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Along the campaign trail

Gubernatorial hopeful says education is top priority

Gubernatorial hopeful says education is top priority

October 26, 2005|By KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

Firefighter Bob Maurer lives in Waynesboro, Pa., but concerns about staffing at local fire stations have made him take notice of the Maryland gubernatorial election.

"It weighs on my livelihood and my kids and my house. I mean, this is what puts a roof over my kids' heads and food on the table," Maurer said Tuesday afternoon during a reception for Democratic candidate Doug Duncan.

A small crowd, including Maurer and several other firefighters, turned out to meet Duncan during a campaign stop at Venice Hotel in Hagerstown. The primary election to determine the candidates for governor is Sept. 12, 2006. The general election is Nov. 7, 2006.

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Duncan, who turned 50 Tuesday, is serving his third term as executive director of Montgomery County, Md. He served three terms on the Rockville, Md., city council and was elected Rockville mayor three times.

Duncan said during an interview at the reception that education is his highest priority.

"I firmly believe if you want better jobs, if you want less crime, if you want a better quality of life, fix your schools," Duncan said.

He said he plans to fully fund the recommendations of the Thornton Commission, which was established to improve education across the state, and find ways to improve pensions for teachers. He said he also wants to increase funding for new facilities in areas of high growth, such as Washington County, and develop a scholarship program for youths who cannot afford to go to college. He said he would support a policy that would give preference in awarding state contracts to companies that allow their workers time off for school involvement.

Hagerstown firefighters Maurer and Rick Conrad said they are concerned about what they consider to be manpower shortages at the stations. The local union has not yet endorsed a candidate, but both men said they support Duncan.

"He's down-to-earth, he's a great guy, he's done a lot for Montgomery County firefighters," Maurer said.

Yellow signs with Duncan's campaign slogan, "Think Bigger," covered some of the windows in the hotel's lobby. The campaign's recreational vehicle was parked out front. Several events planned for later in the afternoon in Western Maryland were canceled because of snow.

An early nor'easter fed by moisture from Hurricane Wilma dumped more than 11 inches of wet, heavy snow in far Western Maryland Tuesday, cutting power to nearly 13,000 homes.

Duncan said he wants to build communication between the governor's office and local officials to resolve problems, such as growth. He said the administration under Republican Robert Ehrlich has not maintained those relationships.

Under Ehrlich, Duncan said the state has cut funding for land preservation and allowed development to sprawl across the landscape.

"We need to get back to smart growth here in the state of Maryland. Sprawl growth is taking over," Duncan said.

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