County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) on Tuesday said he will run for re-election in the June 2014 Primary, setting up a showdown between the two men who have held Montgomery’s top political position for the past 19 years.
Among Leggett’s Democratic opponents will be Doug Duncan, who served three terms as county executive from 1994 to 2006 and who has said he’ll be seeking his old job.
Leggett, who won a second term in 2010, had said he would not seek a third term and had come to an understanding with his wife. But that position gradually changed over the last year. By Tuesday, when Leggett announced his plans in an email to supporters, it was widely assumed he would run again.
He told the Washington Post his wife, “sort of embraced the idea of unfinished business.”
It’s an idea that will likely play a large role in his campaign. Leggett has repeatedly said he took over a county where spending had increased too much in Duncan’s last term — by an average of more than 10 percent every year.
He’s also attempted to distinguish the fiscal situation Duncan left from the Great Recession, likening it to a one-two punch that led to lay-offs of county employees, furloughs and pay freezes.
“There were longstanding deficiencies in county finances, years of living beyond our means even during the good times,” Leggett said in February during his State of the County address.
Now, it appears Leggett wants a chance to run county government under improving economic conditions.
“You’ve made all these tough decisions,” Leggett told The Gazette. “You’ve made progress under unprecedented circumstances. Why would you leave at this point?”
County Councilmember Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg) is also running. He’s the only candidate registered and has been knocking on doors for at least the last few months. Andrews and Leggett were at odds on the employee raise deal Leggett struck with county employee unions.
A number of other councilmembers (George Leventhal, Valerie Ervin and Marc Elrich) have been rumored to be seeking the county executive seat.
Leggett’s official announcement certainly could affect those plans and it sets up a heavyweight fight with Duncan a year out from the election.
Leggett’s full announcement is after the jump.
Dear Montgomery Friends & Neighbors,
Eight years ago I asked for your trust, confidence, and support for my candidacy for Montgomery County Executive. Thanks to you and thousands of other friends and neighbors throughout the County, it has been my honor and privilege to serve you.
I am exceedingly proud of all we have done together during the most challenging of economic conditions; I also am well aware that much still remains to be accomplished.
During the past eighteen months, many of you have asked me to seek another term as County Executive. I have come to the conclusion that, in fact, I do want to continue to provide my voice and leadership as we move forward together. Therefore, I will be a candidate in the 2014 election for Montgomery County Executive.
When I assumed office in 2007, I said I wanted to make a good County even better by keeping what worked and fixing what was broken. Although we faced many challenges and worked on a host of important issues, three challenges especially stood out: 1) Putting the County’s fiscal house back in order, 2) Leading our County during a transition of enormous change in demographics, resources and technology, and 3) Building the foundation for future and expanded job growth.
In the four years prior to my assuming office, County government spending had increased by 42 percent – an average of more than 10 percent every year. Clearly, that was not sustainable. Almost immediately thereafter, the “Great Recession” reduced County resources at a time when we had increased demands from those most in need.
I had to make many tough decisions.
Spanning a seven year period, we closed more than $2.7 billion in budget shortfalls. In the first five years of my administration, County government spending went up zero percent – that’s right, no increase at all, while inflation increased 8 percent and our population increased by 6 percent during that same period.
Unfortunately, dedicated and skilled County employees were laid-off, furloughed, and received no raises. I recommended and implemented a ten percent reduction in the County’s workforce, and made changes in employee health and retirement benefits. These measures that I initiated saved the County more than half a billion dollars during four years – with ongoing savings of tens of millions of dollars in every year going forward.
These were difficult decisions, but necessary and right for our County’s future. Thus, we were able to maintain our coveted Triple-A bond rating and now our financial reserves are at the highest level in the County’s history.
Seven years ago, I said that Montgomery County had to make the “change” we were experiencing work for us. During my administration our welcoming attitude has made us a “talent magnet” for New Americans from around the world. Without their grit and ambition, genius and hard work, our County today would be incomplete.
It was my strong belief that we needed to balance our priorities carefully. The most important investment we make is in our nearly 150,000 public school students. Even during our most challenging fiscal years I strongly supported the needs of the Montgomery County Public Schools. I also continued to provide additional assistance for the most vulnerable in our midst. We created and preserved more than 8,000 affordable housing units and aggressively fought to prevent housing foreclosures, counseling more than 13,000 residents.
During the period of economic downturn, our economic strategy centered on retaining existing County companies, supporting small businesses, and attracting new jobs and businesses throughout the country and around the world – all the while laying the foundation for the County to emerge ever stronger from the recession.
Building on our leading edge of biotechnology and life sciences, I established a major public-private partnership called BioHealth Innovation to accelerate biotech transfer and research commercialization. Montgomery County adopted the first local biotech tax credit in the nation – to encourage investment in local companies.
The County is making visionary investments in creating the jobs of tomorrow. The Great Seneca Science Corridor, the White Oak Science Gateway, and the White Flint plans combined will help create 100,000 new jobs in Montgomery County. In addition, my Smart Growth Initiative is further enhancing growth and expansion of the County’s biotechnology sector, while replacing obsolete County facilities and developing thousands of new transit-oriented housing units near the Shady Grove Metro.
We’ve retained thousands of jobs in federal facilities, such as the federal Health & Human Services Department at Parklawn and NOAA in Silver Spring. Nearly 40 percent of eligible County contracts go to local small businesses. I have doubled the investments in my new “Small Business Plus” initiative that allocates millions of County dollars to community banks to help boost their local small business lending. My “Open for Business” initiative is cutting through red tape and eliminating up to a year off the time required to complete projects that will strengthen our County’s tax base and create jobs.
We have come a long way under difficult economic circumstances but much remains to be done.
During these difficult lean years, we have better positioned our County to provide even stronger job growth. It is critical that we keep this progress on track and not lose momentum.
I worked intensely with our state delegation, the Governor, and other elected officials to secure much needed transportation funding for our County. I played a crucial role in the recent legislation that will provide the State with an additional 4.4 billion dollars for transportation. This translates into an unprecedented amount of dedicated funding for Montgomery County to invest in new transit and roads that will help alleviate our traffic congestion and support future economic growth.
We also see our investments in public safety coming to fruition. Since I assumed office, crime in the County is down 18 percent and serious crime is down nearly 25 percent. I am in the second year of my three-year initiative to increase our Police by nearly 150 positions. Despite fiscal constraints, we already have built four new fire stations in seven years with a fifth well on the way. County fire deaths dropped from 13 in 2009 to 2 in 2012. Response times are improving and our families and our property are safer. These are significant achievements; however, I want us to do even better.
My Positive Youth Development initiative gives at-risk young people after-school alternatives to joining gang activities. Gang-related incidents dropped by almost 50 percent over the past four years. I want to build on this success and extend this initiative to more schools.
We have made significant progress despite severe economic challenges. But we must continue the momentum and move forward together. This is why I am asking you to join me in my campaign for reelection as County Executive.
I believe that I am in the best position to continue the work I have begun to keep this County’s fiscal house in order, further promote job growth, protect public safety, improve the quality of our great schools, make the county a more “welcoming” community, enhance our environment, and build an even better future for our children and grandchildren.
It would be an honor and a privilege for me to continue to serve as County Executive of Montgomery County. I thank you in advance for your support.
P.S. Please find a few of the highlights of my accomplishments in a copy of my recent “State of the County” speech. Click on http://www.ikeleggett.org/initiatives.html
P.S.S. Feel free to forward this letter to friends, neighbors, and co-workers.