Signs of Depression Began Months Ago for Former Maryland Gubernatorial Hopeful

The early signs of depression began a few months ago for Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan — a reluctance to make fundraising phone calls, do media interviews or attend the events necessary to keep his race for governor going.

Sometimes he would do them, but a few times he couldn't be budged, according to Duncan campaign manager Scott Arceneaux. After months of a grueling, seven-day per week campaign schedule, Duncan began to shut down.

He was "just turning away from the campaign in general, not wanting to do some of the things that just come naturally to politicians," Arceneaux said Friday as he helped close down Duncan's campaign.

Duncan dropped out of the Democratic primary race Thursday, saying he had been diagnosed with clinical depression and wanted to focus on his health. Duncan planned to take the weekend off but will serve the rest of his county executive term, which runs through December. It remains unclear what Duncan will do next. He has been county executive since 1994.

Speaking to supporters Thursday, Duncan said depression runs in his family, but that he thought the initial signs of the illness were a result of campaign stress. Those close to Duncan said he eventually began to worry there was more to his lack of energy than simple fatigue.

Yet he kept up his campaign schedule, and even many who have worked closely with him didn't see signs of depression. Delegate Bill Bronrott, D-Montgomery, who has been a Duncan ally on legislative issues for eight years, said he was shocked when Duncan called him Thursday morning to say he was dropping out.

"Doug has always appeared to me in almost every public situation that I've been with him as a very much upbeat Irish politician, with a great smile and handshake for everyone," Bronrott said.

But aides said that privately, it grew progressively more difficult for Duncan to muster the energy for campaign events. He had sleeping problems. He often wasn't engaged in what he was doing. And his usual verve for policy issues, something Duncan has thrived on, was gone.

Duncan confided in his longtime aide Bruce Romer, the Montgomery County administrator, over the weekend before being diagnosed. Romer said he was surprised when Duncan said he might be depressed.

Duncan had appeared tired in recent months, not engaged in county meetings or official events, Romer said. The county administrator had never seen that type of behavior from Duncan, whom he has known for 18 years and says is usually an energetic politician.

"It was apparent. It wasn't typical Doug Duncan behavior," Romer said.

On Monday, Duncan met with a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with depression. He told his campaign staff and discussed it with his family, but Duncan didn't make the final decision to step out of the race until Thursday morning.

And while most people were shocked by the revelation, the one person who wasn't, was Duncan.

"He wasn't surprised. I think he knew something was wrong," Arceneaux said.