Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's announcement Wednesday that he is seeking re-election for the county's top spot sets up a Democratic showdown with his predecessor and a county lawmaker who has been critical of his spending.

Leggett is one of three candidates who have publicly and actively pursued the position. Former County Executive Doug Duncan, who served from 1994 to 2006, has said he will try to reclaim his old job, while County Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville, is the only candidate to have filed paperwork for the race.

Duncan said he was excited that Leggett decided to join the race, because it will give county taxpayers a more spirited debate. Though Leggett is a strong candidate as an incumbent, Duncan said, based on what he's heard in the community, he believes residents are ready for a change.

He pointed to the work that he did during his tenure as executive, such as redeveloping downtown Silver Spring, as a reason why he should be elected in 2014.

"Clearly I can get things done," Duncan said Wednesday. "We need someone who has got a vision for the county and has the ability to make things happen. We've been drifting for too long."

Andrews said he has knocked on thousands of doors and is gearing up for even more campaign events this summer. He said taxpayers have had enough of excessive county spending -- including multimillion-dollar pay raises for county employees -- while their property tax rates rise.

"They're concerned about the affordability of Montgomery County, and they're unsatisfied with the way things are going," Andrews said of his supporters.

He added that the black eyes on Leggett's record -- including the defective Silver Spring Transit Center and Leggett's back-peddling on letting the energy tax expire -- have made residents uneasy about a third term for the executive.

Almina Khorakiwala, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, said Leggett's entering the race did not come as a surprise. She also said that with his announcement, the three-way race will be a strong one.

She did not say, however, whether the group would back Leggett. She said the committee does not endorse particular candidates during the primaries.

One potential candidate, Councilman George Leventhal, D-at large, said he will explore running for the County Council for a fourth term instead of for the executive spot.

Leventhal told supporters in late 2012 he was considering a run at county executive, but on Wednesday, he said he doesn't think he could overcome Leggett.

"Ike is popular, and so I think most Democratic primary voters feel good about him," he said. "If Ike is running, he'll be re-elected."

Leventhal wouldn't say whether he would back Leggett personally but said Leggett's strong community support would be enough to overpower Duncan and Andrews.

"His opposition and his potential opposition is a fraction of the county," Leventhal said.