Doug Duncan

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Doug Duncan
Duncan greets supporters, September 2013.jpg
Duncan with campaign supporters in September 2013
5th Executive of Montgomery County
In office
December 1994 – December 4, 2006
Preceded by Neal Potter
Succeeded by Ike Leggett
Mayor of Rockville
In office
Preceded by Steven VanGrack
Succeeded by James Coyle
Member of the Rockville City Council
In office
Personal details
Born Douglas M. Duncan
(1955-10-25) October 25, 1955 (age 62)
Rockville, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Barbara Duncan (m. 1980)
Children 5
Residence Rockville, Maryland, U.S.
Alma mater Columbia University
St. John's College High School
Occupation Public official
Former politician
Former Vice President for Administrative Affairs at the University of Maryland, College Park[1]

Douglas M. Duncan (born October 25, 1955) is an American politician and member of the Democratic Party. Duncan served as County Executive of Montgomery County, Maryland from 1994 to 2006. Duncan held the office longer than any other county executive in the county's history. In 2006, Duncan was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the Maryland gubernatorial election. He abruptly dropped out of the race on June 22, 2006, citing clinical depression, handing the nomination to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. Following his exit from the gubernatorial race, he was appointed Vice President of Administrative Affairs of the University of Maryland, College Park, where he worked for 17 months. In 2014 he unsuccessfully ran for his old job as Montgomery County Executive. He lost to incumbent Ike Leggett in the Democratic Party primary.

Early life and education[edit]

Duncan was born on October 25, 1955. The fifth of 13 children, Duncan grew up in the Twinbrook section of Rockville, Maryland, a working-class neighborhood, home to federal employees, teachers, police officers and firefighters.[2] His father worked for the NSA and later worked for the Montgomery County Public Schools as a volunteer tutor and ESOL teacher.[3] His mother worked for the Montgomery County Circuit Court as a courtroom clerk from 1973 to 1999.[4]

Duncan attended St. John's College High School in Washington, D.C., graduating in 1973. He graduated from Columbia University in three years, in 1976, earning a bachelor's degree with a double focus in psychology and political science. Upon graduating, Doug worked for Montgomery County's criminal justice commission, and then spent 13 years in the private sector working in the telecommunications industry.[2]

Duncan got his start in politics at an early age, going door-to-door with his mother during John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign, and was the only one of his 12 siblings to follow in his mother's Democratic-activist footsteps.[2]


City of Rockville government[edit]

Duncan's first full-time experience in politics was as a field director for Charlie Gilchrist's campaign for Montgomery County Executive in 1978. Mr. Gilchrist won that race by a margin of better than 3-to-2.[5] Duncan, deciding to run for political office, ran for and was elected to Rockville City Council in 1982 at the age of 26.[6] He would be re-elected twice to that position. In 1984, Duncan called for the resignation of then-Mayor John Freeland, who had taken a job with a city developer, claiming it was a rank conflict of interest.[7]

Freeland resigned that year.[8]

After serving three terms as Rockville City Councilman, he decided to run for Mayor of Rockville in 1987, beating incumbent Steve Van Grack.[9] During his time as Mayor, Doug started the process of redevelopment in downtown Rockville, including the tearing down of the Rockville Mall. That project would serve as inspiration for his revitalization of downtown Silver Spring years later as Montgomery County Executive.[10] Accomplishments under the Duncan administration include building Wootton Parkway and Gude Drive bridge.[10] One of his proudest accomplishments was starting Hometown Holidays, Rockville's annual Memorial Day weekend festival.[citation needed]

Montgomery County Executive[edit]

Duncan successfully ran for Montgomery County Executive in 1994, defeating Councilman Bruce Adams by nine percentage points in the Democratic Primary[7] and earning 63% of the vote against Steve Abrams in the general election.[11] Duncan would go on to be re-elected twice for un unprecedented three terms as County Executive.[1]

During Duncan's tenure as County Executive, he focused on improving educational excellence, strengthening environmental protections, fighting poverty and urban blight, and positioning Montgomery County as an international biotechnology leader.

Duncan's focus on education included increasing investments in higher education opportunities for county residents, leading to the expansion of Montgomery College's Rockville, Takoma Park, and Germantown campuses. Duncan's advocacy for Montgomery College helped lead to the planning and development of many new initiatives and institutes including the College's High Technology and Science center, Humanities Institute, Information Technology Institute and Health and Science Center. Duncan also played a role in creating the Universities at Shady Grove Center and encouraging the growth of the Johns Hopkins University Shady Grove Campus.[2]

The Washington Post described his governing style as "county leadership that knows when to quit mulling and start moving."[2] Due to his long tenure and influence, media observers later described him as "Montgomery's dominant political figure for over a decade."[12]

Among the many notable moments of his time in office, the most well known was the DC sniper attacks that took place in 2002. Many of the shootings occurred in Montgomery County and Duncan was often seen as the public face of the response.

Gubernatorial race and aftermath[edit]

Duncan was a candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination to challenge incumbent Governor Robert Ehrlich in the 2006 Maryland gubernatorial election. His main rival in the Democratic primary election was Baltimore Mayor Martin J. O'Malley.[12] He announced his campaign with a bus tour through each of Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore City.[13]

During the campaign, Duncan trailed both O'Malley and Ehrlich in fundraising.[13] Education became a defining issue in the race; schools in Duncan's home jurisdiction of Montgomery County had a good reputation while a judge had ordered a state takeover of Baltimore's troubled special education programs in 2005.[14] Duncan began airing television ads in May 2006, relatively early in the campaign season, and in the following weeks his poll numbers began to rise. This improvement in the polls was tempered by media reports that Duncan's campaign had accepted contributions from companies associated with Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist who had been accused of corruption.[12]

On June 22, 2006, Duncan dropped out of the race unexpectedly citing a diagnosis of clinical depression. During the brief announcement of his withdrawal, he said that he had at first thought he was simply experiencing physical and mental fatigue associated with campaigning, but that the symptoms had progressed beyond simple fatigue, and sought medical treatment which resulted in the depression diagnosis. He cited a family history of the disease as a factor in the diagnosis, and a number of aides and political associates were quoted in the press saying that Duncan was noticeably unhappy in the period leading up to his withdrawal. During his withdrawal announcement, Duncan endorsed his Democratic primary opponent, Martin O'Malley, in the latter's race against incumbent Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich.[12] At the time of the announcement, polls showed Duncan closing in on O'Malley even as his fundraising was beginning to decline.[15] This weakness in fundraising had led to speculation that Duncan would drop out during the summer, even before the announcement of the depression diagnosis. Reports at the time suggested that his dropping out would have a significant effect on state politics, making it easier for O'Malley to unseat Ehrlich and lowering turnout in the Democratic primary, thereby affecting down ballot races as well.[12]

Later work[edit]

Duncan speaking at a ceremony for the grand opening of a new parking garage in College Park, Maryland in August 2009.

Duncan was honored by a number of mental health groups for having publicly announced that he suffered from depression. The public nature of his declaration led to an increase in the number of calls to Montgomery County mental health agencies from people seeking mental health treatment. In the months after his withdrawal, he continued to seek counseling for a time and began a medical regiment to treat the depression. He continued to publicly discuss these treatments and his experiences with the disease.[16]

On March 22, 2007, Duncan was appointed Vice President of Administrative Affairs at the University of Maryland, College Park, effective April 4.[17] This made him the University's chief administrative and finance officer with authority over the University's human resources, comptroller, public safety, facilities and environmental management, and procurement. During his tenure, Duncan led the East Campus redevelopment project, designed as a mixed-use town center with graduate student housing along the Route 1 corridor. In association with the project, he also worked to improve relations between the university and the surrounding city of College Park. On October 15, 2008, after a seventeen-month tenure, Duncan announced his resignation from the University of Maryland.[1]

In early 2009, speculation about a possible political comeback for Duncan began circulating in Maryland media. The speculation followed a speech by Duncan in which he discussed his experiences with depression. When asked if he would run for office again, Duncan did not rule the option out, and he went on to criticize incumbent Governor Martin O'Malley's policies, mocking O'Malley for expressing surprise at declining state revenues on the same day a new album from O'Malley's band was released.[18] The Sun's blog Maryland Politics went on to ask, "Can Doug Duncan Make a Comeback?" in the title of one of its postings, and went on to question whether voters would accept a candidate with a history of depression.[19]

In February 2010, several Maryland politicians, including Kumar P. Barve and Christopher Van Hollen, expressed support for Duncan's becoming the Metro general manager, after John Catoe announced his resignation from the position, effective April 2010.[20]

Duncan considered running for the newly-drawn 6th Congressional District,[21] but instead he chose to throw his full support behind newcomer John Delaney and serve as Delaney's campaign chair. In the 2012 Congressional race, Delaney went on to defeat incumbent Roscoe Bartlett.

Duncan ran again for County Executive in 2014, losing in the Democratic primary to Isiah Leggett.[22][23]

Personal life[edit]

Duncan married wife, Barbara, on June 14, 1980, on the campus of Trinity College in Washington, D.C., where Barbara went to school. They met in 1978, as Barbara worked for Doug's mom, Ellie, at the Montgomery County Circuit Court. They have five children.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Duncan Resigns Position at Maryland". The University of Maryland. Archived from the original on 2012-12-11. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-15. Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  3. ^ "Louis Stinson Hurwitz" (TXT). Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  4. ^ "Eleanor Duncan, Mother of Former Montgomery County Executive, Dies at 86". Rockville, Maryland Patch. 
  5. ^ Johnson, Janis (November 8, 1978). "Gilchrist Wins Executive Race In Montgomery". 
  6. ^ "Douglas M. Duncan, County Executive , Montgomery County, Maryland". 
  7. ^ a b Zoroya, Gregg (September 19, 1994). "Rivals' Pugnacious Past Signals Montgomery Brawl". 
  8. ^ Moncada, Carlos (October 27, 1984). "Rockville Mayor, Amidst Job Controversy, Says He Will Resign". 
  9. ^ Kaiman, Beth (November 4, 1987). "Duncan Beats Rockville Mayor Van Grack". 
  10. ^ a b "Colleagues look back on Duncan's Rockville legacy". 
  11. ^ Zoroya, Gregg (November 9, 1994). "MONTGOMERY COUNTY; Democrat Duncan Big Winner in Executive's Race". 
  12. ^ a b c d e Mosk, Matthew; Marimow, Ann (June 23, 2006). "Duncan Drops Bid for Governor". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  13. ^ a b Mosk, Matthew; Wagner, John (January 17, 2006). "Duncan Trails Opponents". Maryland Politics Blog. Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2011-05-23. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  14. ^ Rascovar, Barry (August 19, 2005). "Schools are key in governor's race". The Gazette. Montgomery County, Maryland. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  15. ^ Matt Mosk and John Wagner. "Duncan Trails Opponents" Archived May 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. The Washington Post. January 17, 2006. URL retrieved on February 2, 2007.
  16. ^ Baer, Susan (September 1, 2008). "Doug Duncan's Comeback". The Washingtonian. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  17. ^ "Duncan Appointed University of Maryland Vice President". Office of Internet Communications, University of Maryland, College Park. Archived from the original on 2010-06-01. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  18. ^ Vozzella, Laura (April 1, 2009). "'Living Proof that Treatment Works'". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  19. ^ Green, Andy (April 1, 2009). "Can Doug Duncan Make a Comeback?". Maryland Politics. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  20. ^ Ford, C. Benjamin (February 12, 2010). "Some say Duncan is perfect for Metro job; others aren't so sure". The Gazette. Retrieved February 17, 2010. 
  21. ^ Pershing, Ben (November 15, 2011). "Doug Duncan won't run for Congress, may back Delaney instead". The Washington Post. 
  22. ^ Turque, Bill (June 3, 2014). "Montgomery executive hopefuls joust on spending, transit center in first TV debate". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 19, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Leggett defeats Duncan in Montgomery County Executive race". ABC7. June 24, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Neal Potter
Montgomery County, Maryland Executive
Succeeded by
Ike Leggett