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April 1, 2009

Can Doug Duncan make a comeback?

Laura Vozzella writes in her column today about a speech former MoCo Exec and gubernatorial candidate Doug Duncan gave at Sheppard Pratt this week about his battle with depression, revealing an extensive family history with the disease that was not previously common knowledge in Maryland's political community. In fact, word that he was dropping out of the race for governor in 2006 was such a surprise that some people wondered if he was making it up as an excuse to leave of a contest he seemed unlikely to win. (The consensus eventually was, probably not; I mean, wouldn't you make up something other than that?)

Vozzella writes that Duncan wouldn't rule out running for office again and even took a couple of swipes at his one-time rival, Gov. O'Malley. Duncan's case raises an interesting question: With all we've learned over the years about depression, is it still enough to make someone unelectable? It's been a long time since Thomas Eagleton was forced to drop out as George McGovern's running mate in 1972 because of his previous hospitalizations for mental health troubles, and treatments have certainly come a long way since the electro-shock therapy he received. Duncan said he's on medication and happy about it. Would voters accept that, or would they still be reluctant to vote for him? I'm not sure.

Posted by Andy Green at 10:15 AM | | Comments (3)


I think a known diagnosed issue with a candidate is better than another term for someone who has a condition that has not yet been diagnosed.

As an Independent voter looking at Duncan's record I would vote for him over MOM in a heartbeat!

Today’s voters would accept a candidate whose clinical depression is under successful treatment, but apart from his mental health, voters would likely reject Mr. Duncan because he has demonstrated poor judgment.

When Mr. Duncan accepted a vice president’s position at College Park, he failed to recognize that he ceased to be a free agent politician. As a representative of his institution, he had no business palling around the state with former Gov. Ehrlich, whose own behavior since his defeat has shattered all norms of propriety, thereby alienating not just the incumbent governor, but more importantly the wider community of elected officials and leaders from the business and institutional sectors on which the university system depends.

When appropriately admonished by a colleague who had successfully transitioned from elected official to university official, Mr. Duncan broke a golden rule by publicly discussing a private conversation. His claims about the content of that conversation stretched his credibility.

When the reality of his responsibility to the university system finally sank in, Mr. Duncan quit. Through the whole epidsode, he failed to exhibit the maturity and responsibility expected from a leader.

Most recently, his suspiciously pithy op-ed in another newspaper and other public comments reveal a strategic affinity with former Gov. Ehrlich-- both freely criticize choices made by elected officials but lack the intellect or the courage to offer specific solutions of their own.

Mr. Duncan’s willingness to publicly discuss his family history and personal experience with depression is admirable, but his post-therapy behavior makes him unelectable.

- Steve Lebowitz

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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