Leggett to enter county executive race
By Douglas Tallman
January 26, 2005
Former county councilman Isiah "Ike" Leggett announced
Tuesday that he will enter the 2006 county executive race,
setting up a heavyweight bout in the Democratic primary against
Councilman Steven A. Silverman.
Leggett, who was elected four times as the council's sole
African-American member before stepping down in 2002, focused on
his leadership and consensus-building skills as a tool to remedy
school overcrowding, traffic congestion, affordable housing and
"We are quite divided. We're talking around each other and
not to each other," Leggett told The Gazette in an interview.
The business community makes a proposal, generating
opposition from civic organizations. And the reverse is also
true, he said.
"As a result, we have not been able to put our arms around a
viable solution because there's so much distrust," he said.
He said he wants more collaboration "to preclude the fissures
from getting even deeper."
As proof, Leggett pointed to a list of supporters, including
former county executives -- and former political opponents --
Sidney Kramer and Neal Potter.
Another supporter is County Councilwoman Marilyn J. Praisner.
"We need Ike. He has the skills and capacity to bring people
together," Praisner (D-Dist. 4) of Calverton said. "He
understands fiscal challenges. He understands community needs,
and he knows how to work with everyone."
In his announcement, Leggett did not spell out a specific
agenda but said he would release "clear positions" soon.
With two-term councilman Silverman, 50, poised to enter the
race formally, Leggett, 59, faces an opponent who has worked on
the same set of issues.
"I welcome Ike Leggett to the race," said Silverman (D-At
large) of Silver Spring, who has been raising money for a 2006
run for executive. Candidates cannot file until July.
Silverman zeroed in on what has been a key difference between
the two men: the Intercounty Connector.
Silverman supports the controversial Gaithersburg-to-Laurel
highway. But as a councilman, Leggett shied away from voting on
the ICC because his Burtonsville home is near one of the
"I don't see the ICC as a big an issue at this point. The
decisions have already been made," Leggett said.
He said he would release "clear positions" later on a number
of issues, including the ICC. He did say that he opposes the
northern alignment, which would course the road through
His job as county executive would be to implement the master
plans, Leggett said.
Matthew A. Crenson, a political science professor at Johns
Hopkins University, said he is amazed that a county race is
generating so much interest with the primary 20 months away.
County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), who is in his third
term as executive, is almost certain to run for governor,
creating an opening in Rockville. Republican Robin Ficker has
declared his candidacy already.
"It's a case of musical chairs. A shift is coming, a
relatively rare opportunity for moving into a vacant seat in a
system where incumbents get re-elected. So they don't want to
miss an opportunity," Crenson said of Silverman and Leggett.
Silverman has $632,000 in his war chest so far. Leggett has
"We will have what we need. We will get the money we need,"
Leggett said he chose not to raise money for a political race
while he was chairman of the state Democratic Party, a two-year
tenure that ended last month, because he wanted to make a "clean
break" from his party job.
"There's no such thing as making a clean break," Crenson
said. "I think he needs to tell the Montgomery County voters
he's not going to use his influence as party chief as a resource
on his campaign."
Otherwise, Crenson said, Leggett will be able to use that
position to raise money.
"He knows where it is. He knows who has it. He knows where to
go," Crenson said.
Beyond money, another factor in the election could be race,
some observers said.
"The opportunity to elect Ike Leggett is one that definitely
will not go unnoticed by folks," Praisner said.
Ronald Walters, a professor at the University of Maryland's
Department of Government and Politics, said he believes race
would play a strong role.
"Ike was one of the persons on the council who recognized a
growing Hispanic population in the county. and he advocated for
their inclusion in the county and in Annapolis," Walters said.
The question becomes whether Leggett can convert that
advocacy into a base within the black and Hispanic communities.
Silverman, however, disagreed.
"I think the voters of Montgomery County are smart enough to
look at two candidates and look at their records. It will not be
about race," he said.