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Andrews: ‘I Hear Readiness For Change’

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 7/26/2013, 11:30am  ET

Councilmember and county executive candidate Phil Andrews appears on NewsTalk County Councilmember and county executive candidate Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg) faces a seemingly tall order if he’s going to unseat Isiah Leggett and beat out former executive Doug Duncan in next June’s Democratic primary.

But in a Friday appearance on NewsTalk with host Bruce DePuyt, Andrews said he can beat the two men who have held the county’s top political position for last almost two decades.

“I’ve talked to thousands of people and I hear readiness for change,” Andrews said. “I think people appreciate what I have done on the County Council, the issues I’ve championed: whether it’s smoking in restaurants, whether it’s fiscal responsibility, whether it’s reforming our disability retirement system. I think this combination of progressive reform and fiscal responsibility is right where the voters are.”

The four-term councilmember has represented Gaithersburg and parts of Rockville and Aspen Hill since 1998.

He said he won’t accept campaign contributions from interest groups, which distinguishes him from Leggett and Duncan. Andrews again said he is relying on extensive door-to-door campaigning, a process that began in January and has brought him to about 10,000 county doorsteps so far.

Andrews told DePuyt the decisions of Duncan and Leggett to run had no effect on his plans. He remains the only candidate officially registered to run.

“I was running regardless because I think we need that kind of change and I don’t think we’re gonna get that kind of change from Mr. Duncan or Mr. Leggett,” Andrews said.

Andrews recently took on a Leggett-negotiated pay raise for county employees, saying it was too much in still rocky economic times.

“The question is how much is enough. In this budget, the county executive proposed very large pay increases, 13.5 to 19.5 percent pay raises across the next two years for county employees, which actually is quite a bit more than the Metro agreement that was just reached, which is about 11 percent over three years,” Andrews said. “And it’s being paid for with property tax increases and a county executive proposal to keep the highest energy tax in the region, which fortunately the Council did take down.”

So far Leggett has tried to paint himself as the candidate most interested in fiscal responsibility, at least compared to his predecessor Duncan.

“There’s a very clear difference between the three of us. Back in 2005 when County Executive Duncan agreed to 20-year retirement for the firefighters, I was the only one who stood up and said, ‘That’s not a good idea. We don’t need to do that. We’re not losing firefighters. Our paying benefits are competitive,’” Andrews said. “2008, Mr. Leggett right before the recession, proposed substantial pay increases as well, which I stood up and said, ‘This is unsustainable,’ and they quickly had to be cancelled. So yeah, it’s a big difference.”