Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Montgomery County 2014 Exec Race Hurtles Forward: Leggett Awakens, Leventhal Unnerved, Ervin Hit Piece, Duncan Schwag

The June 2014 Democratic Primary races in Maryland are still over a year away, but Montgomery County's 2014 Executive race is now hurtling forward. This past weekend, MoCo Dems gathered at their annual Spring fundraising brunch, but it appears that this event may have also marked the official beginning of a potentially epic battle for MoCo's top spot:

MoCo Dems Gather for the 2013 MCDCC Spring Ball. Facebook Photo Hijacked From: Chris Bradbury.

JUICE #1: DOUG DUNCAN UNVEILS COUNTY EXECUTIVE SCHWAG - Several weeks ago, reporters on the Maryland politics beat were wondering whether former MoCo Executive Doug Duncan would make good on previously announced plans to try and reclaim his old job in 2014. Attendees at this weekend's Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee brunch were privy to yet another piece of evidence that Duncan might actually be serious about running next year. Maryland Juice reader Abe Saffer Tweeted us the following photo of a Doug Duncan for County Executive bumper sticker that he picked up at the event:

JUICE #2: VALERIE ERVIN ATTACKED BY ANONYMOUS WEBSITE - Someone in the MoCo political arena appears to be threatened by Valerie Ervin's interest in the County Executive office. At the start of the MCDCC brunch, Maryland Juice and numerous other politicos received a trio of text messages from phone number (240) 257-6660 stating: "Juice, see the truth about Valerie Ervin. Read http://valunmasked.com now. MontCo Dems-enjoy today's brunch." The message directs its recipients to an anonymous hit-piece at the website: www.valerie-ervin-unmasked.com. The author of the site makes a litany of allegations about Ervin, for example, attempting to tie her to the rightwing Koch Brothers and questioning a prior stint working for Rep. Donna Edwards.

ERVIN SUPPORTERS LAUNCH PETITION CONDEMNING ANONYMOUS ATTACKS - Though the anonymous website attacking Valerie Ervin purports to highlight disagreements with Ervin on issues, some of the characterizations are over-the-top, while others amount to innuendo. Whatever policy disagreements one might have with Valerie Ervin, it is difficult to claim that the former labor organizer is a Koch brothers acolyte. As a result, some of Ervin's friends and allies are jumping to her defense. Councilmember Nancy Navarro, for example, released a public petition defending her colleague at http://tinyurl.com/IStandWithValerie:

I Stand With Valerie

Dear Friends – 
Like many of you, I was angry when I received an anonymous attack on my friend Councilwoman Valerie Ervin before today’s Montgomery County Democratic brunch. Many of you told me that you deleted the message right away when you realized it was an ugly attack on Valerie. But I read the whole thing – and I am really angry about these lies.

This outrageous attack is an attack on me too. I stood with Valerie on the budget and on the SNAP the Silence Challenge – I stand with her everyday to move our county forward. As women of color, we want to make Montgomery County a better place to live and work for our whole community. It is outrageous to think that we are doing the bidding of right wing extremists like ALEC or the Koch brothers. I could laugh about it if I weren’t so outraged.

We will not let cowards tell lies about our friend Valerie. Join me and sign this petition to show your support for Valerie. She stands up for us every day and it’s time for us to stand up for her.


Nancy Navarro

Montgomery Council President

Meanwhile, as MoCo politicos found out about the new website, many criticized the anonymous attacks on social networks. On her Facebook page, Ervin wrote:
VALERIE ERVIN: I am moved to have a friend like Nancy Navarro. Thanks to everybody for inspiring me to keep going. Shirley Chisholm put it best when she said, "There is little place in the political scheme of things for an independent, creative personality, for a fighter. Anyone who takes that role must pay a price...."

ERVIN SEEKING LEGAL REPRESENTATION TO FIGHT ANONYMOUS WEBSITE - Maryland Juice asked Councilmember Ervin about her response to the anonymous attacks, and she responded that she is currently seeking legal representation to fight back against the assault. Interesting. If this thing ends up in discovery or in some sort of FCC complaint, there exists a chance that the website operators themselves may be unmasked. We'll have to see where this all goes!

JUICE #3: INCUMBENT COUNTY EXEC IKE LEGGETT AWAKENS & DELAYS DECISION ON RE-ELECTION UNTIL APRIL JUNE - Incumbent MoCo Exec Ike Leggett previously declared he was retiring at the end of his term in 2014. But since then he's walked away from that decision and has stated he's undecided about whether to seek a third term. A couple weeks ago, Leggett clarified that he would make a decision after the current state legislative session, which is slated to end in April. In the comments section to this post, however, Councilmember Nancy Floreen points out that the County budget won't be worked out until May -- meaning, Leggett may not be making a decision until June! See an excerpt from The Gazette's coverage below:
GAZETTE: Announcing his personal political plans now, in the midst of budget preparations, labor negotiations and lobbying efforts in Annapolis would be selfish, Leggett said.
When the General Assembly wraps, the county budget is approved and he finally has time to sit down with groups asking for his time, Leggett said then he will make a decision about the upcoming executive race....

LEGGETT'S STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS: BUILDING A LEGACY OR BUILDING A CASE FOR RE-ELECTION? -  It seems extremely unclear if Leggett is actually going to run for re-election in 2014, but one political observer read some meaning into the fact that Leggett concocted a "State of the County" address this year and started summing up his accomplishments -- something he apparently hasn't done in prior years.

Now some would be quick to claim that these actions are evidence that Ike Leggett has awakened to run for re-election. But Maryland Juice would suggest that the evidence could also point to exactly the opposite conclusion. After all, a County Executive attempting to cultivate a legacy and sense of accomplishment might behave similarly. Either way, we will hopefully have an answer from Mr. Leggett in a few weeks months. You can read Ike Leggett's full "State of the County" address or watch it on video below:

JUICE #4: COUNCILMEMBER GEORGE LEVENTHAL SUSPICIOUS OF LEGGETT'S RECENT MOVES - County Executive Ike Leggett's "will he, won't he" drama is apparently unnerving Councilmember George Leventhal. The At-Large MoCo Councilmember has previously stated he would be running for County Executive in 2014, but he was apparently basing that decision on Leggett's previous announcement that he would retire from office. Now that Leggett has deferred deciding on re-election, Leventhal is crying foul and claiming that stalling is a strategy that enhances Leggett's incumbent advantage.  The Gazette's Kate Alexander published commentary from Leventhal about this theory (excerpt below):
GAZETTE: County Executive Isiah Leggett might be waiting to declare his intentions for 2014, but one man mulling a run for Leggett’s job says the two-term executive appears to be setting up the ideal plot to win.... “I think Ike has laid out the best possible scenario for winning,” Councilman George L. Leventhal said of the 2014 executive race.

The number of council members potentially running and Leggett’s campaign account work to the executive’s favor, Leventhal said.... Leggett is sitting on the biggest pot of money, about $420,000, and if he runs, will have an incumbent’s edge....

Leventhal said he was previously under the impression from Leggett that the executive was not running for re-election, an assertion Leventhal now doubts.... “It’s all highly favorable for Ike,” Leventhal said. “I think voters deserve a choice but it doesn’t look like they are going to get it....”

The Gazette's report noted that when asked about Leventhal's theories, Leggett provided a pretty amusing response (excerpt below):
GAZETTE: Leggett, who last year said he would not run for a third term, likened the whole idea to the grassy knoll theory in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “That’s weird stuff,” Leggett said.


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