Center Maryland Exclusive — Josh Kurtz: Duncan Moving Closer to Comeback Bid

By Josh Kurtz

Former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan (D) is taking another step toward making a political comeback in 2014.

In an email obtained by Center Maryland, Duncan, who served as county executive from 1994 to 2006, is asking his “closest supporters” to attend a late November breakfast briefing at a Gaithersburg hotel to assess whether he should move forward. Duncan’s longtime pollster, Harrison Hickman, is scheduled be on hand to discuss results of a poll he conducted for Duncan earlier this year.

The email, in which Duncan says he is “giving serious thought to running for Montgomery County Executive in 2014,” is dated Oct. 31 and serves as a followup to calls he is making to former donors and supporters.

A Duncan comeback bid has the potential to roil the Montgomery County political world, where several ambitious Democrats are already lining up to replace the current county executive, Ike Leggett (D), who is expected to retire in two years, though there are no term limits for Montgomery executives. Leggett has served two terms in the top job in Rockville — in addition to 16 years on the County Council and a two-year stint at the helm of the Maryland Democratic Party.

Duncan, according to multiple sources, has been touting the Hickman poll for several weeks, which shows him well ahead of several potential opponents. But at this early stage, that poll may be an indication of Duncan’s high name recognition compared to other possible candidates as much as it is a measure of true support.

Whether or not Duncan would start the race as the frontrunner, his candidacy would probably alter the complexion of the field. A Duncan bid would probably freeze out state Del. Ben Kramer, who is already taking steps to run, Steve Silverman, the county’s economic development director and a former councilman, who is also pondering a bid, and former Councilman Mike Knapp, who is frequently mentioned as a candidate for executive. Some rumors have suggested that Leggett might even decide to seek a third term if Duncan runs, but that is by no means clear.

Other potential candidates may be less inclined to step aside for Duncan. That list includes County Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Marc Elrich, Valerie Ervin and George Leventhal, along with Del. Heather Mizeur, who is currently preparing to run for governor but could drop back to the Montgomery race if her statewide bid doesn’t gain sufficient traction.

After pulling out of the 2006 gubernatorial primary, citing a bout of clinical depression, Duncan largely faded from the political scene. But he’s been far more visible in the past year or so, serving as the chairman of a regional transportation group and taking an active role in the upstart congressional bid of John Delaney, who is poised to oust Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) next week.

“I am interested in getting back involved,” Duncan told Center Maryland in an interview earlier this year. “What that means – I don’t know yet.”

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at joshkurtz92@gmail.com.

Recent Center Maryland columns by Josh Kurtz:

A Perfect (Political) Storm Hits Prince George’s

Sail Away

Nov. 6 Could Spell Trouble for Top Maryland Dems

Louie Louie

After the Blue Wave Crashes

The Impossible DREAM?

I’m Ready for My Close-up, Mr. DeMille

A Conversation with Ken Ulman

The Future Is Now?