- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2006

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan’s gubernatorial campaign has gained significant momentum in the past month that he needs to sustain through the September primary.

“The earth’s shaking,” Stuart O. Simms, Mr. Duncan’s running mate, said Friday at an event in Laurel where seven local unions endorsed the Duncan ticket.

Mr. Duncan called the endorsements “a reflection behind the momentum of our campaign.”

His opponents say his momentum is temporary.

“I really think he’s a sinking ship right now,” said District Heights Mayor James L. Walls Jr., who is also president of the Maryland Black Caucus.

Mr. Walls supported Mr. Duncan last summer but shifted his allegiance in late August to Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, the Democratic front-runner.

Mr. Duncan has lagged Mr. O’Malley in polls and fundraising from the beginning.

In mid-April, a poll from Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies showed Mr. Duncan nine percentage points behind Mr. O’Malley. The poll showed that 44 percent of voters supported Mr. O’Malley and 35 percent backed Mr. Duncan.

Duncan campaign staffers hailed the poll because it showed they had cut Mr. O’Malley’s lead in half, from about 20 points to single digits.

A few days later, Progressive Maryland, one of the state’s most active and liberal grass-roots lobbying and political-action groups, endorsed Mr. Duncan.

Part of the reason for the endorsement was that Mr. O’Malley would not complete a questionnaire as requested by Progressive Maryland.

Earlier this month, Mr. Duncan aired his first TV ad in the Baltimore market. The 30-second spot uses life-size cutouts representing Mr. O’Malley and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to criticize them both. Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, is running for re-election.

The campaign prolonged press coverage of Mr. Duncan’s choice for a running mate by leaking Mr. Simms’ name early this month and waiting a week to make the formal announcement.

Mr. Simms, a former state corrections chief and former Baltimore City state’s attorney with strong roots in Mr. O’Malley’s home turf, drew large and enthusiastic crowds in Baltimore and Prince George’s County when he announced his candidacy.

Mr. O’Malley has largely ignored Mr. Duncan’s attacks on Baltimore’s problems with crime and public schools, and has campaigned as if he were running only against Mr. Ehrlich.

Mr. Duncan, who has pushed for debates with Mr. O’Malley, thinks his recent momentum is making O’Malley staffers “reassess their campaign.”

A source close to Mr. O’Malley’s campaign dismissed the assessment.

“If you want to talk about a desperate, flailing campaign, it’s them,” the source said. “They want to present the picture that the momentum has shifted [and] it is just not true.”

The source called Mr. Duncan’s TV ads “Hail Mary attempts from his own 30-yard line” and said Mr. Duncan is spending too much of his money too early in the campaign.

O’Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese cited the mayor’s own union endorsements, including one from the AFL-CIO.

He said Mr. O’Malley and his running mate, Delegate Anthony G. Brown, Prince George’s Democrat, are “running a positive campaign on the issues that affect Maryland families.”

“They enjoy strong support throughout our state, and retain a significant cash advantage over Doug Duncan,” Mr. Abbruzzese said.

Campaign finance reports at the end of last year show that Mr. O’Malley raised $4.3 million and had $4.2 million on hand, while Mr. Duncan raised $1.3 million and had $1.4 million on hand. Mr. Ehrlich last year raised $4.9 million and had $8.4 million on hand, campaign finance reports state.

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