County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) on Tuesday said he will run for re-election in the June 2014 Primary, setting up a showdown between the two men who have held Montgomery’s top political position for the past 19 years.
Among Leggett’s Democratic opponents will be Doug Duncan, who served three terms as county executive from 1994 to 2006 and who has said he’ll be seeking his old job.
Leggett, who won a second term in 2010, had said he would not seek a third term and had come to an understanding with his wife. But that position gradually changed over the last year. By Tuesday, when Leggett announced his plans in an email to supporters, it was widely assumed he would run again.
He told the Washington Post his wife, “sort of embraced the idea of unfinished business.”
It’s an idea that will likely play a large role in his campaign. Leggett has repeatedly said he took over a county where spending had increased too much in Duncan’s last term — by an average of more than 10 percent every year.
He’s also attempted to distinguish the fiscal situation Duncan left from the Great Recession, likening it to a one-two punch that led to lay-offs of county employees, furloughs and pay freezes.
“There were longstanding deficiencies in county finances, years of living beyond our means even during the good times,” Leggett said in February during his State of the County address.
Now, it appears Leggett wants a chance to run county government under improving economic conditions.
“You’ve made all these tough decisions,” Leggett told The Gazette. “You’ve made progress under unprecedented circumstances. Why would you leave at this point?”
County Councilmember Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg) is also running. He’s the only candidate registered and has been knocking on doors for at least the last few months. Andrews and Leggett were at odds on the employee raise deal Leggett struck with county employee unions.
A number of other councilmembers (George Leventhal, Valerie Ervin and Marc Elrich) have been rumored to be seeking the county executive seat.
Leggett’s official announcement certainly could affect those plans and it sets up a heavyweight fight with Duncan a year out from the election.
Leggett’s full announcement is after the jump.
Dear Montgomery Friends & Neighbors,
Eight years ago I asked for your trust, confidence, and support for my candidacy for Montgomery County Executive. Thanks to you and thousands of other friends and neighbors throughout the County, it has been my honor and privilege to serve you.
I am exceedingly proud of all we have done together during the most challenging of economic conditions; I also am well aware that much still remains to be accomplished.
During the past eighteen months, many of you have asked me to seek another term as County Executive. I have come to the conclusion that, in fact, I do want to continue to provide my voice and leadership as we move forward together. Therefore, I will be a candidate in the 2014 election for Montgomery County Executive.
When I assumed office in 2007, I said I wanted to make a good County even better by keeping what worked and fixing what was broken. Although we faced many challenges and worked on a host of important issues, three challenges especially stood out: 1) Putting the County’s fiscal house back in order, 2) Leading our County during a transition of enormous change in demographics, resources and technology, and 3) Building the foundation for future and expanded job growth.
In the four years prior to my assuming office, County government spending had increased by 42 percent – an average of more than 10 percent every year. Clearly, that was not sustainable. Almost immediately thereafter, the “Great Recession” reduced County resources at a time when we had increased demands from those most in need.
I had to make many tough decisions.
Spanning a seven year period, we closed more than $2.7 billion in budget shortfalls. In the first five years of my administration, County government spending went up zero percent – that’s right, no increase at all, while inflation increased 8 percent and our population increased by 6 percent during that same period.
Unfortunately, dedicated and skilled County employees were laid-off, furloughed, and received no raises. I recommended and implemented a ten percent reduction in the County’s workforce, and made changes in employee health and retirement benefits. These measures that I initiated saved the County more than half a billion dollars during four years – with ongoing savings of tens of millions of dollars in every year going forward.