- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008

Former Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan will make his first political appearance next month since abruptly dropping out of the 2006 governor’s race.

Mr. Duncan, a Democrat, will discuss national politics and the presidential campaign with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Republican incumbent who lost to Democrat Martin O’Malley two years ago.

His appearance at the event, a dinner sponsored by the Hagerstown Chamber of Commerce, brings Mr. Duncan back into politics. But he has downplayed its significance.

“I’m very happy where I am,” said Mr. Duncan, now a University of Maryland administrator. “This job is similar to what I’ve done in Montgomery County, except I don’t deal with the press as much, and I usually have weekends free.”

Mr. Duncan, 52, also plans to talk about the country’s economic problems and offer analysis on the campaigns of presidential nominees Sens. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, and John McCain, Arizona Republican.

“This economy is not looking good; the housing market is bad; I think were going to start to see a lot more layoffs of people in some ways,” he said in an interview Thursday with The Washington Times. “It’s similar to the early ‘90s.”

Mr. Duncan, a three-term Montgomery County executive at the time he was running for governor in 2006, abruptly quit the campaign after announcing he was struggling with depression.

Since then, Mr. Duncan has kept a much lower public profile, working at the university as the vice president of academic affairs and speaking occasionally to classes. He is teaching a class at the university next month on presidential politics.

His work at the school has included the planning and development of the new east campus of the state’s flagship university and guiding redevelopment plans along Route 1.

Mr. Duncan has not said whether he plans to run for office again, though former staffers said he would succeed again in Maryland politics if he decided to take another shot.

“I think Doug definitely has a political future if he wants to pursue it,” said Scott Arceneaux, Mr. Duncan’s former campaign manager. “He was always connecting with voters; he was great on the campaign trail.”

Mr. Arceneaux - who is now advising Maryland United Against Slots, a group fighting the ballot referendum that would legalize 15,000 slot machines in Maryland - said Duncan staffers were torn about how to help their boss after he quit the gubernatorial race.

“Battling depression makes it very hard to campaign,” Mr. Arceneaux said. “From the perspective of those who were working with him, it was hard. We could tell he was suffering, but we didn’t know how to help or what to do.”

Mr. Duncan said Mr. Obama will have to control the message of change to win in November.

“If Obama’s message of change sticks, and he’s able to maintain that, then I think that is going to bode very well for him,” he said. “It’s going to be an interesting challenge to see who can adopt the mantle of change.”

Mr. Duncan also cautioned that it won’t be enough for Democrats to run against President Bush’s record and the country’s economic problems.

“You’ve got to show a vision,” he said. “Yes, you can contrast, but you can’t get away with saying, ‘He’s bad, I’m good.’ You have to say what you’re going to do.”

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