- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2005

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan used his announcement yesterday for a run for Maryland governor to say he will focus on education to come from behind in the polls and win the Democratic nomination.

“Schools are the key,” said Mr. Duncan, standing outside the home on Van Fleet Court in Rockville in which his parents raised him and 12 siblings. “If you have good schools, good jobs will come.”

Mr. Duncan vowed to improve public schools in every part of the state. But he directed much of his criticism toward the Baltimore city system, which nearly went bankrupt two years ago under the watch of Mayor Martin O’Malley, the Democratic front-runner in the governor’s race.

“We won’t move forward as a state while our largest city continues to lag behind, particularly in its schools,” said Mr. Duncan, adding that Baltimore neighborhoods are struggling “even as the downtown improves.”

He said the success of Montgomery County schools and the amount of resources the county devotes to the system helps prove his commitment to education. The county dedicated about 53 percent of its $3.5 billion budget this year, or $1.7 billion, to public schools.

Mr. Duncan said his plan to overhaul education includes helping working-class teenagers attend college and creating a public-private partnership to foster more parental involvement.

Mr. Duncan, 49, told the about 400 supporters who gathered for the announcement that he is confident about overcoming Mr. O’Malley’s 20-point lead in polls.

“Every political office I’ve run for I’ve been told I cannot win,” he said. “I haven’t lost yet.”

Mr. O’Malley’s campaign manager Jonathan Epstein said the speech “felt like it was a real attack on the city of Baltimore.”

“Doug Duncan is running behind in his campaign, and today he used his announcement to continue his misleading, negative attacks,” he said.

Mr. Duncan also took aim at attempts by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, to legalize slot-machine gambling.

“We don’t have to settle for slots and squabbling,” Mr. Duncan said. “We can have a world-class school system and a world-class economy, if we’re willing to think bigger.”

Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell declined to comment on the speech but said the governor “welcomes Doug Duncan to the race.”

Mr. Duncan was accompanied by many of his brothers and sisters, their families and his 79-year-old mother, Ellie, whom he walked to the stage, then eased into his seat.

The understated entrance underscored Mr. Duncan’s efforts to portray himself as a man of humble roots.

He also emphasized his religious faith, a strategy many Democrats have said they will employ after the 2004 election showed Republicans won the “values voters.”

“My faith is a very important part of who I am,” said Mr. Duncan, a Roman Catholic who attended Mass before the rally.

After starting his day in the Twinbrook neighborhood, Mr. Duncan made stops in Prince George’s County and Baltimore before ending the day in Annapolis.

The Democratic primary is set for Sept. 12, but Maryland Democrats want to move the date to June to give their gubernatorial and U.S. senatorial candidates enough time to recover from the anticipated, hard-fought races.

The measure would have to receive enough votes in the state legislature to overcome a veto by Mr. Ehrlich, which appears unlikely.

State Delegates Richard S. Madaleno Jr. and Ana Sol Gutierrez, Montgomery Democrats, and state Sen. Robert Garagiola, Montgomery Democrat, attended the rally, as did all five members of the County Council who formed Mr. Duncan’s “End Gridlock” slate in 2002.

Among the council members was at-large Democrat Steven Silverman, who hopes to replace Mr. Duncan. Mr. Silverman’s opponent in the primary, Ike Leggett, a County Council member from 1986 to 2002, attended the rally.

Mr. Duncan also has endorsements from two former Baltimore mayors: State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Kurt Schmoke, dean of the law school at Howard University in the District.

Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Schmoke appeared with Mr. Duncan at his stop in Baltimore. Mr. Schmoke said he will help raise money for the Duncan campaign.

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