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November 27, 2009

Andy Harris yet to shake primary threat

Things have been looking up for Andy Harris this fall. The Republican lawmaker from Baltimore County has been steadily, if quietly, preparing for a high-profile rematch against Democrat Frank Kratovil, the freshman congressman from Maryland's (mostly) Eastern Shore district.

For a variety of reasons, including the district's proximity to the nation's capital, the Kratovil re-election contest is sure to attract unusually intense media scrutiny. It will likely be viewed as a case study of the challenges Democratic incumbents are facing in the first mid-term election of Barack Obama's administration, when, history says, the president's party will lose a significant number of House seats.

The National Republican Campaign Committee, the party's main campaign arm for House races, has been tacitly backing Harris for months (though the committee doesn't usually get involved in contested primaries). A recent poll, which deserves to be viewed skeptically since it was paid for by Harris's campaign, gave the NRCC a fresh opportunity to point out that Kratovil ranks among the most endangered Democratic incumbents in the nation.

Gloomy economic forecasts of continued high joblessness throughout 2010 can only make things tougher for Kratovil, who could well be the underdog by the time of next November's vote.

Republican Harris has improved his campaign operation since narrowly losing to Kratovil in 2008, though his fundraising has been less than stellar and Kratovil is continuing to stockpile cash.

Still, what's not to like if you are Andy Harris, a darling of the national party in a race against a highly vulnerable incumbent Democrat?

Answer: the threat of another bitter primary fight that, for whatever reason, you can't quite shake.

State Sen. E. J. Pipkin, a centrist Republican with considerable financial resources, continues to stalk the more conservative Harris and may become a dangerous primary opponent.

Prominent Maryland Republicans are convinced that Pipkin will enter the race. Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, a Harris backer, hinted in a recent interview that he had failed in an effort to talk Pipkin out of running and prevent a primary fight.

"I've tried to be peacemaker," Ehrlich said. "I've failed miserably to this point."

Pipkin himself has steadfastly declined to reveal his intentions, while remaining politically active in the district.

There has been speculation that Pipkin could announce his plans some time in December, though there seems to be no particular magic about that month (in fact, politicians usually try to avoid intruding on the holidays; Ehrlich, a potential candidate for governor, may well wait until early next year to announce his 2010 plans).

Harris supporters, and some neutral Republicans, believe Pipkin would have a difficult time winning a primary, with social conservatives expected to back Harris by a wide margin. Motivating moderates, who may not have the same voting intensity as Tea Party activists, would be one of Pipkin's challenges.

Regardless of how competitive Pipkin proved to be, the combination of a contested Republican primary and a late primary election date (Sept. 14, 2010) would, at the very least, complicate matters considerably for Harris, if he won the Republican nomination.

He'd have very little time to restock his campaign bank account for the seven-week general election contest against Kratovil. The national party would come to Harris's aid with heavy financial support, though there will be plenty of competition for that money from dozens of other Republican challengers around the country. Whether Ehrlich decides to run, or not, will also affect Republican turnout in the November election.

Republicans remember only too well what happened in 2008, when a nasty primary fight unseated moderate Republican incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (who endorsed Kratovil) and weakened Harris to the point that he was incapable of winning. Harris had almost nine months after the February primary to patch things up inside the Republican Party but couldn't, and he lost on the same day that Republican nominee John McCain carried the district by nearly 20 percentage points over Obama.

Obama, naturally, won't be on the ballot next fall, which will shrink Democratic turnout everywhere, including in the First District (history suggests that Republican turnout won't drop by as much), complicating Kratovil's task. That's good news for Republicans, assuming that the Republican nominee doesn't face another mutiny from supporters of a losing primary candidate.

Some Republicans play down the notion that a party split cost them the First District seat last time. They maintain that Harris would be a congressman today, were it not for a Libertarian candidate from the Eastern Shore, Richard Davis, who siphoned off enough votes to assure a Republican defeat.

Davis, a dentist from Hurlock, in Dorchester County, got more than 8,800 votes and Harris lost by less than 2,900 last year. And he will be on the ballot again in 2010 as the nominee of the Libertarian Party of Maryland in the First District congressional election.

National analysts are already predicting that an angry electorate will punish both Democrats and Republicans next year by backing third party and independent candidates instead. Such forecasts, often made over the years, seldom pan out.

Still, with Pipkin lurking on the sidelines, a third-party candidate already headed for the ballot and Kratovil getting 11 more months to persuade his constituents that he's earned another term, the ingredients of a close race may be falling into place, and Harris can hardly take the election for granted.


Posted by Paul West at 5:54 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

November 24, 2009

Marylanders make the scene at Obama's first state dinner

Several prominent Marylanders made the guest list for the toughest ticket in Washington: tonight's first state dinner of President Barack Obama's administration, honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Among those on the list just released by the White House: Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings, an early Obama supporter, and his wife, Maya Rockeymoore.

Joining them will be fellow Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader.

The White House erected a large tent on the South Lawn to allow for an expanded guest list of several hundred.

And who's providing the entertainment? Here's how First Lady Michelle Obama explained it, to a group of visiting Washington area students this afternoon:

So who do we have tonight? We've got someone you guys probably know a lot about: Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson is going to sing tonight -- yay! But also have A.R. Rahman. He's also an Oscar winner and he helped create some of the music for the film "Slumdog Millionaire." I don't know if you guys got to see that movie -- incredible movie. We're also going to have Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, who's a Chicago hometown guy and we're pleased to have him. And we're also going to have the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch, who's one of the greatest composers in this country.

A number of prominent Indian Americans were on the guest list, including alternative medicine pioneer Deepak Chopra. There was more than a smattering of Hollywood glamor, including actress Alfre Woodard and media moguls Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.

From the realm of journalism, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, an editor at the Washington Post, and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, a onetime golfing partner of Obama's, and their wives were invited.

Also, CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who had been under consideration for a top administration post as surgeon general and other network TV news stars, including Katie Couric of CBS, Robin Roberts of ABC and Brian Williams of NBC.

The president invited his mother-in-law, Mrs. Marian Robinson, as well as retired Gen. Colin Powell and his wife Alma.

Also expected: Baltimore-born House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and her husband, Paul Pelosi

A complete list of invited guests, as released by the White House, follows:

The President & First Lady Michelle Obama

Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, India & Ms. Gursharan Kaur

The Honorable (Rep) Gary Ackerman, United States Representative

Mr. Sant Singh Chatwal (Guest)

His Excellency Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Mr. Mukesh D Ambani

Mr. Tim Dutta (Spouse of Ms. Pia Awal)

The Honorable (Mr.) David Axelrod, White House Communications

Mrs. Susan Axelrod

Ms. Preeta Bansal, OMB - General Counsel

The Honorable (Ms.) Melody Barnes, Domestic Policy Council

Mr. Marland E. Buckner

The Honorable (Rep.) Howard Berman, United States Representative (D/California)

Mrs. Jane Berman, Spouse of United States Representative (D/California)

Mr. Om Prakash Bhatt

Mr. Hunter Biden

Mrs. Kathleen Biden

The Honorable (Vice President) Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Vice President of the United States

Dr. Jill Biden

Mr. Robert O Blake, Jr., Assistant Sec for South and Central Asian Affairs, State Department

Mrs. Sofia Blake

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York, NY

Ms. Diana Taylor

The Honorable (Mr.) John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism, Homeland Security Council

Mrs. Katherine Brennan

The Honorable (Ms.) Lisa Brown, Office of Staff Secretary

Mr. Kevin Cullen

Mr. Donald Browne

Ms. Maria Junqera

The Honorable (Ms.) Carol Browner, Energy and Climate Change

The Honorable (Mr.) Tom Downey

Mr. William Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Department of State

Ms. Lisa Carty

General James E Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Mrs. Sandee Cartwright

The Honorable (Senator) Bob Casey, United States Senator (D/Pennsylvania)

Mrs. Terese Casey, United States Senate Spouse (D/Pennsylvania)

Mr. Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Mrs. Julie Chandrasekaran

Mr. I.S. Chaturvedi, Personal Secretary to the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Senator Satveer Chaudhry, State Senator

Colonel Ravi Chaudhry (Guest)

Ms. Rohini Chopra

Mr. Deepak Chopra

Mrs. Rita Chopra

The Honorable (Secretary) Steven Chu, Secretary of the Department of Energy

Mrs. Jean Chu

The Honorable (Secretary) Hillary R. Clinton, Secretary of State

The Honorable (Rep.) James E. Clyburn, United States Representative (D/South Carolina)

Mrs. Emily Clyburn

The Honorable (Senator) Kent Conrad, United States Senator (D/North Dakota)

Ms. Lucy Calutti, United States Senate Spouse (D/North Dakota)

Mr. David Cote

Ms. Katie Couric

Mr. Brooks L Perlin

Mr. Greg Craig, Assistant to the President and Counsel to the President

Mrs. Margaret D Craig

Mrs. Paula Crown

Mr. Jim Crown

The Honorable (Rep.) Elijah Cummings, United States Representative (D/Maryland)

Mrs. Maya Rockeymoore

Senator Swati Dandekar, State Senator

Mr. Arvind Dandekar

Mr. Rajesh De, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

Nancy Ann DeParle, Office of Health Reform

Mr. Jason P DeParle

Ms. Bhairavi Desai

Javaid Tariq

Dr. Vishakha N. Desai

Robert Oxman

The Honorable (Senator) Chris Dodd, United States Senator (D/Connecticut)

Mrs. Jackie Clegg Dodd

Mr. John Doerr

The Honorable (Mr.) Thomas Donilon, Assistant to the President, Deputy National Security Advisor, NSC

Ms. Cathy Russell

The Honorable Anita Dunn, White House Communications Director

Mr. Bob Bauer

Mr. Ari Emanuel

Mrs. Sarah Emanuel

The Honorable (Mr.) Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff to the President

Ms. Amy Rule

The Honorable (Mr.) Jon Favreau, Assistant to the President and Director of Speechwriting

Ms. Sarah Feinberg, Office of the Chief of Staff

The Honorable (Mayor) Adrian Fenty, Mayor of the District of Columbia

Mrs. Michelle Fenty

Ms. Michelle Flournoy

Mr. Thomas Friedman

Mrs. Ann Friedman

The Honorable (Mr.) Mike Froman, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs, NSC

Dr. Ashok S Ganguly

The Honorable (Mr.) Patrick Gaspard, Office of Political Affairs

Mrs. Raina Washington

The Honorable Robert Gates

Ms. Charlene Gaynor

Mr. Richard Heiss

Mr. David Geffen

Mr. Jeremy Lingvall

The Honorable (Secretary) Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury

Ms. Carole Sonnenfeld

The Honorable (Mr.) Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary

Mr. Anish Goel, Acting Senior Director, South Asia Affairs, NSC

Mr. Senapathy Gopalakrishnan

Mr. Mark Gorenberg

Ms. Wendy Wanderman

Mr. John Gorman

Mrs. Tamra Gorman

Representative Jay Goyal, State Representative

Kiran Goyal

Representative Raj Goyle, State Representative

Mrs. Monica Arora

The Honorable (Governor) Jennifer Granholm, Governor of Michigan (D)

Mr. Daniel Mulhern, First Gentleman of Michigan

Mr. Earl G. Graves

Mrs. Barbara Graves

Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta

Mr. Arvind Gupta

Mr. Raj Gupta

Mr. Rajat Gupta

Mrs. Anita M Gupta

Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Mrs. Rebecca Olson Gupta

Mr. Lee Hamilton

Mrs. Nancy Hamilton

The Honorable (Ms.) Kamala Harris

Ms. Maya Harris

Mr. Kamil Hassan

Mrs. Talat Hassan

Mr. George Haywood

Mrs. Cheryl J Haywood

The Honorable Fred Hochberg, Export-Import Bank

Thomas P Healy

The Honorable (Rep.) Paul Hodes, United States Representative (D/New Hampshire)

Mrs. Margaret Hodes

The Honorable (Attorney General) Eric Holder, United States Attorney General, Department of Justice

Dr. Sharon Malone, MD

Dr. John P. Holdren

Dr. Cheryl E Holdren

The Honorable (Rep.) Eleanor Holmes-Norton, United States of Representative (D/DC)

Mr. John Norton

Mr. Robert D Hormats, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs, State Department

Ms. Camille Massey

The Honorable (Rep) Steny Hoyer, United States Representative (D/Maryland)

Ms. Kathleen May

Mr. Chris Hughes

Mr. Sean S Eldridge

Mr. Jeff Immelt

The Honorable (Senator) Daniel Inouye, United States Senator (D/Hawaii)

Ms. Irene Hirano, United States Senate Spouse (D/Hawaii)

Mrs. Deepa Iyer

Mr. Parag Khandhar

Mr. Vasudeva Iyer

The Honorable (Administrator) Lisa Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

Mr. Kenneth Jackson

The Honorable (Ms.) Valerie Jarrett, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor

The Honorable (Governor) Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana

Mrs. Supriya Jindal, First Lady of Louisiana

The Honorable (General) James Jones, Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor

Mrs. Diane Jones

Mrs. Ann Jordan

Mr. Vernon Jordan

Mr. Anil Kakani

Mr. Farooq Kathwari

Mrs. Farida Kathwari

Mr. Neal Katyal, Principal Deputy Solicitor General, Office of the Solicitor General

Mr. Jeffrey Katzenberg

Mrs. Marilyn Katzenberg

Ms. Maneesha Kelkar, Manavi

Vinay Vaishampayan

The Honorable (Senator) John Kerry, United States Senator (D/Massachusetts)

Dr. Harish Khare, Media Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, Indian Delegation

The Honorable (Mr.) Bradley Kiley, Office of Management and Administration

Mr. James Coley, Jr.

Ms. Gayle King

The Honorable (Ambassador) Ron Kirk, USTR

Mrs. Matrice Ellis-Kirk

The Honorable (Mr.) Ronald Klain, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Office of the Vice President

Mrs. Chanda D Kochhar

His Excellency S.M. Krishna, Minister of External Affairs of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Ms. Gaitri Kumar, Joint Secretary (Americas), Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Mr. Vivek Kundra

Mrs. Jhumpa Lahiri

Mr. Alberto Vourvoulias

Mr. Marc Lasry

Cathy Lasry

Mr. Jacob Lew, Deputy Secretary, Department of State

The Honorable Gary Locke, Secretary of Commerce

Mrs. Mona Locke

The Honorable (Mr.) Christopher Lu, Cabinet Affairs

Ms. Kathryn Thomson

The Honorable (Senator) Richard Lugar, United States Senator (R/Indiana)

Mrs. Char Lugar, United States Senate Spouse (R/Indiana)

Mr. Michael Lynton

Ms. Elizabeth Jamie Alter

Mr. Surinder Malhotra

The Honorable (Chief of Protocol) Capricia Marshall

The Honorable (Ms.) Alyssa Mastromonaco, White House Office of Scheduling

Mr. Brian Mathis

Mrs. Tracey Kemble

Ms. Kiran Mazumda-Shaw

The Honorable (Senator) Claire McCaskill, United States Senator (D/Missouri)

Mr. Joseph Shepard, United States Senate Spouse

The Honorable (Rep) Jim McDermott, United States Representative (D/Washington)

Mrs. Therese Marie Hansen

Mr. Zarin Mehta

Ms. Carmen Lasky

The Honorable (Mr.) Jim Messina, Office of Chief of Staff

Mr. Judd Miner

Mrs. Linda Miner

Mr. Newt Minow

Mrs. Josephine Minow

Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal

Kalpen Modi, Associate Director, Office of Public Engagement

Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Mrs. Deborah Mullen

The Honorable (Secretary) Janet Napolitano, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

His Excellency M.K. Narayanan, National Security Adviser of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Mr. Shantanu Narayen

Mrs. Reni Narayen

Mr. Raju Narisetti

Durga Raghunath

Mr. Martin Nesbitt

Ms. Anita Blanchard

Mr. Konrad Ng

Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng

Ms. Indra Nooyi

The Honorable (Rep) David Obey, United States Representative (D/Wisconsin)

Mrs. Joan Obey

The Honorable (Mr.) Peter Orszag, Director, Office of Management & Budget

Mr. Jim Owens

Ms. Katie Owens

Mr. Deepak Parekh

Mr. Eboo Patel

Ms. Shehnez Mansuri

The Honorable (Governor) Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts (D)

Mrs. Diane Patrick, First Lady of Massachusetts

The Honorable (Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, United States Representative (D/California) and Speaker of the House

Mr. Paul Pelosi

Mr. Dan Pfeiffer, White House Office of Communications

Mr. Sam Pitroda

Mrs. Anjana Pitroda

General Colin Powell

Ms. Alma Powell

Dr. Rachakonda D Prabhu

Dr. Lata Shete Prabhu

Mrs. Penny Pritzker

Dr. Brian Traubert

Ms. Kavita Ramdas

Her Excellency Nirupama Rao, Foreign Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Ms. Preetha Reddy

The Honorable (Governor) Edward Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania (D)

The Honorable (Judge) Marjorie Rendell, First Lady of Pennsylvania

Mr. Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting

The Honorable (Ambassador) Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations

Mr. Ian Cameron

The Honorable (Governor) Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico (D)

Mrs. Barbara Richardson, First Lady of New Mexico

Ms. Robin Roberts

Mrs. Marian Robinson

Ambassador Timothy Roemer, US Ambassador to India

Mrs. Mary Johnston

Ms. Desiree Rogers, Special Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary

Mr. John Rogers

The Honorable (Dr.) Christina Romer, Chair, Council of Economic Advisers

Mr. Dennis Ross, NSC

The Honorable (Rep) Edward Randall Royce, United States Representative

Marie Therese Royce

Mr. Michael Sacks

Mrs. Cari Sacks

The Honorable (Rep.) Linda Sanchez, United States Representative (D/California)

Mr. James Sullivan, Guest of Then Honorable Linda Sanchez

Mr. Pankaj Saran, Joint Secretary to the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

His Excellency Shyam Saran, Special Envoy to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Indian Delegation

Mr. Jaideep Sarkar, Personal Secretary to the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Mr. Parag Saxena

The Honorable (Rep.) Jan Schakowsky, United States Representative (D/Illinois)

Mr. Robert Creamer

The Honorable (Mr.) Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs

Mrs. Jody Schiliro

Ms. Annetta Seecharran

Seema Agnani

Mr. Stuart Seldowitz, Acting Director for South Asia, NSC

Dr. Amartya Sen

Ms. Emma Georgina Rothschild

Under Secretary Rajiv J Shah, Under Secretary for Research, Education & Economics, Department of Agriculture

The Honorable Sonal Shah, Deputy Assist to the President, Director Office of SICP, Domestic Policy Council

Mr. Vinod Shah

Her Excellency Meera SHANKAR, Ambassador, India

The Honorable Susan Sher, Assistant to the President/Chief of Staff to the First Lady

The Honorable (Mr.) Neil Cohen

Mr. M. Night Shyamalan

Mrs. Bhavna Shyamalan

Ms. Amrit Singh

Mr. Analjit Singh

Mr. Arun K. Singh, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Mr. Balvinder Singh

Mr. Mohinder Singh

Mr. Lakhwinder Singh

Mrs. Sukhbir Kaur

Ms. Upinder Singh

Mr. Steven Spielberg

Mr. Sri Srinivasan

Ms. Carla Garrett

Ms. Srinija Srinivasan

The Honorable (Mr.) Jim Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State

Ms. Sherburne Bradstreet

Mrs. Semonti Stephens, Deputy Press Secretary, Office of the First Lady

Mr. Andy Stern

Ms. Anna Burger

Mrs. Jane Stetson

Mr. Bill Stetson

Honorable (Dr.) Larry Summers, Director, National Economic Council

Dr. Elisa New

The Honorable (Ms.) Mona Sutphen, Office of Chief of Staff

Mr. Clyde Williams

Mr. Ratan Tata

The Honorable (Ms.) Tina Tchen, Office of Public Liaison

Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally, Ambassador, Embassy of Belize

Mrs. Barbara Thummalapally

Mr. Jim Torrey

Ms. Rose P Lynch

Mr. Richard Trumka

Mr. Paul H Lemmon

Ms. Urvashi Vaid

Ms. Kate Clinton

Mr. Kirk Wagar

Ms. Crystal Connor

Dr. Eric E. Whitaker

Dr. Cheryl Whitaker

Mr. Brian Williams

Mrs. Jane Williams

Mr. Wellington Wilson

Mrs. Wilson

Mr. Neal Wolin, Deputy Secretary, Department of Treasury

Ms. Alfre Woodard

Mr. Blair E Underwood

Mr. Fareed Zakaria

Ms. Paula Throckmorton Zakaria

Posted by Paul West at 6:22 PM |
        

November 19, 2009

O'Malley honored by magazine but title is in eye of beholder

You may have heard already: Gov. Martin O’Malley has been named a “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine. It’s a national magazine with a circulation roughly equal to the population of Columbia, Md., but the publication's praise for the governor has generated quite a buzz. Not all of it as flattering.

The governor picks up the award tonight at dinner to be held at the Willard InterContinental hotel in Washington, but the news has been out there for a while. O’Malley’s campaign manager seized on the pronouncement earlier this month and sent a letter to potential donors. He wrote: “We've got some exciting news that I wanted to share with you: Gov. O'Malley has been named ‘2009 Governor of the Year’ by Governing magazine. ... I hope you're as proud as I am that Gov. O'Malley has, with your support, made Maryland a model of smart, 21st-century governing tactics.”

Not so fast, the media chided. First The Washington Post noted in a blog posting that he was actually the only governor out of eight public officials who were honored, not exactly “Governor of the Year.” The Post asked Governing Editor Alan Ehrenhalt about O’Malley’s claim to a more lofty sounding award. "We don't use that title," Ehrenhalt said. “I suppose by extrapolation ... it's functionally true.”

Not surprisingly, the conservative blog Red Maryland soon weighed in, accusing O’Malley of “fudging the truth.” The blogger, clearly not a fan of the governor’s, went on to write: “But then again we already know O’Malley likes to fudge things, then—naturally—blame others for his problems.”

Which brings us to today, when O’Malley’s press office put out a notice about the honor.

The press shop is pretty clear about the matter: “Governor O'Malley will be officially honored tonight as Governing magazine's ‘Public Official of the Year’ for 2009. Governor O’Malley is one of eight individuals nationwide being honored, but is the only Governor to receive the award. The Governor is featured on the cover of the magazine’s November 2009 issue.”

To read the magazine story, which touts O’Malley’s data-driven approach to governing, and an extensive Q&A, click here.

This is what the magazine had to say about the governor/public official: "Everyone knows Martin O'Malley is a numbers guy. The data-driven approach to policy and administration that he created as mayor of Baltimore, known as "CitiStat," has been copied by cities across the country. Now, as governor of Maryland, O'Malley is showing that states, too, can improve performance by measuring what they do and relentlessly monitoring their progress."

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 3:05 PM | | Comments (12)
        

Ehrlich: Money not a problem in 2010

Former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich raised $18 million for his unsuccessful re-election campaign in 2006. But if he seeks a rematch next year against incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, he expects to collect considerably less.

Ehrlich put a $10 million to $12 million price tag on it during an interview in his downtown Baltimore office today (that figure isn't exactly breaking news--it's been attributed previously to anonymous Republican sources, though not necessarily to Ehrlich himself).

What may be more telling, though, is that Ehrlich is saying money wouldn't be a problem if he ran. Recent commentary from Republican activists and political analysts about a 2010 Ehrlich campaign has focused on money and the imperative for Ehrlich to start raising it now.

Some of those pushing him to get in have pointed to the time-consuming demands of fund-raising as a big reason for action. Ehrlich himself, according to various reports, had been saying that whether he could raise enough money was one of the main conditions that would have to be met before he decided to run.

But the prospective candidate insisted today that he doesn't see a problem building a $10 million to $12 million pot (obviously, it's tougher to attract donations when you aren't a sitting governor, which is why O'Malley is very likely to wind up as the big spender next year).

Ehrlich also says that $10 million to $12 million would be enough.

Ehrlich points out that 2010 would be a "truncated campaign." There's a limit, he said, to how much he could effectively spend in a contest that took less than one year from start to finish.

Chatting in his spectacular 13th-floor corner office that overlooks the baseball diamond at Oriole Park, the 51-year-old ex-governor (he turns 52 the day before Thanksgiving) offered a dispassionate assessment of the option he faces.

He's figured out who his likely swing-vote targets will be (white women and, to a lesser extent, African-American men). And it's clear, from public and private polls, that O'Malley is potentially vulnerable.

Over the past two weeks, since he became more public about his 2010 deliberations, Ehrlich says interest in his activities has "quadrupled," from grassroots Republicans and the news media.

And Ehrlich is continuing to do many of the things that a candidate would do. He's popping up around the state at political events (he headlined a local Republican fund-raising dinner in Aberdeen on Monday) and keeping his national profile alive (he's got a Fox News shot tomorrow on Sean Hannity's show in New York).

In the end, though, it all boils down to numbers. A recent statewide poll showed him 7 percentage points back of O'Malley, the same spread as the 2006 general election. Then there are the external numbers: as the economy continues to sputter, incumbents like O'Malley look increasingly vulnerable, even in a deep blue state where Democratic candidates start out with a huge advantage.

Ehrlich says his decision will ultimately turn on the answer to this question: "Do enough people want me to be governor again?" In other words: Can he win?

It's clear that Ehrlich would relish the opportunity to avenge his 2006 defeat. Losing again would only cost him his pride this time, instead of his job. But he's a hard-headed pragmatist, not a romantic fool, with little appetite for hopeless causes.


Posted by Paul West at 1:38 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

November 18, 2009

In The Sun Today: O'Malley works to balance budget again

As state revenues have taken a nose dive along with the economy, Gov. Martin O'Malley has been forced repeatedly to find ways to keep the state operating budget in balance. He brought more than $360 million in budget measures on Wednesday to the Board of Public Works, which approved them.

Among the measures, the governor accounted for a $130 million corporate tax windfall to the state from Constellation Energy Group's deal to sell half its nuclear power business to Electricite de France, a French utility. Another $230 million in savings are achieved through budget cuts and fund transfers to the budget from other pots of money.

The actions bring midyear spending reductions and fund transfers to about $1 billion in the fiscal year that began in July. The three-member board is composed of O'Malley, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot. All three are Democrats.

For a full story in The Sun, click here.

For a list of actions taken, click here.

For the administration's presentation, click here.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 2:51 PM | | Comments (2)
        

November 14, 2009

Maryland Republican Party rallies at convention, elects Scott as chair

Maryland’s Republican Party, buoyed by GOP victories in nearby states, elected on Saturday a spunky, 73-year-old activist and politician as the new chairwoman who pledged to reunite the fractious organization and capitalize on what many see as a shifting national tide.

Convention delegates voted overwhelmingly to install Audrey E. Scott, whose long political resume includes stints as mayor of Bowie, Prince George’s County Councilwoman, and Cabinet secretary under former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. More than 200 delegates crowded a ballroom at the Comfort Inn Conference Center in Bowie, as several speakers predicted a Republican resurgence in 2010.

“It’s lonely being from the bluest of the blue states, and that needs to stop in 2010. We are committed to that,” said Ehrlich, who has not decided yet whether he plans to challenge Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat he lost to in 2006. “The stakes are big time in 2010.”

The excitement and accord at the convention marked a stark contrast to months of infighting that culminated with the resignation of Chairman James Pelura, who was criticized by state lawmakers as the party suffered financially. Party leaders now say they are united by the chance to make gains next year, citing voter unease about the economy and doubts about Democrats.

“The Maryland Republican Party is not on life support, and it is not second class,” Scott said. “This is not a time for finger-pointing, dissension or disagreement.”

Many Republicans at the convention pointed to New Jersey and Virginia where GOP candidates prevailed in recent gubernatorial elections. They contend that voters are ready to reject the kind of change that President Barack Obama promised when he swept into office on a Democratic wave last year.

But the GOP must contend with some disadvantages in Maryland.

Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one in voter registration, and the Democratic State Central Committee reported nearly $600,000 in cash on hand in January, the latest report.

In contrast, the Republican State Central Committee reported to the convention that it had $5,613 in a checking account as of Friday, a $20,000 line of credit and tens of thousands of dollars in debt. The Republican committee also must repay $75,000 to former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele’s state account. Elections officials found a transfer from Steele, now the national GOP chairman, to be improper.

The only other candidate for party chair was Daniel “the Whig Man” Vovak, who often wears a white wig, though not on Saturday. Only a handful of delegates voted for Vovak, and most county delegations voted unanimously for Scott.

In what some called another sign that the party has unified, the convention voted overwhelmingly to change the party’s system for apportioning delegate votes among the counties, an issue that has been controversial for years. The delegates adopted a compromise that doled out a set number of votes to each county plus votes based on how many voters in that county turned out for presidential nominee John McCain last year.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 2:04 PM | | Comments (2)
        

November 13, 2009

Cummings' part in Baltimore mayor's trial: Will he testify? Or not?

At least one prominent Washington politician, President Barack Obama, has carefully kept his distance this year from Sheila Dixon, the indicted mayor of Baltimore. That hasn't been the case with many other public figures, including Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who has appeared with Dixon at a number of public events.

The Democratic congressman from West Baltimore has never been implicated in the mayor's legal problems, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that he will be. However, this week his name popped up at her trial.

More than 70 people, including Cummings and other prominent local figures, were listed on a roster of potential witnesses in the case. The list was circulated among prospective jurors and made public on Thursday. It's a routine effort to make the trial as fair as possible by keeping anyone who might know a participant in the case from getting a seat on the jury.

The assumption, and it was only an assumption, was that Cummings is a potential character witness, someone who might speak favorably of the mayor if called to testify in court.

On the day Cummings appeared on the witness list, The Baltimore Sun checked with his spokesman, to see if the congressman had been advised that he will be called to testify in the trial and, if so, when.

In response, Cummings released a statement through his office Thursday afternoon in which he described himself as a potential witness.

“Obviously, if called to testify, I will answer any questions asked of me. I will not comment any further on the case, as I do not believe it is appropriate to do so while the case is ongoing and I am a potential witness,” Cummings stated.

However, at least one part of that statement turned out to be incorrect: the part about not commenting any further on the case.

This afternoon, Cummings had more to say. His office issued a new "statement regarding the ongoing trial of Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon."

Here's it is, in its entirety:

"I am not scheduled to testify in this case," said Congressman Cummings.

And with that, his office added (not for the first time): "This will be the extent of Cummings' statement during the trial."

So, what is it?

Is he a potential witness or not? Was his name on the list just for show? Did Cummings even know that he was included (others on the list have said they didn't know their names would be on it)? After the news media reported, and Cummings confirmed, that he was a potential witness, did he inform the lawyers that he would not testify? Did the lawyers decide, after all their planning for the trial, that he wouldn't be a witness, only a day or two after telling the court he might be?

Cummings is an attorney, a graduate of the University of Maryland law school, so perhaps his inscrutable statements should be scrutinized with a legalistic eye.

He calls himself "a potential witness." He says he "will answer any questions." But he is "not scheduled to testify."

Schedules can change. He is not scheduled now. But he could be in the future. Potential witnesses can turn into actual witnesses. Or not.

In the midst of such confusion and mystery, perhaps one could take a more cynical view: That for reasons of political prudence, Cummings doesn't care to get any closer than necessary to Dixon right now. No one can predict with absolute certainty what will come out during the trial, or how it will end or, for that matter, how a scheduled second mayor trial will turn out.

Stay tuned. Perhaps Cummings will have more to say before the mayor's trial is over. Or not.

Posted by Paul West at 3:45 PM | | Comments (6)
        

November 12, 2009

Democratic Party Chair has some "friendly" advice for Ehrlich (updated)

For the second day in a row, Maryland Democrats are insisting they have nothing to worry about in next year’s elections. The latest comes from Democratic Party Chair Susan Turnbull, who is circulating a letter to former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich. (See yesterday's take from O'Malley campaign manager Tom Russell on this blog.)

The political establishment has been waiting for Ehrlich’s decision on whether he’ll challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, and Turnbull has some ideas for what he should consider as he holds focus groups and conducts polls to gauge his chances. She suggests several points that pollsters should ask residents about his record on the state budget and taxes. Oh, and she suggests that he remind voters that he supported slot-machine gambling while in office but then opposed the voter referendum last year that expanded gambling in the state. The sarcasm drips. She signs off with "warm regards."

Of course, Republicans have taken O’Malley’s budget policies to task, pointing to repeated writedowns in tax revenue that they contend he failed proactively address. They also have criticized his reliance on federal stimulus dollars, pointing to further budgetary trouble in the years ahead when those dollars run out. And Ehrlich argued that the slots program crafted by the Democrats was “bad policy” and would fuel unrestrained government spending. He also objected to amending the state constitution to allow slots.

UPDATE: Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Ehrlich, responded to our request for a response with an e-mailed statement. “They are giving the meaning to the term ‘paranoid,’” Fawell wrote. “I would encourage them to take the advice Governor O’Malley’s campaign manager gave to fundraisers: Take a deep breath.”

To be sure, the political pundits won’t know for another year whether Turnbull doth protest too much.

To read her letter, click below.

November 12, 2009

Dear Former Governor Ehrlich,

Running for governor is an intensely personal decision for you and your family, and no one – Republicans or Democrats – should fault you for taking the time to consider your prospects in 2010. As you conduct – in your own words – your “objective analysis,” “hold focus groups” and “look at cross-tabs,” I wanted to make sure that you and your pollster ask the right questions on which to base your decision.

For instance, do voters know that:

1. You increased spending by almost 22% in your last two years in office - exceeding the Spending Affordability guidelines?

2. You raised more than $3 billion in hidden taxes, tolls and fees on Maryland families?

3. You raised taxes on income from manufacturing?

4. You raised state property taxes 57%?

5. You raised the corporate filing fees by $188 million during your first three years in office?

These are very important questions that you should ask in your poll – especially since spending levels in the State of Maryland are lower today than they were during your last year in office. No doubt voters will be very interested in your spending record given the state of the national economy.

Voters and opinion leaders are already aware that you were the only incumbent governor in the country to lose re-election in November. Sure it was a bad year for Republicans after six years of George Bush, but you were the only incumbent governor of either party to lose re-election. So, as you prepare your poll and focus groups, I recommend you ask whether you would, yet again:

• Cut funding for K-12 public education, since you failed to fully-fund Thornton while you were in office.

• Roll-back the progress we have made to make college more affordable by increasing college tuition by over 40% again, as you did during your term in office.

• Start raiding Program Open Space dollars instead of making difficult decisions to balance the budget.

• Block any increase in the minimum wage for hard working Marylanders.

Warm Regards,

Susan W. Turnbull
Chair, Maryland State Democratic Party

P.S. Please also be sure that you ask voters about your flip flop on slots, which you supported for all four years of your Administration as the centerpiece of your budget program, only to oppose in last year’s referendum, which passed with 59% of support from Maryland’s voters.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 2:45 PM | | Comments (11)
        

November 11, 2009

Candidate Watch 2010: Redmer jumps into potentially crowded state Senate race

The political season is blooming early in Baltimore County as another candidate has entered the race for the Maryland Senate seat being vacated by Republican Andrew P. Harris. Alfred W. Redmer Jr., the former Republican state delegate and insurance commissioner, is holding a campaign kickoff rally tonight at the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Co. to announce his candidacy.

While the election is one year away, there has been a lot of buzz in Baltimore County with the open seat left by Harris, who plans to run for Congress a second time. Republican Del. J.B. Jennings has already filed papers to become a candidate. And Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., a Democrat, is considering entering the race. Smith recently put his longtime Reisterstown home on the market to move to Cockeysville and establish residency in the 7th District that includes sections of Baltimore and Harford counties.

In an interview, Redmer said he is running in response to voter dissatisfaction with the economy and the “political monopoly” in Maryland, a heavily Democratic state. The insurance company executive also touted his background in health care, an issue that politicians on the state and national level are tackling.

“Like others throughout my district, I have been growing in my frustration with the direction of the state and the country,” Redmer said, adding that many policymakers don’t understand “the dynamics between business and government.”

Redmer, who has been eyeing the Senate seat for more than a year, helps run Landmark Insurance & Financial Group, an insurance and investment firm, and had been chief executive officer of Coventry Health Care of Delaware. Before that, Redmer was tapped by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to lead the Maryland Insurance Administration. Redmer also served for more than 12 years in the House of Delegates, including two years as minority leader.

A final 2010 matchup between Redmer and Smith would be reminiscent of previous clashes between the two politicians. In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isabel, Smith publicly criticized Redmer’s handling of insurance coverage complaints, calling him “aloof” in response to the storm’s victims who had difficulty getting their claims settled. Redmer defended his office’s efforts to resolve problems at the time.

Smith spokesman Don Mohler said the county executive, who is subject to a two-term limit, has not decided how he plans to remain in public service and is currently focused on his job. “There will be plenty of time to make political decisions down the road,” he said.

CANDIDATE WATCH 2010 -- As the 2010 election season ramps up, we will be writing about candidates announcing their campaigns, or even just testing the political waters. If you have campaign news, please contact Laura Smitherman or Julie Bykowicz.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 5:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

GOP victories no bad omen, O'Malley campaign manager writes

Do Republican victories in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races portend trouble for Gov. Martin O’Malley? Nah, that’s just Republican spin, campaign manager Tom Russell wrote in a memo dated today to fiance committee members.

“While last week's election returns were discouraging nationally, we at the O'Malley-Brown campaign urge our Maryland supporters to take a deep breath before accepting the predictable and inaccurate national GOP spin,” Russell wrote in his opening salvo.

What follows are talking points that voters are sure to hear a lot about before the November 2010 election. Russell not only touts the governor’s accomplishments but contends the state’s political landscape is strongly in favor of O’Malley over any Republican, whether it’s former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. or any of the other possible contenders. He included in that group Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele, the former lieutenant governor under Ehrlich, though there has not been much talk of that possibility lately.

Russell also gives his own take on New Jersey exit polls. He concludes that voters in New Jersey and Virginia “were expressing frustration with the pace of change and NOT rejecting President Obama or Democrats.”

Read for yourself by clicking below.

To: O'Malley/Brown Finance Committee Members
From: Tom Russell, O'Malley-Brown Campaign
Date: November 11, 2009
Re: 2009 Election Results and State of 2010 Race

While last week's election returns were discouraging nationally, we at the O'Malley-Brown campaign urge our Maryland supporters to take a deep breath before accepting the predictable and inaccurate national GOP spin.

When you look at the record and the numbers, I think you'll see how Maryland's political landscape provides Governor O'Malley with a superior advantage over any potential opponent in 2010.

There has been plenty of speculation in recent days about who our opponent might be. After a long process of soul searching, "cross tab" analysis and focus groups, will it be former Governor Ehrlich? Will it be Michael Steele, Larry Hogan, Delegate Pat McDonough or some other name we haven't heard yet? Frankly, it doesn't matter who the Republicans settle on. We'll be prepared for them, and we will beat them.

We will accomplish this despite the global economic crisis, and despite the insecurity many are feeling today, because Governor O'Malley has a record of making the tough decisions, cutting government spending while still making real progress for Maryland. Specifically -

1. Despite Republican rhetoric, the state's general fund budget is SMALLER today, after three years of the O'Malley/Brown administration, than it was under the Ehrlich/Steele administration. No amount of Republican spin can change that fact. (Source: Department of Legislative Services)

2. Maryland's public schools are the best in the nation, according to Education Week Magazine. This does not happen by accident, but through leadership that puts a priority on education to prepare our children and our state for the future.

3. College tuition costs at state universities have been frozen throughout the O'Malley/Brown administration's term. That took Maryland from one of the most expensive states for college education four years ago, to one of the more affordable for middle class families. (Source: Capitol News Service, 11/5, 2009)

4. Crime is down. (Source: FBI Uniform Crime Report)

5. Under Governor O'Malley's leadership, Maryland has strengthened protections of the Chesapeake Bay in a program that is hailed as a national model. (Source: thebaynet.com, 10/24, 2009)

6. Based on these very measurable accomplishments, among many others, Martin O'Malley was named Governor of the Year for 2009 by the non-partisan Governing Magazine.

Now, let's address the issue of last week... the elections in New Jersey and Virginia. There are many important differences between Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland, all indicating that Maryland 2010 will have dramatically different results than the 2009 elections in Virginia and New Jersey.

First, Maryland is a more reliably Democratic state. In 2008, Barack Obama carried Maryland 62%-37%, where he carried New Jersey 57%-42%, and Virginia 53%-46%.

Second, Maryland has gotten MORE Democratic since November 2006. Helped in large measure by the 2008 Obama campaign, three-quarters (77%) of the new voters in Maryland are registered Democrats, compared to just 7% who registered as Republicans.

Third, a look at the New Jersey exit poll results suggests that it will be extremely difficult for Republicans to win in Maryland, even if you assume the worst environment for Democrats in years.

(a) For a "worst case" scenario, assume that the Corzine-Christie results by party will be the results in Maryland in 2010. According to the Edison Research exit poll, Corzine won Democrats by 86%-8%; Christie won Republicans by 91%-6% and Independents by 60%-30%.

(b) The "worst case" partisan environment for Democrats in Maryland occurred in 2000, where the exit polls had Democrats at 48%, Republicans at 30%. (By comparison, in 2008, the exit polls for Maryland showed 51% Democrats, 28% Republicans)

(c) IF - for the sake of argument and speculation -- we assume that Governor O'Malley gets the SAME vote by party as Governor Corzine, and we assume a "worst case" electorate of 48% Democrat and 30% Republican, that STILL results in a solid O'Malley victory of 51% to 43%.

We are not underestimating the voter dissatisfaction that heavily influenced last week's elections or the justified desire of voters that policymakers focus on improving the economy and creating jobs (NOTE: Last week, Governor O'Malley unveiled a 10-point plan to strengthen small businesses). But we do believe, despite national Republican spin, that voters in New Jersey and Virginia were expressing frustration with the pace of change and NOT rejecting President Obama or Democrats (For example, the New Jersey exit poll showed the President with a healthy 57% approval rating).

The record of progress achieved by the O'Malley/Brown Administration in difficult times is documented by specific, fact-driven indicators, all of which underscore that Governor O'Malley is setting the right priorities and leading Maryland in the right direction.

So, if it is not abundantly clear already, let's say it one more time to our friends, interested parties and, yes, even the political opposition: We will NEVER take anything for granted. We will ALWAYS be responsive to the needs of Maryland citizens during this difficult economic time. We will ALWAYS act aggressively to correct false "spin" and other attacks on Maryland's progress. And we will CONTINUE to make tough decisions, laying the groundwork for continued progress and an even better future under Governor O'Malley and Lt. Governor Brown's leadership.

For more information on the campaign, please visit www.martinomalley.com.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 3:30 PM | | Comments (2)
        

November 10, 2009

Mikulski's new campaign manager meets Baltimore County Dems

Simone Ward, newly hired campaign manager for Barbara Mikulski's 2010 re-election campaign, is on the program at tonight's Central Baltimore County Democratic Club meeting in Towson.

Ward, one of the first African-American women to run a major statewide campaign in Maryland, was added to the Mikulski campaign payroll last month.

She joined the senator's campaign from EMILY's List, a Democratic feminist organization that funds Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights. Before that, Ward was deputy director of a Democratic National Committee outreach arm to black, women, Hispanic and Asian-American voters, under then-chairman Howard Dean.

She also has been executive director of Young Democrats of America and run a group called Democratic GAIN, which helped the party's campaign workers find job between elections.

Ward was reared in the Kansas City, Mo., area, where her family has ties to Emanuel Cleaver, the city's first African-American mayor and currently a member of Congress. She is a graduate of Oklahoma City University and has been working to get a Master's degree at American University in Washington, according to her biography on the EMILY's List Web site.

She has no statewide campaign management experience listed on the biography, which notes that she worked in the White House presidential personnel office during Bill Clinton's presidency.

Back in 2005, when she was employed at the DNC, she lived in northern Virginia. Presumably, as Mikulski's campaign chief, she's made the move to the Free State and is "a real Marylander, not just a ``ZIP Code'' Marylander, meaning living in Maryland as a matter of convenience."

Posted by Paul West at 6:48 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Mikulski's on her feet again, and in the game

Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski proclaimed it a "great day" for the world and a "very special day" for herself, not necessarily in that order. Either way, it looked like good news for Democrats, which is something of a turnabout after last week's elections, which gave Republicans something to cheer about for the first time in a long while.

Mikulski recalled how, exactly 20 years ago, the world watched the Berlin Wall come down, symbolically ending the Cold War. "I was filled with excitement on that wonderful
day," she said, "because the roots of my own heritage lie in Poland," a former East Bloc nation.

In remarks on the Senate floor, the state's senior Democrat tossed a bouquet to that old cold warrior, Ronald Reagan, whose ticket-splitting blue-collar supporters in Maryland have been Mikulski voters, too.

The senator also announced that on the anniversary of the day that the wall fell, she herself had risen--in this case, from her wheelchair, casting aside a wheeled walker and a protective "Space Boot," to stand on her own two feet for the first time in months.

"This is a big day for me," she declared, her words beamed live to the entire country, like all official proceedings in the Senate chamber, via C-SPAN television.

"Today is the first day in over 124 days since my accident coming out of Catholic Mass where I broke my ankle. This is the first day that I can actually come to the floor of
the Senate and stand up for someone in whom I truly believe" -- in this case, federal District Judge Andre Davis of Baltimore, who was being promoted to the Appeals court.

"I come with no space boot," said the 74-year-old senator, after casting aside the cumbersome footwear that cushioned her healing bones. "I come with no props to hold me up. It is a very big day. So I am very excited about the fact that I am able to do this."

She still needs a walker and a cane to get around, but being able to stand unaided is progress (and an occupational boost for a senator, who are expected to rise to her feet when addressing
the chamber).

Mikulski's "point of personal privilege," as senators call it when they take time during official debate on the Senate floor to talk about whatever they care to talk about, is also positive news for her fellow Maryland Democrats. But it's one more thing that Maryland's Republican Party doesn't need heading into the 2010 elections.

As political scientist Tom Schaller has pointed out, Mikulski's presence on the ticket as a re-election candidate will help lure more Democratic voters to the polls next fall. She remains the most popular Maryland politician, a recent statewide opinion survey confirmed.

That will help other Democratic candidates, in statewide and legislative contests, by boosting Democratic turnout. And that will make things tougher for former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich, who is considering whether to make a run at unseating Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley in what is still a heavily Democratic state.

Mikulski, facing, at the moment, what seems to be very modest Republican opposition, is apparently taking little for granted.

She's continuing to stockpile campaign money. Last weekend she held another 2010 fundraising event, this time in Baltimore.

And she's been working hard to persuade state voters that's she still on the job, despite having missed long stretches since July while she underwent major surgery and prolonged rehabilitation.

She's scheduled to visit a volunteer fire house in Kensington on Thursday, to be applauded for helping produce a $600,000 federal grant for a new hook-and-ladder truck. On Monday, she'll cut a ribbon at a Life Sciences Training Center at the Baltimore City Community College/University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark in West Baltimore.

Twice in past week, she's been quick off the mark twice, in the process nabbing headlines in the top circulating newspapers in the state -- The Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post.

She did it in time-honored political fashion-- by demanding official action from the federal government in response to separate investigative stories in local papers.

Mikulski asked Attorney General Eric Holder to help the family of a Baltimore fire cadet killed in a training exercise after The Sun published an expose about the Department of Justice's refusal to pay death benefits. She requested that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood investigate possible safety defects in the capital's Metro subway system after the Post published a report.

That's politics at the most elemental level: basic constituent service. It's also the sort of thing that gives a diligent incumbent yet another built-in advantage at re-election time.

Posted by Paul West at 11:41 AM |
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

November 6, 2009

Kratovil a "No" on health care

Frank Kratovil made it official today: he'll vote against the Democratic health care plan in the House this weekend.

The freshman Democrat from the Eastern Shore, facing one of the toughest re-election fights in the country next year, released a statement declaring his opposition to the measure. His stance could complicate efforts by Democratic leaders to secure approval of the legislation this weekend.

“After months of thoroughly reviewing legislative proposals and speaking with constituents and stakeholders, I am not satisfied that this bill before us is a sustainable solution,” Kratovil said in a release from his office this morning. “While I applaud the efforts to improve this bill, I still am concerned that this bill does not do enough to bend the long-term cost curve and that it lacks adequate provisions to reduce the deficit and protect small businesses.”

Kratovil left open the possibility of supporting a future version of health care legislation. He stated that he would “continue to work with my colleagues to pursue a better bill as this process continues.”

If both the House and Senate approve health care overhaul plans, a final version of the legislation would have to be crafted and submitted to both chambers for a vote. That merged plan could be more palatable to moderates.

Kratovil, who represents the Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties, is close to House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of southern Maryland. Kratovil had previously indicated his opposition to the House legislation, while leaving open the possibility that he might support it.

The former Queen Anne’s County prosecutor is a member of the House Blue Dog coalition, a group of 52 fiscally conservative Democrats that has been critical of the cost of their party’s health care proposal. He had been under pressure, from conservatives in his district and media ads by opponents of the Democratic health care plan, to vote against it.

Because House Republicans have remained united in their opposition to the Democratic health care proposal, House leaders will need to persuade at least a dozen Blue Dogs to support the plan. With a total of 258 Democrats in the House, and 218 votes needed to approve the measure, there can be no more than 40 defections by Democrats or the plan as currently written will fail.

In recent days, several House Democrats who represent Republican districts have come out against the measure. Kratovil, whose district backed Republican John McCain by a wide margin in 2008, fits that profile.

By announcing their opposition in advance of Saturday’s floor debate, these Democrats spare themselves from being pressured by House leaders to support the measure as a matter of party loyalty. Republicans are waging an aggressive campaign to warn Democrats from conservative districts that a vote in favor of the House health care plan, strongly supported by President Barack Obama and—just this week—groups such as AARP and the American Medical Association, could produce a voter backlash in 2010 that will end their careers in Congress.

Kratovil was the only Marylander whose vote was in doubt. The other Democrats in the delegation are expected to support the measure while the lone Republican, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of western Maryland, is opposed.

Here is Kratovil's complete statement:

“We need health care reform that reduces long-term health care spending and expands coverage, but we must find a fiscally sustainable approach to accomplish these goals. After months of thoroughly reviewing legislative proposals and speaking with constituents and stakeholders, I am not satisfied that this bill before us is a sustainable solution. While I applaud the efforts to improve this bill, I still am concerned that this bill does not do enough to bend the long-term cost curve and that it lacks adequate provisions to reduce the deficit and protect small businesses. While I will continue to work with my colleagues to pursue a better bill as this process continues, I do not support HR 3962 and will vote against it when it comes to the floor this weekend.”

Posted by Paul West at 11:21 AM | | Comments (4)
        

Long wait about over for Baltimore judge

It's been nine years since federal Judge Andre Davis of Baltimore was first nominated to fill the "Maryland seat" on the federal Court of Appeals.

It's been seven months since President Barack Obama re-nominated Davis for the same position--which has remained vacant, thanks to political stalemate in Washington, since the death of Judge Francis D. Murnaghan Jr. in August, 2000.

And it's been more than five months since the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a bipartisan vote, cleared Davis for confirmation by the full Senate. Once again, it was politics--delaying tactics by Senate Republicans, who are waging a relatively unnoticed, but largely successful, blocking campaign against Obama nominees--that forced Davis to wait some more.

In just a few days, however, the Baltimore native--having spent his 50s waiting for the promotion to come through--should finally be able to move up.

Senate debate on Davis' nomination is scheduled to begin late Monday afternoon, with a confirmation vote expected the same day. The exact timing could still slip--we're talking about the Senate here--but not the result: his confirmation is a foregone conclusion, once senators finally get to vote.

That will put Davis, now 60, on the bench of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has a reputation as the most conservative of the nation's appellate courts--the highest level other than the Supreme Court. Now that Obama nominees are about to start joining the bench in Richmond, that court will be moving to the left.

There are five vacancies on the 15-judge panel, which hears appeals from cases in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas. Just this week, Obama nominated two North Carolina judges to the 4th Circuit.

One was, like Davis, a Bill Clinton nominee who was blocked by Republicans (in this case, North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms) at the end of Clinton's presidency. The other would be the first Hispanic to sit on the 4th Circuit.

Posted by Paul West at 10:38 AM | | Comments (1)
        

November 5, 2009

Poll shows O'Malley may be vulnerable; devil's in the details

Gov. Martin O’Malley would best former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich in a poll about a hypothetical rematch in 2010, but the sitting governor still may be vulnerable, according to pollsters at Clarus Research Group. How did they come to that conclusion? Several layers of data provide the answer.

First of all, pollsters pitted O’Malley against “someone new” in one question put to voters. While O’Malley has Ehrlich beat by a 47-40 percent margin in the poll, he lost to a nameless opponent by a 48-39 percent margin. That's a mixed bag for O’Malley, the incumbent Democrat next November, as well as Ehrlich, a Republican who hasn’t even revealed whether or not he’ll run next year.

But other questions also yielded telling results, according to Clarus. O’Malley scored less than 40 percent approval of the way he’s handling seven issues — holding down state taxes, bringing new jobs to Maryland, managing the state budget, bringing people together to solve problems, putting Maryland’s interest above partisan politics, keeping in touch with average citizens, and protecting consumers against high electric utility rates. It has to hurt that only 33 percent approved of O’Malley’s handling of the utility issue even after his recent public clashes with Constellation Energy Group during which he sought rate relief for customers of Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.

O’Malley only scored majority approval on one of the issues — 54 percent for living up to high standards of ethics. Then again, 48 percent of those polled approved of the overall job O’Malley is doing while only 40 percent disapproved

Clarus also provided more detail on the O’Malley-Ehrlich matchup.

 Ehrlich leads O’Malley in the state’s western counties by 22 percent and in Eastern Shore/southern counties by 13 percent. They are tied in the Baltimore area. O’Malley’s statewide lead is based in part on his his strong 42-point lead in the Washington suburbs, Clarus reported.

 O’Malley scored a 21-point lead among women voters and a 66-point advantage among African Americans, but Ehrlich carried men by 9 points and whites by 14 points. Ehrlich leads independents by 14 points, according to Clarus.

The poll of 637 Maryland voters by Clarus, a non-partisan survey organization, was conducted by telephone interviewers between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 3:30 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Obama, Mikulski still score high in Maryland

Republican renaissance? What Republican renaissance? In Maryland, at least, national Democrats are still riding high.

According to a new statewide poll, Barbara A. Mikulski heads into the 2010 mid-term election with her status intact as Maryland's most popular politician.

The survey, by Clarus Research Group of Washington, showed the Democratic senator with a job approval rating of 57 percent, a good score for an incumbent at a time of widespread voter discontent and economic malaise.

A majority of Maryland voters surveyed -- 53 percent -- said they would like to see the Senate's senior woman get another six-year term. Only 36 percent wanted someone new in the job.

Mikulski, already running for re-election, has drawn three Republican rivals so far. None of them is well-known statewide or attracting a significant amount of campaign money (the first test for a challenger).


The state's junior senator, Ben Cardin, now halfway through his first term, had a 46 percent approval rating and 26 percent disapproval score in the poll. He won't face voters again until 2012.

President Barack Obama, who carried Maryland last year with 62 percent of the vote--his fifth-best showing nationally--has kept his job approval higher in the state than in the country as a whole.

A total of 60 percent of Marylanders surveyed said they approved of the job Obama is doing. In the most recent Gallup daily tracking poll, the president's job approval rating was 50 percent nationally, tied for the lowest mark of his presidency.

The poll of 637 Maryland voters by Clarus, a non-partisan survey organization, was conducted by telephone interviewers between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent, according to Clarus.

Posted by Paul West at 12:10 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

November 4, 2009

Pappas drops gubernatorial bid and backs Hogan

Mike Pappas, the first Republican brave enough to wade into the 2010 gubernatorial contest in Maryland, is dropping out and throwing his support behind Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. Nearly a year after Pappas declared he was “in it to win it,” he’s now saying he’s in it for Hogan.

“I’m withdrawing from the race, and I believe that Larry is the candidate who can win next November,” Pappas said in a press release from Hogan’s campaign. “Larry nearly defeated Maryland’s most powerful Democrat. He has a proven record of wining over Democrats and Independents as well as Republicans.”

Hogan does count among his political credentials a campaign that almost unseated Steny H. Hoyer in the 1990s, a significant feat in a heavily Democratic state. The real estate company executive went on to serve in former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s cabinet. Pappas said Hogan has the ability to build the grassroots organization and fund-raising operation needed to be successful as Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley is already gearing up his campaign.

But there’s one major caveat — Hogan has said he’s only in it if Ehrlich’s not.

While he appears to be ramping up his campaign apparatus, Hogan has maintained that he would withdraw if Ehrlich decides to run. Meanwhile, a decision from Ehrlich could be months away.

As for Pappas, a construction attorney from Perry Hall. Hogan said you haven’t seen the last of him. “He’s got a great future in politics,” Hogan said in his press release. He added that he’s excited to have the “Pappas team” join his campaign.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 4:01 PM | | Comments (1)
        

November 3, 2009

Former state delegate Jean Cryor dead at 70

Heard the news from the statement from Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Council President Phil Andrews:

“Montgomery County has suffered a terrible loss.

“Jean Cryor served the people of the County in several capacities – as a local journalist, a State Delegate, and as a member of the County Planning Board. Her absence will be deeply felt in many ways and in many communities.

“We mourn her loss and extend our deepest condolences to her family, her friends, and her colleagues on the Planning Board.”

My own view: For years, Cryor, former editor and publisher of the Gazette Newspapers, was the lone Republican in the Montgomery legislative delegation. She carried the distinction with humor and class, and fought the good fight on Ways and Means and on the House floor. As a woman Republican from Montgomery, her name was frequently mentioned as a lieutenant governor candidate or for other high-level positions, which she could have filled with distinction.

Posted by David Nitkin at 7:27 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Annapolis alderman plans complaint over homophobic campaign fliers

A candidate for Annapolis alderman says he will file a complaint with the state Attorney General’s office after an anonymous racist and homophobic flier criticizing his candidacy began circulating last weekend.

The flier, addressed to the “Friends and Supporters of Black Annapolis,” was distributed in public housing developments in Ward 3, where Republican Scott Bowling, who is white, is challenging the Democratic incumbent Classie Hoyle, who is African-American.

The flier states that Bowling “will be a danger to us all and our children,” and makes references to the “risk of sexual assault,” and says that Bowling is “white and gay,” and “wants to push for a pro gay agenda at City Hall.”

“It’s racial, bigoted and prejudiced and this has no place in Annapolis politics,” said Bowling, 38, a mortgage banker.

The flier also compares Bowling, who is openly gay, to Samuel E. Shropshire, the alderman who has been accused of fondling a male midshipman.

“There’s no secret,” said Bowling. “I don’t feel that has anything to do with the issues facing the city, but it’s who I am.”

Hoyle, who has held the seat for eight years, could not be reached for comment.
Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said Tuesday that any complaint filed would be reviewed and likely referred to the state’s attorney office.

-- Nicole Fuller

Posted by David Nitkin at 6:07 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Steele for president in 2012? Yes, he might

Updated

If Republican candidates roll to big victories in today's elections, it could move at least one Republican closer to a 2012 presidential run: National Party Chairman Michael S. Steele.

For some time, the former Maryland lieutenant governor has been open to a presidential try. The scuttlebutt from folks who work at national party headquarters is that he thinks he’s going to be a presidential candidate in 2012.

A Republican turnaround after back-to-back defeats in the last two elections could advance Steele's presidential ambitions. He'd be a distinct longshot as a candidate; but if he outperformed expectations, there's no way of knowing where, exactly, he might wind up.

Today, Steele is making the rounds in New Jersey and Virginia, two Barack Obama states that Republicans hope to win in the only governor's elections of 2009.

Tonight, Steele will be all over cable TV. On Wednesday morning he plans to declare victory at a rare Washington press conference.

National party chairmanships aren't typical launching pads for a presidential candidacy (just the opposite in the case of Howard Dean, whose election as head of the Democratic National Committee was a consolation prize after his 2004 primary campaign flamed out).

Steele's army of critics, in both major parties, would no doubt say that he is a potential president only in his own mind. But that's where presidential runs start in modern politics.

And the notion of a Steele for President campaign isn’t completely far-fetched, at least to Steele.

Last spring, he was asked if he had ever thought about it. He replied, “without blinking, without hesitation, straight up,” that the answer was “no.”

Then he went on to say that he would consider becoming a presidential contender “if the opportunity were there and it was right.”

At the time, Obama was riding high and Steele had faltered repeatedly in his first of months as party chairman.

Since then, Steele has won plaudits for the RNC's fund-raising performance. And there is no longer any talk about cutting short his two-year term as head of the Republican National Committee.

“You know, God has a way of revealing stuff to you and making it real for you through others," Steele told CNN in that March 25 interview. "If that's part of the plan, it'll be the plan,”

Should tonight turn out to be a big one for Republicans, one national party leader may interpret the message that voters are sending as "Run, Michael, run."


UPDATE

A Steele adviser heatedly denied that there was anything to chatter about a presidential bid.

"There's no merit to it. There's no truth to it," said Curt Anderson, a Republican consultant who played a key role in Steele's successful RNC campaign. "He's just trying to raise money and win elections. That's what he's trying to do."

Posted by Paul West at 4:51 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Michael Steele
        

O’Malley moonlighting again... still not getting paid

Annapolis is technically Gov. Martin O’Malley’s stage. Now the state’s capital will literally serve as his stage when his Irish folk rock band plays two concerts at the popular Ram’s Head watering hole/restaurant there next month.

Tickets to see O’Malley’s March play an afternoon or evening show on Sunday, Dec. 20, went on sale today and can be purchased here. The band has played in Washington, Philadelphia and Ireland since they began performing in 1988, according to Ram’s Head Web site. They are also playing two shows on Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Avalon Theatre in Easton.

The governor sang lead vocals for the band’s fifth album released this year and titled “Galway Races," featuring remakes of songs by Green Day and the Saw Doctors. The band’s Web site includes a one-word description of the album from a Washington Post review: “... shines...” Well, that's not quite what the reviewer wrote. The full review reads: “The band sounds better when it strikes up sans vocals, as on the traditional instrumental ‘Sean Sa Cheo.’ Elsewhere, harpist Jared Denhard's work truly shines.” Ouch for O'Malley; kudos to the harpist.

All of this stage work begs the question again about whether he's truly moonlighting while in public office. (O'Malley got paid $800 for appearing on HBO's “Real Time with Bill Maher” last month, and donated the money to a domestic violence center.) As for the governor playing with the band, aides say he doesn’t make any money from it, and the other band members split any proceeds from concert ticket and CD sales.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 2:00 PM | | Comments (1)
        

In The Sun Today: tools, statues, slots venues

State and local elected officials react to the troubling news that Black & Decker was purchased Monday by Stanley tools of Connecticut, which is where the combined company will be located.

"Having the worldwide headquarters of Black & Decker here in Towson has long been a point of pride for Baltimore County," said County Executive James T. Smith Jr. "The company has been an important part of our economic landscape for decades. This is clearly not a positive development. But such decisions are based on global competition. This is the sort of thing we have to expect in this tough economy."

"It would be great if, as much as possible, they kept operations here," said state Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat. "Black & Decker has been a huge asset for Towson and a huge asset for the community. The civic work they do is off the charts. There are a lot of people who invest a lot of time in that company, and those families make up the core of this district."

And Gov. Martin O'Malley plans to talk with Stanley's CEO and has directed the state labor and economic development departments to provide employment services to any displaced workers.

***

A bronze Willie Don draws a crowd of past and present pols to the Inner Harbor, including Gov. Martin O'Malley, Mayor Sheila Dixon and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who turned 88 on Monday, wasn't about to be upstaged by himself. He gave a short speech: "I'm only going to take two minutes because I saw someone yawn. I used to yawn when I listened to you, too."

***

Making a seemingly random suggestion that comes either a bit too late or a bit too early in the slots process, a company offers to sell a parcel near BWI for the development of an Anne Arundel County casino. But Cordish says he's not buying.


Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:21 AM | | Comments (0)
        
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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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