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November 26, 2008

Michael Steele's RNC effort getting plugged in

Take a look at Michael Steele's web site for his campaign for Republican Party chairman.

He's reusing the "metal and bolts" motif from his Maryland Senate run, a play on his last name.

He also seems to have learned something about social networking and technology from Barack Obama's win. A prominent feature on the site is a section for links to Facebook, Twitter, and other like networks. And Steele is asking for site visitors to take a survey on what they want to see the next RNC chairman work on. The first choice is "technology."

Clearly, Steele is positioning himself as not just another middle-aged guy wanting to run a party of the country club. We'll see if it works.

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:13 AM | | Comments (1)

Chris Matthews could take on Specter as Republicans try to regroup

Republicans in Maryland and nationally are groping for a direction for their party. They're trying to figure out how to stay true to core values, while attracting enough support from moderate and independent voters to build a majority.

The effort is already creating friction between those who say there are some principles that can't be abandoned and those want to make the party's tent even bigger.

But Democrats aren't sitting pat as Republicans regroup. They're looking to build on their recent gains, maintain momentum and deliver a knock-out blow to the their rivals, at least in the Northeast.

With Republican members of congress a rare breed in the region (the number is down to one in Maryland), Democarts now have one of the last holdouts in their sights. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, 78, could face a strong challenge if and when he decides to seek re-election in 2010. One of the intriguing names in the mix: Chris Matthews of MSNBC, who would run as a Democrat. Our Tribune Co. colleague Josh Drobnyk of the Morning Call in Allentown, Penn., has put together a fine account of the political winds blowing just to the north of us.

By Josh Drobnyk
Call Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The Northeast’s dwindling cast of Senate Republicans has Democrats circling U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s seat in Pennsylvania, convinced the party is well-positioned to make a competitive race out of the 2010 election.

Leading the pack of prospects — at least in celebrity — is Chris Matthews, the MSNBC “Hardball” host and former Capitol Hill Democratic staffer. The Philadelphia native has been toying with a run for months, and this week sat down with Pennsylvania Democrats to discuss the prospect of taking on the five-term Republican.

Others considered in the mix include U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak of Delaware County, who is sitting on $3 million in campaign funds; state Rep. Josh Shapiro of Montgomery County; and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a two-term Philadelphia area lawmaker who has moved up quickly on the Hill and has a Rolodex full of prospective donors from her unsuccessful 2000 Senate run. “We’ll see,” she said about a possible repeat bid in a recent interview.

“There are a lot of compelling reasons why serious Democrats would aspire to run in 2010,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Committee Chairman T.J. Rooney, who had drinks with Chris Matthews in Washington on Monday and said the 62-year-old MSNBC star was in Pennsylvania earlier in the day meeting with other Democratic leaders.

“You look at what has gone on in this state in the past six or seven years and you think nothing is out of reach,” Rooney said.

Since 2002, Pennsylvania Democrats have grabbed the gubernatorial mansion, dethroned the Senate’s No. 3 Republican, Rick Santorum, and picked up five U.S. House seats. But just as relevant to the party’s optimism is what has happened outside of the state. The Northeast lost nearly half its slate of Senate Republicans in the previous two elections, leaving Specter with three GOP colleagues from the eight most northeastern states — Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

This month’s Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political newsletter that handicaps races, cast Specter as among the four most vulnerable senators of the 35 up for re-election in two years.

“He is increasingly isolated from his party as a Republican in a northeastern sea of blue,” said Hershey-based pollster Michael Young.

Matthews, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, has coyly dismissed questions about a run in recent months as he lays the groundwork behind the scenes. His contract with MSNBC expires in June.

If it all sounds too depressing for Specter, his approval rating in Pennsylvania and his campaign coffers inspire confidence.

Nearly six in 10 Pennsylvanians said in an August Quinnipiac University poll that they approve of Specter’s job performance — higher than the ratings for Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Bob Casey Jr., both Democrats. The former Philadelphia district attorney has raised $6 million for his re-election run in the past two years, more than any of his colleagues during the period. He has made clear, despite a recurrence of Hodgkin’s disease this year at age 78, that he plans to battle for a sixth term.

“Whoever my opponent is, I will be ready,” Specter said in an interview earlier this year.
His hefty haul is all the more significant heading into 2010 because Senate candidates will be competing for cash with gubernatorial hopefuls in Pennsylvania.

“When you look beyond the trends, you see a much more mixed picture,” Young said. “I don’t see him particularly endangered any more than he has been in the past.”

Previous contests, though, have rarely been easy for Specter. In three of his five general election victories, he won with less than 53 percent of the vote.

Perhaps his toughest fight came during the primary contest in 2004 against Lehigh Valley congressman Pat Toomey, who finished within 2 percentage points of Specter and forced the pro-abortion rights senator to burnish his conservative credentials.

Toomey, president of the anti-tax group the Club for Growth, has left the door open to a repeat run in 2010. He argues that Specter is in a more vulnerable position than he was four years ago in part because of the tens of thousands of Republicans who changed their registration this year to participate in the Democratic primary.

In the four Philadelphia suburban counties, a region where Specter has traditionally performed well, Republicans have lost more than 61,000 registered voters in the last four years, a shift Toomey contends would help a more conservative opponent in a primary.

“A very substantial segment of his base left the party,” Toomey said. “If he ends up facing a credible, well-financed conservative in a primary, I’m very confident he will lose.”

But Young said he suspects a primary battle poses less of a threat to Specter than it did four years ago because “the Republican Party has been weakened” and conservatives are “in retrenchment.”

Specter has said he’s anticipating both a challenge from the right and the left.

“I’ve adopted Satchel Paige’s philosophy for a long time,” he said earlier this year. “Never look over your shoulder. Somebody may be gaining on you.’”

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)

November 25, 2008

More state budget cuts coming

Gov. Martin O'Malley inaugurated his new MPT "Ask the Governor" series last night with more ominious talk about Maryland's budget situation, saying he expects another $200 million in cuts to the current fiscal year's budget. That would bring the total O'Malley has trimmed since taking office to somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion.

O'Malley said on MPT that the revenue estimates the state will adopt in December appear likely to be even worse than expected, and expectations weren't great to begin with. It's not yet clear whether the reductions (which would be done through the Board of Public Works) will come in December or in January. But either way, they're likely to be much tougher than the ones O'Malley has made so far. He's now talking about employee furloughs as one of the last options left to him, and that means some painful conversations with state worker unions, which supported him in the 2006 election and have generally felt well taken care of by the administration. It'll be interesting to see whether the goodwill he's stockpiled by pushing for living wage laws and other labor-friendly initiatives will get him through.

Another interesting thing about the budget cutting we've gone through thus far is that nobody has really tried suggesting eliminating state programs that flat out don't work or that we can't afford anymore. Even the Republicans, as they've offered budget reduction proposals, have opted against making specific suggestions and instead have advocated for an across-the-board spending freeze. You'd think that surely in a $30 billion budget, there's got to be something that we don't need to do. Any suggestions?

Posted by Andy Green at 10:46 AM | | Comments (4)

November 24, 2008

Maryland's next lieutenant governor

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown is under consideration for Obama's veterans affairs secretary. If he got the job, or another within the Obama administration, it would create a vacancy that many would like to fill.

Under the Maryland state constitution, Gov. Martin O'Malley has the authority to fill a vacancy in the lieutenant governor position, subject to approval by a majority of the General Assembly meeting in a joint session. (In reality, that would mean a majority of the 141-member House of Delegates.)

Brown was the full package for O'Malley. The African-American former delegate from Prince George's County balanced the ticket racially and geographically, and his service in Iraq as an Army reservist lawyer was a huge plus.

It would be hard for O'Malley to find another Anthony Brown. And he may not have to. As an incumbent with moderate and improving approval ratings, O'Malley would have the ability to look in many different directions if he sought a 2010 running mate. He could reward friends or punish enemies or pick someone with expertise in a policy area that would be valuable to his administration.

Here's a few names to throw in the mix (some more serious than others):

Isiah Leggett: Sure, Montgomery County executive is a good job. But at a time of shrinking revenues and other budgetary pressures, maybe being in Annapolis looks better.

Tom Perez: O'Malley's labor secretary also has an eye on an Obama administration position, but if had the chance, the governor could send a strong signal by elevating a Harvard-educated Latino lawyer from Montgomery to statewide office.

Dereck Davis: The delegate from Prince George's County is chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, with an expertise in energy policy. Like Brown, Davis would provide racial and geographic ticket balance.

Jim Smith: One of O'Malley's closest political allies, Smith, the executive of Baltimore County, is staring at a 2010 term limit. Two years as lieutenant governor could give him added visibility to challenge for comptroller in the next election.

Stephanie Rawlings Blake: The Baltimore City Council president is looking to raise her visibility.

Maggie McIntosh: The House environmental chairwoman from Baltimore would be the first openly gay lieutenant governor in the nation. Highly regarded in the assembly, she's close to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, one of the most influential politicos in the state.

Glenn Ivey: The Prince George's state's attorney is smart, ambitious and articulate. He's a guy who looks like he'd be going places, but he doesn't have much visibility outside his home county and might be looking for a way to move up and out.

Peter Franchot: Talk about your team of rivals. Would Franchot have the gumption to reject an offer from a political antagonist? O'Malley could remove a thorn from the public works board, and give Franchot all kinds of special projects in, say, Garrett County to keep the ambitious MoCo Democrat occupied.

Doug Duncan: Isn't he looking for a job?

Do you have other suggestions? Who should be on an O'Malley short list?

Posted by David Nitkin at 12:41 PM | | Comments (9)

Beware of inaugural ticket promises

There are no tickets available yet for the inauguration of Barack Obama. So don't believe the claims of brokers who say they have them.

That's the warning issued today by Maryland's attorney general, who helpfully points out that inaugural tickets are provided to the president-elect and members of congress free of charge, for distribution by them. "Tickest will not be distributed to the congressional offices until the week before the inauguration, and will therefore require in-person pick-up," Attorney General Douglas Gansler said in a release.

"Consumers should be highly skeptical of any fee associated with the distribution of these tickets," he said.

The full warning from Gansler's office is below.

Consumer Alert: Be Wary of Offers to Purchase Tickets to the 2009 Presidential Inauguration

BALTIMORE, MD (November 24, 2008) – Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is urging consumers to be wary of advertisements claiming to have tickets available for purchase for the 2009 Presidential Inauguration.

Tickets for the swearing-in event are not provided to the general public through the Inaugural Committee. Rather, tickets are limited and are only made available to the President elect, the Vice President elect, and members of the 111th Congress for distribution to their constituents. These tickets are being provided free of charge. Therefore, persons seeking to obtain tickets should contact their U.S. Senator or Representative to determine availability of tickets and their procedures for distributing their tickets.

The Attorney General further cautions citizens that tickets will not be distributed to the Congressional offices until the week before the Inauguration, and will therefore require in-person pick-up. Accordingly, ticket brokers and web sites claiming to have tickets currently available should not be trusted. In addition, since tickets are being made available to members of Congress free of charge, consumers should be highly skeptical of any fee associated with the distribution of these tickets.

Consumers who encounter people claiming to be selling tickets to the Inauguration may file complaints with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by visiting the Attorney General’s website,, or by calling (888) 743-0023.

Posted by David Nitkin at 12:21 PM | | Comments (0)

November 22, 2008

Steele wants Palin support

As he campaigns for Republican National Chairman, Michael Steele is reaching out to the movers and shakers of his party.

CNN is reporting that Steele is trying to get in touch with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for some "face time", presumably to see if she supports his bid.

No word yet on what Palin has decided. The CNN article makes it sound like her call-back list is pretty long, what with Oprah, Letterman, Barbara Walters seeking Palin as well.

Posted by David Nitkin at 9:08 AM | | Comments (3)

November 21, 2008

National Journal: Anthony Brown being vetted for Veterans Administration

The National Journal is reporting that Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is on a short list of candidates to head the Veterans Administration in the Obama administration.

Brown was at Harvard Law School at the same time as Obama, and while the lieutenant governor backed Hillary Clinton during the primary (following the lead of Gov. Martin O'Malley), he is now part of an Obama transition team looking at veterans issues.

Annapolis insiders whisper that Brown is not all that pleased with his limited responsibilities in his current position, and he's given vague answers when asked about his interest in an Obama administration position.

Posted by David Nitkin at 5:03 PM | | Comments (0)

Slots spending

More details about spending by pro-slots organizations leading up to the referndum vote that authorized more gambling are trickling out.

The state Board of Elections today released documents showing that Cloverleaf Enterprises, the owner of Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County, spent $41,500 as part of the multi-million dollar pro-slots campaign.

The Washington Post reported that the Cloverleaf money went to recorded phone messages backing the referendum.

As the Post said, Rosecroft would not be eligible for a slots license, but would benefit from a portion of slots proceeds going to racing purses. The track has suspended its live racing operations because of financial problems.

Posted by David Nitkin at 4:01 PM | | Comments (0)

November 20, 2008

Steele puts money where mouth is

Who says Michael Steele has forgotten his roots?

With one eye on his campaign for chairman of the Republican National Committee, the former lieutenant governor came to Maryland this week to lend his name -- and his money -- to an effort to help the beleaguered Maryland Republican Party maintain its strength in the General Assembly.

Steele was the featured guest at a Monday fund-raiser at Savage Mill in Laurel for a slate committee of state Republican Senate candidates.

He did more than just speak. He pulled out his checkbook, and gave $6,000 to the committee. He made a further promise of $2,000 apiece to every Republican senator seeking re-election in 2010.

True, there's only 14 of them in the 47-member body. But the pledge was much appreciated by those there.

Steele's Maryland campaign account had a balace of $626,357 as of last January, the most recent reporting date. So he's got a little bit of wealth to spread these days.

Posted by David Nitkin at 12:50 PM | | Comments (2)

Politics as the family business

Fresh off recent victories in several states, the Democratic Governors Association today named Raymond Glendening as its political director.

He's the son of former Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, himself a former DGA and National Governors Association chief.

Raymond Glendening had been the group's deputy political director, and got the promotion after Democratic governors expanded their number to 29 with elections this month.

Praising Glendening was the DGA's executive director, Nathan Daschle, who is the son of Tom Daschle, the former South Dakota senator who is Barack Obama's pick to be health and human services secretary.

The younger Glendening is a graduate of West Virginia University, in the home state of the current DGA chairman, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin.

And you though connections didn't matter?

Available below the jump is the full text of the news release from the association.

Washington, D.C. – Following the Democratic Governors Association’s historic success of expanding the number of Democratic Governors to 29 – the highest number since 1994 – DGA Chair Gov. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) today announced that Raymond Glendening has been named the organization’s National Political Director. For the past year, Glendening served as the DGA’s Deputy Political Director and stands ready to continue the organization’s significant momentum.

“With Raymond as the DGA’s National Political Director, we will build upon our record-breaking year and take the DGA to the next level,” Gov. Manchin said. “The 38 gubernatorial races in 2009 and 2010 present us with many challenges as well as many opportunities, and Raymond is the right person to lead our political team to continued success.”

DGA Executive Director Nathan Daschle said, “Raymond has been a tremendous asset to the DGA’s thriving political program for the past year and has impressed those around him with his intelligence, tenacity, and leadership.”

Glendening said, “I am honored to serve America’s Democratic Governors and future Democratic Governors. Our candidates are winning in every corner of the country because they share with voters common-sense values and know how to get results. We had many successes this year, and I am looking forward to helping the DGA continue its winning streak.”

The DGA this year helped to re-elect every incumbent, win the two Democratic open seats, and expand the number of Democratic Governors to the highest level since 1994. At the beginning of 2009, Democratic Governors will outnumber Republicans Governors 29 to 21.

In 2009, there are gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey; there are 36 races in 2010. National Republicans are publicly predicting a 17-seat pickup between now and 2010, a gain they hope will allow them to gerrymander an additional 30 seats in the House.

“Raymond understands how important the coming years are,” Daschle said. “Our nation is on the verge of electing CEOs in 38 states, and the next class of Governors will have a dramatic impact on the future of this country. No one is better suited to lead the DGA’s political efforts in this critical time than Raymond Glendening.”

Glendening will play a lead role in the DGA’s PROJECT 2010, a four-year strategic effort, now half-way complete, to maintain a strong majority of Democratic Governors prior to the redistricting that will occur after the 2010 census.

Prior to joining the DGA earlier this year, Glendening served as Deputy National Field Director for Gov. Bill Richardson’s presidential campaign and spent the four previous years as a Political Action Representative at the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) International. Glendening resides in Maryland and is a graduate of West Virginia University.

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:24 AM | | Comments (1)

November 19, 2008

A team of rivals

Some hard-core supporters of Barack Obama are getting annoyed that early plums being handed out by the incoming administration are going to Hillary Clinton backers.

Chief-of-staff-to-be Rahm Emmanuel, attorney general designate Eric Holder and possible budget chief Peter Orszag all had high-ranking positions in the Clinton administration. And then there’s Clinton herself, who could become Obama’s secretary of state.

The angst is trickling down to Maryland, where many of the Marylanders getting involved in Obama-land didn’t work particularly hard to get the Illinois senator elected, or worked for Hillary during the primaries.

Transition team member Gary Gensler, the former treasurer of the Maryland Democratic Party, was a big Hillary backer. Susan Ness, former FCC member and a Montgomery County resident also on the transition squad, was a bundler for Hillary. Alan H. Fleischmann, a transition aide, was chief of staff to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who endorsed Clinton. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown endorsed Clinton, and is now reviewing veterans issues for the transition.

As one observer said during a recent discussion: “This is not a team of rivals; this is the rival’s team.”

Posted by David Nitkin at 2:34 PM | | Comments (2)

O'Malley picks flag over Franchot

Gov. Martin O'Malley faced a tough choice this morning: Sit at a lengthy Board of Public Works meeting next to nemesis Peter Franchot, or attend the reopening of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, which houses one of the most famous artifacts to come out of Maryland: the actual star-spangled banner.

Guess what lieutanant governors are for?

With Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown dispatched to Annapolis for some Franchot-fending, O'Malley, a huge history buff, headed to the Mall, taking part in a ceremony with President Bush and historian David McCullough, and moderated by Judy Woodruff.

Below is a White House print pool report of the event, authored by Charlie Hurt of the New York Post.

At 9:50, POTUS and FLOTUS left WH and motorcaded the one square block to the newly-reopened National Museum of American History.

The ceremony was very ably mc'd by Judy Woodruff, who noted that while the United States may still be -- historically speaking -- the "new kid on the block," the country will yet again observe a peaceful transfer of power in just two months.

The museum is home to the Star Spangled Banner, which flew above Fort McHenry during Battle of Baltimore in 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key. The museum has just completed yet another meticulous restoration of the flag.

"We take it seriously and we bring reverence to this task," said Secy of Smithsonian Institution G. Wayne Clough (pronounced like Plouffe).

In the audience were Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, historian David McCullough and five soon-to-be-citizens of the United States.

President Bush, who viewed the banner privately beforehand, spoke for less than eight minutes and said the White House copy of the Gettysburg Address, normally housed in the Lincoln Bedroom, would be on loan in the museum.

He called the short Civil War address the greatest presidential speech in history and he spoke admiringly of President Lincoln for believing that "peace must not be purchased with injustice." (transcript to come)

Motorcaded back and in the House by 10:45.

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:24 AM | | Comments (0)

Maryland Dems want P. Mitchell to receive civilian award from Obama

Representatives from the Maryland Democratic party will send a letter to President-elect Barack Obama in January nominating former Congressman Parren J. Mitchell for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Mitchell, a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient, was the state’s first African-American congressman, and served for 16 years. Mitchell is known for the federal “set-aside program,” which allowed 10 percent of federal business contracts to be awarded to minorities.
Several members of the Mitchell family and state Democrat leaders held a press conference yesterday announcing Parren Mitchell’s nomination.

Michael Mitchell, Parren’s nephew, said it would be fitting if Obama, as the nation’s first African-American president, gave the honor to his uncle. Mitchell said his uncle met Obama years ago when the next president was working on a campaign for former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington in the 1980s.

Parren Mitchell heard Obama address a crowd on behalf of Washington in the middle of winter.
“My uncle said if a brother can hold the attention of white folks and black folks in sub zero degrees, he’s got charisma. He’s going to go somewhere,” Michael Mitchell said.
Democratic leaders will send the letter Jan. 21, one day after Obama’s inauguration.

-- Brent Jones

Posted by David Nitkin at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)

November 18, 2008

Gilchrest son: Ehrlich's "egocentric motivations" delivered 1st District to Democrats

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. got strongly behind Sen. Andy Harris in the 1st District congressional race. With Ehrlich's backing, Harris offed Republican incumbent Wayne Gilchrest in the primary. But Harris was bested by Frank Kratovil, a little-known Queen Anne's County state's attorney, in the General Election.

Ehrlich has received a lot of attention for endorsing Harris, but not much blame for his role in sending the seat into the Democratic column.

Until now.

Gilchrest's son, Kevin, a teacher at the Radcliffe Creek School in Chestertown, has penned a blistering critique of Ehrlich's actions. Kevin Gilchrest calls Ehrlich "egocentric," and said the former governor got involved in the race mainly to bolster his own chances for a political comeback. Ehrlich's actions, Gilchrest writes, have highlighted the "utter and complete dysfunction of the Republican Party in the state of Maryland. Ehrlich orchestrated, Gilchrest said, the Republicans' "eating one of their own."

The letter was sent to the Baltimore Sun's editorial board, which gave it to us. With Kevin Gilchrest's permission, it is being published here, past the jump. To be sure, Kevin Gilchrest is not an objective observer. But his points are worth considering, and are likely shared by many Republicans in Maryland.

Dear Editor:

Frank Kratovil has won the race for the 1st Congressional District. The idea of a Kratovil victory was treated as a joke by his opponent, Sen. Andy Harris, during the campaign. Kratovil’s victory, though, which included a sweep of all nine Eastern Shore counties, is glaring evidence of the utter and complete dysfunction of the Republican Party in the state of Maryland.

Standing atop the ruins of the dilapidated GOP is former Governor Bobby Ehrlich, who heartily endorsed and campaigned for Harris, against incumbent Republican Wayne Gilchrest.

Ehrlich’s motivation for doing so was two-fold.

First, his personal politcal ambition: Ehrlich needed a strong ally in the First District to bolster support in the region for another gubernatorial run. Orchestrating Gilchrest’s defeat would accomplish this, he believed, as well as increase his stature in both the party and the state. Secondly, he had a personal vendetta against Republican Wayne Gilchrest due to the congressman’s strong, vocal opposition to Ehrlich’s push for slots in Maryland.

Ehrlich’s support for Harris was rejected by some in the GOP who worred that, by knocking off Gilchrest, an opening would be created for a strong Democrat challenger. Enter Frank Kratovil: young, charismatic, articulate, and well-funded. Ehrlich and Harris ultimately did what the Democrats could never have done: defeat Wayne Gilchrest, whose lowest vote total over the previous three general elections was 69 percent.

On paper, this race was an open seat pitting Kratovil against Harris. But in a larger sense, this contest was a battle between the two Republican giants in the state: Wayne Gilchrest vs. Bobby Ehrlich, with Frank Kratovil and Andy Harris serving as their surrogates.

It will be a while before the dust settles. But what is abundantly clear now is the fact that Bob Ehrlich’s two egocentric motivations concerning this race – his white-hot political ambition and his quest for revenge against Wayne Gilchrest – have cancelled each other out. By successfully ousting a fellow Republican, by eating one of his own, Bobby Ehrlich delivered the First District to the Democrats on a silver platter and in so doing, bust up his own political future.

Kevin Gilchrest

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:17 AM | | Comments (5)

November 17, 2008

How will this play on the East Side?

Heard coming out of a commercial break on today's Ed Norris show on WHFS Radio:

"I'm a tri-sexual. That's all I'm going to say."
-- Del. Pat McDonough of Baltimore County, a Republican who is considering a run for county executive.

Really? That's all? We'd think he'd want to explain a little more.
(Perhaps we missed a discussion earlier in the show that would have provided more context for this curious remark. Or, perhaps the in-studio chatter during commerical breaks is racier than we imagined.)

Posted by David Nitkin at 1:03 PM | | Comments (3)

Deer vs. lobbyist: The gore-y details

Former state delegate and current lobbyist Gilbert Genn was attacked by a buck Thursday while walking his dog outside his Gaithersburg home.

WTOP Radio has a wonderfully detailed account of the incident, provided by the voluable Genn himself. It's worth reading.

Among our favorite details:

a) Genn declined to get medical treatment immediately despite being stabbed by an antler in the groin. Instead, he stopped the bleeding with a binder clip. Why? He had a long-scheduled meeting with House Speaker Michael E. Busch that he said he didn't want to miss. The topic: health care issues (specifically, whether doctors can self-refer, an important topic in rural areas).

b) The photo on the WTOP Web site, which shows a distressed Genn in a hospital bed with a blood stain on his boxer shorts, was given to the news station by Genn himself. Never let it be said that Genn shied away from publicity, regardless of the topic.

Genn wrestled the buck to the ground, and it eventually tired and ran away. We bet Genn's one-time lobbying partner, Don Murphy, can come up with the perfect joke to describe the situation.

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:13 AM | | Comments (1)

November 14, 2008

What's good for Michael Steele may not be good for Maryland Republicans

Time will tell whether Michael Steele is a top contender for the post of RNC chairman, or an also-ran. If he got the job, it would certainly be a point of pride for Maryland Republicans.

But it probably wouldn't help the beleaguered party here all that much, and could actually hurt it.

Steele is one of perhaps two or three Maryland Republicans with a shot at statewide office, something the party badly needs. The others are Bob Ehrlich, and possibly Kendel Ehrlich (although there's a risk she could be a Fred Thompson/Sarah Palin type candidate -- the kind who receives their greatest support on the day they announce their intentions, and then slide steadily downhill from there).

To repeat a frequently made point, Steele has never been elected to anything on his own in Maryland, or elsewhere. His record as Maryland Republican chairman is mixed -- his legacy was a strategic plan for the party which has failed to produce results.

There's no guarantee he could get elected, say, governor in Maryland. But if he were RNC chairman, it's doubtful he would run. If Ehrlich passed on the race, too, that would seriously erode the already narrow chances of Republicans picking up a statewide office.

If he were RNC chairman, Steele might swing into Maryland every now and then. But given the state's overwhelmingly Democratic bent, it's not a place for the national party to steer resources (the 1st Congressional District being the obvious exception). After all, how much was a former Maryland RNC chairman, Ken Mehlman, able to do for his home state?

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:38 AM | | Comments (1)

Baltimore budget cuts

The news that Mayor Sheila Dixon is asking her agency heads to start trimming millions from next year's budget in hopes of getting ahead of the plunging economy is suprrising only in the sense that she's talking about the fiscal 2010 budget and not about immediate cuts to the current FY 2009 spending plan. Mayors in cities from coast to coast are slashing their budgets now, and even some of Maryland's relatively wealthy counties -- most recently, Montgomery County -- are making immediate cuts. The idea is that by reducing spending now, they can lessen the amount of pain they'll face next year.

What's a little odd about Dixon's announcement is that it comes extremely early in the budget process. Baltimore (and other local governments) aren't dealing with a predictable budget shortfall, like the structural deficits that have plagued the state in recent years. Instead, they're coping with an extremely volitile economy (if you could have predicted the current situation six months ago, gold star for you) and with total uncertainty about how much the state and federal governments might cut in local aid. The cuts could turn out to be far too much or too little.

We'll get more details this afternoon on exactly how much the mayor is targeting -- and on her thinking about why the city needs to start making decisions now.

Posted by Andy Green at 10:58 AM | | Comments (0)

Michael Steele is running for RNC chair

Maryland's former lieutenant governor Michael Steele announced yesterday at the Republican Governor's Association meeting in Miami that he is running for Republican National Committee Chairman. He expressed interest in the job four years ago, but he's getting a lot more buzz this time from the likes of Sean Hannity. He sent out a statement last night laying out his platform for the job:

 “the Republican Party must present a vision for the future of America that relies on our conservative values and core principles.  It is wrong to believe the voters have suddenly become liberal.  They have just lost any sense of confidence that the Republican Party holds the answers to their problems.   We must face the fact that our party has failed in recent years to live up to our own principles -- we have failed to be ‘solutions oriented’ in addressing the concerns of all Americans.”


Steele played up his plans for a grassroots resurgence of the Republican Party. That's surely a stance that plays well with the county leaders, national committeemen and women, etc. who form the backbone of the party and are the people who will choose the next party leader. But it's also one that is probably appealing given the success Barack Obama just had building his own grassroots organization and fund-raising machine.

He also played up some of the views and priorities that made him somewhat atypical as a Republican candidate for public office over the last few years, such as his view that government needs to do more to tackle poverty, drug addiction and other issues more typically associated with Democrats.

“I believe the leadership of our party must come from its grassroots because the members of the RNC are the best representation of what direction our party needs to take.    The state chairmen, national committeewomen, and national committeemen are the party leaders who are closest to the voters – they know what the voters want – they talk to them everyday.  I have walked a mile in their shoes; without them you become out of touch with the issues that are important to Main Street Americans.”

“I want Republicans to get back to winning elections, not just for the sake of winning, but for the sake of our Country’s future.  Most Americans today see a Republican Party that defines itself by what it is against rather than what it is for.  We can tell you why public schools aren’t working, but not articulate a compelling vision for how we’ll better educate children.  We’re well equipped to rail against tax increases; but can’t begin to explain how we’ll help the poor. The success of our Party’s resurgence will come from the states -- from our local leaders and from our Governors.”

We must articulate a positive vision for America’s future that speaks to Americans’ hopes, concerns and needs.  It’s time to stop defining ourselves by what we are not, and tell voters what we believe, how we’ll lead, and where we’ll go … how we Republicans will make America better … how we’ll make their families more prosperous, their children better educated, their parents more secure, and all of us healthier, safer, and stronger.  That means we must articulate our vision in the local public square, on TV, on Radio, in the local newspapers, on the internet.  With God’s help and the guidance of the men and women who give strength to our Republican National Committee, I am prepared to do just that.”


For more on his plans, check out his new website.


Posted by Andy Green at 6:34 AM | | Comments (4)

November 13, 2008

Newt: Michael Steele "is a great, great talent"

The Michael Steele for RNC chairman campaign got some more buzz last night on Hannity & Colmes on Fox News, both from Sean Hannity and from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Hannity: "There's somebody I am interested in running it, somebody very reform minded ... a guy by the name of Michael Steele. Do you think the Republican Party needs to change, and what are your thoughts on Michael?"

Gingrich: "I think Michael Steele is a great, great talent. He certainly would offer the kind of vivid, strong voice we could use, and I think the party would do very well if he ends up being chairman. There are a number of other strong people running. The chairman of South Carolina is very, very effective. A good friend of mine, Saul Anuzis the chairman of Michigan is running, but Michael Steele certainly is going to be in the front ranks, one of the two or three leading contenders."

Posted by Andy Green at 12:03 PM | | Comments (0)

The fathers -- and mothers -- of Democratic hegemony.

Baltimore Sun columnist Jean Marbella wrote a nice piece today telling the back-story of how Maryland's congressional delegation went from 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans in 2002 to its current 7 Democrat-1 Republican configuration.

She rightly credits Gov. Parris Glendening as the grandfather of the boundaries redrawn after the 2000 census. But it's worth mentioning a few other names.

-- Jennifer Crawford: The future Mrs. Glendening was the governor's deputy chief of staff during the redistricing process and was the key staffer in charge of moving election districts around and achieving the governor's partisan goals. For those in the State House at the time, the work product was sometimes referred to as "Jennifer's Maps." She's never spoken to the media about her role; we'd love to hear what she has to say on the topic. C'mon Jen: Gloat a little. There's a "comment space" just below!

-- Sushant Sidh: Sidh was young, but already had long experience working in congressional and gubernatorial campaigns. He was Crawford's assistant, and Glendening put him on the panel redrawing the lines. After stints with a nursing home company and Anne Arundel county government, he's now an Annapolis lobbyist with a lot of notches on his belt.

-- John Willis: Willis was named secretary of state when Glendening became governor and is arguably the most knowledgable person in Maryland about the history of political boundaries. Willis argued with a straight face to me and others why the ridiculous-looking boundaries of the 1st District (the latest Dem pick-up) as well as the equally silly 2nd and 3rd made perfect sense and were rooted in history and tradition. He can laugh now if he wants to, but knowing Willis, he's probably not laughing, but lecturing.

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:48 AM | | Comments (6)

Tom Perez: Helping the Obama transition

Tom Perez, the former justice department lawyer, Montgomery County councilman, attorney general candidate and current labor, licensing and regulation secretary in the O'Malley administration, becomes the first Marylander with a significant role in the the Obama transition to government.

Perez was named a working group member reviewing personnel and policies at the departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development.

Here's an Associated Press description of the small band of working group members and their backgrounds, and their backgrounds:

A look at Obama transition team leaders
By The Associated Press – 15 hours ago

Some members of President-elect Obama's transition team:



A New York Law School professor, Harris has ties to organized labor and will be responsible for labor, education and transportation issues for the transition team.

Harris was a top Labor Department official during the Clinton administration. Under Labor secretaries Alexis Herman and Robert Reich, Harris was senior adviser on policy, legal, management and strategic issues.

Among the policies he helped formulate were efforts to bring out-of-school youth into the work force and increase the minimum wage.

Harris started at Labor as a special assistant to Reich and moved up through the department, becoming acting assistant secretary for policy, then deputy assistant secretary for policy and special assistant to the secretary before leaving in 2000.

In February 1998, Clinton nominated Harris to serve as administrator of the wage and hour division of the Labor Department. The Republican-controlled Senate returned the nomination nine months later without taking a vote.

Before earning his law degree in 1990, Harris served as a legislative field representative for the Seafarers International Union.

This isn't Harris's first go-round with transition planning. In 1992, he served on the transition team for President Clinton.

_ By Jesse J. Holland



To lead his transition at the State Department, Obama chose one former official with years of foreign policy experience and another with deep ties to Democratic politics.

Sherman was counselor at the State Department during the second term of the Clinton administration, advising then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and coordinating policy on North Korea. She was a frequent figure on TV defending the Clinton administration's approach to curbing North Korea's nuclear program.

Since leaving government she has been a top executive of The Albright Group, an international consulting firm headed by the former secretary of state. During Clinton's first term Sherman handled legislative affairs for State.

Her partner on the Obama transition team will be Thomas E. Donilon, who served as chief spokesman and as chief of staff at State during the Clinton administration. He is now a partner in the Washington office of the law firm of O'Melveny and Myers. The firm's Web site says he advises companies and their boards on a range of "sensitive governance, policy, legal and regulatory matters."

Donilon previously was an executive vice president at Fannie Mae, the money-losing mortgage finance company that was seized by federal regulators more than two months ago.

According to his State Department biography, Donilon managed the Democratic national conventions in 1980 and 1984 and in 1985 served as top legal officer to the Democratic National Committee's convention site selection committee. He was a senior adviser to the 1988 presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and he was an adviser to President Clinton's 1992 transition.

Donilon also served in the White House during the Carter administration.

_ By Robert Burns



Warren is a member of the transition team's agency review working group and will help oversee international trade and economic agencies.

He is a Rhodes Scholar and chief operating officer and managing director of Stonebridge International LLC. He currently is on "partial leave" from the business, according to the Obama campaign.

Stonebridge advertises itself as the "premier international advisory firm at the nexus of commerce and public policy." According to records on file with the Senate Office of Public Records, that apparently translates into lobbying. Records show Stonebridge has lobbied for Airbus Americas Inc., and energy companies ConocoPhillips, Dynegy and Gulfsands Petroleum Ltd.

Based in Washington, the company does a global business. Warren is responsible for the firm's overall management, client service and business development.

He came to Stonebridge from Horne Engineering Services and was president of Appfluent Technologies, a software company. He also serves as chairman of the board of Ironbridge Systems, another technology company. Previously, Warren was with McKinsey & Co., a Washington-based consulting firm.

He also has political experience, having served as executive director of the White House National Economic Council, created under former President Clinton. The council advises the president on global economic policy.

_ By John Dunbar



Another Clintonite on the Obama transition team is David J. Hayes, a Stanford University-educated lawyer and former deputy secretary at the Interior Department under Bruce Babbitt. He'll lead the transition at Interior, the Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency.

In recent years, Hayes has been outspoken about Congress' need to require mandatory reductions in the emissions blamed for global warming and the need for a new law to allow industrial polluters to get credit for investing in emissions reductions elsewhere, such as at landfills, at farms and in forests. These measures — known as offsets — are controversial.

Hayes, until recently, was a partner at the Washington law firm Latham and Watkins, where he led the environment, land and resources department. He serves on the board of the advocacy organization American Rivers, and is a senior fellow at the World Wildlife Fund. Over the course of his career as an attorney, he has represented environmental groups as well as corporations and industrial associations, according to a search of public records.

As deputy secretary of Interior from 1999-2001, Hayes worked to protect redwood forests in Northern California, to preserve endangered species and to improve water management of the Colorado River, which provides drinking water to southern California and western states.

_ By Dina Cappiello



A man who went from a door-to-door brush salesman to millionaire high-tech lobbyist to historian will oversee science, technology, space and arts for the transition.

Wheeler is a venture capitalist at Core Capital Partners. He had been chief executive officer for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association and National Cable Television Association.

"Tom Wheeler is the rock star of telecom," Pat Mitchell, then president of the Public Broadcasting Service, told the Los Angeles Times in a 2002 profile. "He's always the one that shakes things up a bit."

Armed with multiple cell phones, Wheeler was a Washington telecom fixture from 1976, when he started with the cable association, to 2004. His last dozen years were at the cell phone lobby. He also founded and headed several high-tech companies.

Wheeler, who is not well known by science policy experts, dabbled in history, writing two books about the Civil War. One book, "Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails," explores how the president used the new technology of the telegraph to "win the Civil War" and portrays the Illinois-based president as an astute user of modern technology.

Wheeler, a lifelong Democrat, also was a trustee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

He once described his political survival instincts this way: "When you're losing the battle, change the rules."

In columns he wrote about the wireless industry and in interviews, Wheeler often talked about embracing change in technology. "I think the biggest problem is that we all tend to define tomorrow in terms of what we know today," he told the Los Angeles Times.

_ By Seth Borenstein



Sewall, a terrorism and counterinsurgency expert, with aid the transition at the national security agencies.

She is on part-time leave from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she runs a center on human rights policy. The university says Sewall's research focuses in part on the "ethics of fighting insurgencies and terrorism."

She was a deputy assistant secretary of defense under President Clinton, with responsibility for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid.

At Harvard, Sewall has been working with another Obama transition adviser, defense policy specialist John P. White, on a yearlong assessment of senior civil-military decision-making.

In 2007, Sewall wrote a new introduction to the Army-Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, an updated doctrine that was overseen by Gen. David Petraeus.

Writing in The Washington Post early last year about that effort, Sewall criticized President Bush's "surge" strategy now credited with helping lower violence in Iraq.

"The Bush plan is burdened with three main deficiencies: too few capable U.S., allied and Iraqi counterinsurgent forces; weak U.S. efforts at promoting political and economic reform, and corrupt or feckless Iraqi institutions and leadership," Sewall wrote. "The administration's strategy may have changed, but the supporting components have not."

_ By Anne Gearan



A civil rights lawyer from Maryland, Perez will assist the transition team responsible for four departments: Justice, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development.

Perez is secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which enforces workplace safety laws. He spent several years working in the Clinton administration and for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. He was the senator's chief counsel.

Perez held a variety of civil rights positions at the Justice Department. His biography with the state of Maryland says he was a federal prosecutor for the department's civil rights division. In that post he supervised the federal prosecution of some high profile cases, including a hate crime case in Texas involving a gang of white supremacists who went on a deadly, racially motivated crime spree directed at African-Americans.

In the final two years of the Clinton administration, Perez served as the director of the office for civil rights within the Health and Human Services Department. The office investigates complaints alleging discrimination in services from health care providers.

Before he went to work in the administration of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, Perez spent about seven years working as an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.

_ By Kevin Freking

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:31 AM | | Comments (0)

Spoiler alert: Libertarian candidate defends his 1st District run

Richard Davis, a Hurlock dentist who ran as a Libertarian candidate in the 1st District, received 8,632 votes, more than four times the 2,154 vote difference that currently separates Democratic winner Frank Kratovil and defeated Republican state Sen. Andy Harris.

That raises the distinct possibility that if Davis were not in the race, Harris could have won. But Davis dismisses the notion that he was a spoiler. "My hope is that as least as many people will see me as [the campaign's] conscience," he said in a letter to newspaper editors that he mailed on Sunday, two days before Harris conceded and Kratovil declared victory.

Here's the full text of Davis's letter:

"As the vote count continues in the First Congressional District race, I have had an increasing number of comments and questions about whether I see myself as a 'spoiler.' As it currently appears likely that I will end with far more votes than the difference between the two major party candidates, this is a reasonable question. When I agreed to enter this race, I understood there was a good chance it would be a close one, and there have been races in other states in recent years where Libertarian candidates have received more votes than the difference between Republican and Democratic candidates, and have thus been seen by many as spoilers.

All this is beside the point. I entered this race knowing full well that I was the longest of long shots as a third party candidate. All the same, I resolved to enter because I felt I had some ideas to offer to this district that neither of the other parties offered."

"Let me make it clear for the record that I have no significant preference for either of my opponents, and my hopes and prayers go with both, especially with whichever is declared the winner. It may well be, as has been said, that Dr. Harris holds many views compatible with libertarian principles, although the Iraq war is an obvious exception. It may well be that Mr. Kratovil is more conservative than the bulk of the current Democratic Party. Nevertheless, both major parties are currently controlled by leaders who work for ever-expanding government programs with massive federal spending and continued meddling in the affairs of countries around the world, whatever rhetoric they may employ to the contrary. I fear that neither candidate can be expected to have much influence in shifting these senior leaders toward more freedom, less government spending, and limited Constitutional government.

I entered this race a s a means of showing the people of this district that there are other choices available. I was particularly glad to be invited to the debates where I could meet the candidates face to face, so both they and the voters could see that I was not just a name on a ballot taking votes away from one of the major parties.

I understood from the start that I could not compete with the major parties at fundraising and media coverage (though the local media have been quite fair in this regard, which I’ve been given to understand is relatively uncommon around the country, so let me publicly thank them here). On reflection (and against the advice of several others) I decided on principle to do no fund-raising at all. I believe elections should be about ideas, not about money raised and spent for ads, yard signs, bumper stickers and such. After the $100 filing fee, I may have spent another $200 on postage, paper, copying and gas for travel. With more experience I might have budgeted more time and money for travel to get word of my ideas out, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to accomplish with my letters to editors of newspapers.

If media reports are accurate, my opponents between them apparently spent something over $4 million, yet the most frequent comments I heard from voters concerned how fed up they were with the nastiness of the ads and how little they actually addressed any real issues, focusing almost exclusively on the opposing major party candidate. Talking to both of them before and after the debates, they both seemed pleasant and polite enough, so maybe the issue is with their campaign staffs. In any case, it appears that the ads will have worked for one of them, so some of the blame must go to the voters who responded to those ads. All the same I have to wonder how we’re any better off for that four million dollars worth of ads, mailers, yard signs and bumper stickers.

Shortly we should have the final results and one of the two, Dr. Harris or Mr. Kratovil, will have won a very narrow victory. I may continue to be seem as the spoiler for this campaign, but my hope is that as least as many people will see me as its conscience."

Posted by David Nitkin at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)

November 12, 2008

Smooth sailing for Mikulski

She and her top advisers would never admit it in public, but Sen. Barbara Mikulski is heading for what looks to be one of her easier campaigns.

We'll get this out of the way: Mikulski, 72, is running again.

She has already informed her colleagues in the Senate and the Maryland delegation that she will seek a fifth term in 2010. If she completes it, she'll tie former Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes for longest serving Maryland senator.

If current conditions hold, she'll cruise to victory.

Here's why:

a) Mikulski has been arguably the state's most popular politician for years, and there is no sign anything has changed. The 1.5 million votes she collected in her 2002 campaign are the most ever by a Maryland politician -- more than the 1.1 million William Donald Schaefer got in his comptroller's race that year or the 907,000 he got in his 1986 governor's race, and more than the 942,000 Martin O'Malley collected in his 2006 gubernatorial win. In fact, the only politician on a Maryland ballot who ever got more votes than that was Barack Obama, with 1.58 million votes this month.

b) She's not at the top of the list for Republican targets. The GOP's exceptionally thin bench will spend its limited resources going after Frank Kratovil and Martin O'Malley, the two Democrats with the biggest targets on their backs. The best candidates Republicans have -- Bob Ehrlich, Michael Steele and Kendel Ehrlich -- may not be interested in either of those spots. Heck, they might not run for anything at all. There won't be a powerful enough bullet in the GOP gun to take down Mikulski.

c) She could have a very good year or two. This could be the year that Mikukski -- the most senior member of the Senate without a full committee chairmanship -- could move higher in leadership. She took on added responsibilities on the Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee when its chairman, Ted Kennedy, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. If Kennedy is unable to resume full duties, her role could grow more. Mikulski, a strong Hillary Clinton supporter, could have more power than ever during the first years of the Obama adminisration -- and she's shown that she likes to use it to help out Eastern Shore watermen or union workers at the Port of Baltimore or Allison transmission.

d) She's got plenty of money to tamp down any challengers: about $850,000 in the bank, her aides say.

Democrats could face a tough year in 2010. History shows that the party that takes control of the White House loses seats in Congress during the first mid-term election. But it's highly unlikely that Mikulski will feel the effects.

That means those Maryland politicians waiting for a Senate seat to open, such as Chris Van Hollen, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes, among others, need to stay patient.

Posted by David Nitkin at 12:20 PM | | Comments (10)

O'Malley hits the airwaves

Gov. O'Malley's office just announced that he'll be doing a regular "Ask the Governor" gig on MPT's Direct Connection on the third Wednesday of every month. Long-time Direct Connection host Jeff Salkin will lead the discussion of questions from callers and e-mails. So if you've got a beef with the governor (or want to give him a pat on the back), send your questions to or call in during the show at 1-800-926-0629. The first show is Wed. Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

You may recall that Bob Ehrlich did a weekly "Ask the Governor" segment on WBAL radio. Then-mayor O'Malley had an occasional call-in show on that station, too. Aside from the general bad blood between O'Malley and the station (or, more specifically, with it's right-leaning talk show hosts), it's not too shocking to see the O'Guv looking for a different platform, given the weekly Ehrlich show on Saturday mornings.

Posted by Andy Green at 11:41 AM | | Comments (0)

More Kratovil challengers

An anonymous (but very plugged in) politico offers a few more suggestions for possible Kratovil challengers in 2010:

If I had to pick who would be a strong challenger to Kratovil these names immediately come to mind:

Jeanie Haddaway – she is young, a real Eastern Shore native, a hard campaigner, female, and a pretty conservative record though still good on environmental issues

Steve Schuh – Steve can raise a ton of money. He is a strong fiscal conservative who has one of the best ratings for a Republican from the LCV. Plus, he can rack up huge numbers in AA County. If Harris had gotten 1.5% more in AA County, he would have won.

I agree with you that Andy and Pipkin are the two biggest candidates.

Ehrlich does not live in the district right now, so he would have to move (or just run as a non-resident which is legal though not advisable). On that front, because Kendall is pretty outwardly pro-choice (Bob is more reserved about it) - Kendall would have a bloody primary.

The key thing to remember is that whoever runs, they will only have about 7 weeks from the Primary to the General Election.

Posted by Andy Green at 9:52 AM | | Comments (2)

November 11, 2008

Fox News: Steele seeking Republican National Committee post

Fox News is reporting that former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is interested in running for the chairmanship of the RNC and may announce his candidacy as early as Thursday. Fox further reports that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has issued a statement disavowing interest in the post.

In another sign that he's in the mix, there's even a draft Michael Steele website.

Picking Steele would be an interesting and symbolically potent choice for the GOP. He emerged during the party's convention over the summer as critical of the Republican party's outreach to minorities, noting in nationally televised interviews that there were fewer black delegates to the party's convention than in previous years. Barack Obama's dominance among minorities -- not just African-Americans -- and young voters has certainly upset a number of people in the party's hierarchy, who conclude that being an all-white party isn't a winning strategy in a country that will be majority-minority in the not too distant future.

Steele expressed interest in the national job four years ago, but was passed over in favor of Mike Duncan. He's now head of GOPAC, an organizaiton Gingrich once headed, dedicated to recruiting and supporting new Republican candidates. He's gotten speaking slots at the last two national conventions. In 2004, he was the GOP's answer to a keynote from a then-unknown Barack Obama, and this year, he coined one of the most memorable lines of the year when he implored the country to "Drill, baby, drill" as a solution to $100-plus a barrel oil.

He's a fairly straight-line conservative on policy matters but doesn't look or sound like a typical Republican, which may be what the party's going for at this point. So now, the battle cry is becoming "Run, baby, run."

Posted by Andy Green at 5:02 PM | | Comments (16)

Michael Steele's Rx for the GOP

The Wall Street Journal dedicated an op-ed page today to the question, "What Does the GOP Do Next," with brief essays from various conservatives, including former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Steele's prescription for the GOP: Become the party of the future by emulating Ronald Reagan. Essentially, Steele says, the party's problem is that it betrayed its principles in order to win and ended up losing instead.

So the party needs to follow the example of Reagan, who "made it cool to be a Republican."

"It wasn't just his specific policies, but the timeless truths he so eloquently gave voice to, and upon which his policies were based. That's the Republican Party we must re-establish."

Steele, who has recently been criticizing the GOP for not doing enough to reach out to minorities, says times have changed and the party needs to adapt. But he said the one thing it can't do is change its principles.

"Our challenge lies not in beating Democrats, but in uniting around a message that solidifies our ranks and attracts new people to our cause. We have to listen to what Americans are telling us about their hopes, desires and needs, and then translate that message into proposals for meanginful action squarely grounded in values we Republicans have always stood for."

Posted by Andy Green at 3:04 PM | | Comments (29)

Can Kratovil hold the seat?

Democrat Frank Kratovil isn't due to declare victory for another hour-and-a-half, but it's never too early to look ahead to his re-election bid. He won in a tremendous Democratic year, running as an Eastern Shore moderate against a very conservative Western Shore Republican in a district that by all rights should be safe for the GOP, even though registered Democrats hold a slight numerical edge. Congressmen are usually most vulnerable in their first re-election bid, so who should the GOP put up against him?

The obvious possibility is Andy Harris, the Republican state senator who just barely lost to him this time. Kratovil will have some advantage of incumbency, but anything less than the Democratic tidal wave of this year, and Harris might be the one declaring victory today. The down side for Harris: He'd have to give up his safe seat in the state Senate. If he aims to do that, would he rather try for governor or comptroller? Or maybe Baltimore County Executive?


Sen. E. J. Pipkin is another strong possibility. He's spent loads of his own money to run for Senate and this year for Congress. He's got an advantage in that he's an Eastern Shore guy, and this year's election returns suggest the Eastern Shore is not ready to be represented by someone from this side of the Bay. Downside: Like Harris, he'd have to give up his state Senate seat and might have bigger ambitions.

Bob Ehrlich: He's by far the biggest name being floated out there for this seat. He may not be eager to go back to Congress, especially if the Democrats remain in control there. But he might also see another run for state-wide office as being a stretch at a time when Democrats appear to be spreading their influence beyond the traditional Big Three of Baltimore City, MoCo and PG and into Baltimore, Howard and Charles counties. Last Tuesday's results can't be terribly encouraging to a shrewd vote-counter like the former guv.

If you've got other ideas, pass 'em along...

Posted by Andy Green at 12:21 PM | | Comments (17)

Kratovil set to declare victory?

There are still some absentee ballots to be counted, but with each new round, Democrat Frank Kratovil's lead over Republican Andy Harris in the hotly contested 1st Congressional District has only widened. The AP called the race for Kratovil on Friday (though The Baltimore Sun and other organizations held off), and it looks like the two campaigns are set to acknowledge the Democrat's apparent win. Harris has two public events today, one at noon in Salisbury and one in White Marsh at 6. Kratovil has an announcement of his own in Queen Anne's County at 2. All indications are that Harris plans to concede and Kratovil to declare vicotry.

Despite the animus displayed in the television ads throughout the race, the two campaigns appear to be managing the aftermath amicably. Harris hasn't dragged things out, and Kratovil doesn't appear to be rushing things.

Posted by Andy Green at 9:45 AM | | Comments (0)

November 7, 2008

Kratovil's lead widens

It's looking like the Democrats may really be able to pick up another Congressional seat in Maryland. The Maryland Board of Elections has updated its numbers with the absentee ballot counts from every county in the 1st Congressional District, and Democrat Frank Kratovil's lead in the still too close to call race is now up to 2,003 votes. He led by about 900 on election day and by about 1,800 at press time yesterday.

More rounds of absentee counts are still to come as ballots mailed on or just before election day continue to trickle in to county election offices. And provisional ballots won't be counted until next week, so we may not have an official winner for some time. But it's not good news for Republican Andy Harris that Kratovil's lead has steadily widened as more absentees have been counted. There's no reason to imagine that the late-mailed absentees or provisional ballots would be more Republican-leaning than those that have been counted so far.

Posted by Andy Green at 3:37 PM | | Comments (0)

Obama appointments: Rumor and speculation

Here's the latest buzz: Maryland AG Doug Gansler could be in line for a plumb job in Barack Obama's justice department. Gansler was one of three AGs to endorse the president-elect during the primary, he's the national chairman of the Democratic AGs association and, as a bonus, he's Jewish, a key Democratic constituency, parts of which were slow to warm to Obama. And the MoCo Democrat knows Washington (he was a federal prosecutor there before becoming the Montgomery County State's Attorney, and his father was an under-secretary of defense).

That said, it would probably take a pretty good job to pry him away from state-wide elected office; he's seen as a likely candidate for governor when Martin O'Malley is done, and he seems to have settled into his current job smoothly.

But if he did go to Washington, the dominoes could get interesting. The governor gets to appoint an attorney general to fill the vacancy, and there are a few intriguing options. O'Malley could go with Tom Perez, his labor secretary who ran for the office before a court decision found him ineligible at the time. (He hadn't been admitted to the bar in Maryland for long enough, but he should have met the qualifications by now.) But Perez, who worked for the Clinton administration in various capacities, could have a ticket to Washington of his own. There are other good possibilities out there -- PG State's Attorney Glenn Ivey comes to mind -- but the early bets seem to favor term-limited Baltimore County Exec. Jim Smith.

Smith is a former judge and big-time O'Malley supporter who gets a lot of credit for the governor's 2006 victory over incumbent Bob Ehrlich. He's been talked up as a possible opponent to Comptroller Peter Franchot in the 2010 Democratic primary, but the AG's job might suit him better -- not only would it bring him back into the legal community but it also wouldn't involve commuting to Annapolis every day. (The AG's office is in Baltimore.)

That would, of course, create an opening for his job, which would be filled by someone selected by the County Council, the members of which have been muttering about running for executive for years now without any of them actually doing anything about it.

Posted by Andy Green at 12:14 PM | | Comments (1)

Election turnout -- early numbers not overwhelming

Early analysis of election results nationwide show that turnout may not have been as overwhelming as many expected. It appears that many Republicans stayed home, even as Obama voters were energized and did flock to the polls.

Maryland election officials were predicting an 85 percent turnout rate, which would have been the highest in at least two decades, with 90 percent participation in some jurisdictions.

State elections officials say they'll provide better numbers later today, but right now, based on publically available figures, the turnout rate appears to be 77.5 percent.

Here's how I calculate that:

In the presidential election, there were 2,426,282 million votes cast on Election Day, according to the state board web side. There were 233,137 absentee ballots requested (some of which will not be returned).

Adding those two figures together, and dividing by the number of registered voters -- 3,432,645 -- results in a 77.5 percent participation rate. Left out is provisional ballots.

I'll be interested in seeing what the final, official figure is.

Posted by David Nitkin at 12:09 PM | | Comments (0)

November 6, 2008

Deeper shades of blue in Maryland

There's an interesting map in today's New York Times showing significant Democratic trends in most of the country, comparing this year's presidential election to 2004's. Exit polls indicate that the changes were largely driven by economic concerns and a view that the Democratic Party now has better -- or at least different -- solutions for fiscal problems. The challenge for the Obama administration will be to make those gains long-standing.

Maryland followed that national pattern. Our colleague Mike Dresser, who has been scrutinizing Maryland exit polls and other data, brings the following data points to our attention:

Frederick County GOP margin
2004: 20,000+
2008: 2,300

Charles Co. Dem. margin
2004: 900 (approx)
2008: 16,700

Howard Co. Dem margin
2004: 12,500
2008: 27,500

St. Mary's GOP margin
2004: 10,000
2008: 5,500

Those numbers show large gains in four fast-growing areas that have been considered swing jurisdictions in Maryland. Perhaps they're not swinging any longer, and have stopped on the left side of the pendulum's orbit.

Posted by David Nitkin at 9:39 AM | | Comments (0)

The hatchet remains unburied

Even though the slots vote is now history, it's too soon for a make-up hug between Gov. O'Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot. Our colleagues Gadi Dechter and Laura Smitherman report the following from Wednesday's Board of Public Works meeting:

"Yesterday, Franchot said he was "obviously disappointed" at the passage of the slots measure he publicly campaigned against, but struck a conciliatory note. "I believe now it’s time to drop the sword between the two sides," he told reporters after a Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis.

During the meeting, Franchot praised the O’Malley for recent budget cuts and suggested it was "time for all of us to refocus on the fiscal crisis" facing the state.

O’Malley seemed disinclined to take up Franchot’s offer to bury the hatchet between them. "I don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t been focused on the fiscal crisis," O’Malley said after the meeting. "And I welcome the comptroller’s return to that important work."

Posted by David Nitkin at 9:36 AM | | Comments (1)

November 5, 2008

Kratovil: Voter support "heartwarming"

Like Andy Harris, Frank M. Kratovil Jr. is spending the day with family while waiting for election officials to begin counting absentee ballots in the First Congressional District. The Democratic state's attorney for Queen Anne's County has issued the following statement:

“It’s heartwarming that so many people, Republicans, Democrats and Independents, came out and supported my candidacy for United States Congress. Yesterday, that support carried me to a clear lead in this election at the polling places even as John McCain carried our District by a significant margin. It is my hope that we will see this trend carry over to the absentee ballot totals as well.

"The most important thing right now is to make sure all remaining votes are counted; representatives from my campaign will work with the Board of Elections in each county to make sure this process goes smoothly.”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:59 PM | | Comments (0)

Harris: 'Complete confidence in our election system'

Andy Harris is spending the day out of view as election officials prepare to count absentee ballots in Maryland's tight First Congressional District race. The Republican state senator, who trails Democratic Queen Anne's County prosecutor Frank M. Kratovil Jr. by fewer than 1,000 votes, has issued a statement:

"My parents immigrated to the United States to flee Communism with the hope of a better life for themselves and their children," Harris said. "Their experience taught me early on to believe in and trust the democratic process in America, where we have a fair and just system of laws in place to make sure every vote cast is counted fairly.

"I will work with the County Boards of Elections and Mr. Kratovil's campaign to make sure that we come to a conclusion quickly, so that we can get back to work for the people of the First District. I have complete confidence in our election system and the men and women responsible for making sure that the process of counting each vote is fair and straightforward."

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:01 PM | | Comments (0)

Maryland Republican chair congratulates Obama

Jim Pelura, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, has issued the following statement:

“The Maryland Republican Party congratulates Senator Obama as well as Senator Biden on this historic achievement. While we have had a long and tough campaign, we respect the will of the voters. We plan on being a strong, vocal, but loyal opposition. Now is the time for all of us to come together to move America forward.

“I also want to thank our outstanding candidates for Congress, Sen. Andy Harris, Richard Matthews, Thomas Harris, Peter James, Collins Bailey, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, Dr. Mike Hargadon, and Dr. Steve Hudson for putting their name on the ballot and spending the last year and a half traveling their districts and campaigning. We also thank and congratulate Robert Hodge and Jim Mullin for their campaign for county commissioner in Cecil County.

"A special thanks is extended to all those citizens that worked hard in the polling places to insure the integrity of our electoral process.

“Finally, we would be remiss to not thank the thousands of volunteers and staff that worked for John McCain, Sarah Palin, and our other candidates. While we did not get the result we wanted in the Presidential race, your efforts have not been in vain. The fact that we get to take a direct hand in electing our leaders is part of the greatness of America. Nationally and locally, the Republican Party will emerge from this experience stronger because of your efforts."

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 1:57 PM | | Comments (0)

County Councilmen: Keep your day jobs

An interesting footnote to last night's election was the defeat of a Baltimore County charter amendment that would have removed a prohibition on county council members working in the state government. At least twice in the last decade, councilmen have run afoul of this provision without anybody realizing that it was on the books in the first place. So if people didn't even know that the rule existed, why did Baltimore County voters vote 54-46 to keep it?

The rule is a very Baltimore County sort of thing -- other counties lack similar provisions -- born out of a healthy distrust among the charter's framers for the people who would be elected. (Given the history of corruption in BaltCo in the early days of charter rule, this was maybe an understandable attitude.)

But now? It's not like the old days in Towson when the U.S. Attorney's office was indicting people left and right. Instead, you've got a group of seven guys on the council who have been elected and re-elected, on average, four times. The new guy, Ken Oliver, is on his second term, and the veteran, Vince Gardina (who was the instigator of the charter amendment) is on his fifth. This group of men (yes, all of them are men) has been serving for a collective 90 years at this point.  Few of them have faced anything approaching a serious challenge in years. Voters keep re-electing them handily.

So what's the deal? Charter amendments rarely fail. If voters keep sending these guys back to Towson, why the rejection of this charter amendment? Are people getting tired of them? 

Posted by Andy Green at 11:40 AM | | Comments (4)

Van Hollen's star rising?

Is Rep. Chris Van Hollen about to move up in the House leadership?

Already a favorite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Montgomery County congressman now can boast a successful cycle as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. According to RealClearPolitics, the party has gained 16 more House seats and counting on his watch.

Van Hollen inherited a strong organization from his predecessor, Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel. And Democratic House candidates appeared to have benefitted from a toxic political environment for Republicans and the coattails of a historic presidential nominee.

Still, Van Hollen played his hand cannily, insisting on “staying on offense” after the Democratic gains of 2006. Recruiting strong candidates and raising record amounts of money enabled the party to contest districts long considered safe for Republicans.

So what’s next for Van Hollen? Emanuel was rewarded for the success of 2006 with the chairmanship of the House Democratic Caucus. Given the Democratic victory, the House leadership is expected to remain in place – unless Obama comes calling.

Speculation around Washington has the president-elect naming Emanuel his chief of staff. That would leave the caucus chair open – perhaps for Van Hollen.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 1:49 AM | | Comments (0)

Harris-Kratovil too close to call

The race between Republican Andy Harris and Democrat Frank M. Kratovil Jr. is too close to call tonight, both sides say.

With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Kratovil is leading Harris by less than 4,000 votes. Libertarian Richard James Davis, with nearly 7,000 votes, looms as a potential spoiler in a district held by Republicans since 1990.

Kratovil has just addressed supporters at the Fisherman's Crab Deck in Grasonville.

“We may not know [the outcome] for quite a while,” he said. “We’re still looking at some precincts that are left.”

At the other end of the Kent Narrows, Harris campaign manager Chris Meekins said his candidate would not be speaking to supporters gathered at the Harris Crab House and would not be available for comment until Thursday.

Elsewhere, the state's seven incumbents all won re-election. In Western Maryland, Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett turned back what he called a “vigorous” challenge by Democrat Jennifer Dougherty, a former mayor of Frederick.

The state’s Democratic incumbents — Baltimore-area Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes, Chris Van Hollen in Montgomery County, Donna Edwards in Prince George’s County and Steny H. Hoyer in Southern Maryland — coasted to victory.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:59 AM | | Comments (2)

November 4, 2008

Cardin on Obama victory

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin has released the following statement:

“Change is coming. In a clear rejection of the policies and principles that guided the last eight years, the American public has voted and they are ready for new priorities and a new direction for our country. I am proud to have voted for Barack Obama, a dynamic leader who is ready on day one to tackle the very serious problems currently facing our nation.

"It has been a long election, but now it is time to put partisanship behind us and come together as one nation. We must continue our work to stabilize our economy and move us closer to energy security. We must invest in policies that protect Middle-Class America while protecting our environment. We must find a sensible way to provide all Americans with quality, affordable healthcare. And we must restore America’s leadership position across the globe.

"I look forward to working with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, on behalf of all Americans, to renew, protect and strengthen our great nation.”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:44 PM | | Comments (2)

More on the electoral college

A bit of food for thought for those of you who are writing in to express criticism of the electoral college: Maryland was the first state in the nation a couple of years ago to pass a law designed to circumvent the system and give the presidency to the national popular vote winner.

Here's how it works: Every state legislature has the right to decide how to approtion its electoral votes. Every state but two (Maine and Nebraska) gives them, winner-take-all, to the candidate with the popular vote edge in that state. Maryland's law says that the state's electoral votes will go to whoever wins the NATIONAL popular vote. But the law only kicks in if and when states constituting a majority of the electoral college pass a similar law. So, theoretically, if a bunch of other true-blue Democratic states or solid-red Republican states decide they're tired of being ignored in the presidential election, they could effectively eliminate the electoral college without bothering with a constitutional amendment.

Posted by Andy Green at 9:46 PM | | Comments (3)

Electoral College FAQs

I just fielded a phone call from a man who was waiting to pick up his grandson from college to vote for the first time. The grandson, the man said, had a lot of questions about the Electoral College that he didn't have the answers to. He found some of them in the handy-dandy chart on page 11 of today's Sun, but still had a few more. He asked that I post the answers on the web just in case anyone else is curious.

1. How do they decide how many electoral votes each state gets?

The electoral votes are apportioned based on a state's representation in Congress -- one for each member of the House and one for each Senator. So, Maryland, with eight congressmen, gets 10 electoral votes.

That means the votes are roughly apportioned based on population, though some quirks distort the system a bit. Each state has at least one member of the House and two Senators, so the minimum for any state to have is three electoral votes. A semi-exception to the rule is Washington D.C., which has no senators and one non-voting member of the House but gets three electoral votes anyway.

2. How many people are represented by one elector?

Because small states have a disproportionate influence in the electoral college (the result of the two votes for senators and the minimum of one member of the House) the number of people per elector varies widely. The New York Times printed an interesting op-ed on the topic over the weekend, including a map showing exactly how much a vote is worth in each state. In Montana, for example, one electoral vote corresponds to about 135,000 people, but an electoral vote from Florida accounts for about 480,000 people. Not quite one man, one vote.

3. What happens if there's a tie?

In a further bit of genius in the system, there are 538 electoral votes, so a tie is possible. In that case, the decision goes to the House of Representatives. But it's not a straight vote of the House -- each state delegation gets a vote. So, theoretically, the states with even numbers of electors could also deadlock, leading to what would no doubt be an ugly fight. In another odd quirk, the Senate gets to choose the vice president, so, theoretically, you could wind up with a president and vice president of different parties.

Posted by Andy Green at 2:14 PM | | Comments (19)

Election day

Happy election day, everyone. Things were humming at my polling place at Rodgers Forge Elementary School (line out the door, around the corner and down the hall), but there were plenty of machines and everything went smoothly. The talk in line was more about the prospect of free Starbucks for people flashing their "I voted" stickers than the historic nature of the election.

What are other people seeing? Write in and let us know.

Dan Rodricks has a thread along these lines going on his blog. Check it out:

Posted by Andy Green at 1:20 PM | | Comments (1)

November 3, 2008

O'Malley: He lives in Annapolis but votes in Baltimore

The Governor no longer lives or owns a home in Baltimore, but he still votes there. His election day schedule lists a noon stopover to vote at Ray of Hope Baptist Church, near his old house in Northeast Baltimore. You know, the house he sold a year and a half ago.

But apparently that's A-OK. 

The state's highest court ruled two years ago that Marylanders must vote in the precinct or ward in which they "reside." But according to the Attorney General's Office, the Governor doesn't reside in that big, stately mansion in Annapolis, where he lives, eats his meals and tucks his children into bed at night.

"Baltimore City is his domicile," said Sandy Brantley, an assistant attorney general and counsel to the State Board of Elections. "You have a domicile until you establish another one elsewhere ... The fact that the Constitution requires him to live in Annapolis does not make that his fixed, permanent home."

Brantley said it all comes down to intent. What does the Governor intend to be his domicile?

According to election records, it's his former home in Baltimore, which he sold in Aug. 2007. And just so you know, I intend to live in a picturesque, ranch on Gibson Island. But something tells me my vote won't count there.

For more detail on the election law and the issue of "domiciles," go to:

--Melissa Harris

Posted by Andy Green at 6:05 PM | | Comments (5)

Shenanigans in the Second: Big Brother on the line?

This just in: A spokeswoman for Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger says the Baltimore County Democrat has heard from dozens of constituents today who were "outraged and scared" by a robocall claiming their telephone lines had been tapped by the government.

The spokeswoman, Heather Molino, says the calls were funded by Ricard Matthews, Ruppersberger's Republican challenger in the Second Congressional District. The script, according to Molino:

“We are sorry to inform you that this line is now under surveillance by the federal government. We attribute our authority to disregard the Fourth Amendment by Bush’s ally in Congress Dutch Ruppersberger. Dutch voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act. This is paid for by Richard Matthews for Congress.”

Molino said Ruppersberger has reported the calls to the Office of Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. We have left a telephone message and sent an e-mail to Matthews asking for comment.

Ruppersberger called the calls “a last minute, desperate, scare tactic."

"Senior citizens, young parents, veterans, and other Marylanders called my office in a panic after receiving this call," he said. "In all of my years of public service, I have never seen such a dirty trick to intimidate voters. This is not what we want in politics today."

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:04 PM | | Comments (2)

Shenanigans in the First: Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Driving out to Salisbury on Sunday to watch congressional candidate Frank Kratovil working to get out the vote, I spied some new addenda to the roadside political signage along Route 50.

The large yellow signs for Andy Harris, the Republican candidate in the First Congressional District, now sport smaller blue cards boasting: “Endorsed by Ehrlich.” The Harris campaign has touted the support of the former governor in a district that voted 2-1 for Ehrlich two years ago.

The large yellow signs for Kratovil, meanwhile, have been fixed with green cards advising “Endorsed by O’Malley.”

That would be an odd connection for Kratovil, given O’Malley’s unpopularity in the district, which includes the Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

Kratovil’s spokesman says he doesn’t know who is responsible for the signage – but he has an idea.

“Andy Harris is trying to take things that he thinks are politically inopportune for us and he’s trying to take advantage of them,” said Kavin Lawlor, who has accused the Harris campaign of “dirty political tricks” in the state’s most competitive House race this year.

He says that he and Kratovil were in Bel Air last week when he saw a group of “seven to 10” people” waving signs for Kratovil and for gay marriage. Neither he nor Kratovil recognized the supposed Kratovil supporters, Lawlor said, and Kratovil does not support gay marriage.

Harris is "not trying to make it about the issues,” Lawlor said. “He’s not trying to make it about the real, established differences between the two men, the two candidates. He’s trying to make it about other things where he thinks he can try to pick off a few points here and there, because at this point it’s clear that he’s lost faith in his own ability to win this race on his record.”

Harris campaign manager Chris Meekins says the Harris campaign is responsible for the “Endorsed by Ehrlich” signs, but not the “Endorsed by O’Malley” signs. He calls any suggestion that the Harris campaign is behind the supposed Kratovil supporters waving signs for gay marriage “simply untrue.

“Why are they making false accusations?” Meekins asked in an e-mail. “They want to hide from the truth that Frank Kratovil is a tax and spend liberal. Any time someone talks about Kratovil’s liberal record his campaign tries to distract voters from the truth.

“Frank Kratovil is just another Martin O’Malley tax and spend liberal. In contrast, Andy Harris understands the struggles of Maryland families, which is why he has called for lowering taxes and decreasing wasteful government spending to stimulate economic growth.”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:04 PM | | Comments (3)

Down to the wire in the 1st

Matt Brown and Bob Little have a pair of good stories up today on the last-minute politicking by Andy Harris and Frank Kratovil heading into their Tuesday showdown in what is certainly the most interesting Congressional race here since at least 2002.

The campaign continues to be a rough-and-tumble affair, with the most recent skirmishes centering on Harris' attacks on Kratovil's conduct as Queen Anne's County State's Attorney. Harris accused Kratovil of being soft on crime and taking contributions from attorneys who represent "vile criminals."

In a pretty unusual move, 20 of the Maryland's 23 other state's attorneys signed a letter defending Kratovil's conduct. That includes 13 Democrats and seven of Harris' fellow Republicans, including some whose counties overlap parts of the 1st District. (Not signing the letter were Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly, a Republican; Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, a Democrat; and St. Mary's County State's Attorney Richard D. Fritz, a Republican.) They wrote that Harris' accusations were "an unconscionable example of politics at its worst."

In an interview with politickermd over the weekend, Harris stuck by his criticism and said he's been attacked plenty, too. 

What's the take-home message of all this? The race is close. If Harris were cruising to victory in a district that, by all rights, should be his in a walk, he probably wouldn't be going as negative as he is in the final days of the race. Campaigns generally try to tone down the negatives at the end to avoid leaving a sour taste in voters' mouths, but if it's close, the last week might be the right time to empty out the oppo-reasearch file.

If you need more evidence, look at the fact that the Harris camp was touting a poll last week that had the Republican up by 4. It would be surprising if he were talking up an outside poll unless his numbers were worse. On the other hand, if Kratovil had any evidence that he was clearly ahead, you can bet he'd be shouting it from the hills. So my guess is we're heading into election day with a tight race. That could change if we see a surge in Democratic turnout because of the presidential race or a repeat of Harris' extremely effective get-out-the-vote effort from the primary. But for now, it's a tough one to call.

If you're in the district, be sure to write in tomorrow and let us know how things are shaking out at your polling place.

Posted by Andy Green at 1:45 PM | | Comments (0)

November 1, 2008

Negative ads: The Ehrlich Doctrine

As promised, here's more detail on what former Gov. Bob Ehrlich had to say in his twice-yearly trek to Towson Prof. Richard Vatz's class. Riffing off of something Vatz wrote recently about negative advertising, Ehrlich laid out his views on what negative campaigning is acceptable and what isn't. I'll lay out the whole thing, both because his take is interesting (he was diligently even-handed in his approach) and because he'll be on the record should he ever run for office again. (See acceptable negative campaigning category 2: Consistency.)

As Bob sees it, Acceptable Negative Ads:

  • Truth: "It's a negative ad, but it speaks the truth. Like when Hillary Clinton said she was under fire in Bosnia, and Barack Obama said, 'No you weren't.'" 
  • Philosophy: "If you point out in an ad a clear philosophical difference, that's OK. ... When you're accurately portraying a position of your opponent in a negative sense, that's OK because that's accurate." He said McCain ads saying Obama wants to raise some people's taxes are OK on that score.
  • Consistency: For example, McCain criticizing Obama for having an inconsistent position on whether he would take public campaign financing.



Unacceptable topics for negative campaigning:

  • Honest mistakes: For example, when Obama at one point said he had visited 57 states or the time when McCain said he didn't know how many houses he owned. "There are honest mistakes politicians make in the course of campaigns." (Others are probably less charitable on those examples.)
  • Things that are untrue: For example, the rumor that Michelle Obama had used the word "whitey" in a speech. "She didn't," Ehrlich said. "That was simply untrue and unfair."
  • Things that are misleading: "The Obama campaign has taken what John McCain has said about Iraq that we might ahve a Korea-type situation" and be there for 100 years out of context. Or, "Sen. Obama originally said he would have no preconditions for sitting down with terrorists, and he changed his mind, but he's still being attacked for his original position. That's not fair." (The Obama folk would probably argue that Ehrlich is misstating their original position, too, but you get the point.)
  • The perjorative or personal: "How you're raising your kids, your sex life how you run your home. That stuff is incredibly personal. Attacks on the purely personal are nobody's business, even if you're in public life."
  • Things that are just plain mean: "Barack Hussein Obama. That would be fair if the man went by his middle name. He doesn't. If you hear that, you know it's meant to be negative." Or, Ehrlich said, making fun of McCain for his physical limitations related to injuries suffied while a POW in Vietnam. "To attack a man based on that is beyond disgraceful, and I've heard bad jokes along those lines." Or the suggestion that "the only thing Sarah Palin brought to the ticket is the fact that she didn't have an abortion."

Close calls:

  • Divorce and cheating
  • Public vs. private character
  • Old news (such as attacking Michelle Obama based on the views on race she expressed in her college thesis).
  • Credit problems: "You have credit problems when you're younger, and 20 years later, you want to be the chief executive of a $30 billion budget. Is that fair? Is that relevant?"
  • Drug use: "I went to college in the '70s. I didn't use drugs, but a lot of my friends did."

The deciding factors in those cases, he said, are the gravity of the offense, the proximity in time and the frequency of the offense.

Ehrlich asked me to throw out the first question after his lecture, so I asked whether he thinks it would be fair for McCain to cut a negative ad based on Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The class, asked for a show of hands, was pretty split on the issue. Ehrlich came down, more or less, against it.

The former governor launched into a fairly lengthy defense of Obama, noting that he's a charismatic political figure and a dedicated family man. He said he would perhaps run a negative ad about a variety of Obama's associates, "not in making the case that he's a bad guy" or to suggest that Obama buys into the "god damn America" rhetoric of Wright. "I don't think he does. But I think he's coming from the pretty hard left," as evidenced by the friends he keeps, Ehrlich said.

So, after all that, has Ehrlich practiced what he preaches about negative campaigning? What about Martin O'Malley?



Posted by Andy Green at 5:52 AM | | Comments (2)
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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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