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County Executive Candidate Supports ‘Balanced Growth’
    Montgomery County Gazette
    Published: Nov. 16, 2005
Current & Former Councilmembers, Former County Execs to Step Forward to Support Leggett
Press Release
    Released: Nov. 8, 2005
Anticipating Emergencies
     Article: See 'Press Releases'
Published here: Sept 22, 2005


Leggett to enter county executive race

By Douglas Tallman
Staff Writer
The Gazette
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 growth.

"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 proposed routes.

"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 Spencerville.

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 nothing.

"We will have what we need. We will get the money we need," he said.

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.


  Authorized by Friends of Ike Leggett: Lawrence N. Rosenblum, Treasurer
  Copyright © 2005