ROCKVILLE – Get ready for a groundbreaking event in county candidate debates.
Since February the candidates for Montgomery County executive have participated in several debates throughout the county focusing on a wide variety of issues.
As the campaigns head down the home stretch to the June 24 primary, the candidates—current County Executive Ike Leggett, former three-term executive Doug Duncan, and longtime County Councilman Phil Andrews—have only a couple of forums left to sway voters, including one sponsored by the Sentinel on Wednesday, April 30.
The debate will be a historical first as it will be live-streamed on The Sentinel’s new website.
“This debate is a part of what we do as the news leader in Montgomery County,” said Sentinel owner Lynn Kapiloff. “We’ve been part of this community for 160 years and our desire is to be here another 160 years providing the best in local news, entertainment and sports.”
Some of the debates have focused on education issues such as school construction funding and the state’s maintenance of effort law and closing the achievement gap, while others focused on public safety, the Silver Spring Transit Center and management of the county’s budget.
The Sentinel, named the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia’s “Best Newspaper” in its class last year, will hold the debate in conjunction with Temple Beth Ami at 114330 Travilah Rd., Rockville MD 20850. Doors will open at 6 p.m. The debate will follow a traditional debate format. Questions will be posed by the moderator, Sentinel managing editor Brian J. Karem, with time allowed for answers and rebuttal.
“The county has three very qualified candidates on the democratic side of the ticket,” Karem said. “We hope our debate will highlight those qualifications and what separates these men.”
While all three candidates vying for the democratic nomination mainly agree on the issues, there have been some testy moments that have allowed the candidates to differentiate themselves.
Phil Andrews has campaigned on the platform of independence and responsible budgeting. Andrews does not accept contributions from interest groups or developers. He also criticized Leggett for making a budget proposal that goes $26 million above the required maintenance of effort level of funding.
Andrews has also differentiated himself from Leggett and Duncan when talking about the delayed open of the Silver Spring Transit Center.
“Neither one could get it open so why would you vote for either of them?” Andrews said.
Duncan’s campaign has been critical of Leggett’s leadership for mismanaging the Silver Spring Transit Center. Duncan has repeatedly asked Leggett and Andrews to provide answers for when the center will open and how much it will cost taxpayers.
“It’s time for answers. Silver Spring residents and community leaders fought too long and hard for a vibrant downtown to have to wait for this mess to be cleaned up, before they have access to the state-of-the-art transit center they were expecting,” Duncan said. “This failure on the part of the county government to get the job done here leaves pedestrians at risk, commuters frustrated and hurts the economic vitality of Silver Spring. The people of Montgomery County deserve better.”
Duncan has also promised to fight hard for Montgomery County in Annapolis, claiming Leggett has done a subpar job by not securing school construction funding from the state.
Leggett has campaigned on the grounds that he led the county out of the Great Recession after Duncan had led the county on what Leggett calls an unsustainable path.
Residents who are unable to attend the Sentinel debate in person will be able to live stream the event online at www.thesentinel.com.