Montgomery county executive candidates debate Saturday before early voting -- Gazette.Net


The three men trying to unseat County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) zeroed in on the county’s business climate and the debacle over the Silver Spring Transit Center in a Saturday debate televised by Montgomery Community Media.

Jim Shalleck, the only Republican seeking the position, called for a federal criminal grand jury investigating the project, which is years overdue and its cost has swollen to $120 million.

“We need answers, and we’re not going to get it from the Democrats in this county,” Shalleck said. A grand jury could subpoena witnesses and records to look for kickbacks, or whether political contributors won contracts.

County Councilman Phil Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg and former county executive Doug Duncan (D) both criticized the project. Duncan focused on the Leggett administration and the County Council for changing its story the cost, who will pay for it and when the center will open.

Leggett, however, deflected the criticism. He said he rejected the transit center because he wasn’t satisfied.

“I wouldn’t think this is a failure of county government. It’s a failure of the contractors,” he said.

Each of the challengers said Montgomery wasn’t business friendly. Duncan faulted the county’s permitting services department and called for the economic development department to revamped. Andrews attacked the county’s tax rates, particularly the energy tax, which Leggett doubled in 2010. Andrews promised to phase out that increase by the end of his first term.

Shalleck, too, faulted county tax rates, particularly the county’s bag tax.

Each candidate said they opposed the M-83, a 5.7-mile highway from Montgomery Village Avenue to Ridge Road east of Interstate 270.

Casey Aiken moderated the debate. The debate can be seen at

The primary is Tuesday, June 24. Early voting begins June 12.

Teddy Amenabar contributed to this story