Teachers' endorsement falls short

Duncan, O'Malley fail to secure needed votes to gain gubernatorial support from union


Maryland's main teachers union fell short yesterday of endorsing either Democratic candidate for governor, a decision that could hurt Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

To win the endorsement of the Maryland State Teachers Association, candidates must receive 58 percent of the votes cast by the group's representative assembly. About 400 members of the assembly met in Columbia yesterday but were unable to deliver the endorsement to Mayor Martin O'Malley or Duncan, whose county's teachers make up a large percentage of the group.

Duncan campaign manager Scott Arceneaux said Duncan received 55 percent of the vote, a percentage that he said was a victory for the Montgomery executive.

Unable to reach the 58 percent mark, the group instead decided that it would wait to see which Democratic candidate, Duncan or O'Malley, wins the Sept. 12 primary. The union will then endorse the winner in the Nov. 7 general election against Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"Today's vote proves that Maryland teachers understand that, as governor, Martin O'Malley will work in partnership with them to ensure [full state funding], to improve public education, to improve teacher pensions, and to provide teachers with the resources they need," O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said.

Duncan said he was encouraged and humbled by the show of support the organization gave his campaign.

"I have fought alongside Maryland's teachers and education support professionals for more than a decade to ensure that every child, regardless of where they live, receives a quality education," Duncan said in a statement. "Today's strong vote is validation of my commitment to putting education first."

O'Malley campaign officials and some political observers believe that the vote of no endorsement is a victory for O'Malley because Baltimore teachers are not members of the statewide union. The mayor's opponents have also attempted to pin the city school system's woes on him, and Duncan has made education his campaign's top priority.

"We've had a tough challenge to turn around a school system that was 30 years in decline," O'Malley said yesterday. "That was impressive to members [of the organization] even though there weren't any city teachers in the union."

The organization, which represents 64,000 teachers throughout Maryland, did reach a consensus on candidates running for other state offices.

The other endorsements were:

Del. Peter Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat, for state comptroller.

Montgomery County Councilman Thomas F. Perez for attorney general.

Kweisi Mfume for U.S. Senate. Mfume's endorsement still must be ratified by the group's national affiliate, a union spokesman said.


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