Incumbent Ike Leggett, District 3 Councilmember Phil Andrews and former County Executive Doug Duncan

With Election Year 2014 less than four months away, the three Democratic candidates for county executive are ramping up their campaign organizations, as the process yields insights into the strategies they may pursue and some of the key advisers and operatives on whom they will rely.

Incumbent Ike Leggett, who announced his bid for a third term in mid-June,  is aiming to hire a campaign manager by early fall, and current District 3 Councilmember Phil Andrews – who has been in the county executive race since late 2012 – also plans to bring on a manager in the coming weeks. The other candidate, former County Executive Doug Duncan, has had a campaign manager in place for the past three months: Kurt Staiger, who served as deputy campaign manager in 2012 for now-U.S. Rep. John Delaney.

Duncan, who endorsed and actively campaigned for Delaney after contemplating a run for the congressional seat himself, has repeatedly pointed to Delaney’s campaign  – which won an upset victory in the primary and ousted an incumbent in the general election – as a model for his 2014 effort.

“We’re going to run a very modern campaign. I learned a lot from the Delaney campaign about how to go about doing this,” Duncan declared recently. The Delaney campaign’s tactics included using technology to match canvassers versed in specific issues with voters who had expressed concern about those same issues, to ensure relevant responses to voter queries.

Staiger is joined on the paid campaign staff by the candidate’s son, John, who is serving as political director. They are supplemented by a couple of Washington-based consultants who worked on Doug Duncan’s short-lived 2006 run for governor as well as some of his past re-election campaigns: former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn and pollster Harrison Hickman. SKD Knickerbocker, of which Dunn is a partner, offers campaign services ranging from advertising to direct mail that may be utilized by the Duncan effort.

While Duncan also has a circle of informal advisers from his days in office on whom to draw, one of them – Jerry Pasternak, Duncan’s top aide throughout his 1994-2006 tenure as county executive – is said to be keeping a distance from the campaign. For the past two years, Pasternak has been a vice president of Pepco overseeing Maryland affairs, and has to deal with such  politically ticklish matters as the company’s pending request for a rate hike (Leggett recently appealed a nearly $28 million increase granted to Pepco by the Maryland Public Service Commission.)

Playing a key role in the Leggett re-election effort is campaign treasurer Larry Rosenblum, a partner in a Bethesda-based accounting firm whose involvement in local campaigns goes back to the acrimonious 1990 Democratic primary, when Rosenblum helped to direct the re-election effort of incumbent Sidney Kramer. Kramer lost narrowly to then-Councilmember Neal Potter.

In addition to naming a campaign manager in the near future, the Leggett campaign plans to hire a field coordinator. But two paid staffers from Leggett’s 2006 landslide primary victory over then County Councilmember Steve Silverman – former Board of Education member Fran Brenneman and long-time Leggett aide Jennifer Hughes – are not expected to reprise their roles this time around, although both may get involved on a volunteer basis. Hughes currently heads the county’s Office of Management and Budget.

The Leggett campaign is also expected to retain the services of a fundraising consultant. While neither the Leggett nor Duncan campaign will talk specifics about what they hope to raise and spend, the expectation is that it will fall somewhere in the range of the 2006 campaign efforts – when Leggett spent about $1 million to win the primary, and Silverman expended at least $2.3 million.

The Duncan campaign already has brought in consultant Rachael Rice, whose firm handles fundraising for numerous Maryland politicians at the state and local level.

Andrews – who has renounced contributions from political action committees and development interests – does not plan to hire an outside fundraiser, and is putting together a campaign based almost exclusively on volunteers. 

The campaign manager soon to be hired will “most likely” be his only paid full-time staffer, Andrews said. He is in the process of naming a dozen volunteer “project coordinators” to handle various aspects of his campaign. “I have been really pleased with the progress there,” he said. “These are talented, committed volunteers devoting a lot of time to a position in the campaign.”

Serving as chairman of the Andrews campaign is one-time WMAL talk show host Joe Palka, whom Andrews met in 1998 while running his first successful campaign for the County Council. The campaign treasurer is Rockville resident Richard Berman, another long-time Andrews friend who is active in the Sierra Club.