Politics Magazine

11.29.12 He’s Baaaack!

Posted on the 29 November 2012 by Keith Berner @leftyview

The Washington Post reports today that Montgomery County’s own Prince of Darkness, Doug Duncan, is in the 2014 contest for county executive.

For those of you with short memories, this is the guy who set out to pave the entire county, while funneling megabucks to his wealthy pals in the development industry. This is the guy who put together the infamous “End Gridlock” county council slate in the 2002 primary with the goal of spending millions to smear the reputations of the  small number of decent, incorruptible human beings in the race (Blair Ewing, Marc Elrich [D-At Large]) who were running. Duncan and his bad guys (including Steve Silverman and Nancy Floreen [D-At Large]) won. The result: a full-fledged assault on quality of life in the county and – in a demonstration of the Orwellian nature of the slate’s name – massive increases in gridlock throughout the county, as development outpaced infrastructure. (Gridlock was not only on the roads, but also in the schools, as classes had to be held in temporary structures, when local populations grew faster than school construction.)

The Post reports that Duncan’s recent job hopping has included a stint with Foulger-Pratt (FP), one of the county’s most rapacious development firms. Here in small-town Takoma Park, we had our own experience with FP in the early ’00s, when they tried to shoehorn a giant commercial development onto the Washington Adventist Hospital’s (WAH) tiny campus and declared the plan immutable, given their nonnegotiable “right” to an 11% return. Community opposition drove FP (and Ken Bauer, WAH’s then-president and FP lapdog) away with their tails between their legs.

The post also tells us that Silverman and Floreen — two politicos who see a potential parking lot in every green space — are also considering running. The depth of Floreen’s anti-environmental ethos is demonstrated by her outspoken opposition to a bag tax, even after all her council colleagues abandoned that indefensible position. She just couldn’t stand the cost to her buddies in chemical industry who make the bags. As for Silverman, he is downright amusing when he is confronted by mirrors that show his real character: he snarls like a rabid dog. (Yes, I was the mirror and experienced this personally.)

Leventhal is also considering a run. Though I have been his vocal opponent in the past, I have come to respect George. Even when I disagree with him, I find him thoughtful and willing to engage. He is also the most responsive of the at-large councilmembers when it comes to constituent service, engaging personally and directly. And the man has a true concern about diversity and for the disadvantaged. For the first time, I would be prepared to endorse George were he to run for his seat again. But I will not be able to do so if he runs for exec, because he remains too developer-friendly for my taste.

The Post and Maryland Juice also say that Valerie Ervin is considering a run. (See the photos on Juice.) Let’s be clear about Valerie. She only ran for the seat in 2006 because she was unemployed and couldn’t think of anything better to do. She pretended to be a progressive and then, once elected, turned her considerable venom on the progressive community. Yes, folks: she loathes environmentally friendly, slow-growth, progressives. I have heard her off the record comments about us. I have also been told by progressives who have met with her about her contempt: “Why should I care what you think? You don’t vote for me.”

Ike Leggett, meanwhile, is on and off and on and off and on again about running to retain his current seat as county executive. I have no respect for Ike. He is not as beholden to developers, per se, as most of the others. But he is totally committed to helping the ultra wealthy get wealthier. He, Duncan, Silverman, and Floreen are the epitome of the Maryland Democrats: so pro-corporate and pro-wealthy that — if they weren’t pro-choice (I assume) — they would be Republicans. In a race of Leggett vs. Duncan, I would have to vote for Leggett.

There is one good guy in the race so far: Phil Andrews (of District 1). As I have written before, he is a man is great integrity and beholden neither to developers, nor the public-employee unions. With the certain opposition of those groups to his candidacy and a small base in District 1, I wonder if his quest is quixotic. But if the line-up ends up as the Post is describing it, I will back Phil with enthusiasm.

So, is there a reasonable hope for someone like Phil? Could be. Consider  how a race that includes Duncan, Ervin, Floreen, Leventhal, and Silverman would split the I-love-concrete crowd’s votes. (Again, I see possibilities for George to separate himself from that pack based on his concern about the poor and Ervin could stand out with an appeal to people of color; though, Leggett’s entry would neutralize that possibility.) As for Will-He-or-Won’t-He Leggett, he could be the main alternative to that collective group or he could end up being lumped with them as monied-establishment and simply split the vote further. If the latter happens, there could be a route for a true progressive to sneak by.

One fascinating thing to watch will be the Post. A majority of its “coverage” of MoCo is on its hyper-pro-development-and-anti-union editorial page. Will the Post go gaga for Duncan, as it has in the past? If so, will it make any effort to hide its cheerleading? How much will its editorial views impact its (rare) reporting on the county, as has been so common in the past? Or will the Post stick with Leggett, as the proven shill-for-the-powerful who doesn’t carry Duncan’s baggage? One thing’s for sure, the Post will not back Phil Andrews or Marc Elrich (should he decide to run) — they have too much personal integrity for our hometown rag.

©2012 Keith Berner

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