- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley are distinguishing themselves as gubernatorial contenders in their ongoing brouhaha over transportation.

Although neither official has said he will seek the Democratic nomination in 2006, both have begun to offer remarks on state spending priorities, most notably road construction and mass transit.

Last week, Mr. Duncan said Mr. O’Malley is trying to “hurt” Washington-area residents by opposing the Intercounty Connector (ICC).

“His plan is to take money from our part of the state,” Mr. Duncan said, referring to Mr. O’Malley’s comments about the ICC during a transportation meeting in September. “He is not looking to help us; he is looking to hurt us. This is someone who is talking about running statewide but decides to attack the Washington region.”

Mr. Duncan said the mayor wants state money earmarked for a regional rail system and a magnetic levitation (maglev) train linking Baltimore and the District.

Mr. O’Malley has declined to comment. But during September’s transportation meeting, he assailed Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for funding the ICC, saying it came at the expense of Baltimore residents.

“We cannot allow transportation policy to drift in a piecemeal and politically motivated manner,” Mr. O’Malley told the panel, as reported by the Baltimore Sun.

The ICC, which has been studied for 40 years and is scheduled for construction in 2006, would link Interstate 270 in Montgomery County and Interstate 95 in Prince George’s County.

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan has said the Ehrlich administration has made it clear that the state would make building the ICC a priority before committing funds to other projects in Baltimore or elsewhere.

He said it is up to the federal government to fund the projects in Baltimore.

“The governor took a hard look at the maglev proposal, and he listened to Mayor O’Malley, who begged us to keep the maglev in our federal reauthorization bill,” Mr. Flanagan said. “For him to now complain that we don’t have any state funding for maglev is a 180-degree change.”

“This is a very important project,” Mr. Duncan added. “This not just a transportation project, it is an economic-development project.

“My difference with the governor is that this is not the only transportation project. We need to finance projects in an awful lot of other areas as well.”

The ICC debate has allowed Mr. Duncan and Mr. O’Malley to challenge Maryland’s first Republican governor in more than 30 years and to foray into state politics — an adventure that has hurt Baltimore’s mayor, says Republican strategist Kevin Igoe.

“I think he made a very significant mistake coming out against the ICC,” Mr. Igoe said. “Because it made him sound parochial and divisive, and the ICC has strong bipartisan support in Montgomery County.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Ehrlich, who has been enjoying approval ratings in the low to mid-60s, has said it is too early to comment on rivals.

“It is obviously a good place to be,” he said of his ratings, “and a lot better than we were on Election Day.”

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