Duncan opens campaign with shots at main rivals

Gubernatorial hopeful criticizes records of O'Malley and Ehrlich


ROCKVILLE -- Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan launched his campaign for governor here yesterday, taking shots at Mayor Martin O'Malley, the city of Baltimore and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and promising, if elected, to put the public interest above political squabbles.

"Everyone wants an end to the political gamesmanship, partisanship and uncontrolled egos that we've suffered through over the past few years," said Duncan, a Democrat. "They want their leaders to think bigger."

During his speech, Duncan, 49, called for making college tuition affordable to anyone who wants an education and for more parental involvement in the classroom. He also took to task both O'Malley, a Democrat who announced his candidacy for governor last month, and Ehrlich for not doing enough to support schools.

"I look at our governor, and I see a single-minded focus on slots, and I see public policy that is best described as public relations," said Duncan, who has served three terms as county executive and was previously the mayor of Rockville.

Duncan offered thinly-veiled criticism of O'Malley's leadership in Baltimore.

"We won't move forward as a state while our largest city continues to lag behind, particularly in its schools," Duncan said. "We won't move forward as a state while our largest city continues to shrink or while neighborhoods there continue to struggle. ... Those who suggest that discussing the problem is a disservice to Baltimore are the ones selling short the city and selling short the people who live there."

Without mentioning the mayor, Duncan blasted O'Malley's "Believe" slogan, a mantra for the city.

"Rhetoric is not a plan," Duncan said. "Optimism alone is not a strategy. And you have to do much more than just believe things will turn out OK."

O'Malley response

O'Malley's campaign responded by saying Duncan misrepresented the mayor's record in Baltimore.

"Doug Duncan is running behind in his campaign for governor, and today he used his announcement to continue his misleading, negative attacks on Baltimore and Martin O'Malley," said Jonathan Epstein, the mayor's campaign manager. "That's not thinking big. It's just a big disappointment for the common-sense voters of Maryland who are tired of these typical negative attacks."

Duncan was flanked by his wife, Barbara, and three of their five children, his mother and a few dozen members of his extended family at the festivities here in front of his childhood home. The event, attended by about 300 people, was the first of the day's stops. Duncan also spoke in Prince George's County, Annapolis and Baltimore, where he received rousing endorsements from former mayors Kurt L. Schmoke and William Donald Schaefer.

In Rockville, people held signs that said "Duncan = integrity" and "Duncan for Maryland." The candidate choked up when he spoke of his father, a career civil servant who died a few years ago. He thanked his mother, a lifelong Democratic activist and campaign worker, who inspired him to take an interest in public service.

"I'll be honest, I do have some pretty big ambitions," Duncan said. "But they're not for me, they're for the people of our great state."

"I'm not interested in being seen as a national leader," he said, "I want our state to be a national leader. I'm not interested in being on stage, I want to put our state on the national stage."

During the Baltimore event, Schmoke told about 100 people at Union Baptist Church on Druid Hill Avenue that he was going to do everything he can to help Duncan succeed. He promised to raise money for him and to tell voters "what's really going on in Baltimore City" under O'Malley's leadership.

"I'm not only going to endorse Doug Duncan, but I'm going to work for Doug Duncan," he said, his remarks punctuated by a big "amen" from the crowd.

Schaefer made clear his affection for Duncan, who sought his advice when he was first elected to office in Montgomery County.

"Will he be a good governor? Yes," Schaefer said. "Why will he be a good governor? Leadership, honesty, integrity and ability."

In addition to Schmoke's support, Duncan also scored an endorsement from Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Montgomery County Democrat. Van Hollen was scheduled to attend the Rockville announcement, according to Duncan's campaign, but had to attend a vote in Congress.

Scholarship plan

In his speeches, Duncan called for a Free State Scholarship program for needy students. Duncan promised to present soon a detailed education plan that would make a commitment to providing a college education to every student who wants one.

He also emphasized the need to increase parental involvement in schools and promised to give preference for all state contracts to businesses that allow their employees to spend time volunteering in schools.

"If you're going to do business in Maryland, you must share our priority and make your own investment in our future," he said.

Other supporters who joined Duncan during the day included Rep. Albert R. Wynn, state Sen. Gwendolyn T. Britt of Prince George's County, members of the Montgomery County Council and a number of spiritual leaders. A prayer was offered at the start of each rally, except in Annapolis.

Duncan embarked yesterday on a five-day tour of each of the state's counties and Baltimore in a recreational vehicle.


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