm a Republican and will vote for Duncan, again. He's the most capable county executive in my 50 years in the county..
  4. ...well we will just have to beat the dirty republican stooge in the primary. he sold us out to the developers once and should not be allowed to have a second chance...
  5. I think without Doug Duncan there would be no Downtown Silver Spring as we know it today. That is a good enough reason to consider him again.
  6. Doug Duncan would not have allowed Burtonsville to be ruined by the no growth crowd. Just look at Burtonsville, and then compare it to Maple Lawn in Howard County. Something is very wrong with the Montgomery County side of Rt 29
  7. He is running because he needs a job. He is the one that gave everything to unions and developers. How did he do in the poll against Leggett? Probably 60% (Leggett) to 40% (Doug) just like Silverman.
  8. This is the best thing to happen for Wheaton in a long, long time. It's good to see some hope for unseating Leggett.
  9. "Leggett, who repeatedly has said he wanted to leave after this term, is weighing another run.In an interview Wednesday, he said he plans to meet with supporters next year to announce his decision." Ike still has supporters??? 
  10. The reason DD is running is because he couldn't hold a job elsewhere, including a cushy job and the U of M. He's shiftless and a has been. He offers nothing new. People remember him fondly because he spent a lot of money at a time when there was money to spend. He's so yesterday. Happy times won't return with him in charge. Just heavy handedness.
  11. Gawd awful manager in-the-pocket of developers. Stay retired, for the sake of all of us..
  12. Oh yuk...another bureaucrat who cant get a job. Has NO private sector experience and no sense of how to move an economy forward. Highly respected? And he resigned for what reason....short memories!
  13. NO NO NO! Twelve years was more than enough. During his terms, the state and county used 80 million public bucks to build Strathmore Concert Hallo for Duncan's friend Eliott Pfanstiehl (that's right, only 20 mill from the Potomac/business crowd); put the Conference Center in the wrong place on Rockville Pike (wouldn't Silver Spring been better?; but he owed something to the Marriotts; approved the Transit Hub in SS that is still not finished even though he's been out of office 6 years (thin concrete notwithstanding) that will cost 60-80 million in public dollars for a glorified bus shed; and picked his own developer for redeveloping downtown Silver Spring (Foulger Pratt), who are total novices in urban development and design, but have been contracted to do lots of other SS development, including the "bus shed." The "new" Downtown Silver Spring was supposed to be the key to the castle that would get him to Annapolis. Instead we have Discovery Communications, which is an overstuffed building sitting on a too-small site. The company supports Silver Docs, but exactly what else does the global media company do for the locals. All of the "fields of dreams" in Silver Spring have amounted mostly to national second-tier chains and restaurants that you could find out in any large strip mall, plus City Place which most people are afraid to go into. Duncan does not give a hoot about growing local and small business; and exactly what is he doing now that would qualify him to make another run? He was forced to leave UMD after just seven months into a plum assignment (have we forgotten that?). Plus he is thin-skinned and cannot take criticism. 

I think all of this goes to show that there could well be an enthusiasm gap between Duncan boosters and haters. Moreover, though some longer-term MoCo voters are familiar with Duncan, not all have fond memories. We shall see where this all goes soon!

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