- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

A typical Martin O’Malley gubernatorial campaign event has him puffing out his chest, leaning forward on his toes and smiling widely as he proclaims another great day.

Most days are indeed good for Mr. O’Malley, Baltimore’s mayor, as he leads the Democratic primary race that also features Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, whose campaign stops are often less dramatic.

“It’s an honor to have your support and your backing,” Mr. Duncan recently told a small gathering in Largo that included 10 union leaders and two reporters, before his voice trailed off and he paused a full four seconds.

The two events highlight what is the biggest challenge for Mr. Duncan: Getting voters to see past Mr. O’Malley’s rock-star image to see the county executive’s solid record as a municipal manager.

State Sen. Gloria Lawlah, Prince George’s Democrat, called Mr. Duncan a “plodder” but said he was very capable of managing a big government.

“He’s just got to overcome the rock star,” she said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s County Democrat, described Mr. Duncan as a “big bear,” saying “he’s very gentle, kind and thoughtful, comes from a big, caring, Irish Catholic family. O’Malley is on the go. He’s energy. He’s got his sound bites in place.”

Another senator said his wife is like a lot of women who are “in love” with Mr. O’Malley.

“He comes out of the John Kennedy image,” said the senator, who asks not to be named. “He’s personable, good-looking, speaks well, sings well. He’s a Hollywood candidate.”

Political observers say Mr. Duncan will have to win about 70 percent of Montgomery County’s 517,145 votes to be competitive against incumbent Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican. But a poll released this week by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research showed him ahead by just 41 percent to 35 percent in the county.

In addition, Mr. Duncan’s war chest held just $1.4 million, compared with Mr. O’Malley’s $4.2 million at the last disclosure. And two Baltimore Sun polls last year showed Mr. O’Malley with a steady 20-point lead over Mr. Duncan.

Mr. Duncan’s opponents say U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a Democrat, has backed off in his support of Mr. Duncan.

But Mr. Wynn dismissed that idea.

“I think some people were thinking that Doug might come out of the race in January,” he said. “That hasn’t happened. I think Doug is picking up a lot of momentum. We’re getting stronger. We’re certainly not thinking about getting out.”

Mr. Duncan has stepped up his attacks on Mr. O’Malley’s performance as mayor, even saying he thinks the mayor has lied about the rate by which his administration has reduced violent crime in the city.

Mr. O’Malley has spent more time defending the statistics and the city’s underachieving school system while Mr. Duncan continues to make education the centerpiece of his campaign.

“You just keep plugging away every day, and at the time when voters engage, you’re in a good position,” Mr. Duncan said. “I’m the underdog, and I understand that. This is nothing new for me.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide