Jack Johnson for guv?
The Gazette had an interesting tidbit last week from an editorial board meeting with Prince George's exec Jack Johnson: He's seriously condering a run for state office when his term ends and isn't ruling out a primary challenge to Gov. Martin O'Malley. He's the first serious Democrat I've heard of who's even close to considering doing such a thing; even Comptroller Peter Franchot is steering way clear of saying anything like that in public.
The Gazette suggests this is odd timing, given that Johnson has inflamed the populace in PG by asking county legislators to raise the property tax cap for the next two years in an effort to close a projected $132 million deficit. He's since said he could back away from that, depending on what happens with federal stimulus money.
Kenny Burns at Maryland Politics Today (a blog that keeps a particular eye on Prince George's politics) is much harsher. He ticks off a laundry list of reasons why Johnson may not be ready for prime time, such as his reaction to the Cheye Calvo incident (you remember, the mayor whose dogs were shot during a botched police raid?), the lack of any resolution to the death of Ronnie White (an inmate who was killed in the county jail), Johnson's pricey trip to Africa at taxpayer expense, the fact that he didn't exactly light the world on fire in his re-election bid, etc. etc.
Let me add this: Last time I saw Johnson, he was rolling around in a taxpayer-funded Cadillac Escallade with chrome wheels and tinted windows. That's not going to fly in Towson.
At the end of the day, I'd be extremely surprised if Johnson -- or anybody else -- mounts a serious challenge to O'Malley in the 2010 primary. Franchot would seem the most likely, but I expect he'll have his hands full fending off a challenge from Jim Smith (or someone else) in the primary for comptroller. Doug Gansler looks like he'd like to be governor someday, but he's more of a wait-your-turn kind of guy. Ken Ulman, likewise, has plenty of time before trying for statewide office, and most of the other ambitious folk in the state party seem more interested in Barbara Mikulski's office than O'Malley's.
Say what you will about O'Malley, but he hasn't done much to tick off his liberal base, and that's what counts in the primary.