Leggett Endorses Jealous

County executive says they have worked through their differences on policy

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Ike Leggett, center, with Ben Jealous and Susan Turnbull

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County Executive Ike Leggett endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous on Saturday in his race against incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Leggett, a Democrat, had previously declined to endorse Jealous citing policy differences.

“I’ve been a Democrat for all my life and I thought it was the thing to do given that I’d served as the chair of the party. I’ve been meeting with him over the last few weeks and I feel that he has addressed a substantial part of my concerns,” Leggett said in an interview Sunday with Bethesda Beat.

Leggett, who served as chair of the Maryland Democratic Party from 2002 to 2004, said he made the announcement Saturday at a social function for Democrats that was attended by U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Atty. Gen. Brian Frosh, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and some of the Democrats running for seats on the Montgomery County Council.

Leggett emphasized that his endorsement of Jealous wasn’t a “snap decision,” and that he had recently had conversations with Jealous’ running mate, Susan Turnbull, as well as Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews and Jealous campaign staff members.

Leggett said a factor in his decision was Jealous’ recent warming up to the possibility of Amazon locating its second headquarters in Montgomery County. During an interview following two campaign stops in Montgomery County earlier this month, Jealous said it was important for businesses such as Amazon to “expect stability” in the economy and be able to “make plans and expect they’ll be respected.” Jealous had previously been critical of the possible Amazon move to the county.

Leggett added that Jealous has also shifted his position on the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, or Kirwan Commission, which is studying state education funding formulas. He said Jealous will now oppose any recommendations that take education funding away from Montgomery County. One of the commission’s preliminary recommendations was to change the school funding formula in a way that prioritizes school districts with less money and resources.

Leggett, who will leave office at the end of the year, had responded to a question Thursday in an online town hall saying that he hadn’t yet endorsed Jealous but was “optimistic” that the two could “find common ground.”

In response to Leggett’s endorsement, the Hogan campaign accused Jealous of changing his policy positions in order to receive the county executive’s support.

“Ben Jealous needs to explain to everyone what positions he flip-flopped on and what deals he cut in order to secure this half-hearted endorsement,” Hogan spokesman Scott Sloofman wrote in a statement.

Leggett said Sunday that he doesn’t want his endorsement of Jealous to be seen as a criticism of Hogan. The two have worked together to secure projects such as the Purple Line and Marriott’s new downtown Bethesda headquarters, he said.

“He [Hogan] has been very bipartisan in his approach, but I’ve been a Democrat all my life, and it’s hard not to support those principles,” Leggett said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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