- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, in a close race for governor, knows he must work hard to win votes in the primarily black Democratic stronghold of Prince George’s County.

So yesterday morning he showed up early to a Black History Month celebration in Greenbelt and planted himself by the door to shake hands.

“Is there anybody here whose hand he did not shake?” Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, who hosted the breakfast, asked to the crowd of more than 400 people.

“Doug Duncan was the first one here this morning,” said Mr. Hoyer, the House minority whip and a Maryland Democrat. “Doug is working hard.”

Mr. Hoyer has endorsed neither Mr. Duncan nor Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley in their race against incumbent Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

A Hoyer spokesman said Mr. O’Malley did not attend because only elected officials from the congressman’s district were invited.

Mr. Duncan took advantage of the breakfast to continue his attack on Mr. O’Malley for apparently falsifying reports on how he reduced crime in the city.

“What do people want in Prince George’s County?” Mr. Duncan asked. “They want better schools and less crime. The mayor has been absent on those issues. Now we’re hearing that the mayor is cooking the numbers on crime.”

Mr. Duncan is trailing Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Ehrlich in fundraising and in some opinion polls.

According to campaign finance reports, Mr. O’Malley last year raised $4.3 million and has $4.2 million on hand, while Mr. Duncan last year raised $1.3 million and has $1.4 million on hand.

Mr. Ehrlich last year raised $4.9 million and has $8.4 million on hand, campaign finance reports state.

“I’ve never been the front-runner, … but I’ve never lost an election,” Mr. Duncan said. “I work harder, I get more volunteers and I do much better grass-roots. And that’s how I’m successful.”

Prince George’s County is indeed rich with votes for Democrats. It has the third-highest number of registered voters in the state and the most registered Democrats, according to the state board of elections. And 63 percent of the county’s 842,967 residents are black, according to U.S. Census figures.

Many at the breakfast were still undecided about picking a candidate.

“Doug has had a relationship with Prince George’s for a long time,” said Hubert “Petey” Green, president of Prince George’s Black Chamber of Commerce. “People genuinely respect him and like him. They like his leadership. They see him as a friend.”

However, Mr. Green acknowledged voting for Mr. Ehrlich in 2002, largely because of Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is black.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a 10-term Democratic congressman who is running for U.S. Senate to replace retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, also attended the breakfast.

Mr. Hoyer is a friend and strong supporter of Mr. Cardin, who is facing several challengers in the Sept. 12 primary. The winner will likely face Mr. Steele, who has the support of state and national Republicans.

Mr. Steele was not invited to the breakfast.

Mr. Cardin’s strongest challenger, Kweisi Mfume, former chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was invited because he is a past speaker at the breakfast, Mr. Hoyer’s office said. Mr. Mfume’s spokesman did not return a phone call.

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