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September 30, 2010

O'Malley and Ehrlich agree to debate on WJZ

Yes, you read that correctly.

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. -- notorious for being unable to work out debate logistics -- have agreed to one, both campaigns confirmed this evening.

The hourlong debate is booked for 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 11, in-studio at Baltimore's WJZ. It is sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council and will be moderated by anchor Denise Koch. The debate is to air at 7 that evening.

"We are very pleased that both candidates ... have agreed to a debate," said WJZ vice president and general manager Jay Newman. He said he and Art Abramson, director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, negotiated with the campaigns for weeks.

O'Malley's spokesman Rick Abbruzzese and Ehrlich's spokesman Andy Barth both said the candidates are "looking forward to it."

Each candidate will give opening and closing remarks, Newman said, and will discuss five to seven issues. Newman said the station will solicit questions from viewers.

Barth said his understanding is that the debate is to be "pretty free form."

O'Malley and Ehrlich went head to head on WJZ four years ago, too. More details to come.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:52 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Washington business groups backs O'Malley

The Washington Board of Trade, a business-leaders group similar to the Greater Baltimore Committee, today announced its support of Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.

In the two previous gubernatorial elections, the Board of Trade backed Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. -- giving the O'Malley endorsement more of an exclamation point and providing the governor with new ammunition when Ehrlich attacks him as anti-business.

The announcement comes on a day when the National Federation of Independent Business said it favors Ehrlich because small business growth is a "centerpiece" of his economic plan. The group traditionally backs Republicans.

The Washington Board of Trade said in a news release that leaders interviewed both candidates and chose O'Malley "because of his demonstrated understanding of the key issues facing businesses and his track-record of including the business community in fashioning solutions to the region’s most pressing challenges."

Among the issues the board considered, according to the release, were O'Malley's commitment to the Purple Line light rail project in Montgomery County and continued support of the Inter-County Connector highway under construction.

Jim Dinegar, president and CEO of the Board of Trade, said in a brief interview that O'Malley has been easy to work with -- while Ehrlich hadn't been.

Ehrlich's relationship with the board, Dinegar said, "had its ups and downs. My understanding is that at times he was difficult to work with, even though we had agreement on many of the same issues," Dinegar said, adding that he was not president of the board during Ehrlich's tenure.

O'Malley quickly touted the backing in a release, saying he was honored. "We have made the tough decisions to restore fiscal responsibility in Annapolis, create new jobs, and plan for Maryland's long-term economic growth," O'Malley said.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:53 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Ehrlich would cut education money

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich began to open up about how he would pay for some of the tax cuts he's been promising on the campaign trail and told AP reporter Brian Witte that he'd chop the extra education money that goes to Baltimore, Prince George's County and Montgomery County.

The additional funds are fondly known in Annapolis as the GCEI, or Geographic Cost of Education Index. The theory is that the money pads allocations to places in the state where the cost of living is either quite high (Montgomery County) or where the conditions are so unappealing that teachers need hardship duty funds (Baltimore and Prince George's County).

Eliminating the GCEI would save $126 million, which goes some of the way toward filling the roughly $800 million hole budget Ehrlich's promises would create. Ehrlich told the AP that he views the GCEI as the payoff to Montgomery County lawmakers who supported the landmark Thornton education legislation funding bill that increased state K-12 funding.

Meanwhile, Gov. Martin O'Malley this week rolled out three new education ads that tout his "tough choice" to freeze tuition at the state's public universities for four years. That promise thawed this session, when O'Malley approved a three percent hike to college fees. And in upcoming years those costs are projected to rise.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 4:44 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

NRA endorses Kratovil

The National Rifle Association has endorsed the re-election of Rep. Frank Kratovil of Maryland in the state's most competitive congressional contest.

Kratovil “has earned the endorsement of the NRA-PVF (political victory fund) because has defended the Second Amendment freedoms of law-abiding gun owners, hunters and sportsmen in Maryland and across America,” said Chris W. Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist. “On November 2, I urge all Maryland NRA Members and gun owners in the 1st District to vote Frank Kratovil for Congress."

The influential gun lobby also gave the Democratic freshman an "A" for legislative efforts during his initial term in Congress. The NRA said he had signed a "successful pro-gun" legal brief in a key Second Amendment case. He also voted to allow Americans to carry firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges and cosponsored legislation to overhaul the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Finally, Kratovil signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder opposing a new ban on semi-automatic firearms and ammunition magazines, and cosponsored a national right-to-carry reciprocity bill involving state right-to-carry licenses and permits.

Republican candidate Andy Harris failed to get the NRA's endorsement but did receive an "A" rating from the NRA as a "solidly pro-gun candidate." Commenters on this blog in recent weeks have noted that Harris, a veteran state legislator from Baltimore County, once voted against Sunday hunting on the Eastern Shore.

We'll be watching to see whether the NRA backs up its Kratovil endorsement with letters and phone calls to NRA members in the First District, which covers the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

Posted by Paul West at 11:54 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

National Dems put $125,000 more into Maryland

Updated

For Maryland Democrats who took solace in the recent published poll showing Gov. Martin O'Malley with a double-digit lead over Republican challenger Bob Ehrlich, here's some think-twice information:

The Democratic National Committee has just put another $125,000 into Maryland, bringing the total for the campaign cycle to $225,000.

Considering that few other Democrats in the state even face competitive races, with the exception of Eastern Shore Congressman Frank Kratovil, that infusion of national cash may suggest that the Democrats' own polling isn't as favorable as indicated by a Washington Post survey released this week.

One thing for sure: Democrats face plenty of other challenges around the country and the national party wouldn't be reupping in one of the very bluest states unless Dem strategists felt they absolutely had to. 

DNC spokesman Alec Gerlach said the suggestion that national Democrats are worried about Maryland is "completely off base."  He said the money was "part of a longstanding commitment" to assist the state party and Democratic candidates in their coordinated federal-state effort to get out the vote.

He also said the DNC has put more money into other states, including $833,000 in Ohio and $1.2 million in Florida. 

“This transfer represents a standing commitment the DNC has made months ago to the Maryland Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign. The DNC is investing $50 million in races across the country – the largest ever investment from the DNC in a midterm election,” Gerlach said in a prepared statement.

 

 

Posted by Paul West at 9:48 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Waste management?

David Scott has a greater sense of style than might have been expected of the city's chief garbage man.

Before he was forced out as public works director in July, Scott spent more than $28,000 renovating and decorating his office. The renovation — wood flooring, stone facade on one wall, full bath, that sort of thing — came to about $11,800. The furnishings, which included a $1,200 office chair, $999 zebra-stripe area rug and $968 glass desk top, rang up to $16,600.

WBAL-TV was first with this scoop, but I managed to get Scott on the phone Wednesday to hear what he had to say for himself.

Scott said lots of people signed off on the makeover, which was approved when now-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake headed the Board of Estimates. "The Board of Estimates did approve the flooring, and finance and procurement approved everything else," the Sheila Dixon appointee said.

(I'm not sure that will make taxpayers feel any better, but why should Scott be hung out to dry on his own?)

Even more puzzling than how so many bureaucrats signed off on this stuff is this: How can a guy who is supposed to be focused on sewers, storm drains and solid waste have a taste for such elegant office décor? Was I wrong, I asked Scott, to assume DPW chiefs are devoid of style?

"I am not devoid of style," Scott replied with a laugh. But he said the makeover was not about personal chic so much as a public agency's mission.

"It is actually a greener office," he said. "The wood floor was actually reclaimed barn wood." (That recycled barn wood commanded $15.52 a square foot.)

And the stone wall?

"We were thinking stone from the watershed — watershed features, things like that," he said. "Public Works is not just garbage. It's also water and wastewater."

And waste.

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 6:44 AM | | Comments (2)
        

Bloomberg, O'Malley have tea party of their own

When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg comes to Maryland Thursday to endorse Gov. Martin O'Malley's re-election bid, he'll do it at a Bethesda-based business with the slogan "Be Real. Get Honest."

The company is Honest Tea, which I could describe as a maker of iced teas, but that would be a little like calling Whole Foods a supermarket. Honest Tea is a maker of fair-trade, antioxidant-rich, low-sugar and organic iced teas — which come, naturally, in BPA-free bottles.

It's a successful company, with just the kind of product two health-conscious pols might like to be associated with. But O'Malley probably already has the green-tea vote locked up. Could the Honest Tea tie-in backfire with the Lipton types he still needs to court?

Perhaps O'Malley should play up something Honest Tea would probably rather forget: last summer's kombucha recall.

In June, Honest Tea pulled the fermented product from store shelves after tests showed it contained more than the usual trace amounts of alcohol. The raw, unpasteurized drink, which is thought, like other probiotic foods, to boost the immune system and aid digestion, had somehow continued to ferment after bottling. The problem was straightened out, and the product was back in stores by August.

O'Malley, whose fondness for Guinness is well known, might be able to spin the hoochy kombucha to appeal to Joe Six Pack.

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 6:41 AM | | Comments (4)
        

September 29, 2010

Dueling endorsements: NYC mayors for Md. govs

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is backing former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., while current Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports Gov. Martin O'Malley, the gubernatorial candidates' campaigns reported today.

Neither endorsement was a surprise.

Giuliani campaigned for Ehrlich, a fellow Republican, in 2006. No word yet on whether he'll be back here in the next five weeks. Bloomberg, who is coming to Bethesda tomorrow for an O'Malley rally, made his support of the Democratic candidate public a few weeks ago.

“There is only one candidate running for Governor of Maryland who is capable of restoring Maryland’s economy and that is Bob Ehrlich," Giuliani said in an Ehrlich campaign release. "His plan for the next four years – creating jobs, lowering the tax burden of families and entrepreneurs, and reining in government spending – is exactly what Maryland needs."

A Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, not to mention possible 2012 presidential contender, Bloomberg has criss-crossed the country to stump for candidates whom he believes to be moderate antidotes to angry partisans.

Bloomberg, who is a graduate, former trustee and benefactor of the Johns Hopkins University, supports O'Malley for his "commitment to effective government, job creation and public education," O'Malley's campaign said in a release.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:05 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

O'Malley in the driver's seat

Gov. Martin O'Malley did something unusual this morning: He drove.

The Democrat preceded his four-year term as governor with a seven-year stint as Baltimore mayor. Those jobs have long come with the perk of an official driver.

But after an announcement this morning about 11 new jobs coming to a GM transmission plant in White Marsh, O'Malley hopped into a Chevy Volt for the TV cameras.

"You sure you want me to do this?" he said jokingly. "It's the first time in 10 years."

(Aides say that's a bit of an exaggeration on his part; he does occasionally drive.)

Reporters stuck around in case the infrequent driver veered off the road.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:20 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: For fun
        

Mother to replace Green nominee on ballot

The Maryland Green Party announced today that it has nominated Kenniss Henry to replace her daughter, Natasha Pettigrew, on the ballot for U.S. Senate. Pettigrew died earlier this month after a sports utility vehicle struck her while she was cycling in Pringe George's County.

Henry's name was submitted Monday to the State Board of Elections for the seat long held by Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. The party's coordinating council voted unanimously Sunday night to nominate Henry.

"Natasha's supporters will still have an opportunity to make their voice heard by casting a vote as her mother carries her message forward to the election," Karen Jennings, co-chair of the Maryland Green Party, said in a statement. "Even in her death, Natasha's voice and passion will carry on."

Henry said in the statement that she is honorored to run her "daughter's race to the finish line." She said she would continue her daughter's theme of campaigning "for the people."

Pettigrew, a 30-year-old law student at the University of Miami, was training for a half-triathlon when she was killed. In honor of her daughter, the Green Party said, Henry seeks to bring attention to bicycle safety and the need for bicycle lanes on all Maryland roadways.

The Maryland State Police are investigating the accident. Police said the driver of the Cadillac Escalade that struck her before dawn on Route 202 drove off, thinking she'd hit an animal. The woman called the police when she arrived home and found a bicycle lodged under her vehicle.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:32 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Poll: O'Malley pads lead against Ehrlich

* Updated with candidate reaction. * 

A Washington Post poll out this morning shows that Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley has widened his lead over Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., compared to a poll the newspaper conducted earlier this year. O'Malley drew 52 percent of likely voter support to Ehrlich's 41 percent in the new poll.

And the governor appears to be more popular than in any other poll The Post has conducted during his administration, even as Maryland struggles with the fits and starts of an economy that remains fairly weak.

Ehrlich said the poll is "out of whack" with the other polls conducted in the race. "It is light years away," he said.  Meanwhile, O'Malley said he's taking the results the way he takes all poll results: "with a grain of salt."

(More reaction from both candidates and their campaigns below the jump.)

With just under five weeks until Election Day, the governor candidates have kicked their campaigns into high gear, both announcing high-profile supporters yesterday and running a volley of attack ads.

Other recent polls have found a closer margin between the two candidates -- but have also shown O'Malley gaining ground when compared to earlier polls conducted by those same organizations. A Rasmussen Reports poll out Sept. 20 showed O'Malley winning 50 percent of likely voters to Ehrlich's 47 percent. An August Rasmussen poll had them tied at 47 percent.

"Nearly every other poll shows this race statistically tied," Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said in an email this morning. "Just last week, The Post's own Chris Cillizza moved this race from 'leaning Democrat' to 'Toss Up.' Exactly one year ago The Post poll in the Virginia gubernatorial race said Democrat Creigh Deeds was within striking distance (four points). He lost by 18 points one month later. We are very confident that Marylanders want to do better than the massive job losses and record deficits under Martin O'Malley and are embracing Bob Ehrlich's plan to fix the economy." 

O'Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese has this to say in an email: “Maryland families know Governor O’Malley is on their side, and he’s working every day to move our state forward.  There have been and will be many polls, but one consistent theme is that voters are hearing Governor O’Malley’s message and he’s well positioned to win in November.” 

After an event this morning in White Marsh, O'Malley said the poll, while favorable to him a "snapshot."

"These snapshots will vary widely" throughout the next five weeks, he said. "It all comes down to turnout," he said -- something he said will be an intense focus for his campaign.

In 2006, O'Malley, then the mayor of Baltimore, toppled the popular Republican governor, winning by a margin of 6.5 percent, or about 117,000 votes. The Sun recently examined how the electorate has changed in the past four years and what each candidate must do to win.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:29 PM | | Comments (50)
Categories: Horserace
        

National Dems answer doubters in DC with new ad in Maryland One

It has become conventional wisdom in Washington that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is poised to bail on Frank Kratovil's uphill re-election fight in Maryland and direct its money to more winnable contests elsewhere.

The DCCC defies that prediction, at least for now, with a new ad attacking Kratovil's Republican foe Andy Harris. The 30-second spot attempts to portray the veteran state lawmaker from Baltimore County as out of touch with the lives of voters in the district, which spans the Chesapeake Bay and takes in Western Shore portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties, plus the entire Eastern Shore.

The new commercial, click here to view it, reinforces recent Kratovil ads that go after Harris for his support of the "fair tax," a consumption tax plan that is a favorite of some conservatives. The DCCC pioneered that line of attack in other races before Kratovil picked it up; as we noted here before, the ads have been criticized by nonpartisan watchdogs as misleading, because they don't inform voters that the sales tax would replace the existing federal tax system.

According to the DCCC, the ad is running in both the Baltimore and Salisbury media markets. It is the first broadcast ad in the race by the committee, which is chaired by Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Posted by Paul West at 10:35 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

September 28, 2010

Romney sends cash to Maryland Republicans

Mitt Romney, Republican former governor of Massachusetts and often-discussed 2012 presidential contender, announced today that has given money to four Maryland Republicans, including gubernatorial hopeful Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Romney's Free and Strong America political action committee sent $10,000 to Ehrlich and $2,500 each to U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett and congressional candidates Andy Harris and Charles Lollar.

In a statement posted on his web site, Romney said he is "proud to stand with these candidates today." Romney's endorsements of candidates all across the country are "aimed at electing conservative candidates who will work to lower taxes and spending, restore commonsense principles to healthcare and get our economy moving again," according to his web site.

Ehrlich said in a statement that he was "honored" by the endorsement. “As an accomplished executive in both the private and public sectors, he understands that the path to economic recovery in Maryland and America begins with empowering entrepreneurs, lowering the tax burden on hardworking families, and reining in government spending. I look forward to applying these principles to state government after November’s election.” 

Romney was keynote speaker at this year's Maryland Republican Party fundraising gala. No word yet on whether he'll stump here for Ehrlich.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:44 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Campaign finance
        

O'Malley defends labor department

** Updated to include GOP leaders calling for formal investigation

Gov. Martin O'Malley defended his labor department Tuesday morning after a lengthy stop at a Baltimore charter school. The agency is under fire for removing from their website a July jobs report that included a downbeat analysis of the state's recovery and replacing it with a sunnier talking points.

The governor said that a single month's worth of data was shaky ground to draw grim conclusions about the state's economy. "One month does not a trend make," O'Malley said.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, a Republican, held a news conference Monday to blast O'Malley for politicizing the agency and Audrey Scott, the chairwoman of the state's GOP, today called on the agency's secretary to resign. The GOP released a stack of emails showing communications staffers scrambling to deal with the "fiasco."

*** ADD ***
The state's  two top elected Repbulicans, House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell and Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman, requested that AG Doug Gansler launch a probe about possible "collusion in the effort to remove the orginial post." They've also asked the General Assembly's top Democrats, Sen Prez. Mike Miller and Speaker Mike Busch, to appoint an emergency committee to investigate.

Sanchez has said that the first version of the report, titled "Maryland's Market Stalls During July" was a draft and should have never been posted. It was taken down and replaced with one that contained more positive "approved messaging." The jobs numbers, put out in August, showed that the employers created 1,600 jobs that month, the slowest growth since the Maryland employers started adding jobs in April.

State economists wrote in their original analysis that they were worried about "declining consumer confidence and spending" and "lackluster hiring at the national level." Those factors them to believe that "Maryland's economic recovery faltered" in July. The second version of the report did not include the gloomy analysis.

O'Malley said he was unaware of the flap at the time, but said he agreed in principal with the later version. "What we shouldn’t do is put opinions randomly," he said. "The numbers are what they are and economists will differ on that. Whether those economists are people inside our staff or people in academia or other places."

But, the Department of Labor this month put out new data suggesting the state anaylists' first instincts were correct. The feds revised Maryland's July numbers to show that the state actually lost 1,000 jobs that month. The situation worsened in August, when employers cut 5,700 jobs. 
Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:33 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Administration
        

Obama coming to Maryland for O'Malley

** Updated with location information **

President Barack Obama will stop in Maryland to campaign for Gov. Martin O'Malley on October 7, according to a top Democratic source.

The O'Malley campaign says the event will be in "the afternoon" at Bowie State University in Prince George's County. There's no word yet on the location or time Bringing the President could excite African American voters who O'Malley must convince to vote in large numbers if he wants to win his contest against former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican. (To the right is a 2006 photo of O'Malley with then-Sen. Obama.)

Already the Obama administration has shown support for O'Malley, taping a 60-second radio ad for him that began airing today and inviting him to a White House bill signing for a new program he pushed to extend capital to small businesses. Vice President Joe Biden headlined a fundraiser for the governor in July.

When asked this morning at a news conference if the President would come to Maryland, O'Malley was coy. "I sure hope so," he said. "I hope the President comes to Maryland. He is leading this country out of this recession, it is hard every single day. We are making more progress ever day."

The GOP, however, was not impressed. Parish Branden, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee said in a statement that O'Malley has "nothing to show for his fiscal mismanagement but unrelenting, high unemployment" and it's "no wonder Governor O’Malley is looking for some outside help."

Using the latest department of labor figures, Branden pointed to 216,000 out of work Marylanders and said O’Malley’s claim that the President is moving the country out of the recession "clearly indicates that he has no understanding for the financial hardship many families in his state are facing."

Maryland's unemployment rate crept up last month to 7.3 percent, but is still below the national average of 9.6 percent. 

** U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings told WOLB radio host Larry Young this morning that Obama would make the Oct. 7 stop in Prince George's County. Cummings also hinted on the radio that Baltimore might host a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama later, but the O'Malley campaign has not confirmed.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:20 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Bill Clinton to headline Mikulski fundraiser

Incumbent Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski may be leading in the polls by double digits and enjoying a big financial edge over a little-known Republican opponent. But that isn't stopping her from raising money like she's in the race of her life.

Recently, she called upon Vice President Joe Biden to be the draw at a fundraising breakfast in Chevy Chase. And next month she'll benefit when Bill Clinton lends his star power to an event for her in Montgomery County.

Prospective donors are invited to join the former president at a cocktail reception and buffet dinner on Sunday, Oct. 10. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley will also be a "special guest," according to a copy of the invitation posted on the Sunlight Foundation's website; a portion of the money raised that night will go to the Maryland Democratic Party.

Mikulski was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential candidacy, and the Clintons have been very good about remembering their friends in the 2010 election, even those, like Maryland's senior Democrat, who don't appear to need much help.

The event is to be held at the Bethesda home of Mark L. Joseph, former president of Yellow Cab of Baltimore and now head of Veolia Transportation's North American operations, which covers transportation services in at least 22 states and two Canadian provinces and calls itself the largest private sector operator of multiple modes of transit on the continent.

According to the invitation, Mikulski will get the first $2,400 of each individual donation ($5,000 from political action committees). The state party gets the next $10,000 ($5,000 from PACs). No ticket price is listed on the invitation but small donors don't seem to be the target audience.

Those listed as hosts for the event include Ann Lewis, an adviser to both Clintons adviser who once worked for Mikulski; former Clinton Justice department official Jamie Gorelick; big-time Democratic money man Michael Bronfein of Baltimore; and the Kennedy Krieger Institute's Lainy Lebow-Sachs, longtime aide to former Gov. and Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer; and Annapolis lobbyist Scott Livingston.

Posted by Paul West at 1:02 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Conservation voters group mails absentee ballots

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters is mailing 130,000 absentee ballot applications to registered voters -- an effort that could prove beneficial to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and other candidates endorsed by the environmental group. The applications are expected to begin showing up in mailboxes today.

This marks the largest voter outreach effort by the Maryland group. In 2006, the conservation league sent out applications and postcards to 70,000 voters. (That was the first election after absentee ballot rules were loosened. There's no longer a need to provide a reason for voting by mail.)

The voter outreach is funded through the league's nonprofit educational arm, so the applications come with no partisan political message, said Cindy Schwartz, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

Neither red nor blue voters are targeted -- only green ones.

Schwartz said the mailing list was compiled in part by selecting voters most likely to agree with the pro-environment positions taken by the league. An algorithm developed by the National League of Conservation Voters reviews publicly available consumer and voting data to find the greenest voters. The national group has been doing absentee ballot mailings for more than a decade, Schwartz said.

A report about the 2006 Maryland outreach showed that environmental voters cast absentee ballots in higher proportions than the rest of voters. But the mailings had no appreciable impact; had those voters not cast absentee ballots, they probably would have shown up on Election Day, the report said.

The league used those findings to tweak its approach this time around, Schwartz said. For one, the absentee ballot applications now look "more generic."

"We don't want it to be seen as another piece of campaign mail to be tossed aside," Schwartz said. "We want it to be seen as a serious piece of mail."

All registered voters have until Oct. 26 to request an absentee ballot. Check the state Board of Elections web site for details.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Early voting, Elections
        

Cardin off the 2010 ballot but in the game

Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin has the good fortune to be the only member of the state's congressional delegation not facing an angry electorate this fall (his seat is up in 2012, and he's already running an unannounced re-election campaign).

Just because his job's not immediately at risk doesn't mean he's on the sidelines, though. Cardin is playing an active role, behind the scenes, as a money man. Tonight, he'll add to his 2010 campaign fund with a dinner for lobbyists at Charlie Palmer Steak, conveniently located just steps from Senate offices on Capitol Hill and a whirlwind of political money activity this week.

Proceeds from Cardin's event (tickets are $2,500 and $5,000) will go to LEG PAC, a so-called Leadership PAC controlled by the Maryland senator, who like most members of Congress isn't actually in the leadership, but that's how these things got started so that's what they're called.

Senators and congressmen use the accounts to gather donations from special interests and then redirect it to other candidates, political parties and -- the main point-- their own ambitions. Think of it as a form of legalized money-laundering.

The way it works: Special interest groups--trade associations, corporations, labor unions and others--donate up to $10,000 per election to the fund. Then the lawmakers, in this case Cardin, distribute the largesse to their colleagues, earning gratitude in the process.

This fall there's another incentive: with majority control of Congress at stake, helping an endangered colleague win re-election could spell the difference between governing in the majority or suffering in the minority for the next two years.

Cardin's PAC capitalized on the recent special-interest fight over health care, grabbing donations from the cardiologists, dermatologists, emergency physicians, anesthesiologists, ophthalmologists, dentists and psychiatrists. Also, Medimmune, CVS/Caremark, the trial lawyers and the Houston law firm Locke, Lord, Bissell & Liddell.

Other corporate interests who gave included Constellation Energy, Mass Mutual Life Insurance, the Realtors, the National Association of REITs, Fidelity investments and Prudential Financial, along with defense contractors Eads North America, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics.

Labor union contributors included AFSCME, the IBEW, Air Traffic Controllers, Machinists and Food and Commercial Workers.

And where did the money go? The campaign arm of Senate Democrats got $30,000. The Maryland Democratic Central Committee got $10,000. Cardin also gave directly to Senate colleagues in tough races, including Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Barbara Boxer of California and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who each got $5,000, as did Kendrick Meek, seeking an open Senate seat in Florida.

Finally, there were the donations to those who didn't need the money, since they are considered strong bets for re-election. Maryland colleague Barbara A. Mikulski got $5,000, as did Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy, who is Cardin's boss on the Judiciary committee.

As of June 30, Cardin's PAC had collected $117,600 and directed $77,500 to other Dems and party entities.

To put that into perspective, Cardin's PAC ranks 140th in the amount of money donated to other candidates, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in campaigns.

The indefatigable Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Majority Leader, has raised more than $2.4 million and distributed $886,000 to fellow Democrats in the 2010 campaign. That puts him first among Democrats but second overall to his Republican counterpart, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the minority whip, who has raked in more than $3 million and funneled $1.2 million to GOP candidates in the fight for control of the House this November.

Posted by Paul West at 12:00 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Obama's voice on the radio

Baltimore area residents who listen to African-American radio stations like WOLB this morning will hear President Barack Obama making a pitch to re-elect Gov. Martin O'Malley, according to the governor's campaign.

(Text of the ad and a link to hear it appear after the jump.)

The radio spot will feature the president touting fellow Democrat O'Malley's record on education and the economy. It will be later be aired on a broader number of radio stations, said O'Malley Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Abbruzzese.

Rumors that Obama (or the First Lady) will stump for O'Malley in Maryland have been swirling around the State House for weeks -- but those intensified Monday. Abbruzzese would not confirm whether the president has committed to campaign.

Fueling the talk perhaps was O'Malley's Monday stop at the White House  to witness Obama sign into law a bill that included a program that lets governments guarantee some small business loans -- an initiative that the governor has been pushing in order to help businesses borrow funds from the still tight capital markets.

In the dead-heat gubernatorial competition, turnout will be critical, and the state's top Democrats are nervous after the unusually poor showing in the primary. Over the summer polls showed that Obama was still fairly popular in Maryland -- which is 29.7 percent African-American.

The country's first black president could be particularly helpful in Baltimore and Prince George's County, two majority African-American and majority Democratic areas where O'Malley is counting on racking up the votes needed to win.

Text and ad link, provided by the O'Malley campaign:

Narrator: An important message from President Barack Obama.

The President: Maryland.  You have a choice in the election this fall. A choice whether you keep moving forward with the hard working leadership and vision of Governor Martin O'Malley ... or do you slip backwards ?

In the toughest of times, Martin O'Malley has moved Maryland forward creating jobs, investing in schools, providing affordable opportunities for college, and improving public safety.

I've seen Martin work ... and I know this governor has made the tough decisions to put education, safety, and job creation first.

So, stand with me, Barack Obama, in Moving Maryland Forward with my friend ... Martin O'Malley.

Narrator: So please join President Barack Obama in supporting Martin O'Malley for Governor.  Because voting in this year's election is to best way to strengthen our schools, create new jobs, and keep Maryland Moving Forward.

MOM: Paid for by friends of Martin O'Malley. M.Cadagon, treasurer

You can listen to the ad here.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Political ads
        

September 27, 2010

O'Malley joins Obama for jobs bill signing

Gov. Martin O'Malley was among Democratic leaders who joined President Barack Obama today at the White House for the signing of a bill aimed at helping small businesses.

O'Malley was invited because part of the federal bill -- a government guarantee of private loans to small businesses -- was patterned after a provision used in Maryland, according to aides to the governor.

The federal legislation will provide $1.5 billion to expand the capacity of small business loan guarantee programs that Maryland and 33 other states and U.S. territories now have, according to a statement from O'Malley's office.

“Maryland was pleased to play a role in helping to craft this legislation and working with our federal partners to move it forward,allowing our small businesses to once again focus on growing and creating jobs," O'Malley said in a statement.

O'Malley has signed into law several measures meant to foster jobs and improve conditions for businesses that have struggled in a tough national economy. But the programs' effectiveness has been questionable. Two months of job losses show, as O'Malley has acknowledged, that the state has a way to go on the recovery front. 

O'Malley wrote in an August commentary in The Washington Post that the Maryland Small Business Credit Recovery Program helped "save and create more than 400 jobs." 

This week, his administration will launch a series of workshops to raise awareness about the loan guarantees.

The Sun's Jamie Smith Hopkins recently wrote about how relatively few employers have taken advantage of a $5,000 tax credit they can claim when hiring out-of-work Marylanders. In six months, 10 percent of the $20 million the state budgeted has been used. The tax credit has helped put 350 unemployed people back to work.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:34 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: jobs, jobs, jobs
        

Ehrlich attacks DLLR handling of jobs report

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. and the general assembly's two top GOP leaders this morning sought to put more pressure on the O’Malley administration by releasing a stack of emails they believe shows a coordinated effort to hide a negative jobs report.

“I want to tell you I’m angry,” said Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman. “Live on your record. Be held accountable on your record.” Kittleman and House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell are mulling a launching some type of formal inquiry -- the promised more details this afternoon.

The electronic messages show top staff at the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation attempting to do damage control after a downbeat jobs report was briefly posted on their website.

The erroneously posted report, titled “Maryland’s Market Stalls During July,” stayed online for several hours in August – long enough for a GOP party staffer to notice that it was markedly different in tone than the upbeat words Gov. Martin O’Malley was using to describe the state’s condition.

Writing to his communications director at 3:01 p.m. Aug. 20, DLLR Secretary Alex Sanchez asked: “Is it down? Call me as soon as we know who posted outrageous info on the site.”

Six minutes later Communications Director Bernie Kohn, a former editor at The Sun, replied: “It is down.”

Kohn later that afternoon emailed several other staffers: “Are we sure that removing that post removed all traces of it that anyone could pull up on a search engine? Whatever we can do to make it disappear, we need to do it. That’s coming straight from the top.”

Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:44 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: jobs, jobs, jobs
        

AFSCME backs O'Malley; FOP for Ehrlich

* Updated Monday with comments from AFSCME and FOP presidents. 

The largest union of state workers rallied Saturday in Baltimore to announce its endorsement of Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley for a second term. Meanwhile, word of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police endorsement of Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is quietly spreading.

Better known as AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees includes 30,000 state and higher education workers in Maryland. In 2006, AFSCME also chose O'Malley over Ehrlich. Both times the union cited O'Malley's willingness to engage in dialogue -- a characteristic it says Ehrlich lacked.

"We had two options, and we went with someone that has honored the collective bargaining process," AFSCME Maryland Director Patrick Moran said Sunday evening. "When the economic crisis hit, Governor O'Malley was willing to sit down with state employees as opposed to Governor Ehrlich, who doesn't believe in the process."

The Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, having been lobbied by both candidates at a recent meeting in Ocean City, voted to endorse Ehrlich. The state lodge doesn't appear to have made an official announcement yet, but Baltimore police union president Robert F. Cherry wrote about it Friday on the city lodge's web site. The police union includes thousands of officers across the state. It backed Ehrlich in 2006.

Reached Monday, State FOP President Rodney Bartlett, said the Ehrlich endorsement was "all about the economic times."

"Officers do a great job, as evidence by the lower crime rate, but it's hard for them when they take home less pay than they did four years ago," said Bartlett, a retired Prince George's County police officer.

Moran said his union chose O'Malley because the governor had worked with them in tough economic times and was able to avoid "wholesale layoffs." Instead, Moran said in a statement, "the pain was spread out, through tiered furloughs, and services were saved."

State employees have been through several rounds of unpaid days off -- furloughs -- during the O'Malley administration. Most have been subjected to at least eight furlough days each year.

Ehrlich has said he does not approve of furloughs. That's one reason he collected the endorsement of a smaller state workers union, the Maryland Classified Employees Association, earlier this month. MCEA has about 10,000 members, including many correctional officers.

MCEA also favored Ehrlich because O'Malley signed into law a requirement that state employees pay dues to the union in charge of collective bargaining, whether the employee is a member of that union or not. MCEA is not designated to do collective bargaining; AFCME is.

As the Nov. 2 election draws near, expect the pace of endorsement announcements to quicken.

O'Malley has the backing of a number of other unions -- no surprise, since unions traditionally favor Democratic candidates. In early September, the Maryland Service Employees International Union, which has about 8,000 members, said it would work for O'Malley. The Maryland firefighters union (IAFF) also is among O'Malley's supporters.

O'Malley also has deployed the somewhat unusual tactic of announcing the endorsements of individual business leaders. Sun business columnist Jay Hancock has more on that over at his blog.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:20 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Ehrlich launches first TV attack ad

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s first attack ad aired this weekend in Baltimore markets and hit a theme familiar to anyone who has followed Maryland politics in recent years: The BGE rate hikes.

In the new spot, Ehrlich calls out Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, for failing to deliver on a 2006 campaign pledge to prevent an expected 72 percent increase in electricity bills. The ad also claims that O'Malley gave "the bureaucrat" who approved the increase a huge raise.

A no-nonsense female narrator points to those actions as evidence O'Malley lacks credibility on his more current promises that Maryland is emerging from a recession. As a kicker, Ehrlich reminds viewers about a new report showing that the state lost jobs last month.

“Four years ago Martin O’Malley misled us. Now he’s just making stuff up,” the not-very-friendly narrators says.

The ad signals a clear shift for Ehrlich who as recently Wednesday stressed the importance of keeping an upbeat and positive tone on the campaign trail. He's frequently said that voters aren't interested in political bickering while consumed with worries about their future.

He's also bristled as the word "grudge-match," encouraging reporters to characterize the race as a "re-match." But by leading off with an attack ad about BGE rates, he dredges up the dominate theme of the 2006 election.

Before getting to the meat of the ad, it is worth noting that Ehrlich uses unorthodox jobs numbers in the spot – he states that the state's economy lost 7,000 positions citing a Department of Labor report that is not generally thought of as an accurate count of lay-offs. The more commonly used report shows that Maryland lost 5,700 jobs in August.

Appreciating, or even just following, the balance of the ad (BGE portion) requires a brief history lesson. (after the jump) In 1999 the Democratic majority General Assembly deregulated the state’s electricity industry, but also passed companion legislation which reduced and capped prices for seven years with the idea that the time would allow competition to develop.

Seven years later, in March 2006, the cap expired and Public Service Commission, which oversees the electricity sector, announced that rates would go up by 72 percent by that summer. Global energy prices were soaring, according to BGE and the time had come to pay the bill.

Outrage ensued. Protesters on behalf of the consumers marched on the Roland Park home of Mayo A. Shattuck, who runs BGE’s parent company Constellation Energy and others chanted slogans outside the PSC’s office.

In response the General Assembly met for a special session and passed a bill that delayed the bulk of the increase for one year and fired some members of the PSC. (The dismissals were overruled by a court.) 

The debacle occurred just as O’Malley, then a Baltimore mayor, was campaigning hard for his current job. He seized on the issue, calling for the resignation of the PSC’s chairman Kenneth D. Schisler and also directed the Baltimore city solicitor to sue the PSC for failing to consider all the facts when it voted to increase rates -- and a court ultimately found Ehrlich's PSC should have done more homework. It was a shrewd political move: The increase threatened to directly hit the pocketbooks of 1.2 million in the state and many closely followed every incremental development.

But six months after O'Malley took office the PSC voted to increase rates by 50 percent. That, taken with the scheduled hike the General Assembly allowed inflated bills to the threatened 72 percent. O'Malley blamed Ehrlich era missteps.

The governor also played hardball with the company to claw back money. Those efforts were far more successful. And O’Malley’s team noted, in response to the ad, that the governor secured rebates and reduced future payments by $1.5 billion by insisting that Constellation take over the decommissioning costs for the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant.

O’Malley’s team seems to be using the ad to pick up where they left off in 2006, turning the blame for the rate hikes on Ehrlich’s handpicked PSC, and saying that as governor Ehrlich was overly cozy with the energy industry.  “The BGE rate hikes were a major boondoggle of Bob Ehrlich's failed term as governor, and a big reason why Maryland voters fired him with cause in 2006,” said O’Malley campaign manager Tom Russell in a statement.

The O'Malley campaign also rehashed a 2004 episode where the head of the PSC panel, Schisler, fired five experienced staff members. Democratic commissioners complained at the time that they were not consulted and that the staffers provided helpful expertise in the complex field.

O’Malley’s team also noted that Ehrlich vetoed eight ratepayer relief bills that passed in that 2006 special session, including one that capped rate increase at 15 percent and fired some members of the PSC. The General Assembly overrode.

Furthermore, O'Malley's can now point to the fact that rates are expected to be back to the 2006 levels because of favorable prices on the global energy market.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:45 AM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Political ads
        

September 26, 2010

County executive banner pops up in city limits

Baltimore's Bolton Hill is home to many politically active families, so it's no surprise to see candidate placards propped in windows and staked in tiny front lawns.

But one for Baltimore County executive?

Though city residents may do a double take when spotting Kevin Kamenetz's distinctive purple-and-yellow sign on a home in downtown Baltimore, there's an easy explanation: His brother lives there.

In May, The Sun wrote about the renovated Bolton Hill home of Darma and Greg Kamenetz. They owned the property for years but, after a fire, renovated it and moved in.

Greg Kamenetz is managing partner of a real estate development company and owner of a property management company. Kevin Kamenetz, a Democratic county council member, faces Republican Ken Holt in the Nov. 2 county executive election.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:12 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: In The Counties
        

September 25, 2010

Guardsman, D.C. group sue Md. elections board

Baltimore Sun colleague Andrea Siegel reports:

A member of the Maryland National Guard has filed a federal lawsuit against the State Board of Elections, claiming military personnel and other overseas Marylanders could be denied the opportunity to vote for state offices in the general election unless the court intervenes.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, the anonymous guardsman identified as Officer John Doe says the state did not give overseas voters enough time to obtain and return ballots for statewide offices in the November elections, which include the contest for governor.

Joining as co-plaintiff is the Military Voter Protection Project. Eric Eversole, the Navy judge advocate general who heads the Washington-based organization, says the ballots for federal offices that the Maryland board sent a few days after this month’s primary elections were not valid.

Results of the Sept. 14 primary have not yet been certified; for the seat now held by Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ballots includes provisions to mark either of two Republican challengers who are locked in a tight primary contest.

Eversole worked in the voting section of the civil rights division of the Justice Department during the Bush administration, and advised the McCain-Palin campaign on military voting matters. He said the lawsuit was not motivated by partisanship.

Ross Goldstein, deputy director of the elections board, declined to comment directly on the lawsuit. But he said the Justice Department and military authorities signed off on the office’s plan to send out ballots for congressional offices quickly after the primaries.

A 2009 federal law requires that ballots for federal races be available to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election.

The Military Voter Protection Project is asking a federal judge to order that ballots be sent by Oct. 8 and to extend the deadline for counting them to Nov. 22.

Elections officials plan to send full absentee ballots to the affected voters by mid-October. The ballots must be returned to the state board by Nov. 12. Primary results are to be certified Monday; challenges are possible.

Maryland holds primary elections only seven weeks before the general election, the briefest interim in the nation. Elections officials had sought a waiver from the federal Military and Overseas Empowerment Act requirement before withdrawing the request.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:33 PM | | Comments (3)
        

September 24, 2010

Jobs report, obtained by GOP, predicted problems

*** Updated to reflect new details about how GOP obtained the report. See end of post.

"Maryland's Market Stalls During July" was the header on a jobs analysis posted to the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation web site last month. The Maryland Republican Party seized on the pessimistically worded document to call Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley to task at a time when he was touting uninterrupted months of jobs growth.

But the analysis was quickly removed from the labor department's web site -- even before the Maryland GOP had a chance to take a screen shot of it. Yesterday, the party obtained a copy, resurrecting the issue just as a new jobs report shows that, indeed, July was a bad month for jobs. And August was even worse.

When it was taken down last month, the "missing report" was replaced by a more upbeat summary. The numbers in the two web documents were identical, Labor Secretary Alexander Sanchez told The Sun at the time. Only the accompanying rhetoric changed.

Sanchez said the original report, prepared by an agency data analyst, was "completely internal" and not meant for public consumption. It was replaced with the correct version, he said.

Republicans have a different take on why the report was removed.

"It’s now clear the government knew Maryland’s economy had faltered in July yet despite being caught red-handed; they deliberately withheld the information to benefit O’Malley’s reelection bid," GOP Chairwoman Audrey Scott said in a statement.

The initial analysis resurfaces at an uncomfortable time: Although the U.S Labor Department initially believed that Maryland experienced a small growth in jobs in July, it has revised its figures to show that the state actually lost a net of 1,000 jobs that month. Maryland employers shed another 5,700 jobs last month, according to that same U.S. Labor Department report.

Those new numbers underline the point that perhaps the state should have stuck with the glass-half-empty version of the analysis. From it:

"Job growth, although slowing, has proceeded without interruption over the last five months ... Growth, however, has been uneven and we can expect, in the months ahead, to face an uphill struggle in trying to regain the jobs lost during the downturn and to return to the peak employment level of February 2008."

The Sun examined how this week's jobs report forces a change in tone in the governor's race.

From the story:

As he opened a meeting of the state's spending panel on Wednesday, Gov. Martin O'Malley struck a somber tone. The day before, the state had released a report showing that Maryland had lost jobs for two months in a row.

"None of us can give up," he said. "There are better days coming."

It was a notable contrast to O'Malley's demeanor just a month ago, when he led a group of local officials gathered in Ocean City in a gleeful cheerleading chant: "Repeat after me. Five months. In a row. Of positive. Job growth."

The Democratic governor and his opponent this fall, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., both have said the economy is the single most important issue of the campaign. For months, O'Malley has trumpeted the state's monthly jobs gains in an attempt to temper voter anger about the national recession.

But the news this week that the state suffered two months of job losses after four months of growth means O'Malley must adopt a more muted approach when discussing the economy.

"There's no question the jobs report is going to have an impact on the campaign," said Todd Eberly, acting director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College.

 *** New details. In late August, the Maryland GOP filed an open-records request for the July jobs report removed from the state labor department web site. On Monday, GOP officials put out a release saying they hadn't received the report from the agency.

A friend of the GOP forwarded the report to the party Thursday afternoon, around 2 p.m., according to GOP spokesman Ryan Mahoney. The party released a statement at 4 p.m. Two hours later, the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation sent the GOP the report via email, according to Mahoney and an O'Malley administration spokesman.

The administration spokesman contends that the GOP should have obtained the jobs report via mail a day earlier.

The headline of this blog post has been updated to reflect these new details.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 7:13 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: jobs, jobs, jobs
        

Harris challenges Kratovil to joint appearances; incumbent counters with multi-candidate debates

In what could finally break the snoozefest that is the state's only competitive House race, Republican challenger Andy Harris has challenged incumbent Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil to a series of joint appearances around the district.

Harris, who has been virtually invisible on the campaign trail in recent weeks, also demanded that Kratovil take down an attack ad that goes after the Republican over his support for a 23 percent national sales tax proposal. The TV ad, which began airing a week ago, has been criticized as misleading because it implies that Harris favors increasing the federal tax burden. The ad fails to mention that the plan Harris supports would do away with the existing federal tax system in exchange for imposing a consumption tax.

Kratovil, second-guessed privately by some Maryland Democrats for not smoking out Harris earlier in the year, responded by offering a series of three debates. In a letter that the Eastern Shore congressman's campaign plans to deliver tomorrow, Kratovil compared his counter-proposal to joint appearances in the 2008 campaign that included Harris, Kratovil and a third candidate, Libertarian nominee Richard Davis, who is also running this year.

Kratovil campaign manager Jessica Klonsky said the congressman's camp "assumed" Davis would be included in the 2010 debates.

Multi-candidate debates typically make it more difficult for voters to get a clear picture of the positions of the main contenders in a race; in the case of the First District, it could also be argued that including Davis would help Kratovil and hurt Harris. Most of the votes for the Libertarian would be more likely to go to Harris, rather than Kratovil, if Davis were not on the ballot.

In the 2008 election, Davis' 8,753 votes were more than twice Kratovil's margin of victory, and many Republicans believe that cost Harris a victory.

In a letter dated Friday, September 24, and made public in a press release, Harris said that (i)nstead of running false, negative advertising, I propose we do something productive." He issued the challenge for face-to-face "town hall" meetings on "the fiscal concerns that Marylanders are facing," starting with a session on the Lower Shore.

"Let's talk about fixing Americans' tax burden so we can get our economy moving again and start creating jobs," wrote Harris, a 12-year veteran of the state Senate. "The voters deserve more than a 30 second sound bite to understand where we each stand on taxes and these other issues. Let's give them an opportunity to have their questions answered."

Kratovil's reply said he looked forward to discussing "the merits of your tax plan to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction and increase middle class taxes by up to $6,700 per year," referring to one analysis of the so-called "fair tax" that Harris supports.

"In addition to further discussing your tax plan, these debates will provide an opportunity to share our view on other key issues including the future of the Social Security program, the significant differences in our positions on protecting the Chesapeake Bay and your continued opposition to common sense efforts to rein in risky and abusive behavior by Wall Street," Kratovil wrote.

There was no immediate response from the Harris campaign to the incumbent's counter-proposal.

Posted by Paul West at 5:26 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

O'Malley wants more details on Ehrlich's Roadmap

Gov. Martin O'Malley's campaign deployed an on-line only commercial Friday calling out Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for failing to provide details about how he will pay for some of his campaign promises.

The big ticket items include repealing a penny from the sales tax, ending furloughs for state workers, returning road construction funds to the locals and exempting military retiree pensions from the income tax. A conservative estimate of the cost is $766 million. (In order: $600 million + $64 million + $60 million + $42 million).

Its true that Ehrlich hasn't said how he'd pay for those ideas, and the commercial is fashioned around a response Ehrlich gave after reporters asked about  that. He said: "The more detailed proposals will have to wait for later in the campaign, and quite frankly, for November 3rd." The general election is Nov. 2.

Ehrlich's response is played twice during the ad along with tape from news reports pointing out that Ehrlich hasn't accounted for the costs. O'Malley's team then takes a shot at Ehrlich, saying "Nov. 3 is too late to reveal plans to voters."

Ehrlich camp didn't reply to the substance of the spot, but threw the ball back to the governor. “Martin O’Malley’s hypocrisy has no limits," said Ehrlich campaign spokesman Henry Fawell. "Martin O’Malley refuses to be honest about how he will pay for his own campaign commitments."

Fawell lists "$8 billion in deficits" and "$3.6 billion in mass transit commitments" as O'Malley unpaid plans. The $8 billion figure came from January estimates, though a more current budget document shows the math really comes to $6.1 billion. By that same measure, Ehrlich left O'Malley with projections for $4.5 billion in deficits when he left office.

The transit commitments refer to the projected costs for building the Purple Line light rail connecting Montgomery and Prince George's counties plus a planned Red Line running east-west in Baltimore. O'Malley has said that he would not move forward with those projects unless the feds kick in about half of the funds. But, with the state pushing against its debt levels, it is unclear how the second half would be funded.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:20 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Tax & Spend
        

GOP House members sign prosperity pledge

State Republican delegates and candidates for office yesterday signed a Prosperity Pledge for Maryland -- a nod to their national counterparts and the Contract with America of old and new Pledge to America.

House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell of Calvert County reports that more than 40 Republicans signed the document. Republicans are hoping to pick up seats across the state in the November election. Of the 141 seats in the House, 37 are now held by Republicans.

The Prosperity Pledge is built around four pillars, the House Republicans say: "a roll back and repeal of the O’Malley tax increases, bringing jobs back, restoring Maryland’s sovereignty during a time of increasing overreaches by the Federal Government, and making Maryland’s government transparent and accountable to its citizens."

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley enacted a penny-per-dollar sales tax increase and other taxes in his four years in office; his opponent this fall, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. also signed into law several tax increases, including a hike of state property tax. You can read about each governor's taxing record here.

House Republicans unveiled their pledge yesterday in Annapolis -- the same day their national counterparts rolled out the Pledge to America, at a hardware store in Virginia.

You can read the entire Maryland pledge at the House Republican Caucus blog.

"This Pledge is a clear message to the citizens of Maryland that they have a choice in this election – that they can avoid the higher and the continuous downward spiral that the Democratic monopoly will lead them to," House Minority Whip Christoper B. Shank said in the caucus release.

Shank, of Washington County, recently defeated longtime Sen. Donald F. Munson in a bitter primary election in which Shank accused Munson of being too cozy with Democrats. Primaries across the state resulted in seats in both chambers that will be less centrist and more ideologically driven. 

Also in the news this morning is the national Pledge to America, described as ideas to improve how Congress works, mainly by requiring lawmakers to cite the constitutional underpinnings of each proposal they make. 

The Washington Post has a nifty graphic showing how frequently certain words appear in the document, compared with the 1994 Contract with America and the Democrats' 2006 A New Direction for America.

Top words in the Pledge to America: "government spending." These pledges are getting wordier, too -- the Contract with America was 869 words, while the Pledge to America clocks in at 7,882, according to The Post.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:52 AM | | Comments (6)
        

O'Malley visits Montgomery County kitchen

Gov. Martin O'Malley conducted his first Montgomery County kitchen table talk of the 2010 election season with a group of not-so-talkative Montgomery County College students. 

The Democratic governor asked the students about AP courses, career technical education and the economy. He delivered a portion of his stump speech, reminding them that in a tough budget time he'd protected education funding.

They had few questions though -- and perhaps that's a good sign. The students, for the most part, reported that they were all either employed or on the path to fields with apparent labor shortages like nursing, engineering and green roofing.

Adults in attendance were more chatty, and repeatedly told the governor to try and hold the line on tuition increases.

Democratic Sen. Nancy King underscored the point saying prospective students have returned the legislative $1,000 legislative scholarships she's awarded because they can't make up the difference.

She's adopted a new tactic: Give fewer grants for more money.

Afterward, O'Malley said he feels comfortable in the D.C. suburb. "I grew up in Montgomery County," he said. "I know Montgomery county really well."
Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

September 23, 2010

Boehner to raise money for Harris

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the man who would succeed Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House if Republicans win majority control in November, is coming to Maryland this weekend to fundraise for Andy Harris.

Harris, the veteran Baltimore County lawmaker challenging Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in Maryland's First Congressional District (Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties), has gotten plenty of high-level House Republican help already.

Among those who have headlined Harris' fundraising events are Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, the number two Republican in the House, and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana, who ranks third.

Boehner's visit on Saturday will complete the troika. The event, which has not been announced by the Harris campaign, is invitation-only and closed to the press.

Harris has embraced his party's national tactic of making Nancy Pelosi (rather than the more personally popular Barack Obama) the main target of attack. Having the support of her putative replacement could help reinforce that message of leadership change, though keeping the event private will mute the voter impact.

Posted by Paul West at 4:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Ertel is Democratic nominee in BaltCo District 5

Mike Ertel will be the Democratic nominee for Baltimore County Council in District 5, as his closest opponent Bill Paulshock has conceded the primary race after reviewing provisional ballot totals.

“The numbers said we ran a close race, but we ended up a little short,” said Paulshock, who was trailing by about 320 votes when absentee ballots were counted last week. “The numbers are what they are. This race is over.”

Ertel won the race 4,903 votes to Paulshock’s 4,570.

Paulshock said he will “sit back and take a breather” before making a decision about a future career in politics or whether he will endorse Ertel, who will face Republican David Marks in the November general election.

The district includes Towson and Perry Hall. During the campaign, Paulshock fought off residency challenges from Ertel and others who argued his rightful address is outside the district in Kingsville, not Perry Hall. He has owned Bill's Seafood on Belair Road for more than 30 years. He lists the house — which he considers to be his “family home” —that sits on the same site as his business as his official residence.

“There were very negative things that were put out, things that weren’t true. Whenever that happens, the only thing that cures that is time,” Paulshock said. Ertel posted a video on YouTube challenging Paulshock's residency.

Meanwhile in the 4th District, Julian Jones hasn’t conceded defeat to two-term Councilman Kenneth Oliver just yet. He’s planning to do a test recount at the Baltimore County Board of Elections on Friday. Oliver is ahead in the race by 98 votes. Jones has until Sept. 30 to file a recount request. There is no Republican opponent in the general election for the seat, which covers Woodlawn, Randallstown, Owings Mills and Reisterstown.

“We have not given up,” Jones said.

-Raven Hill

Posted by Andy Rosen at 1:32 PM | | Comments (8)
        

Biden hopes Mikulski has coattails, finds silver lining in tea party wins

Vice President Joe Biden's press office released the following report this morning. Under VP office rules, one reporter is allowed to attend his fundraising events and write up a report that other members of the White House press corps are free to use.

Here is the lowdown:

Vice President Joe Biden spoke at a fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) Thursday morning at the home of Stewart W. Bainum Jr. and Sandra Bainum in Chevy Chase, Md.

Stewart Bainum is the chairman of the board of Choice Hotels International, based in Silver Spring, and the former head of Manor Care, Inc. He is also a former member of the Maryland state House and state Senate. The Bainums are longtime donors to Democratic candidates, committees and causes.

The event was held in the Bainums’ backyard. Roughly 40 people were in attendance, including Mikulski’s fellow Maryland senator, Benjamin Cardin (D). The breakfast buffet menu included eggs, yogurt, fruit, muffins and bagels.

Mikulski is running for her fifth term, considered the favorite in her race against Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Eric Wargotz (R). Biden and Mikulski served together in the Senate for more than two decades.

Biden began his remarks by saying he had done events for a lot of Democrats, and “[t]here’s not a single one I’m more proud to be associated with” than Mikulski.

“If this were like Fantasy Football” for Democrats, Biden asked, “who would be among the first two or three people you would pick?”

Mikulski would be among the first selected in his draft, Biden confirmed, because “I love her gumption. I love her passion.”

“Name me someone you think would be more tenacious and more effective” in Congress, Biden said.

Biden added that Mikulski is known for her “power” and longtime Senate service, but “the thing that everybody underestimates … is how damn smart she is.”

“Barbara’s the only person who ever calls me ‘Biden,’” he said, drawing laughter. “’Biden, come here.’ So much for this malarkey about [how] I lead her around. No one, I won’t let anyone but my sister call me ‘Biden.’”

Biden then turned to politics and Mikulski’s reelection race.

“There’s an awful lot of talk this year about the demise of the Democratic party. Now I know no one is talking about the demise of Barbara,” Biden said, but added that Republicans are “trying to keep Barbara on defense when she should be on offense.”

Biden said, as he has before, that he was bullish about Democrats’ chances of retaining power.

“I guarantee you we’re going to have a majority in the House and a majority in the Senate. I absolutely believe that,” he said.

Biden said Democrats “have a heck of a record, a heck of a positive record to run on,” but he understood that the economy was still a source of anxiety for voters.

“They’re angry, and they’re angry against whoever is in power …” Biden said. “Maybe the best thing to happen to us lately is the tea party wins. Maybe it’ll shake some of our constituency out of their lethargy.”

Biden referenced an oft-cited quote by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) on “Meet the Press” to make the point that if Republicans win, “They’ll reinstate the exact same agenda.” He also mentioned the House GOP’s unveiling of its legislative agenda Thursday, and said Democrats need to paint “a stark contrast. Ladies and gentlemen, they don’t want to do anything different from what they did before.”

Biden mentioned a recent Gallup poll of the generic ballot that showed Democrats roughly tied with Republicans as evidence that voters were starting to pay attention to the issues and the two parties’ messages.

Turning back to Mikulski, Biden reiterated that attendees should help her win by a wide margin: “We not only need her to win this race, we need her to win more races in this state. … It will matter to the rest of the ticket. … Elect her, reelect her, but don’t do it on the margins -- do it big enough that her coattails are going to have some real impact.”

Biden spoke for just under 21 minutes, and then the pool was escorted out of the backyard.

**********
Ben Pershing
Washington Post

Posted by Paul West at 11:20 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Bainums host Biden and Mikulski at funder

Former Maryland state Sen. Stewart Bainum Jr. and his wife Sandy, an actress, were the hosts for this morning's fundraising breakfast in the Washington suburbs for Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, featuring Vice President Joe Biden as the lure.

Bainum, chairman of Choice Hotels International, Inc., is a major Democratic donor. His home in upscale Chevy Chase was also the site of an early fund-raising event in Barack Obama's successful presidential campaign.

No word yet on the take for Mikulski, who plans to use the proceeds for get-out-the-vote organizing and advertising. The senator is a heavy favorite to win a fifth six-year term this fall.

"She takes no election for granted. Wargotz is her opponent and she looks forward to rigorously campaigning during the general," an early-rising Mikulski aide said prior to this morning's event.

Posted by Paul West at 10:07 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

September 22, 2010

Biden to shake Maryland money tree for Mikulski

Vice President Joe Biden will be in Chevy Chase on Thursday morning to help raise money for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's re-election, the vice president's office announced Wednesday night.

No further details were provided about the 8:30 a.m. event. Biden has been travelling the country campaigning and fundraising for Democratic candidates.

Mikulski is one of the most heavily favored Democratic incumbents up for re-election to the Senate this fall. She has millions more in the bank than her Republican challenger, Queen Anne's County Commissioner Eric Wargotz, and a wide lead in published polls.

Biden was in Boston on Wednesday to raise funds for the re-election of Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, an endangered Democrat thought to have only a slim chance of winning.

In the evening, he played host to approximately 100 guests at the Vice President's mansion in northwest Washington to mark the 16th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. Among those on hand was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat and rising star in the Senate. No word if Mikulski, 74, was also there.

Posted by Paul West at 10:58 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

East siders back Kamenetz; still no Bartenfelder

Kevin Kamenetz, the Democratic Baltimore County executive candidate from Owings Mills, picked up some prominent support from the east side of the county Wednesday. His campaign announced that he had secured the backing of several big east side politicians and political clubs.

But -- we've said this before -- Kamenetz is still missing one big piece in the east side Democratic puzzle: his primary opponent Joseph Bartenfelder. Bartenfelder, a county councilman from Fullerton, has so far been silent on his plans for the general election. Kamenetz faces Republican former Del. Ken Holt.

Here's the list of candidates who got behind Kamenetz today, from the campaign: State Senator Norman Stone, Delegates Joseph “Sonny” Minnick, John Olszewski Jr., and Mike Weir Jr, and Council Chair John Olszewski Sr. He also won the support of the Battle Grove Democratic Club, New Seventh Democratic Club, County Seal Democratic Club and the Eastern Baltimore County Democratic Club.

Arthur Hirsch wrote a big story about the importance of geography in Baltimore County elections, and it appears that Kamenetz was just strong enough on the east side to prevent Bartenfelder from erasing his advantages elsewhere.

Interestingly, in that story, a member of the Battle Grove club made a pretty strong statement.

Graham "Butch" Henry, a longtime member of the Battle Grove Democratic Club in Dundalk, was flabbergasted when he heard that his district's councilman, John Olszewski Sr., had endorsed Kamenetz. He would have expected his fellow east-sider to back Bartenfelder, a farmer and former state delegate from Fullerton.

"I couldn't believe what I was hearing," said Henry. He said Olszewski's decision has scrambled the local political alliance, and "disrupted this whole area, as far as I'm concerned."

Posted by Andy Rosen at 3:11 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: In The Counties
        

Candidate seeks to boot Smith from BaltCo slate

Baltimore County Executive James T Smith Jr. is allowed to continue to use his campaign war chest to transfer cash to candidates for election in November, according to the State Board of Elections, even though the term-limited Smith is not on the ballot.

Steve Bailey, the Republican candidate for Baltimore County State's Attorney, said in a news release that he had asked the elections board to remove Smith, a Democrat, from the “Baltimore County Victory Slate” because he's not running for office this fall. Slates essentially allow the candidates that comprise them to transfer unlimited amounts of money to one another.

The victory slate includes Bailey’s November opponent, incumbent State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger, as well as several County Council and General Assembly candidates. Bailey says donations from Smith were a big help for Shellenberger in his 2006 faceoff with Bailey. Here's a list of the candidates on the victory slate.

Smith had about $967,000 cash on hand, according to a report filed early this month, but isn't running for anything. But because Smith has an active campaign committee, he remains a candidate, according to elections officials; it doesn't matter if he's on the ballot this cycle.

“A candidate is free to choose to run for a Baltimore City, county or state office with the same authorized candidate campaign committee,” Jared DeMarinis, candidacy and campaign finance director for the elections board, wrote in a letter to Bailey. “If the term 'candidate’ was limited to filed individuals appearing on the ballot, then no candidate would be permitted to fundraise or make expenditures except after filing a certificate of candidacy.”

Bailey was not satisfied with the explanation, and said in the release that he asked Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler’s office to review the reasoning. However, a spokeswoman said the office would only weigh in if asked for advice by the elections board — which as a state agency is the attorney general’s client. Bailey could not be reached for comment.

His news release quotes attorney Jonathon Shurberg, who says, “The Board of Elections position to allow Jim Smith to participate in a slate, without filing a certificate of candidacy for public office, flies in the face of the plain language of the law. The Board of Elections interpretation creates a loophole that allows any individual, not just candidates, to circumvent the limits on campaign contributions.”

If Smith wasn't on the slate, he'd be limited to $6,000 for this election in contributions from his account to other candidates he supports.

Posted by Andy Rosen at 2:17 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Campaign finance, In The Counties
        

Michael Steele: On the bus or off the bus?

With midterm elections looming, and control of Congress up for grabs, attention is rightly focused on the men and women running for the House and Senate (and governorships, too).

That has allowed embattled Republican National Chairman Michael Steele to largely slip below radar. Last we looked, he'd left town on a posh (red, naturally) tour bus with "Fire Pelosi" painted on the side.

Meantime, Republican insiders who never warmed to Maryland's former lieutenant governor as party leader continue to sharpen their knives. They've been dejectedly tracking disappointing fundraising numbers coming out of the RNC and plotting Steele's ouster when his current term ends in January.

The latest monthly figures show the Democratic National Committee pulled in more than twice as much money as the Rs ($16.17 million to $7.95 million) during August. Yes, the Dems have an incumbent president to attract cash, and new Republican funding channels have sprung up, allowing disaffected donors to bypass the RNC.

Still, Steele has managed to aggravate the situation. He's pumped national money into local efforts that his critics see, in part, as a campaign to boost his re-election as chairman. Jeff Zeleny has a piece in the New York Times on the impact of the RNC strategy.

Steele didn't help himself by slipping away recently to the South Pacific to attend to his RNC base (RNC members from the island territories are generally thought to have provided the crucial margin in his upset victory in last year's chairman's race).

Weak fundraising numbers, staff turmoil at Republican headquarters in Washington and a stream of self-inflicted verbal blunders have weakened Steele's grip on his job. That he could still get another two year stint, and the honor of presiding over the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa, is largely a reflection of the peculiar dynamics of internal party politics, rather than a mature verdict on his performance.

It's also why the results of the Nov. 2 election are so crucial to Steele. They're his last hope for keeping his job.

His future as a party leader is merely a sideshow, but if Republicans were to fall short and Democrats somehow managed to retain control of Congress, it would likely mark the end of Steele's career in national politics.

Posted by Paul West at 10:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele
        

State Department security facility moving out of state?

A proposed State Department security training center, planned for Maryland's Eastern Shore until local residents objected, may wind up in Pennsylvania instead.

Gina Gilliam, a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration, the federal government's real estate arm, confirmed that officials from Washington were in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., recently to meet with a local congressman about the proposed facility.

Rep. Paul Kanjorski toured a site in his district with members of the State Department and GSA team overseeing the long-sought project. Afterward, he met with local business leaders about the project and held a news conference.

His message: that the proposed facility to train diplomats in anti-terrorist tactics could bring hundreds of jobs to his eastern Pennsylvania district. That theme was Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's reaction after the announcement, in November, 2009, that the tiny crossroads town of Ruthsburg, in Queen Anne's County, had been chosen as the preferred site.

"The training facility is good news for three reasons: jobs, jobs and more jobs for Maryland," she said at the time. But after months of debate, including public hearings at which residents aired their worries about noise, traffic congestion and possible environmental damage, it became clear that quality of life issues were more important to Shore residents than jobs. Last June, the feds folded their hand and started over.

Gilliam, the GSA spokeswoman, said no announcement has been scheduled about a new site choice, and Kanjorski told reporters that other locations were under consideration. Gilliam did confirm that some $70 million in federal stimulus funds earmarked for the project would have to be obligated soon or the money would go back to the Treasury unspent.

The Pennsylvania site is on several thousand acres of former coal land owned by the Earth Conservancy in Luzerne County. It is located on the opposite bank of the Susquehanna River from the town of Shickshinny (pop. 896).

In an echo of the Eastern Shore fight, questions are already being raised about the presence of threatened and endangered species at the Pennsylvania location. The site is more than 200 miles from Washington, beyond the outside limit--150 miles from the U.S. Capitol--set by the federal government in its original specs.

Local media coverage of the proposal has noted that Kanjorski, an endangered incumbent, has a history of announcing projects that failed to materialized. He has admitted that the development is not a "done deal." And his Republican opponent has raised questions about the idea, including the same noise factor--from exploding bombs and gunfire--that helped turn Marylanders off.

It is unclear whether any Maryland sites remain under active consideration for the project. However, no potential locations have been publicized, other than one in Pennsylvania, giving the latest reports the look of a trial balloon, something the feds failed to float in their first, ham-fisted effort to get the project built.

Posted by Paul West at 9:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Washington
        

DGA to fund anti-Ehrlich ads

The television commercials continue coming -- with the Democratic Governors Association today unveiling an ad attacking Republican Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.'s record as governor. The outpourings show that the national Dems feel they need to spend money to defend a seat.

The announcement about new ads comes 24 hours after the Republican Governors Association bought time in Maryland to attack Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley. Both Ehrlich and O'Malley have also started airing new, positive commercials in the past several days and appear to be leaving the negative television to the national parties -- at least for now.

DGA political director Raymond Glendening pledged that his organization will "spend the money that needs to be spent" to ensure O'Malley is re-elected. Glendening, whose father Parris was governor immediately before Ehrlich, said the organization has long planned to put funds behind O'Malley and will also invest in about a dozen other close races.

He said that about half of the 37 gubernatorial contests this year are competitive, but the party will also likely put up fights in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and Massachusetts among others.

The DGA, headed by Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (O'Malley is the vice chair), raised $22 million as of July. They plan to spend $50 million this cycle, according to a spokeswoman.

The ad will play in Baltimore and DC markets and picks at Ehrlich's record saying that he was beholden to corporate interests when governor. (See the script and ad itself after the jump.)

The ad says:

Four 
years 
ago, 
Bob 
Ehrlich 
got 
fired 
as 
Governor
 of
 Maryland. 

For
 good
 reason.
First, 
he 
protected 
tax 
loopholes 
for 
giant 
cable 
companies...
 

Then,
 he
 let 
utilities 
jack 
up 
our 
rates 
72%.

And
 for 
the 
last 
four 
years, 
he 
worked 
as 
a 
hired 
gun 
for 
big
 corporations, 
even 
a 
bank
 that 
took 
billions 
from 
a 
taxpayer
 funded
 bailout.

Ehrlich 
sides 
with 
corporate 
executives 
again 
and 
again 
and
 again.


Tell
 Bob 
Ehrlich: 
Big 
banks 
and 
billionaires 
don’t 
need 
help.
 Middle
class 
Marylanders 
do.


 



Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:30 AM | | Comments (38)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

September 21, 2010

Jim Smith reminds Balto Co voters about Ehrlich snub

Gov. Martin O'Malley's campaign team distributed door hangers in Baltimore County this week touting support from County Executive James T. Smith, Jr. and hitting a familiar theme from 2006.

In a quote featured on the campaign piece (pictured on the right) Smith blasts O'Malley's Republican challenger, Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., for a very long snub. "I served with the previous governor who NEVER returned my phone calls during his last three years in office. NOT ONCE!" Smith says on the flier. "Martin O'Malley always calls back."

Smith has said in interviews that the relationship with Ehrlich chilled after a December 2003 news conference where he described Ehrlich's insurance commissioner as "aloof" and accused him of failing to help county residents battle red tape and collect insurance for damage incurred by Hurricane Isabel. (As an aside, that same former commissioner Alfred Redmer just lost a primary for an open Senate seat in Baltimore County.)

O'Malley launched a TV commercial in 2006 with a similar theme, and it was widely viewed as effective, as my colleague Julie Bykowicz wrote in a recent Sun story about Maryland political battlegrounds. Bykowicz noted that 2006 spot also went undisputed by Ehrlich.

On Tuesday after speaking to a group of homebuilders at a DoubleTree hotel in Columbia, the Ehrlich had a slightly different spin and said the two frequently crossed paths. "I saw Jim Smith all the time as County Executive you know," Ehrlich said.

When asked if there was any truth to the claim that Ehrlich failed to communicate with the head one of the state's largest counties, Ehrlich avoided the word "telephone."

"What can I say to that? I saw Jim Smith all the time as County Executive. I saw him all the time. All the time." One example he offered was at Maryland Association of County events.

The door hangers appear to be funded by O'Malley (not Smith who has a vast war chest), but the governor's campaign wouldn't say much about them, declining to answer questions about how many were distributed and which homes were targeted.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:26 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

MD Green Party candidate dies after struck by SUV

Natasha Pettigrew, the Green Party candidate aiming to unseat U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski this fall, died last night from injuries she sustained in a traffic accident in Prince George's County. The 30-year-old had been bicycling early Sunday when a sports utility vehicle struck her on southbound Route 202.

“As a party, we have never experienced a loss like this,” Brian Bittner, co-chairman of the Maryland Green Party, said in a release today.

Pettigrew was born in Maryland and has been attending the University of Miami, Bittner said, adding that her intention was to return to her home state after school. Pettigrew became interested in politics because her family had endured financial hardships -- foreclosure, student debt -- and she felt that public officials could have done more to help them, Bittner said.

She filed her candidacy for Senate to celebrate her 30th brithday, he said.

The accident occurred about 5:30 Sunday morning, said Greg Shipley, spokesman for the Maryland State Police.

Pettigrew was riding her bike southbound along Route 202, just south of Campus Way in Largo, when a 2005 Cadillac Escalade, also headed south, struck her, Shipley said.

The SUV did not stop. A severely injured Pettigrew was taken to Prince George's Hospital Center. While police were at the scene of the accident, the SUV driver, Christy R. Littleford, 41, of Upper Marlboro, called the Prince George's County Police to report that she had struck something.

Littleford told police she assumed she'd hit an animal but when she arrived home found a bicycle lodged under her vehicle, Shipley said.

Pettigrew died last night at the hospital. State Police are investigating and will forward their reports to the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office to review whether charges should be filed.

The Green Party said funeral arrangements have not been finalized but that Pettigrew's mother, Kenniss Henry, plans to hold a memorial vigil this week.

As for the Senate race, election rules allow the Green Party to name a candidate to replace Pettigrew on the Nov. 2 ballot. The state party sais its coordinating council will make a decision on a possible replacement by early next week.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:12 PM | | Comments (35)
        

O'Malley 'moving Maryland backward,' RGA claims

The Republican Governors Association has put its own spin on Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's campaign theme of "moving Maryland forward." In a television advertisement out today, the RGA proclaims O'Malley is "moving Maryland backward."

The well-off organization is lending a hand to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican trying to win back the governor's office this fall. In addition to the 30-second spot, the RGA has created a web site titled "Martin's Mess." As we reported this morning on this blog, the spot is a sign that the RGA believes Ehrlich can win the race.

As of late August campaign finance reports, O'Malley had about three times as much money in the bank as Ehrlich. The RGA ad comes as O'Malley launches one in the pricey Washington TV market. O'Malley's spot focuses on education -- a striking change from two attack ads he recently aired in the Baltimore market.

We "truth squad" the RGA ad below the virtual fold, where you can also view the spot itself.

Ad claim: "Unemployment has doubled."

Fact: Maryland's unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in January 2007, when O'Malley took office. Last month, according to numbers out today, it was 7.3 percent. Both numbers are seasonally adjusted.

Ad claim: "More than 3,000 Maryland businesses have closed or moved to other states."

Fact: Each year, thousands of businesses register for unemployment insurance, and thousands more close their accounts. Maryland ended 2009 with a net of 2,900 fewer such accounts than it had at the end of 2008, according to the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The Sun reported this number as a net loss of businesses in front-page articles in January and July. Today, for the first time, the agency is disputing the number as "not a valid way of looking at businesses starting up or closing down," DLLR spokesman Bernie Kohn said.

Kohn explains that very small businesses, such as mom-and-pop shops with no other employees, don't have to open unemployment insurance accounts. However, families who employ nannies or other household help do have to register. So when a family no longer employs a nanny, it closes the unemployment insurance account -- not exactly a "business closing," Kohn said. Also, Kohn said, DLLR purged more inactive accounts from its unemployment rolls last year than it had in the past, perhaps explaining away part of the 2,900 number.

Ad claim: "O’Malley passed the largest tax increase in history .. A 20 percent sales tax hike ... Job-killing taxes on business."

Fact: The Sun has examined in detail the taxing records of O'Malley and Ehrlich. Both raised taxes. You can read that story here.

O'Malley has not disputed the "largest tax increase claim," a refrain repeated nearly daily by Ehrlich on the campaign trail. O'Malley signed into law a penny-per-dollar sales tax increase, raising it to 6 cents on the dollar -- a 20 percent hike. The "job-killing" bit is subjective. Supporters of the governor, as well as some economists, like to point out that businesses consider many things apart from taxes -- education, work force, quality of life -- when deciding to locate or expand in Maryland.

Ad claim: "And now O’Malley says he’s open to raising taxes again."

Fact: O'Malley has said that he does not intend to raise taxes if elected to a second term.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:08 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Political ads
        

RGA puts money in Maryland

The Republican Governor's Association will spend tens of thousands of dollars in the Baltimore television market this week, marking the group's debut in Maryland's hotly contested gubernatorial race and providing another sign that national Republican groups believe the GOP has a shot at picking off a Democratic governor here
 
The RGA, led by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, paid $61K for ads airing on WBAL-TV starting this morning, according to the station. (For some comparison, over the summer Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's campaign spent about $30K a week on WBAL-TV -- a sum that bought them 50 spots on the station's news shows. However, the summer rates tend to be cheaper than the current fall fees.) We're still waiting to hear back from other stations in the Baltimore market and also a reply from a RGA spokesman who was emailed late Monday.

The cash infusion was not coordinated with GOP gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign, said spokesman Henry Fawell. However, the former governor has frequently said that the RGA would help him. He may be counting on that national money to help make up his roughly 3 to 1 cash disadvantage in the race.

The RGA has poured millions into other states with close races -- putting $4 million behind Republican Rick Scott who is squaring off against Democrat Alex Sink in Florida's governor's race, according to the Tampa Tribune. Barbour's group raised a stunning $40 million to spend on competitive gubernatorial races this season, earning the RGA lead the title of "de facto chairman of the Republican Party" according to Politico.

Barbour told the Talking Points Memo that his organization practices "ruthless targeting." He added: "We don't pay for sure winners, we don't pay for sure losers."

Meanwhile, today an O'Malley takes down an attack ad that featured footage from a Maryland Public Television pubic affairs program. The Sun today reported that the ad angered the station's executives who worried it made them appeared biased and wanted it pulled. MPT this year received $9 million in state tax dollars and did not want to appear to be a state funded organ of the governor's re-election campaign. O'Malley's team said they'd only planned on running the ad for a week and had intended to rotate in a new commercial today.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:30 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Campaign finance
        

September 20, 2010

Kamenetz solidifies more Dem support

Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, the Democratic nominee for Baltimore County Executive, got the endorsement of a group of Democratic county legal officials, as he continues to try to rally his party around him after his primary defeat of fellow Councilman Joe Bartenfelder.

The so-called "Courthouse Team" includes State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, Register of Wills Grace Connolly, Orphans Court Judges Colleen Cavanaugh, Bill Evans, and Theresa Lawler, and Sheriff Jay Fisher.

In a statement, Connolly cited Kamenetz’ ability to work well with others; Kamenetz sometimes comes off as brash, and the campaign is apparently looking to show him as more personable.

“I’ve known Kevin for over 30 years, and he’s the most qualified person for this job,” Connolly said.

Still no word on the big fish in the endorsement pond. Joe Bartenfelder still hasn't responded to questions about whether he will get behind Kamenetz, who defeated him in what was a pretty intense campaign.

Kamenetz is facing former delegate and finance executive Ken Holt in November's general election.

Posted by Andy Rosen at 5:01 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: In The Counties
        

Ras poll puts O'Malley at 50; Ehrlich 47

New post-primary poll numbers from Rasmussen Reports put Gov. Martin O’Malley’s support at 50 percent; while his challenger, Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., has 47 percent. The margin for error is plus or minus four points - so the race is still a statistical deadheat.

Rasmussen stressed that the poll contains good news for O’Malley: The survey marks the first time that the governor has hit the 50 percent mark in their reports, perhaps a sign of momentum for the governor's team. The Maryland race is one of seven gubernatorial contests that Rasmussen categorizes as a tossup. The poll was done on Sept. 15 and included 750 likely voters.

In August the polling firm measured the O'Malley-Ehrlich race at 47 to 47. Since that time Ehrlich began airing television ads; O'Malley has been up on TV since mid-summer.

Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell put his spin on the numbers, saying that after "six months of negative advertising" the race remains tight. O'Malley kicked off the race with a negative radio ad in April, pivoted to positive TV pieces over the summer, but has more recently aired spots impinging Ehrlich's credibility on taxes.  

The poll also showed that:

* 51 percent approve of the job O'Malley is doing as governor;

* Of the 45 percent who named the economy as their top issue O'Malley is ahead 56 to 42; 

* 31 percent say the economy is improving; while 44 percent say it is getting worse;

* O'Malley favorability ratings are 54 percent (fav) to 38 percent (unfav);

* Ehrlich's favorability ratings are 58 percent (fav) to 38 percent (unfav)



Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:05 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Ad War: O'Malley fires two more shots, one in DC

Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley has fired more shots in this election’s ad war – a contest he’s handily winning when it comes to volume. The Washington Post reported this morning that O’Malley tomorrow will begin airing a television ad in the pricey Washington TV market.

The ad, which hasn’t been released, touts O'Malley's commitment to education, The Post says. It sounds as if it will be a striking contrast to spots his campaign has recently aired in the Baltimore market, including one out Friday, that attack Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on his credibility.

O’Malley has been using TV ads to communicate with voters for about two months, cutting more than a half-dozen different spots. By contrast, Ehrlich has had his ads up – two now – for just two weeks in the Baltimore market only.

Baltimore TV viewers are treated to far more Maryland political ads than DC area residents, mostly because of the price difference. And in addition to being more expensive, the ads reach non-voters in DC and Virginia, whereas the Baltimore ads stretch far and wide across Maryland voting blocs.

O’Malley’s newest ad in the Baltimore market came out Friday.

Similar in tone and production to another recent O’Malley spot, it questions Ehrlich’s credibility when it comes to halting taxes and helping working families. That’s an issue of utmost importance to voters this year -- and one where the O’Malley camp likely feels vulnerable in part because of a package of taxes he approved after a special legislative session in 2007.

The new ad features "real Marylanders" talking about how Ehrlich raised property tax, increased college tuition and made $2.5 million in the private sector after his term as governor. It concludes with a man saying, "With this tough economy, we really need a governor on our side."

(The Sun examined each governor’s tax and spend record earlier this year in this piece by Annie Linskey.)

Ehrlich responded Friday in a press release titled “Got Ideas?”

“Martin O’Malley is out of ideas, out of touch, and out of momentum," Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said in the release. "Like most incumbents heading towards defeat at the polls, he is trying to distract Marylanders from his legacy of massive job losses, record tax increases, and ballooning debt that will be paid by our children."

Team Ehrlich also pointed out that O’Malley’s attack ad came out as Ehrlich released a “ten-year plan” -- highlighted in a TV ad -- for improving the state. Camp O'Malley was not impressed with that ad or its companion document.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:05 AM | | Comments (19)
        

September 19, 2010

O'Malley gets nod from NYC mayor

Gov. Martin O’Malley Sunday obtained a blessing from an increasingly rare national political creature: A self-proclaimed moderate.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who most recently ran as an independent, is putting his name (and perhaps some portion of his billions) behind candidates across the country he views as centrist. Some of Bloomberg's picks nationally appear to be designed to break up the Tea Party as he's endorsed several candidates who are fending of threats from the right. Bloomberg started life as a Democrat, then switched to the GOP and now he's not officially in either camp.

The New York Times, which reported Sunday about Bloomberg's support for middle-of-the-road candidates, said the NYC mayor's picks include Meg Whitman, a Republican vying in California’ s gubernatorial contest. Aside from O'Malley, Democrats Bloomberg supports include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat facing a tough Tea Party challenge from Sharron Angle in Nevada, the Times reported.

A news release from the O'Malley campaign said that Bloomberg picked O'Malley because of his "pro-business, results-oriented approach to governing." O'Malley's Team said that the NYC mayor is choosing candidates "with close ties to the business community" and "who know what it takes to get the economy back on track."

But The Times noted two other common policy positions held by many Bloomberg candidates: Like-minded views on guns and immigration. Bloomberg started Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which advocates for gun control measures. He also recently launched a coalition supporting immigration reform called Partnership for a New American Economy. That group was created in June and, among other issues, wants to put in place a process that would let undocumented immigrants acquire some type of legal status, according to an AP story.

It is worth noting that Bloomberg isn’t the only New Yorker with an interest in Maryland politics: Former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is pals Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehlrich Jr. and campaigned for him 2006. Ehrlich frequently names Giuliani as a potential out-of-state political star who might come stump for him.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 10:18 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Wargotz campaign brings Bo Harmon back to Maryland politics

Eric Wargotz, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Barbara A. Mikulski, has lined up his campaign team for the general election.

The campaign director and general consultant is Bo Harmon. Bo knows Maryland, having managed Bob Ehrlich's 2006 re-election campaign for governor.

The day-to-day manager will be Demetrios Karoutsos, who recently ran conservative businessman Rob Fisher's Republican primary effort in Maryland's first congressional district.

Harmon's firm, Response America of Alexandria, Va., says on its website that it specializes in fundraising and voter contact direct marketing for Republican candidates and right-of-center, nonprofit organizations. Its impressive current client list includes the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee, as well as Ohio Rep. John Boehner, who would become House speaker if Republicans gain control of the chamber in the 2010 midterm elections, and Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, a tea party favorite.

The Republican strategist, who was voter contact director of John McCain's '08 presidential campaign, signed up last year with the political action committee of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a likely 2012 Republican presidential contender.

A formal announcement of the Wargotz campaign brain trust is expected early in the week. The Queen Anne's County commissioner, making his first statewide run, finished first in last week's 11-way Republican Senate primary.

Posted by Paul West at 10:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

September 17, 2010

A.G.'s office will work quickly on Cecil slots inquiry

The office of state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said Friday it would work “expeditiously” to provide legal guidance to state regulators inquiring into allegations that Penn National Gaming inappropriately interfered with another company’s plans for a slots casino in Anne Arundel County.

Penn National has approval to open the state’s first slots parlor later this month in Cecil County, but says it might wait for the results of the inquiry before it cuts any ribbons. Penn National co-owns the Maryland Jockey Club, which has financed a campaign against Cordish’s proposed project, in hopes of steering Anne Arundel’s sole slots license to Laurel race track.

“We understand there’s an urgency to this decision so we will try to accommodate it,” said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for the attorney general.

The request, from Stephen L. Martino, director of the Maryland Lottery, asks the attorney general to issue a ruling on whether Penn National’s actions violate the RFP, and if so, can the lottery commission take action, said Guillory.

Representatives for Penn National have said the inquiry could delay the planned Sept. 30 opening of its 1,500-slots parlor in Perryville, saying they wanted to await the opinion before moving forward, but declined Friday to offer specifics about the timeline of the casino’s opening.

"We're still assessing all of our options," said Karen M. Bailey, a spokeswoman for Penn National.

The state Lottery Commission voted at its Thursday meeting to request an opinion from the attorney general following Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. claims that Penn National’s involvement in a campaign to prevent slots at Arundel Mills mall violates Penn National’s contract with the state.

The commission also approved a conditional license for Penn National to open its casino. A Penn National executive requested that the commission forgo issuing the license until the allegations were settled, but the commission declined.

Anne Arundel voters will decide whether the project slots at Arundel Mills go forward when they vote on a ballot referendum in November.

-Nicole Fuller

Posted by Andy Rosen at 6:43 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: In The Counties, Slots
        

Ertel claims BaltCo win; Paulshock hasn't conceded

Democrat Mike Ertel is declaring victory in the Democratic primary in District 5 for the Baltimore County Council. He still leads his closest opponent, Bill Paulshock, by a small but substantial margin, but Paulshock hasn't conceded. He wants to see overseas and provisional ballots first, he told Raven Hill today.

The latest results show Ertel ahead by 321 votes with all absentee ballots counted. There did not appear to be enough provisional votes to swing the outcome, but Paulshock still has the option to request a recount (though depending on the margin, he may have to pay for it).

Ertel's ready to move on and face Republican David Marks.

"I'd like to thank Bill Paulshock and Gordon Harden for their efforts and their [genuine] concern about the issues affecting the 5th district.," Ertel wrote in a letter to supporters "It was a tough race, but I look forward to unifying the district and moving forward together."

Posted by Andy Rosen at 4:37 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: In The Counties, Primaries 2010
        

Defeated foe backs Harris in Maryland One

Conservative businessman Rob Fisher has endorsed Republican state Sen. Andy Harris in the First District congressional contest.

Fisher, a first-time candidate, ran a largely self-financed outsider campaign against Harris, a 12-year veteran of the Maryland legislature. Harris won by a two-to-one margin.

“Now that the Republican primary is over, we need to unify behind our nominee, Andy Harris,” said Rob Fisher, according to a statement from the Harris campaign.

“Andy has my full support and I will do anything I can to get him elected and to ensure Frank Kratovil joins the ranks of the thousands of unemployed Marylanders his and Nancy Pelosi's policies have created."

Fisher called Harris shortly before 11 o'clock on election night to concede. He was the only other Republican on the primary ballot in the congressional district that takes in the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties.

Freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, who edged Harris in the 2008 general election, was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

After Harris unseated moderate Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, the defeated incumbent helped Democrat Kratovil get elected. Last week, Gilchrest--who endorsed Fisher over Harris in the primary--was the draw at a fund-raising event for Kratovil and can be expected to endorse him publicly again this fall.

Posted by Paul West at 4:10 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Kratovil first to go negative in Maryland One

The first, but surely not last, attack ad of the rematch between Rep. Frank Kratovil and Republican challenger Andy Harris for a U.S. House seat in Maryland has hit the airwaves in the Baltimore and Eastern Shore markets.

The negative spot goes after Harris for his support of the so-called "fair tax," a plan to replace the existing federal income tax system with a 23 percent national sales tax.

Democrat Kratovil's 30-second commercial calls the tax plan "unfair" and unaffordable. It features a series of unidentified men and women saying that a 23 percent sales tax would be "devastating," ruinous to business and would make purchasing goods "unaffordable."

"We can't afford Andy Harris' idea," says one man.

Similar attack ads by Democrats in other states have been criticized as "misleading" by independent arbiters like the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center's factcheck.org.

The ad does not mention, for example, that the "fair tax" would effectively remove the existing federal tax system, including all payroll taxes. It would also eliminate such popular tax breaks as the deduction for mortgage interest. "Fair tax" critics call it a regressive plan that would benefit wealthier Americans and hurt the poor; it is regularly introduced in Congress and has gone nowhere under both Republican and Democratic majorities.

Harris' campaign termed the ad "a desperate attack" and wondered why Kratovil, "who says he is ahead in the polls" would run "such a false, negative campaign." The poll reference is to an internal Kratovil survey, made public this week, which said he was leading Harris by six percentage points among likely voters; the survey was taken after Kratovil had been on the air in the district for two weeks and before Harris began his post-primary ad buy.

Posted by Paul West at 3:40 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Kamenetz gets union that supported Bartenfelder

the Metropolitan Baltimore Council AFL-CIO has shifted its support to Democratic Baltimore County executive candidate Kevin Kamenetz, just days after he won a bruising primary contest against Joseph Bartenfelder, the large union's first choice for the top local government post.

Bartenfelder and his advisers haven't said whether the departing councilman will endorse Kamenetz, also a member of the County Council since 1994. The two colleagues went through a hard-fought campaign, and some Bartenfelder advisers cited negative campaigning as a concern.

Kamenetz faces Republican former delegate and finance executive Ken Holt in November's general election.

The AFL-CIO was quick to shift its support. In a release, Ernie Grecco, President of the Metropolitan Baltimore Council, said, “We look forward to having a dialogue with Kevin and working to get him elected the next County Executive and making Baltimore County not only a great place to live but also a great place to work.”

The union represents thousands of workers, and is made up of locals including the Baltimore County Professional Firefighters Association, Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the Baltimore Building and Construction Trades Council, Maryland State United Auto Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, Plumbers and Steamfitters, and the Laborers International Union of North America.

The firefighters union had been specifically vocal in its support of Bartenfelder.

Posted by Andy Rosen at 3:00 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: In The Counties, Primaries 2010
        

Ehrlich maps issues; O’Malley not impressed

This week Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich sought to flesh out his candidacy by distributing a package of proposals along with a new television ad touting it. 

Starting with the ad: Ehrlich does not mention opponent Gov. Martin O’Malley by name, but hits some of same criticism he’s repeated at events: The state faces “a mountain of debt” and voters could be expecting a “massive tax increase.” He also says that “employers will continue to leave the state.” Ehrlich asks voters to support him because he has a “roadmap” that spells out a future that would avoid the problems he’s outlined. 

Before getting to his roadmap – it is worth examining the threats. The state is now pushing against its debt limit, however, the three rating agencies disagree about whether Maryland's debt levels are high, moderate or low. The one agency that rates the state poorly includes in its model the Ehrlich-era transportation debt issued to pay for the Inter County Connector.  

Ehrlich, and state’s Republicans, have long said that the 2011 legislative session will include a tax hike and there is considerable chatter about a possible increase to the alcohol tax. But Ehrlich frequently goes further passing out a list 43 tax hikes that the General Assembly rejected as evidence that the Democratic controlled body is eager to expand revenue sources. The governor has not explicitly ruled out a tax increase – another point the Republicans hit.

Ehrlich's solution? His roadmap covers ten broad policy areas – starting with job creation ideas, and hitting, among others, education, transportation, the environment, energy, crime and health. Many of the ideas come with a price tag, making it unclear how the plan would eliminate the debt he talks about and there is no talk of what programs would be cut to pay for new ideas. Ehrlich has said it is difficult to assess what would need to be cut until there are firmer budget figures -- the state's tax receipts have improved recently.

New details in his plan include ideas about making some agencies more responsive; an emphasis on early education, a discussion of reducing obesity and the desire to increase the number in-state students in Maryland’s university system. Ehrlich mentions crime in detail for the first time, saying he would “eliminate” gang violence by looking at ways of expanding the use of the state’s gang statues. 

O’Malley's campaign immediately critiqued the document – calling a “roadmap to nowhere” – and pointing out that Ehrlich’s record as governor erodes his credibility on tax cuts and reducing government spending. They also questioned his environmental record, noting that one advocacy group the League of Conservation Voters, gave him a “D.”

The plan doesn’t mention one flash point that many Republican voters have mentioned: Immigration. Also, despite the detail, it doesn’t mention any changes to a planned juvenile prison in Baltimore that Ehrlich has criticized in the past. 

(More on Ehrlich's plan after jump)

Ehrlich’s plan includes: 

- A set of administrative changes to the state’s departments of labor and the department of business and economic development that Ehrlich believes would make the bureaucracies more business-friendly; 

- Re-states promise to cut sales tax, eliminate income tax on military pensions; and says he would “explore” how to reduce the corporate income tax; 

- Change state budget process so yearly cuts to programs become the new baseline for the following year – this would eliminate some of what has become annual angst over budget cuts; 

- Eliminate furloughs for state workers; 

- Provide incentives to build a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs; prevent Bay Restoration funds from being transferred to close budget holes 

- Abandon the proposed rapid transit lines in Baltimore and the Washington suburbs in favor of rapid buses 

- "Work with legislators" to reduce medical malpractice insurance

 

The plan also includes the creation of several commissions: 

-A bipartisan group will examine the pension problems;

another task force would look at so-called “mandated spending”; 

- another to examine transportation issues; - another – to be headed by Lt. Gov. Mary Kane - would study link between drug use and crime; 

- a study on whether purchasing health insurance across state lines would reduce costs

Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:29 PM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Sen. Ulysses Currie pleads not guilty

State Sen. Ulysses Currie pleaded not guilty to corruption charges this morning in a federal courtroom in Baltimore -- his first court appearance since being indicted this month.

Currie, the 73-year-old Prince George's County Democrat who chaired the powerful Senate budget committee until the charges were filed, is now represented by two federal public defenders. After the brief hearing, Currie was released on his own recognizance, meaning he did not have to post bail.

Currie was indicted on 17 counts including bribery and mail fraud in an alleged influence-peddling scheme involving Shoppers Food Warehouse, a supermarket chain based in his district.

Federal prosecutors say Shoppers paid Currie about $250,000 between 2003 and 2008 to "use his official position ... in ways that would benefit [Shoppers] and certain of its officers and employees."

Earlier this week, the parent company of Shoppers entered a deal to pay a $2.5 million fine and cooperate with prosecutors in lieu of facing charges.

Former Shoppers President William White is due in court this afternoon for an initial appearance; earlier, former Shoppers Vice President R. Kevin Small pleaded not guilty.

No trial dates have been set, but U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett said this week that he'd like Currie's trial to take place in June.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:37 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Crime & Justice
        

Jessamy to concede to Bernstein for State's Attorney

Peter Hermann over at Baltimore Crime Beat reports that Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy will concede her race this afternoon to her primary opponent Gregg Bernstein, according to a source with direct knowledge of her plans. Jessamy has scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. at her campaign headquarters.

Up until this morning, it appeared that Jessamy was getting ready to challenge the voting process even as absentee ballots are being counted. Thursday night, the elections board had counted about 75 percent of those votes.

Bernstein was ahead by 1,363 votes, with more than 2,000 ballots still to be counted.

Jessamy's spokeswoman had alleged that thousands of votes might be missing and her legal team appeared to be gearing up for a challenge. We'll what happens in 90 minutes.

Posted by Andy Rosen at 12:10 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Primaries 2010
        

O'Malley returns to kitchen, Ehrlich to barber

Now that the primary election is behind them, the two candidates for governor seem to be returning to their comfort zones: Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley revived his 2006 "kitchen table talks" yesterday with a stop in Catonsville. And later in the afternoon, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. made a brief speech at his longtime barber's shop in Dundalk.

O'Malley and Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., a Democrat and vocal O'Malley supporter, nestled around the kitchen table of Frances Callahan. They were joined by five other Baltimore County moms for a chat about school construction, green building and other issues.

The moms lavished O'Malley with praise for his vision. Several told him they were happy he was able to take the long view -- by requiring tougher building standards, for example -- even during a bad economy.

"We've had to cut and cut and cut and cut again, but we're making progress," O'Malley said. "We're protecting our priorities."

One mom treaded into sensitive territory by telling the governor that her 7-year-old child didn't understand why his two mommies can't get married. She asked O'Malley how he feels about gay marriage.

O'Malley stuck to his view that civil unions are a better option for Maryland than same-sex marriage, though he said he'd sign either legislative change into law. He said the state should focus on providing equality to same-sex couples, reminding the mom that he'd helped give gay partners hospital visitation rights.

The mom didn't press the marriage issue. (Some gay rights groups have called for O'Malley to vocally support gay marriage, not just civil unions.)

O'Malley and Smith repeatedly referenced the importance of the kitchen table during the hourlong talk. O'Malley told the moms that he'd decided to hold kitchen table talks because that's where important family decisions are made.

He said he pictures such family discussions whenever making a decision about how to govern the state. During the 2006 talks, he said, he promoted the importance of halting years of steep college tuition rises, which he did until approving a slight increase this year, and stepping up public school construction and renovation -- another point of pride in his administration.

Later, Ehrlich spoke at Bobby Magee's barber shop in Dundalk, saying that salon services are among the now-untaxed items that could be subjected to a sales tax if Democrats get their way.

Longtime Ehrlich followers are no doubt familiar with Magee. His barber shop is papered with photos of Ehrlich (often pictured while getting a haircut) and another lawmaking fan, Del. John S. Arnick, a Democrat who represented the area for many years. He died in 2006.

Ehrlich called the shop "another branch of my world." Ater the television cameras and supporters dissipated, Ehrlich got a haircut.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:00 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

September 16, 2010

Second Cordish slots ad hits Laurel Park

The Cordish-Cos.-backed group, “Jobs & Revenue for Anne Arundel County” released its second television advertisement Thursday, in its media blitz for passage of a slots referendum on its slots parlor at Arundel Mills mall on the November ballot.

The ad hits on the theme that Cordish has promoted -- that Laurel Park, whose owners are helping finance the opposition to the project, is not a viable alternative to the Arundel Mills plan. Project opponents are largely fighting based on opposition to the location at a mall. The ad shows a footprint of the building, separate from the mall.

Check out Nicole Fuller's story on how the continuing battle over Arundel Mills could delay the state's planned first slots parlor in Perryville.

Posted by Andy Rosen at 8:56 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: In The Counties, Slots
        

Primary turnout hits historic low

For all the talk of an energized electorate, and even with the new opportunity to vote early, turnout in Tuesday’s primaries was the lowest in for a gubernatorial election year in Maryland going back at least to 1982, the earliest year for which records were available.

Of Maryland’s 3,167,846 eligible voters, 761,413 cast ballots in the primaries, for a turnout of 24.04 percent, according to unofficial counts released Thursday by the State Board of Elections. The numbers do not yet include provisional or absentee ballots, but judging from previous elections, these are unlikely to be enough to push the total over the state’s previous low of 28.64 percent in in 1998.

This year, 2.44 percent of the electorate took advantage of early voting, offered for six days at central locations in each county; 21.6 percent voted on Tuesday, the traditional primary day, when local polling places were open.

In spite of a competitive Democratic primary for state's attorney, Baltimore saw a lower-than-average turnout of 21.49 percent. Baltimore County, venue for a comeptitive race for county executive, had a turnout of 29.45 percent.

Two of Maryland's least populous counties, meanwhile, distinguished themselves in electoral enthusiasm: Garrett County led the state with 39.59 percent turnout, including 35.09 percent on Tuesday. Talbot county led in early voting participation with 6.78 percent.

Statewide turnout in 2006, the last gubernatorial election, was 29.6 percent. That might have been driven in part by a competitive Democratic primary race between Benjamin L. Cardin and Kweisi Mfume for the open Senate seat vacated that year by retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:27 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Early voting, Primaries 2010
        

Bob Ehrlich gets a haircut

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:13 PM | | Comments (30)
Categories: For fun
        

Dems try to exploit Ehrlich-Murphy split

Maryland’s Democrats are trying to pick at what they perceive to be a wound among Maryland Republicans: Hard feelings after the primary victory this week of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. over Sarah Palin-endorsed and tea party-backed challenger Brian Murphy.

This morning the Dems emailed a transcript from a radio appearance during which conservative commentator Blair Lee urged Ehrlich to reach out to Brian Murphy.

"You need to publicly embrace this guy, you need to call him a rising star in the party, you need to borrow his rolodex, and you need to get all of his voters to vote for you," Lee advised.

Ehrlich reponded with a backhanded slight. "Well, Blair, I respect him, but quite frankly we have a lot of rising stars in our party, including people who have won races."

Four years ago Ehrlich had no primary opponent; four years before that, he had a far better showing in the primary -- taking 93 percent of the vote against two unknown candidates.

On Wednesday at a GOP rally in Annapolis, Murphy showed up, but was on the far right of a sea of Republicans – standing nowhere close to Ehrlich and looking mighty uncomfortable. Ehrlich did not mention his foe by name. Instead he made broad comments about the difficulty all candidate face when they put their egos “on the line” an run for office.

Murphy did get a handshake from GOP Party chairwoman Audrey Scott and, when asked what he plans to do for Ehrlich’s campaign, he repeatedly mentioned that he has a “young family.”

Ehrlich was asked why he didn’t give a shout-out to his former opponent. “If I started mentioning one, I’d get in trouble,” he said.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:05 PM | | Comments (17)
        

September 15, 2010

Bernstein still leads after all polling place votes tallied

Baltimore State’s Attorney hopeful Gregg Bernstein maintained his lead over incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy, according to a full count of the votes cast in city polling places.

Numbers released this afternoon from the Baltimore Board of Elections show that Bernstein won 49 percent of the primary votes cast at polling places to Jessamy’s 47 percent — with just 1,295 votes separating them. (A third democratic candidate received about 2,000 votes).

That means Jessamy needs to make up the difference in absentee ballots, which will be counted starting Thursday morning, or Baltimore has a new state’s attorney.

The count: Bernstein: 30392 Jessamy: 29097 Sheryl A. Lansey: 2252

--Tricia Bishop

Posted by Anica Butler at 4:53 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Jessamy camp says votes are missing

As many as 10,000 of Baltimore’s primary votes could still be missing, according to Patricia Jessamy’s state’s attorney campaign staff, who told her that memory cards from 27 machines in six districts were unaccounted for.

If accurate, it could leave room for the election to sway back toward Jessamy, the incumbent, who’s narrowly trailing challenger Gregg Bernstein.

But city Board of Elections Director Armstead B.C. Jones Sr. said the figures sounded high to him, and that none of it would matter by the end of the day.

“We are going to get to 100 percent” of the votes cast at polling places, he said. Jones did not know how many votes were left to be counted, or when the results could be expected, but he said the office usually shuts down around 4:30 p.m.

Both Jessamy and challenger Bernstein, who was leading the race by 1,400 votes at last tally, according to the Associated Press, are refusing to speak until the numbers are in. That could mean days if they wait for the results of more than 2,000 absentee ballots, which will be counted starting Thursday.

Jessamy, who’s held the top prosecutor position for 15 years, sent an e-mail to her staff Wednesday thanking them for their hard work and professionalism and urging them to stay strong and committed, whatever the outcome.

These are the districts with missing memory cards representing between 6,000 and 10,000 votes, according to Jessamy’s camp: 40th (three cards); 41st (five); 43rd (three); 44th (four); 45th (eight) and the 46th (four).

— Tricia Bishop

Posted by Anica Butler at 2:14 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Five Maryland pols who are feeling better today..and two less so

As posted here earlier, Maryland's entire congressional delegation is virtually assured of re-election this fall, with the sole exception of Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil, who is fighting hard to keep his seat.

You can be certain, though, that the state's pols in Washington--all highly competitive, Type A individuals--are closely sifting the primary returns anyway. They're looking for signs: How pleased--or not--are their party's voters are with the job they're doing?

Here's a quick look at those who probably are feeling pretty good today..and a couple who might not be.

Interestingly, the "winners" include the most established and powerful Marylanders in Congress, plus a couple up-and-comers. That's not what you might expect to see in a year variously described as anti-establishment or anti-incumbent.

1. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. One of the safest Democratic Senate re-election bets in the country got 82 percent of the statewide primary vote against a half-dozen non-entities (all the figures here are from almost complete election returns). That's down from her 90 percent primary tally last time out; but that was 2004, a presidential primary with a much larger turnout. In her last mid-term primary run, in 1998, she pulled 84 percent.

2. House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer. The leadership job of the second-ranking member of the House is in serious jeopardy; Hoyer would be demoted automatically if Republicans take control of the House. But he looks stronger than ever with Democrats in his southern Maryland district, an indication that he hasn't neglected his home base while traveling the country to help fellow Democrats. He received 85 percent of the primary vote, up from 83 percent in the last two elections.

3. Rep. Chris Van Hollen. The Montgomery County congressman also has national duties, and mind-bending headaches, as chairman of the House Democrats' campaign arm. But back in his liberal suburban district, he got 93 percent from party voters, up from 88 percent last time and 91 percent in the 2006 midterm.

4. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. The Baltimore representative was unopposed in the last midterm election and drew 93 percent in 2008. He received 91 percent on Tuesday; that's no worse than an "A-minus" on anyone's report card.

5. Rep. Donna Edwards. The delegation's most liberal member used the last two primaries to dispatch an entrenched Democratic incumbent, Al Wynn, to his new career as a D.C. lobbyist. This time, she scared away Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, who ultimately ducked the race, then brushed off a state delegate, Herman Taylor, to win an impressive 83 percent of the primary vote and cement her hold on the seat.

Go to the jump for a couple of Marylanders who might not have liked what they saw in the results.

1. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. The state's lone Republican congressman, at least for now, is in no danger of losing his seat. But the 84-year-old incumbent apparently had his worst primary night since 1992, the year he was first elected to Congress.

Again, it's all relative. Bartlett drew a shade under 70 percent of the vote. He batted close to 80 percent in his last two runs, and his previous low as an incumbent was 70.3 percent in 2004.

Bartlett's year has been marred by a fire at his farm outside Frederick, which put a number of tenants on the street and exposed potentially unsafe conditions. He may have been hurt, too, by the political problems of his son, state Del. Joseph Bartlett, who abandoned his re-election try this summer after it was revealed that he used taxpayer funds to pay rent to his girlfriend's Annapolis house.

2. Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger. Somebody had to be the Democrat with the lowest share of the vote in the congressional primary, and the former Baltimore County exec was it. Ruppersberger received 74 percent, not a particularly bad showing but a personal worst for Dutch as an incumbent. He received 82 percent in the 2006 primary; in 2004 and 2008, he had no primary opposition at all.

Like every member of the Maryland delegation, he will be closely watching the results of this fall's governor's race. If Republican Bob Ehrlich is elected, several Democratic incumbents could see their districts become much more competitive in 2012, including Ruppersberger, who was elected to Congress in 2002 in a district deliberately drawn for him.

Posted by Paul West at 1:44 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

House of Delegates loses few incumbents

While the primary dust-ups in the Senate continue to sort themselves out, let's take a look at the changes in the larger chamber.

It appears that incumbents will prevail in all but about a half-dozen of the 141 seats, at least until Nov. 2. More survived primaries this year than the incumbents of four years ago -- a feat that House Speaker Michael E. Busch called fairly remarkable, given the number of competitive Senate primary races.

Just two sitting Democrats lost last night, compared with eight in 2006. New names in the House include Keiffer Mitchell, Mary Washington and Luke Clippinger of Baltimore (the latter two are filling open seats).

Baltimore's Ruth Kirk fell to Mitchell, a popular former City Council member who ran for mayor. Busch said House leadership knew that one of the three incumbent Democrats in that district, 44, would have a "tough" time against Mitchell.

In another intra-party hit, B. Daniel Riley, who represents Cecil and Harford counties, was taken out by Marla Posey-Moss, a high school Spanish teacher. Democrats Posey-Moss and Mary Dulaney-James face two Republican challengers in the two-seat District 34A general election.

"We were surpised Dan Riley lost," Busch said. "We thought he'd have a tough general election. We weren't looking at the primary.

As for Republican incumbents in the House, three appeared to be in trouble, including two who had represented their districts for 15 years: Nancy Stocksdale of Carroll County and Paul Stull of Frederick County. Also appearing in the loss column is Del. Richard A. Sossi of the Upper Shore.

"Some of our defeats or potential defeats are surprising," said Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, the House minority leader.

Minority whip, Del. Christopher B. Shank leaves the House to become senator for Washington County, having defeated incumbent Sen. Donald F. Munson. O'Donnell said the House is 'Losing one of its rising stars, but it's the Senate's gain.

O'Donnell predicted Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Minority Leader Allan Kittleman would "enjoy Shank tremendously."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:45 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Primaries 2010
        

No official word on Jessamy/Bernstein race

Most of the city's votes have been tallied. The Election Board has unofficially listed state's attorney challenger Gregg Bernstein as victorious against incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy. But nobody has claimed victory or defeat.

Jessamy's camp said today that there were no plans to concede. From Baltimore Sun reporter Tricia Bishop:

“I just don’t know how this happened,” said Jessamy’s spokeswoman  Marilyn Harris-Davis, questioning the integrity of Bernstein’s campaign, which Jessamy has said was made up of “lies” and misrepresentations about her record.

A spokesman from Bernstein's camp said this morning that they were expecting word from the Elections Board by early afternoon.

Posted by Maryann James at 11:43 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

BaltCo exec: Holt comes out swinging at Kamenetz

Kenneth C. Holt, the Republican candidate for Baltimore County executive , has fired the first shots of the general election campaign, saying his Democratic opponent , Kevin Kamenetz, ran an “ugly campaign” that was not relevant to the economic problems facing the county.

Holt, of Kingsville, who ran unopposed for his party’s nomination in yesterday’s primary, said this morning that Kamenetz’s successful campaign against his fellow county councilman, Joseph Bartenfelder was “based on attack ads, false statements, a lot of information that was not honest. …There’s no place for this in a time of economic crisis. If they don’t think there’s an economic crisis, they’re not fit to lead.”

Given that Kamenetz, a 52-year-old lawyer from Owings Mills, spent more than $1 million in the primary, Holt said his vote total amounts to a “poor performance.”

A former member of the Maryland House of Delegates, Holt, 59, said the poor primary turnout of Democratic voters suggests that “Democrats are not too excited about their candidates, their prospects. Republicans are excited.”

The investments executive said it seems an opportune time for the county to elect only its third Republican executive since the position was established as part of charter revision in the late 1950s. While Kamenetz has shown his strength as a fundraiser, Holt said he was not concerned about that.

“I don’t see where money had any relevance to the outcomes,” he said, pointing to a couple of strong low-budget primary campaigns by Republicans running for the County Council: Todd Huff against incumbent T. Bryan McIntire in District 3 and Ryan Nawrocki against Andrew Peet for an open seat in District 6.

“We are right and ready to win this election,” said Holt. “No one should underestimate our ability to do so.”

-Arthur Hirsch

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:40 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, In The Counties, Primaries 2010
        

Computer problems slow Baltimore County tally

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Katie A. Brown, Baltimore County election director, says the vote-counting problems -- which have delayed results in several close council races -- were due to computer glitches, as well as human error.

The computer program that counts votes off the memory cards in voting machines kept crashing Tuesday night, so officials had to slow down, she said this morning. Each memory card takes about two minutes to upload, and there are more than 2,000 machines in the county, so uploading one memory card at a time onto the election board's computers would take about six or seven hours after polls closed.

"It got to the point where we could only do about one card at a time," she said.

Meanwhile, in four or five precincts, judges left the memory cards in the machines.

Today, election board workers are going to those precincts, including one at the Charlestown retirement community, to retrieve the memory cards and upload those votes.

"This does happen, it has happened in the past," she said. "Every election, there's a problem. There's always a precinct or two that doesn't bring back a card."

Brown expects the votes to be tallied by this afternoon, but even then they won't be official.

Even as the election board officials set out to tally the missing votes, some candidates were checking results. Shown here at the board offices are Councilman Kenneth Oliver, a Democrat from Distrct 4, and Rebecca Dongarra, a Democrat from District 1.

-- Yeganeh June Torbati

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 10:30 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Kamenetz defeats Bartenfelder

County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz is set to declare victory this morning in the Democratic primary for county executive.

Fellow Councilman Joe Bartenfelder, 53, a Fullerton farmer and former member of the Maryland House of Delegates, conceded the race to Kamenetz around 9 a.m., saying he won the precincts he needed to win, but the low turnout cut too far into his total vote.

"We tried to get our message out, we kept our campaign focused and positive," Bartenfelder said. "We did the best we could, we had an army of people out there helping us."

Kamenetz tapped into his base on the west side of the county, and many voters said they thought he would be a more effective and decisive leader.

About 94 percent of precincts are now reporting to the county elections board, with Kamenetz leading 52 percent to 44 percent.

Posted by David Nitkin at 9:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Little or no change expected in U.S. House lineup

This fall's major-party matchups in Maryland's eight U.S. House districts are all but set, based on the latest unofficial primary returns from the Maryland Board of Elections, with few, if any, changes expected in the state's congressional lineup.

None of the incumbents was seriously challenged in the primary. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett was the only representative to receive less than 70 percent of the primary vote. He got 69.8 percent, compared with 78 percent in the Republican primary two years ago.

In the First District, which takes in the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties, incumbent Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil of Stevensville will face Republican state Sen. Andy Harris in a rematch of the closest House election in the state two years ago. This is the only House seat in Maryland regarded as a potential party switch in the 2010 midterm.

In the weirdly shaped Second District, which includes portions of Baltimore City, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties and a number of key installations, including the Port of Baltimore, incumbent Democratic Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Cockeysville will be opposed by Republican Marcelo Cardarelli, a surgeon with a degree in public health from Johns Hopkins.

Third District Congressman John Sarbanes of Towson, whose district includes Baltimore City and Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, will be challenged by Republican Jim Wilhelm, a technology consultant and Naval Academy graduate.

In the Fourth District, a suburban Washington jurisdiction split between Prince George's and Montgomery counties, incumbent Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards, who lives at National Harbor, will face Republican computer programmer Ralph Broadus, another Naval Academy grad.

In southern Maryland's Fifth District, Congressman Steny Hoyer of Mechanicsville, the House Democratic leader, will be opposed by Republican business executive Charles Lollar.

In the Sixth District, which stretches from northern Harford and Baltimore Counties to the West Virginia line, Bartlett of Frederick, the state's lone Republican in Congress, faces a rematch with a Democrat he defeated in 2006, Army veteran Andrew Duck.

Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore, whose Seventh District includes the city and portions of Howard and Baltimore counties, will be challenged by Frank Mirabile, Jr., a landscape designer and member of a Howard County land use task force.

Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Kensington will apparently face management consultant Michael Lee Philips in the Eighth District, which includes Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Philips was narrowly leading lawyer Bruce Stern by just 51 votes.

None of the incumbents appears to be seriously threatened, with the exception of Kratovil, who will likely face one of the toughest re-election fights in the country this fall.

Posted by Paul West at 9:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Memory cards left in machines caused Baltco counting delays

Primary election results were painfully slow last night and this morning in Baltimore County and Baltimore City, for a variety of reasons.

In Baltimore County, fewer than 90 percent of election precincts had delivered results to the county election board on Wednesday morning. One of the main culprits: some election judges left the memory cards inside the electronic voting machines at the end of the day, rather than removing them and transmitting their contents. The county has more than 2,000 voting machines.

Jeff Stevens, an information technology manager with the county elections board, told the Sun's Yeganeh June Torbati that all precincts are expected to be updated by the end of the business day.

Posted by David Nitkin at 8:55 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Wargotz to face Mikulski in November

Eric Wargotz, a Republican commissioner from one of Maryland's least populated counties, has earned the unenviable task of challenging Democratic incumbent Barbara A. Mikulski in the U.S. Senate election this fall.

Wargotz, a genial physician from Queen Anne's County, spent hundreds of thousands of his own dollars in outpacing tea-party favorite Jim Rutledge in the 11-way contest for the Republican nomination.

According to unofficial results early Wednesday from the Maryland Board of Elections, Wargotz received 38.7 percent of the statewide primary vote to 31.4 percent for Rutledge, a lawyer from Harford County. The other candidates were in the low- to mid-single digits.

Some Republican Party officials had expected outsider Rutledge to prevail. They said he clearly had the most enthusiastic and energetic cadre of supporters, drawing on some of the same tea-party energy that carried Republican longshot Christine O'Donnell to a surprise victory in neighboring Delaware's U.S. Senate primary.

But Wargotz, a more established figure with a bigger wallet, was the winner.

The general election will test his willingness to continue tapping his personal wealth. Mikulski, the state's senior senator and, according to polls over the years, the most popular politician in Maryland, has roughly $4 million in her campaign account and the ability to collect more, if she needs it.

According to the latest Federal Election Commission report, Wargotz's campaign would have been in the red earlier this month, had he not kept it afloat with his own money. The Queenstown candidate had loaned his campaign $575,000 as of Aug. 25.

Posted by Paul West at 8:22 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Legislative dust settling: changes in Senate

The morning after. Some, but not all, state General Assembly some winners have become clearer. But the big story is how close many of these races were -- just a handful of votes, in some cases. Here's what we know about the 47-member Senate.

As we reported last night, developer-backed teacher Bill Ferguson unseated longtime Sen. George Della in Baltimore's waterfront district.

A wave of delegates attempted to unseat senators in their party primaries. Because of the strong lean of the districts (or the fact that they have no other competitors), last night's winners in these races are often tantamount to Nov. 2 winners.

* Washington County Republican primary: Del. Chris Shank toppled Sen. Don Munson.
* Montomery County Democratic primary: Del. Roger Manno defeated Sen. Mike Lenett.
* Prince George's County Democratic primary: Del. Victor Ramirez is leading Sen. David Harrington, though AP has not called the race.
* In a Prince George's County Democratic primary too close to call, Del. Joanne Benson is leading Sen. Nathaniel Exum by about 500 votes.
* A Montgomery County Democratic primary too close to call has Sen. Nancy King ahead of Del. Saquib Ali by fewer than 300 votes.
* Another Montgomery County Democratic primary too close to call has Del. Karen Montgomery edging Sen. Rona Kramer by about 100 votes.

More close calls and interesting matchups:

* Baltimore County Sen. Norm Stone is leading newcomer Jordan Hadfield by about 500 votes in the Democratic primary with all but one precinct reporting.

* Sen. Joan Carter Conway defeated former city fire spokesman Hector Torres by 30 percentage points in a Baltimore Democratic primary race for her seat.

* Sen. Ed Reilly held onto the Republican nomination for his Anne Arundel Senate seat, despite a strong challenge by Del. James King.

* In another Montgomery County Democratic primary race speaker, Sen. Jennie Forehand is 300 votes ahead of challenger Cheryl Kagan.

* Del. J.B. Jennings defeated Al Redmer in the Republican primary for an open Baltimore County Senate seat.

* Joe Getty easily dismissed Dale Lusher in an open Senate seat straddling Carroll and Baltimore counties.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:08 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Murphy says he'll endorse Ehrlich

Capital News Service reporter Stacy Jones reports from Crofton:

Republican gubernatorial challenger Brian Murphy says he'll give former Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. his endorsement -- but only if he's willing to accept it.

"He's made it pretty clear that he doesn't want much to do with me," Murphy said after conceding the GOP primary to the former governor. "Of course I thought I was the better candidate, but somebody's got to beat [Democrat Martin] O'Malley."

The Sarah Palin-endorsed tea party favorite conceded the primary late Tuesday after nearly three hours of waiting anxiously for the votes to be tallied. He made the announcement from his Crofton campaign headquarters before a room of supporters. Children in campaign t-shirts waved American flags while their parents and other adults let out heavy sighs as Murphy told them that conceding was the honorable thing to do.

"On the one hand I'm embarassed and I hate losing," Murphy told the crowd after a third of the votes had been counted. "It's been unbelieveable going up against a machine like this. I wanted to win for you guys."

Volunteer Melanie Gness said she had worked on Ehrlich's first gubernatorial campaign eight years ago but swore off campaigning again because of her disappointment with his resulting term in office.

"I even went so far as to change my party affiliation," the Annapolis woman said.

But after meeting Murphy, Gness said, she felt good about getting behind a politician again.

Murphy arrived at the office shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. to a round of applause from campaign staff and volunteers. After a round of handshakes and hugs, Murphy went into a back room to watch the returns with his wife Joy.

He emerged 90 minutes later, dismayed that news organizations had called the race for Ehrlich after only 1 percent of the precincts had reported their results.

He snacked on a piece of chocolate and peanut butter cake from his own Smith Island Sweet Shoppe cakes. The campaign staff also brought a coconut and chocolate version of the bakery's signature 10-layer cake for the occassion.

Murphy, a businessman, started the bakery after a family trip to Smith Island. The firm now ships cakes to all 50 states.

Murphy said that there'll be one sweet reward for leaving the campaign trail.

"I'm so sick of politicians right now," Murphy said. "Tomorrow I'm going to wake up and get my life back."

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (8)
        

Candidates not waiting for the call on BaltCo. exec

Shortly before 1 a.m. at the Pikesville Hilton, Baltimore County Councilman Vincent Gardina took the stage in the banquet room to announce to the 60 Kevin Kamenetz supporters who remained that that party was over -- for now.

"Unfortunately, tonight, I don't think we're going to be able to come to a conclusion. It's impossible to project a winner at this time," said Gardina, who has been advising the Kamenetz campaign for months and is not seeking re-election.

Kamenetz had been leading all night over his fellow four-term councilman, Joseph Bartenfelder, but Gardina said problems with the vote count at the county Board of Elections until Wednesday. At last count, 158 of 231 precincts had reported, with Kamenetz holding a 53 to 44 percent lead.

Volunteers had been trickling out of Bartenfelder's Parkville election party since around midnight, and the candidate himself left a little before 1 a.m.

By 12:30 a.m. , the crowd had thinned considerably and faces were growing strained as minutes ticked by with still no results. About fifty supporters remained, many incredulous that final tallies had not yet been made, and Bartenfelder staff quickly took down the few signs left in the hall.

Peter Clerkin, Kamenetz's campaign manager, said "we remain optimistic," but he said the Board of Elections had not released information on where the vote was coming from, which made it impossible to call the election.

Geography played a key role in this election, as Kamenetz was expected to do well in his home turf on the west side, and Bartenfelder to run strong on his territory in the east.
"We're waiting for the 6th," said Clerkin, meaning Bartenfelder's District 6, which includes Fullerton and Middle River.

-Arthur Hirsch and Yeganeh June Torbati

Posted by Andy Rosen at 1:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

September 14, 2010

Bernstein pulls ahead of Jessamy

With 63 percent of precincts reporting in Baltimore, state's attorney challenger Gregg Bernstein has pulled ahead of incumbent Patricia Jessamy, 18,547 to 17,326, according the Baltimore Sun's Justin Fenton, stationed at the city Board of Elections. The city's numbers also show state senate challenger Bill Ferguson ahead of incumbent George Della, 3,268 to 2,222.

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:44 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Harris bypasses Kratovil, aims for Pelosi

A victory statement from Republican state Sen. Andy Harris has just hit our inbox. What stands out: Harris bypasses any mention of his Democratic opponent, Rep. Frank Kratovil, to aim instead for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Harris has defeated businessman Rob Fisher in the GOP First Congressional District primary to earn a rematch with Kratovil. Kratovil beat Harris in 2008 to win the First, which takes in all of the Eastern Shore plus parts of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

“I am honored to be the Republican nominee in the First District,” Harris says in the statement. “Despite being heavily outspent, I am humbled by the outpouring of support for my campaign today from all areas of the First District – each and every county.

"But today’s Primary was just the first step in stopping Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats’ job-killing policies.

"The First District wants someone with a proven record of cutting spending and fiscal discipline representing them in Washington. I’m proud to be the only candidate in the General Election who will protect small businesses and stop Washington's out-of-control spending and taxation.”

Harris, who lives in Baltimore County, watched the returns with supporters in Salisbury, a nod to the importance of the Eastern Shore -- which casts half the district's votes -- to his election hopes. Kratovil carried the counties of the Eastern Shore en route to his narrow victory two years ago.

A theme emerges: Harris wore a red “Fire Pelosi” button pinned to the pocket of his blue dress shirt Tuesday night, and told Baltimore Sun colleague Paul West he was looking “forward in the next seven weeks, in my race, to taking back the House” from the Democratic speaker.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:43 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Steele congratulates Republican winners

Former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, now chairman of the Republican National Committee, has congratulated former boss Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and state Sen. Andy Harris on their primary wins.

“With former governor Bob Ehrlich and Dr. Andy Harris leading the ticket, Maryland voters have selected a tremendous slate of Republicans this election cycle," he said in a statement. "These outstanding Republican candidates will fight to end the out-of-control spending in Annapolis and Washington, D.C., and lower the tax burden for families and small businesses across the state.

"In November, voters will send a clear message that the Democrats’ big-government agenda has failed Maryland and it’s time for new leadership. Marylanders will place our state on a stronger path to economic growth and prosperity by electing these Republican candidates in November.”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:04 PM | | Comments (0)
        

BaltCo Exec. Incomplete results say Kamenetz leads; Bartenfelder campaign says he's ahead

Online vote tallies from the state and counties have been spotty so far.

Raven Hill is at the Baltimore County Board of Elections, and says that with 23 percent of precincts reporting, Kevin Kamenetz is leading Joe Bartenfelder 56 percent to 40 percent. That's 7,077 votes to 5,032 for the Democratic county executive nomination.

We're getting very different word from the Bartenfelder election night party, though. Yeganeh June Torbati reports that a campaign announcement there cites higher numbers for both candidates, and claims Bartenfelder leads.

Stay tuned for more.

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

AP calls races for O'Malley, Ehrlich, Mikulski and six congressmen

The Associated Press has called several primary races in Maryland, declaring that Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski have topped the little-known Democrats challenging them. Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has won his primary against investor and businessman Brian Murphy, according to the AP, with early results showing Ehrlich ahead by a 4-to-1 margin.

The following incumbent Democratic members of congress have also been declared winners: C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (2nd district); John Sarbanes (3rd district); Donna Edwards (4th district); Steny Hoyer (5th district) and Elijah Cummings (7th district). Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (6th district), a Republican, has won his primary.

Posted by David Nitkin at 9:21 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Awaiting Jessamy, and State's Attorney results

Across the water, at Patricia Jessamy's bash at the Baltimore Rowing Club, on the south side of the city, near Cherry Hill, about 50 people had gathered by 9 p.m., though Jessamy hadn't yet shown.

Inside the club, it was more family reunion than Bernstein's bar scene, with people of all ages talking quietly and sporting t-shirts with Jessamy's face and slogan "tough and smart on crime" emblazoned across the front and back.

Outside, on the deck overlooking the water, is clearly where the celebrating -- or commiserating, as the case may be -- will take place. Keyboards, a drum set and a large set of speakers are just waiting for the word.

Antoinette G. Lyles sits with a bunch of other women at a table in the center of the room. She lives in Baltimore County, but said she urged her city friends to vote for Jessamy, whom she's known for 20 plus years through her work with various organizations. "She's out in the community," Lyles said

Next to her, Rosemary Howell Atkinson added that she doesn't know much about Bernstein, and wasn't interested in finding out. "He wasn't worth listening to," she said.

UPDATE: The band is in full swing at Jessamy's party, which has ramped up in the past half hour as supporters await news. Jessamy's not yet in the house, but Stu Simms, her predecessor just arrived, and Assistant State's Attorney Julie Drake is hovering around the media, looking for news. Baltimore city's Board of Elections is so far reporting a close race, with 4,245 votes for Jessamy to Bernstein's 3,808. A third candidate, Sheryl A. Lansey has teken 297 votes. No word on which precincts are reporting.


-Tricia Bishop

Posted by Andy Rosen at 9:00 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Republican governors congratulate Ehrlich

The Associated Press hasn't called the GOP gubernatorial primary yet, but the Republican Governors Association has.

At 8:51 p.m., RGA spokesman Chris Schrimpf sent reporters a statement congratulating former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

“Maryland voters know the difference Bob Ehrlich can make for their state,” Schrimpf said. “Bob fought off Democratic tax increases and helped create 100,000 private sector jobs. Under [Democratic Gov. Martin] O’Malley all those jobs and more were lost and what’s worse taxes went up by 1.3 billion dollars, the most in history. The question every Marylander will ask themselves is, are they better off now than they were four years ago?”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 9:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Primaries 2010
        

All quiet at Bernstein's watch party

At JD's Smokehouse in Canton, the Bernstein party is sequestered upstairs in a room with four TV cameras, two bored bartenders and three stuffed deer heads on the wall.

No sign of Democratic state's attorney challenger Gregg Bernstein, but his banner is flying proudly, right above the Reingold Lager sign behind a makeshift podium. As the polls close, a rep said he's going home to "regroup" and show up down here a little after 9 p.m.

Supporters are starting to trickle in, and a rep from the police department is hanging out in the corner but made sure to say that there isn't an official police presence.

Paul Pineau is an associate in Bernstein's law firm and volunteered throughout the campaign and spent eight hours at the polls today. He was optimistic about the results.

"We had fantastic reactions," Pineau said. "Most people waved me off and said 'you don't need to talk to me, I'm only voting in this primary to support your candidate'."

-Richard Adbill, Capital News Service

Posted by Andy Rosen at 8:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Single incumbent leads early for BaltCo Council

Incomplete early voting leaders from reporter Raven Hill at the Baltimore County Board of Elections. Early voting saw 12,896 ballots cast (about 3.1 percent of voters).

District 1: Tom Quirk (D)

District 2: Vicki Almond (D)

District 3: Todd Huff (R)

District 4: Leronia Josey (D)

District 5: Bill Paulshock (D)

District 6: Cathy Bevins (D), Ryan Nawrocki (R)

District 7: John Olszewski Sr. (D)

Posted by Andy Rosen at 8:25 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: In The Counties, Primaries 2010
        

With polls closed, primary results will trickle in

Polls closed at 8 p.m., and the state Board of Elections has promised that the results from the 77,000 early voters will be released shortly.

Individual county election board web sites also have begun posting results. A handful of precincts in Baltimore County and Harford County have already listed some vote tallies. Here's a link to the state map that will show results coming in.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Finally, a precinct with (relatively) high turnout

Word is that Maryland is seeing a pretty low turnout in today's primary vote, with lunchtime totals ranging from 4 to 10 percent.

But reporter Yeganeh June Torbati has found a precinct that's been somewhat more active. That would be Baltimore County's 5th precinct, voting at Towson Presbyterian Church.

Ann Shepter, the site's chief Republican judge, said the precinct had seen higher-than-expected turnout. As of 6 p.m., around 750 people had voted -- including around 430 Democrats and 300 Republicans, representing a higher than 25 percent turnout for the precinct, Shepter said.

Shepter said the high turnout was largely due to a large number of senior citizens, many of whom were bused in from local retirement homes such as Blackhurst, which Shepter estimated sent about 100 voters on five buses.

"There was a huge senior citizen vote at this precinct today," said Shepter, who said she has worked at this polling site for ten years. "Your grandmother said, 'I have to go vote today.'"

Posted by Andy Rosen at 6:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

So-called 'Team Obama' weighs in on BaltCo

Sarah Palin was the first national political figure to weigh in on Maryland politics by endorsing former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's Republican primary opponent, Brian Murphy.

Then her former 2008 running mate, Arizona Sen. John McCain, threw his weight behind Ehrlich. Now, though, the question is: has President Obama weighed in with a slate of Democrats from Gov. Martin O'Malley to Baltimore County Sheriff R. Jay Fisher?

Probably not. But word is that mailers and T-shirts showing a list of candidates have been circulating in several precincts in Baltimore County today saying he has.

With the heading "Team Obama," the list also includes Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for county executive, Suzanne Mensh, running for Baltimore County Circuit Court clerk, Kenneth N. Oliver, who is seeking re-election to the County Council, and four candidates seeking re-election in the 10th Legislative District: Sen. Delores G. Kelley and delegates Emmett C. Burns, Adrienne A. Jones and Shirley Nathan-Pulliam.
The material is identified as coming from "The Freedom to Choose Reginald Hill, Chairman."

The organization is shown as a PAC on the State Board of Elections Web site going back at least to the 2002 election cycle, the earliest one listed on the site. So far this year, the PAC reported $3,452 in contributions, but no expenses.

The same organization is listed in the authority line on direct mailers sent out attacking Tom Quirk, one of four candidates for the Democratic nomination for the County Council seat in District 1. Those mailers show an address of 1405 Fox Gap Road in Fallston, Harford County. Searches on Google maps and the Nexis database shows a 1405 Fox Gap Court, not road. Indeed, that address is shown for a Charles Jenkins, who is listed on the anti-Quirk mailers as the PAC treasurer. No one answered a call placed to the address.

Tom Welzenbach, campaign manager for Bartenfelder, said he hadn't seen the "Team Obama" materials, but said it sounded like "somebody's trying to stir up something. ... It's definitely not us."

Peter Clerkin, campaign manager for Bartenfelder's opponent, County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, said he was mystified as to what the material was about.

"I didn't know Obama was playing in this race," Clerkin said.

-Arthur Hirsch

Posted by Andy Rosen at 6:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: In The Counties, Primaries 2010
        

Turnout looked low at noon, elections board says

Local elections officials across the state reported lower-than-usual turnout as of noon, says Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator of the state Board of Elections.

Goldstein said counties were reporting turnout ranging from 4 to 10 percent at that time. This matches what we've seen in the field and what candidates and their supporters have been saying all day: voters are MIA.

The 77,000 early votes account for 2.5 percent of the eligible electorate. Linda Lamone, state elections administrator, told The Sun yesterday that the nice weather and intense primary battles in some districts might actually drive up voter turnout slightly from previous gubernatorial primary years. She predicted about 32 percent. We don't appear to be anywhere close to that so far.

About 1,900 polls opened at 7 a.m. and will remain open until 8 p.m. Will there be a post-work rush? Stay tuned.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:39 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Gubernatorial candidates swing through Howard

Despite planned visits from some of this year's highest profile statewide candidates, turnout remained very low into the afternoon in Owen Brown, in Columbia. By 1 p.m. 129 of 1,543 registered voters, or about 8percent, had appeared at the precinct in the Owen Brown Interfaith Center.

Nearby at the Owen Brown Place senior apartments, a smiling Governor Martin O'Malley came to stand out front with local elected officials for about 40 minutes in mid-afternoon, and saw only a trickle of perhaps a dozen voters cross his path.

Ehrlich arrived at Burleigh Manor Middle school in Ellicott City just before 5 p.m. and saw only a few voters. He spent the 45 minute visit posing for pictures with several dozen supporters and other Republican candidates who had gathered to greet him, and walked inside the polling place to thank the poll workers for their day of service.

At that precinct, 284 people had voted by 5 p.m. out of 2,179 registered there.

-Larry Carson

Posted by Andy Rosen at 3:41 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

On the Tea Party and change

At Hillcrest Elementary School in Catonsville, Jeff Morsberger, former co-owner of a tavern in town, said he was looking for change in this election. “We’ve got to do something. Things have stayed the same too long.” He wouldn’t say which candidates got his votes, but he was looking for new blood “from the top to the bottom” of the ballot. He does not consider himself a Tea Party member, just someone looking for change.

Other voters echoed that theme.

Kevin Taylor, a vice principal at Towson High School, says he’s a Democrat but is not terribly enthusiastic about any of the party’s candidates. “I feel like all the candidates say the same thing, with very little difference.”

He noted that he’d been besieged with mailings, phone calls and other campaign appeals, but added: “I wasn’t super-excited about anybody, in particular….They say the same things, but don’t always get things accomplished. They don’t follow through on their promises.”

Robert Crowell, a salesman for Sylvania, is a Democrat, too, but he detects more enthusiasm among GOP candidates and supporters. He’s looking for more change, he says, because “we’re coming out of a lost decade.” And though he voted for Gov. Martin O’Malley, he said he wouldn’t be too upset if former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich won in November.

Even loyal O’Malley supporter Nicole Ames, the marketing director for a local law firm, said, “My mind is open.” Still, she expected to continue supporting the governor “unless something very odd happens.’’ She said she likes O'Malley because he’s “tough when he needs to be.”

-- Timothy B. Wheeler

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 3:35 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Brian Murphy storms the state: "Things are great!"

Republican gubernatorial challenger Brian Murphy says he isn't seeing a lot of voters out today but feels "great" about where his campaign stands going into the final hours of the primary election.

"We couldn't ask for a better situation today," Murphy said in a telephone interview between campaign stops. "We're hitting our stride at just the right time. I love where we are."

Murphy, a 33-year-old investor who has never run for office, is facing well-known and well-funded former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the GOP gubernatorial primary today.

The more conservative of the two, Murphy hopes to tap into tea party anger at government spending. Ehrlich, meanwhile, has billed himself the more centrist -- and electable -- Republican candidate in Democrat-heavy Maryland.

(The likely Democratic candidate, Gov. Martin O'Malley, faces two little-known primary challengers of his own.)

Murphy attracted national attention when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed him last month. She did a robocall for him last night, as she did for her other primary favorites across the country.

The underdog candidate has a packed schedule today: Murphy and wife, Joy, voted this morning at the Chevy Chase Library, and then he hit several other polling places in Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties. This afternoon, he has media appearances and then will watch returns come in from his campaign headquarters in Crofton.

He said he'd seen only a dozen or so voters out there, but remains optimistic that his message -- he's been on a self-proclaimed "Refuse to Settle" tour -- is resonating.

Murphy refused to speculate about his plans for tomorrow, but he said he has had a great experience as a gubernatorial candidate.

"I'd do it a million more times if I could. I've met so many amazing people, covered the entire state, walked in parades," he said. "It's humbling to have people's support. I've gotten so many hand-written cards thanking me for running."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:20 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Already a long day in BaltoCo, despite low turnout

At 2 p.m. the director of the Baltimore County Board of Elections was on her “third wind” and her fifth Diet Coke, having arrived at work shortly after 5 a.m. to begin a day that would go into night.

“It’s diet, so I’m OK,” said Katie A. Brown, who heads a primary day staff of 60, including the five-member board and 16 temporary troops called in for the election season. “I’ve been here as late as five in the morning” some election days, she said.

This day, there’s a crowded field of candidates for House seats on the east side’s District 6, and a Senate race where a 25-year-old newcomer to elective politics, Jordan Hadfield, was running hard against Norman R. Stone Jr. who has been in the office for 43 years. But the prevailing wisdom in the county was that the main attraction for voters today was the race for Democratic nomination for county executive, pitting two veteran councilmen — Kevin Kamenetz and Joseph Bartenfelder — in what was expected to be the closest primary contest for the office in more than 30 years.

A third candidate, Ronald E. Harvey, a retired county personnel analyst, has done little campaigning and was expected to place a distant third.

The winner will face the unopposed Republican, Kenneth Holt, an investments executive and former state delegate, in the general election Nov. 2.

Brown said based on what she’d heard from four or five polling places, it appeared the turnout was running about 200 voters per precinct, or less than 10 percent. She said that’s probably about the usual for a primary day from morning to early afternoon.

Voting was expected to pick up after 6 p.m. as people started getting home from work. She said she expected about 25 or 30 percent turnout for the primary.

-Arthur Hirsch

Posted by Andy Rosen at 2:43 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: In The Counties, Primaries 2010
        

Della's slate: Supports Bernstein loudly, in some areas

Residents of some of Baltimore's waterfront neighborhoods will get a flier showing that Sen. George Della supports Gregg Bernstein in the city's hotly contested State's Attorney's race. But not everyone is getting the same message.

The Sun got two copies of similar fliers printed by Democrats for a Better Baltimore. One flier, collected from a mostly white neighborhood, showed Bernstein on a sample ballot that also included Della's picks for House of Delegates, Democratic Central Committee, Judge of the Orphan's Court and Sheriff.

A second flier, picked up in Cherry Hill, was nearly identical: except this one was missing any mention of the State's Attorney's race.

Della confirmed that two different copies of the ballot were printed. "I don't see a problem with it," he said. Della explained that some of his volunteers -- particularly those who work for State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy -- felt queasy passing out literature that showed support for their boss's opponent.

Della couldn't list neighborhoods where each flier was distributed -- though he did say that a volunteer in mostly white Fells Point requested a non-Bernstein version of the sample ballot.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:22 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Bartenfelder hitting every polling place he can

Talk about taking the pressure casually. Baltimore County executive candidate Joseph Bartenfelder voted this morning in his undershirt at the Fullerton Fire Station, although that wasn't exactly the plan. They made him remove his black campaign polo shirt before he stepped to the voting booth in deference to the rule against electioneering in a polling place.

So there the county councilman and former member of the Maryland House of Delegates
stood in his white T-shirt, olive drab khakis and athletic shoes casting his vote in his race against fellow council member Kevin Kamenetz, who was working the polls in a navy pinstripe suit, tie and black loafers.

Bartenfelder slipped the polo shirt back on after voting, the 131st Democrat to cast a ballot at the fire station by a bit after 11 a.m. It was the ninth stop of his morning polling place tour on his east-side home turf before heading over the west side.

“It’s a pretty day, it’s a great day for everybody to get out and vote,” said Bartenfelder, 53, a farmer from Fullerton, four-term county councilman and former state delegate. Kamenetz, an Owings Mills attorney who had planned to spend a good part of the day on his own west-side turf.

Bartenfelder said he was going to try to stop at as many precincts as he could until the polls closed at 8 p.m., even if there weren’t so many voters around too meet and greet.
Turnout, he said, has “been light everywhere” -- from Harford Hills Elementary in Parkville to precincts in Carney, Nottingham and Perry Hall.

“He’s done all he can do,” said his wife, Robin, who accompanied Bartenfelder to vote, along with their daughter, Jessie. “It’s up to the voters now.”

The Fullerton Fire Station precinct has a total registration of 2,641, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans nearly two to one. By 11:30, 185 voters had cast their ballots.
Marjorie Murphy, chief Democratic judge at the polling place, said the turnout was about usual for a primary.

“The mornings and evenings are usually our high time,” said Murphy, “then the senior buses come in the afternoon.”

-Arthur Hirsch

Posted by Andy Rosen at 12:06 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, In The Counties, Primaries 2010
        

Veteran BaltCo voters look for Jim Smith qualities

Voters in the Owings Mills said that when they cast their primary ballots for county executive Tuesday, they chose a candidate that most closely resembled the leadership Baltimore County has been afforded for the last six years.

Issues such as leadership presence, education and smart growth were among those on residents’ minds when they headed to polls at Owings Mills High after the early morning rush Tuesday morning.

“It’s a shame that Jim Smith decided to enjoy life more,” joked Sheila Hoster, 62, of Owings Mills.

Hoster said that education brought her to the primary polls because “no matter how you look at it, there are too many students slipping through the cracks, and we need more programs for them.”

She said she believed that Baltimore County Councilman Joe Bartenfelder had the right ideas for the job.

Carla Ward, 45, of Owings Mills also said she cast her ballot with education at the forefront, particularly in how the next county executive will handle accommodating the exorbitant amount of population growth taking place in the county. She also said that there needed to be more investment in existing business hubs, such as the dilapidated Owings Mills Mall.

Ward said that Smith “served us well in the county executive seat,” commending him for opening new schools, and keeping the county fiscally sound. But, the time for change is welcomed, she said, stopping short of naming who she thought was the next best candidate for the job.

“I’ve become weary of the status quo, so I’m looking for a change agent in the county executive office,” she said.

When asked what he looked for in a candidate, 70-year-old A. Pinkney, a Democrat, said that he “would like to see someone follow in Jim Smith’s footsteps." He said he wanted the new county executive to continue to be “in and around all the things happening in the county.”

-- Erica L. Green

Posted by Maryann James at 11:59 AM | | Comments (0)
        

Ferguson: Young face, old tactics

Canton this morning was swarmed supporters of Bill Ferguson, the 27-year-old Teach for America volunteer who is trying to unseat 27-year Senate veteran George Della. Notepads and lists in hand, the volunteers were putting these hangers on select doors. (This one was on a door step at Maderia and Fleet streets.)

The billet advertises a 46th district “Democratic Team” which names Gov. Martin O’Malley and popular U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski at the top of the ticket. Ferguson’s name also appears on the list of candidates, a not-so-subtle suggestion that the young challenger has been endorsed by the Democratic establishment.

The problem: Ferguson hasn’t gotten a nod from the top-of-the-ticket Dems. O’Malley’s website shows that the governor wants Della to win in the 46th. Ferguson, probably quite busy today, has yet replied to a message, who was greeting voters near a Canton polling location,  said he believed the flier made it clear that the names on the ballot are his picks and not the other way around.

Such billets are not unusual in the rough and tumble of Maryland politics. They frequently appear the day before or the day of an election, when there's not enough time for the record to be corrected.

Ferguson also didn’t check with Mikulski before using her name on the campaign piece, according to Simone Ward, the Senator’s campaign manager. “The Senator has not endorsed any primary candidates,” Ward said.

She said that it is more “appropriate” for a candidate to check before slapping her name on a door hanger. “They are trying to imply they’ve been endorsed,” she explained.

But, Ward put a positive spin on the faux endorsement. “It is an example of the local ticket supporting the Senator’s re-election bid,” she said.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:26 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Anti-incumbent fever hits some voters

primary%20voting.jpg

Election judges at Rodgers Forge Elementary in Baltimore County said the turnout had been slow but steady. By 9:10 a.m., only about 120 votes had been cast. A few people were lined up when the polls opened at 7 a.m., but “they had to wait until there was enough for a bridge game,” said judge Stuart Stainman.

Chief Judge Barbara Lynch, who has served as a judge for 30 years, said that turnout was about average for primary day, considering that only registered Democrats and Republicans could vote --- no independents or other parties.

She didn’t think early voting had had much of an impact in her precinct, because residents were pretty politically engaged. “People here, they like to come. They see their neighbors,” she said.

“They like to come in and find out the number” of votes cast, she added.

Gary Kreipl, 55, a registered Republican from Rodgers Forge, said he supported new candidates, such as Brian Murphy, a Republican running for governor -- though he couldn’t recall his name. “I’m kind of voting against incumbents. I got that fever.” He said he wished that incumbents were identified as such on the ballot.

Louis Zimmerman, 67, concurred. “I’d like to change them, all the incumbents,” he said. “But they seem to have a lot of political pull. I’m just one person.” He’s a registered Democrat, but said “it’s been long and few between that I’ve voted for Democrats” because he feels they don’t support veterans’ groups. Then again, “Republicans will tell you something and do something else.”

Ed Kleinman, 65, said the governor’s race drew him to the polls. “I wanted to see if I could keep teabaggers from running the country,” the Democrat said. “The more votes we can get in for Democrats, the less chance they have to get in.”

Peggy Feild, 61, said she didn’t support early voting. Going to the polls for an election is “one of the last things we have that we do as a community function.”

Meanwhile, at Dr. Bernard Harris Elementary School in the city, election judges were recording the hourly total of ballots. (Shown here, left to right, are Audrey Crumitie, Annie Cosby and Sarah Wagner.)

-- Liz Kay

Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 11:25 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Light turnout early, as Kamenetz starts on west side

Baltimore County executive candidate Kevin Kamenetz put on the navy pinstripe suit, the black loafers, powder blue shirt and blue patterned necktie and headed out shortly before 7 this morning to begin his rounds of polling places. He planned seven stops from his home turf on the west side to the central part of the county in the 13 hours until the polls close and this phase of the campaign ends.

First stop Har Sinai Congregation as the polls opened at 7, minutes from Kamenetz’s home in Owings Mills, then on to Fort Garrison Elementary School in Pikesville, where the county councilman stood out front greeting voters, who at about 9 a.m. were greatly outnumbered by poll workers.

“This traditionally has been one of my strongest precincts,” said Kamenetz, 52, a lawyer who has served on the council since December, 1994. His chief opponent for the Democratic nomination, Joseph Bartenfelder, a former state delegate from the east side of the county, took his seat on the council at the same time. Bartenfelder hit nine precincts on the east side in the morning before heading over to the western part of the county.

“This is the precinct that got me elected in 1994, and they’ve been very supportive ever since,” said Kamenetz.

So far, there were precious few voters to support anyone at the school on Woodvalley Drive, the location of two election precincts – one in a multi-purpose room, one in the cafeteria -- with a combined registration of more than 5,000 voters, the overwhelming number of them Democrats.

Les Townsend, a veteran election judge, said it looked like one of the lightest turnouts he’d seen , even for a primary.

“Usually there’s a lot of voting in the morning,” said Townsend. “I’m usually running around like a chicken with its head cut off. But not today.”

As of 9:25, 231 Democrats and 26 Republicans had cast ballots in a precinct that tends to see high voter turnout, sometimes as much as 80-percent. The county Board of Elections was predicting a turnout of about 25 to 30 percent today.

On primary day, Kamenetz said “I try to touch base with as many voters as I possibly can. I don’t take any breaks. “

-- Arthur Hirsch

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, In The Counties, Primaries 2010
        

Gauging gay marriage support at primary polls

Equality Maryland says it will be asking primary voters today about same-sex marriage -- grassroots outreach that the gay-rights group hopes will put it in touch with hundreds of voters.

In a release this morning, Equality Maryland described the exit polling as a "massive voter ID effort" that will occur throughout the day in Anne Arundel, Frederick and Prince George's counties. Anne Arundel and Frederick feature a mix of Democratic and Republican voters, while heavily Democratic Prince George's contains voters with more conservative social values.

According to Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland:

"On primary day as voter exit the polls in Anne Arundel, Frederick and Prince George’s County they will be asked a simple question, “Do you support marriage for same sex couples?”.

Equality Maryland volunteers will be at these polling places to collect postcards in support of their two key issues – marriage equality and gender identity anti-discrimination protections."

Discussion about same-sex marriage permeated the legislature this year as Attorney General Douglas Gansler released an opinion saying the state should recognize such unions legally performed in other states. In Maryland, marriage is defined as between a man and a woman.

Equality Maryland, a cadre of lawmakers and others predict the legislature may tackle legalizing civil unions -- or perhaps even marriage -- between same-sex couples in the coming session.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:32 AM | | Comments (64)
Categories: Primaries 2010
        

Howard County turnout light so far

Turnout in Howard County appeared very light, despite the gorgeous weather.

Guy Mickley, deputy Howard election board administrator, said one county precinct had reported only three voters showed up in the first 90 minutes the polls were open. At Clarksville Middle School, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and a gaggle of supporters far outnumbered the occasional voter who showed up.

"This is our polling place," said Ulman as his wife Jaki stood nearby. "We like to come here, if only to see friends and neighbors."

Ulman is backing incumbent Democratic county councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty in the county's hottest Democratic primary.

Alan Klein, Sigaty's opponent in one of the few primary races in the county, was also at Clarksville. He said that precinct and the one across the street at Pointers Run Elementary school "are the two biggest precincts."

-Larry Carson

Posted by Maryann James at 9:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Primaries 2010
        

Campaign workers outnumber voters as polls open

At Francis Scott Key Elementary School in South Baltimore’s Locust Point, a trickle of voters strolled past six campaign workers set up in the middle of the parking lot. Just past 8 a.m., most people appeared rushed, and they sped off to work after voting.

Signs for “Della” dominated the landscape, including several on a pickup truck decked out in red, white and blue bunting and parked near a sign that advertised the school’s “Grandparents Day,” which had occurred Monday.

Patti Berky drove to the school from Riverside and echoed a common complaint: “There was too much literature. I heard that from a lot of people. But I guess it’s good to have an informed electorate."

She said the advertising didn’t sway her, but she was pleased to “see some new names on the signs. It’s good that more people are involved.”

For Berky, the central race is the one for state’s attorney – pitting incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy against attorney Gregg Bernstein. It’s one of the most hotly contested races in this primary, and the two Democrats have fought hard on the issue of crime and who is best suited to make the city safer.

“I think we need to move in a different direction,” Berky said, while politely declining to say for whom she voted. “I’m not pleased with the way things have gone in that arena.”

In the span of about 45 minutes, just a handful of voters made their way to the polls. It appeared a bit busier at other polling places, such as Federal Hill Elementary School on William Street. But there too, campaign workers clogged the sidewalk, outnumbering the 8:30 a.m. voters six to one.

-- Peter Hermann

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 8:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Primaries 2010
        

A slow start in Columbia

From reporter Larry Carson, a look at the start of primary day in Howard County:

Warren B. Mayo III of Columbia said he came straight from his 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift as a technician for public broadcasting in Northern Virginia to vote, even though there is little at stake on the Democrat's primary ballot.

"It's my right to vote. My voice can be heard through voting," the 35-year-old said.

He was one of four people who stood at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center when it opened at 7 a.m. The parking lot was festooned with a campaign signs, but no poll workers or candidates were in sight.

Tim Zayatz, 45, the second voter to arrive, is a Republican. He said he came to support former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., for the GOP nomination.

"I figured they'd have a line," he said, and he wanted to beat it. Last night he said he received a robo call at home from Sarah Palin touting the candidacy of Ehrlich rival Brian Murphy, but it did no good, he said.

Two others, both Democrats, also arrived just as the doors opened for the day. Richard Krantz, 70, said he and his wife Nancy are "dedicated citizens and believe in our right to vote."

Posted by Maryann James at 7:27 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Primaries 2010
        

Primary Day: Polls are open

It's Primary Day, and about 1,900 polls across the state opened moments ago. They'll close at 8 p.m. -- making for a long day for election observers and candidates in the tightest of primary races.

Click here to find out if you're a registered Democrat or Republican (the only voters allowed to cast ballots today) and where to vote. More than 77,000 of you voted early this month; results from those ballots will be released shortly after 8 p.m. Another 18,000 of you returned no-excuse-needed absentee ballots, which will be tallied in a few days.

Maryland is one of seven states and the District of Columbia with primaries today. It's the closest round to the Nov. 2 general election. And in a heavily Democratic state, some primary races are tantamount to final selection.

"When you watch two or three of the big jurisdictions, [the] primary is in actuality the general election," former House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. told colleague Annie Linskey in a story this morning. "Most elected officeholders will indeed be re-elected or newly elected [today]. Therefore, that creates a lot of interest."

Please click on the The Sun's Primary Guide to check out mini profiles of candidates in some key races.

Among the races we'll be watching today are the gubernatorial primaries in both races -- though Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. are expected to prevail, the Baltimore County executive Democratic primary and the Baltimore state's attorney Democratic primary.

What are you most interested in? Check this blog frequently today for updates, and let us know what's happening out there.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 7:17 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Primaries 2010
        

September 13, 2010

Baptist ministers endorse Jessamy

Baltimore’s more than 200 Baptist ministers endorsed incumbent State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy for the city’s top prosecutor position Monday afternoon, calling her a ”tireless worker” who balances conviction with prevention.

“Patricia Jessamy understands that we cannot arrest and convict our way” out of crime in the city, said Bishop Douglas I. Miles, pastor of Koinonia Baptist Church in Northeast Baltimore and a member of Baltimore’s Baptist Ministers Conference, which announced the endorsement.

Jessamy, who’s been Baltimore’s state’s attorney for 15 years, has long espoused a three-pronged approach to law enforcement that involves crime-prevention programs, offender treatment and prosecution. Her chief opponent for the position in Tuesday’s primary race, fellow-Democrat Gregg Bernstein, is running on a campaign of fighting crime first and foremost.

Well-known criminal defense attorney William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. held a press conference Monday morning to back Bernstein and criticize Jessamy for raising campaign issues that appear have racial undertones. But Miles said her comments have been taken out of context by media, who have misrepresented the issues.

Jessamy said this has been the most divisive race of her career and that she’s confident she will be reelected if voters accurately consider her record.

“Yes, there is a lot more work to be done,” she said. “And we are ready, willing and able to do it.”

-- Tricia Bishop

Posted by David Nitkin at 4:14 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Palin to record robo-call for Murphy

Perhaps refusing to be upstaged by her former partner on the presidential stage, Sarah Palin recorded a robo-call for conservative gubernatorial hopeful Brian Murphy. The call will go out today, said Murphy spokeswoman Karla Graham.

Roughly 260,000 likely Republican voters will get the call from the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, Graham says. We'll update when we get a copy of the script ... which is forthcoming according to the campaign.

Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, earlier today endorsed Murphy's opponent, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. (Yes, yes, likely well after Palin recorded her call.)

It still just begs the question: Could Maryland, at the last minute, become the battleground of some kind of pent up proxy war between McCain and Palin? Any former staffers with dirt to air, do drop us a line.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:57 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Horserace
        

McCain backs Ehrlich in GOP primary

Former presidential candidate John McCain supports former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the Republican primary, the Associated Press is reporting.

The endorsement is extra notable because McCain's would-be vice president, Sarah Palin, backs Ehrlich challenger Brian Murphy, who has drawn the support of tea partiers for his more conservative positions.

Ehrlich is "a fine guy," McCain told the AP's Brian Witte in an interview today after a meeting of the U.S. Naval Academy's Board of Visitors.

Ehrlich said in a statement that he is "honored to have earned John McCain's trust and support."

(Ehrlich and McCain pictured at American Legion post in Halethorpe in 2008)

McCain, a Republican Arizona senator, is up for reelection this November, having defeated primary contender J.D. Hayworth, a radio talk show host and former congressman who billed himself "the Consistent Conservative."

Palin announced her support for Murphy in early August on her Facebook page.

“I’m honored to endorse Brian Murphy for Governor of Maryland. Brian is a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment commonsense conservative and a firm believer in the free market and the cause for energy independence," her Facebook status said, in part.

Ehrlich's camp spun Palin's endorsement as proof that the former governor is a centrist Republican candidate (translation: electable in Democrat-heavy Maryland). 

The Palin stamp of approval doesn't seem to have attracted many donors to Murphy's campaign. The Montgomery County investor has provided much of his own financing. This morning, The Sun examined the impact -- or nonimpact -- of tea partiers in the Ehrlich-Murphy matchup.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:36 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Flier flap emerges in Baltimore County D6

A Baltimore County delegate has filed a complaint with the Maryland Board of Elections over a flier claiming he's partnering with a new Senate candidate and delegate hopeful rather than fellow incumbents.

Del. John Olszewski Jr. submitted an electronic complaint to the board, state prosecutor's office and to the attorney general. The faux flier asks voters to choose "Team O" and names newcomer Jordan Hadfield for Senate and Olszewski, fellow incumbent Mike Weir Jr. and newcomer Todd Crandell for delegates.

The flier carries an authorization line by Olszewski, which is why he filed a complaint on Saturday. It reads, in part:

Yesterday, many residents in my district received the attached postcard, which professes to be sent from my campaign. To be clear: I did not authorize, produce, or pay for this piece of literature, and have endorse two candidates other than listed on this postcard (I have endorsed Senator Norman Stone and Delegate Joseph "Sonny" Minnick -- and have not endorsed either of the opponents: Jordan Hadfield nor Todd Crandell, both listed on this literature).

I would like to ask for a complete investigation into this matter, and for a temporary restraining order on this literature to avoid future distribution.

Hadfield said neither he nor Crandell had anything to do with the unauthorized flier. Hadfield said his ticket consists only of political newcomers and is not supporting any incumbents.

The race between Stone, the Senate's veteran lawmaker with nearly five decades in office, and Hadfield, who at 25 is one of the season's youngest contestants, was featured in The Sun's legislative primary wrap-up this morning.

Jared DeMarinis, director of the division of candidacy and campaign finance at the Board of Elections, said he received the complaint this morning and will begin reviewing it.

Unauthorized flier:

Authorized flier:

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Gilchrest backs Fisher over Harris in Maryland One primary

Former Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest has delivered a late endorsement of conservative businessman Rob Fisher in the First District primary for the House seat Gilchrest held from 1991 through 2008.

Gilchrest and Fisher got together last week, just days before the Sept. 14 election, according to a release issued Sunday night by Fisher's campaign.

The meeting was described by the campaign as "one longtime Eastern Shore resident to another." Fisher is putting special emphasis on his Eastern Shore roots in his uphill primary race against state Sen. Andy Harris, who lives in the suburbs north of Baltimore.

A release issued Sunday night by Fisher's campaign contained a Gilchrest endorsement.

"I was very impressed by the knowledge and breadth of experience Rob brings to the table and appreciate that the values he learned growing up on the Eastern Shore continue to influence him today. His commitment to the issues and running a positive campaign is commendable, particularly given the exceedingly negative tone of the current political climate," Gilchrest was quoted as saying.

"Of the candidates currently competing in the Republican primary, Rob Fisher is far and above the best candidate to carry those values forward into the general election. I wish him the best this Tuesday and look forward to talking with him more as the Republican nominee for Maryland's First District," Gilchrest said, according to Fisher's campaign.

Harris defeated Gilchrest in a divisive 2008 Republican primary contest. Harris lost the historically Republican district to Democrat Frank Kratovil, who had Gilchrest's support in the general election. The wording of the Gilchrest statement leaves open the question of which candidate he would support if Fisher were to face Kratovil in November.

Posted by Paul West at 9:20 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Governor candidates ditch primary for real estate

The primary election is less than 24 hours away, but you won't find either of the major gubernatorial hopefuls trying to win over their party with campaign events today.

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. both will spend the public part of their day in Ocean City, talking this afternoon to the Maryland Association of Realtors at their annual conference.

Each person's schedule says they're making remarks at 1 p.m. It's a good bet that one of them will be late.

O'Malley, who faces two little-known challengers with no money, can safely assume he'll win his party's primary. But political observers expect disaffected Democrats to vote for others simply to send O'Malley a message.

Meanwhile, Ehrlich's day trip to the OC can be viewed as a way for him to underline his point that GOP challenger Brian Murphy isn't a threat. "I haven't given it one thought," Ehrlich told reporters before voting early Thursday, according to The Washington Post. "It is what it is. Obviously, we expect to win by significant margins."

Murphy has picked up the support of many tea partiers and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Given the mood of the national electorate, that should have Ehrlich worried. But this is Maryland.

Here, where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 2-to-1, the more attractive Republican candidate is often the more centrist candidate. In addition, Murphy, a Montgomery County investor, has self-funded much of his campaign and hasn't had the cash that observers say is necessary to win. Still, he continues his "Refuse to Settlle Tour" today.

Colleague Annie Linskey examines the state's Tea Party movement and it's impact -- or nonimpact -- on Ehrlich in today's paper.

Ehrlich's dominance in Republican circles means many of Maryland's most sophisticated conservative activists and donors already have forged deep ties with him.

"A lot of allegiances were made eight years ago. Those are hard to break," said Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr., an Eastern Shore Republican. "I think we are a bit of an anomaly here. A lot of people have worked on behalf of Ehrlich."

The state's largest Tea Party organization, the 23,000-member Americans for Prosperity, is run by a former Ehrlich fundraiser, Dave Schwartz. The group is legally barred from endorsing politicians, so it has not officially weighed in on the governor's race — or any other contest. But its message is remarkable similar to the one promoted by Ehrlich.

Only tomorrow will tell how many Tea Party faithfuls and angry Republicans are out there. Observers are anxious to see the Ehrlich-Murphy margin and opine on what it might mean for the Nov. 2 general election.
Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:50 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

County Council candidate touts her religion

Baltimore Sun colleague Arthur Hirsch reports:

In the race for the Baltimore County Council in District 2, with its large Jewish population, identity politics is never far below the surface.

Candidate Sherrie Becker – one of six candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the open seat being vacated by county executive candidate Kevin Kamenetz -- made a point of saying in upper case letters in a recent direct mail flier that she is the “ONLY JEWISH WOMAN CANDIDATE” in the contest.

“It’s who I am, I’m proud of who I am,” Becker, who is executive director of the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, said on Sunday. “It’s one of the things that people need to know about me.”

She quickly added that “I have always asked people to vote for me because I’m the most qualified candidate.” Because she mentioned her religion “does not mean I’m asking people to vote for me for that reason.”

She said the mailer went out in late August to Democratic voters in three district zip codes that have had the highest voter turnout in recent elections. She could not say how many households that would be.

She said part of the content of the mailer was dictated by the fact that the primary election falls between the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and was meant to wish voters a happy new year. That phrase in Hebrew, “L’Shana Tova,” appears on the mailer.

The religious dimension of the District 2 election was explored in The Baltimore Jewish Times in July. Because the seat has been held by a Jewish councilman since the districts were created 44 years ago, the Times reported that many people feel it should stay that way, especially with redistricting approaching next year. Some people feel without Jewish representation, the district could be carved up at the expense of Jewish political clout.

Of the five other candidates running for the office, two are women, three are men. The men, former state delegate Theodore Levin, community activist Alan P. Zukerberg and retired businessman Albert M. Harris, all of Pikesville, are all Jewish. The two women, Timmy Ruppersberger of the Bare Hills neighborhood and Vicki Almond, of Reisterstown, are not.

Almond has said she’s aware of the common wisdom that a gentile cannot win in District 2, but she said she does not believe religion matters that much in this race.

“I don’t think it does to a majority of people,” said Almond, of Reisterstown, a longtime community activist who also worked on the staff of Sen. Bobby Zirkin. She said she was not concerned about the Becker mailer.

“I don’t feel the need to respond to it,” she said. “I’m not paying much attention to these kinds of things.”

Ruppersberger, a cousin of Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a former Baltimore County executive, also took the mailer in stride.

“I’m trying hard to run my race and not be distracted by, or pay much attention to what the other candidates are doing,” said Ruppersberger, who worked for years as a lawyer with local governments on bonds and finance.

Asked about the significance of the religious dimension in the race, Ruppersberger said “More people tell me it doesn’t matter…It’s not the issue.”

Levin, a lawyer, said he was concerned that the mailer could arouse some hostile reaction from gentile voters.

“It’s in their face, it says this is a Jewish district,” said Levin. “So there’s a backlash against Jewish people. They're resenting they're being dominated by Jews.”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (13)
        

September 12, 2010

Hoyer: Kratovil a top priority, will win reelection

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Sunday that Democrats “probably” will lose seats in the midterm elections — but not their majority in the House.

Appearing on CNN, Hoyer also identified freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, an Eastern Shore Democrat, as one of two House members who are “absolutely top priorities for me and for our party.”

Hoyer was responding to a front-page report in The New York Times last Sunday that the House Democrats’ campaign operation would soon be cutting funding to candidates it sees as having little chance of winning and diverting the money to more competitive races.

“If there are candidates that are very substantially behind, and they can't make it, clearly we will have to make some tough judgments,” Hoyer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“But with all due respect to my good friend [Times congressional correspondent] Carl Hulse, who I think is a terrific reporter, that decision has not been made, as Chris Van Hollen [the Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] made it very clear.

“And in fact, [Democratic Rep.] Betsy Markey [of Colorado], who was one of those, Frank Kratovil, one of those mentioned in Carl's article, are absolutely top priorities for me and for our party. Betsy Markey is tied in the polls. Frank Kratovil is slightly ahead. So these candidates are in very good shape, and they are going to win.”

In 2008, with the Obama campaign energizing record turnouts of young and African-American voters— and the popular incumbent, moderate Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, defeated in the GOP primary — Kratovil defeated conservative state Sen. Andy Harris by fewer than 3,000 votes to become the first Democrat in nearly two decades to win the First Congressional District.

Harris is running again for the seat. Given the narrow margin two years ago, the district's voting history, Republican momentum and the absence of a popular presidential candidate at the top of the Democratic ticket to turn out new supporters, Kratovil is seen as one of the House's most vulnerable incumbents. Among leading analysts, the Cook Political Report rates the race a toss-up; the Rothenberg Political Report sees it leaning Republican.

Hoyer, a Southern Maryland Democrat, has known the Kratovil family for years. He has risen to the No. 2 seat in the House in part by campaigning aggressively for fellow Democrats; on Sunday, he said he had appeared with 20 candidates in 11 states over the last two and a half weeks.

“State of the Union” host Candy Crowley asked Hoyer about predictions that Democrats might lose as many as 60 seats, and the majority, in November.

“We are going to lose seats, probably,” he acknowledged. “I’m not going to speculate on a number, Candy. But we are going to hold the House.

“And what is going to happen is, people are going to compare not the perfect, but the alternatives. As Joe Biden likes to say, they are not going to compare us with the almighty, they're going to compare us with the alternative, an alternative that wants to go back to the exact same Bush policies, according to Mr. Sessions, their campaign chairman, which led to high deficits, the worst job performance of any administration since Herbert Hoover, and extraordinary reduction in wealth of our country, and the stock market tanked.”

Hoyer also spoke of the Democrats’ “Make it in America” agenda, and the prospects of a compromise with Republicans on allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire. The complete transcript follows.

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CROWLEY: Joining me now is the Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer.

Congressman, thanks so much for being here.

HOYER: Candy, always good to be with you. Thank you.

CROWLEY: I want to start off with what I think is going to occupy your fall, and that is these Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire in January.

The Democratic position and the administration's position has been we want to keep them for the middle class, and any household making $250,000 or above, we're going to repeal them.

So what you have here now is the argument, no, bad time; there's not enough jobs out there; you can't create jobs by essentially raising taxes, even if you want to call these rich people.

I want to introduce into this argument something that Peter Orszag wrote. Now, he, of course, is the former director of the Office of Management and Budget for the president. And he's talking about the idea of this huge deficit versus the huge jobs deficit.

"In the face of the duelling deficits, the best approach is a compromise, extend the tax cuts for two years and then end them altogether."

And by extending the tax cuts, he means for the rich; permanent ones for the middle class. How about that?

HOYER: Well, Candy, first of all, we need to realize what is going to happen was put in place by the Republicans in '01 and '03, to meet their budget numbers. They had these taxes go up for all Americans. The president has said; we have said we absolutely, in this troubled economic time, are not going to allow families to have a tax increase, period.

Now, families, as you say, we referred to as the $250,000 and under people, which is 98 percent of America. And we don't believe that their taxes ought to go up.

CROWLEY: But what about a compromise here?

HOYER: Well, compromise has been very tough to get, as you know, Candy.

CROWLEY: But are you open to it?

HOYER: Sure, we'll...

CROWLEY: Do you think the Democratic...

HOYER: We'll talk about compromise, but we don't believe -- I don't agree with Mr. Orszag or others who believe that a tax cut on the richest Americans are going to have any affect on the economy.

CROWLEY: OK, then what about...

(CROSSTALK)

HOYER: ... we gave 98 percent of America, as you know, tax cuts in the Recovery Act.

CROWLEY: So a lot of people make the argument, look, this isn't going to create jobs if we allow these tax cuts to expire for the rich. Then why not get behind a payroll holiday?

HOYER: Well, of course we did on the FICA tax, as you know, passed legislation that it's in place that gave small businesses, if they hire people who are unemployed, a tax holiday, as you point out.

And not only did we give that, but we gave $1,000 bonus if those people are on the payroll a year from now.

So we have done things of that nature. We've done a number of things in the House of Representatives to spur job creation, job growth. Unfortunately, we've had trouble getting them through the Senate.

One of the bills that we absolutely want to get done this coming four weeks is to provide for dollars for small business to get loans to expand their businesses.

CROWLEY: To ease the credit?

HOYER: We've passed that twice, and it's still sitting in the Senate. We hope that they'll pass it.

CROWLEY: When it comes to this -- these tax cuts for the wealthy, do -- you're a smart guy. It seems to me one of two things is going to happen here. Either you take this off the table, because your own Democrats are out there going, oh, no, don't want to do this. You've got more than a handful of Democrats in the House saying this is not a good idea.

So you either need to take it off the table and deal with it after the election or come to a compromise. What's going to happen?

HOYER: Candy, one -- well, what's going to happen is, A, we're going to see what the Senate can do. As you know, the House is -- we've got over 400 bills pending in the Senate that have passed, 70 percent of them with 50 Republicans, so non-controversial; they're just sitting in the Senate.

So one of the things we're going to do -- and I've talked to Senator Reid about this -- we're going to see what the Senate is going to do. Then the House will make its determination...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Because the art of the doable, and you might go along.

HOYER: Sure.

CROWLEY: And you know the Senate's going to come up with a compromise because that's the only way...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: ... they get anything done.

HOYER: But, again, our policy is, we are not going to allow the Republican policy of increasing taxes by having these taxes expire.

HOYER: Which was Republican policy, we are not going to allow that to happen for the middle income Americans, working Americans.

CROWLEY: You have spent your break in 11 states, 20 candidates. We are now looking at some fairly well-respected political pundits saying Democrats might lose as many as 60 seats. What's the problem out there?

HOYER: Well, I think those pundits are wrong. Number one, we are going to hold the House. We're going to win...

CROWLEY: But you are going to lose seats?

HOYER: We are going to lose seats, probably. I think that's undoubtedly, historically...

CROWLEY: Twenty-four, 34?

HOYER: I am not going to speculate on a number, Candy. But we are going to hold the House. As I say, I have been to -- as you said, I have been with 20 candidates, 11 states over the last two-and-half weeks. Our candidates are feeling good.

And what is going to happen is, people are going to compare not the perfect, but the alternatives. As Joe Biden likes to say, they are not going to compare us with the almighty, they're going to compare us with the alternative, an alternative that wants to go back to the exact same Bush policies, according to Mr. Sessions, their campaign chairman, which led to high deficits, the worst job performance of any administration since Herbert Hoover, and extraordinary reduction in wealth of our country, and the stock market tanked.

CROWLEY: But can you stave off disaster for Democrats...

HOYER: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: ... when you have Democrats who don't particularly want to talk about health care reform, and those who voted against it are -- actually have ads out there for it, who don't much want to talk about the stimulus program and how much it costs?

Is it enough to say, yes, but the Republicans got us into this mess? I mean, that's not much of a bumper sticker.

HOYER: Well, you have -- the American public is smart, and they pursued a vote in 1992 that elected a president. He put in place a program, they were somewhat skeptical, as you recall. But they became very enthusiastic when they saw how well that economic program worked, opposed by every Republican.

Then the -- in 2000, a new administration came in, said their policies were going to work. In fact, they failed and gave the worst economy in 75 years. So people are going to compare the failed Bush policies, which the Republicans say they want to return to. That's a quote, not a supposition.

CROWLEY: But you agree it's a bit -- right now you could say we are on a path, we're moving forward, it's going to get better, but it's kind of a weak hand to go into November with?

HOYER: Well, I think in fact that things have gotten better. We have had four quarters of economic growth. The stock market, Dow, S&P, Nasdaq, up now over 60 percent. Things are getting better, 2 million, 3 million, 4 million jobs have been created under the Recovery Act.

So, yes, we are not where we want to be. We want to get those 8 million jobs back that were lost under the Bush administration, so we can get people back to work. And we are going to continue to focus on policies, which is what the president said in Cleveland when he gave his speech about investing in infrastructure and creating jobs.

The other thing, Candy, I want to mention, is we have an agenda, not just for the balance of this year, but an agenda for the coming years, and that's the "Make It in America" agenda.

People are concerned and fearful they're not going to be able to make it in America. And one of the things they believe is we need to make things in America. We need to manufacture things in America so people have the availability of good-paying jobs with good benefits.

So our "Make It in America" agenda is going to be one of the hallmarks as we move forward. And frankly when you look at the Clinton administration's creation of 21 million new jobs in the private sector as opposed to George Bush's 1 million, you see that there is a real contrast.

CROWLEY: And just quickly, on a matter of strategy. We know that there has been much made of the fact that eventually your money does run out and you have got to save who you can and toss some others overboard. When are you going to begin to toss some of your weaker Democratic candidates overboard in terms of money?

HOYER: We don't think we have weak Democratic candidates right now.

CROWLEY: OK.

HOYER: Candy, I'm not done. You didn't expect an answer to that. Clearly we will look at, and if there are candidates that are very substantially behind, and they can't make it, clearly we will have to make some tough judgments.

But with all due respect to my good friend Carl Hulse, who I think is a terrific reporter, that decision has not been made, as Chris Van Hollen made it very clear. And in fact, Betsy Markey, who was one of those, Frank Kratovil, one of those mentioned in Carl's article, are absolutely top priorities for me and for our party. Betsy Markey is tied in the polls. Frank Kratovil is slightly ahead. So these candidates are in very good shape, and they are going to win.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much.

HOYER: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Democratic leader Steny Hoyer, we appreciate your time.

HOYER: Appreciate it.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 1:03 PM | | Comments (6)
        

September 11, 2010

Cummings remembers Ron Walters, political strategist and U Md. institute head

Ron Walters, an important figure in the history of modern American politics, was remembered Saturday by one of his many students, Baltimore Congressman Elijah E. Cummings.

"I will be forever grateful to Dr. Walters for seeing qualities in me that I did not see in myself," said Cummings, who studied under Walters as an undergrad at Howard University in Washington and described him as a mentor.

A scholar and strategist, Walters, who had cancer, died Friday night at age 72. He was on the faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he served as director of the African American Leadership Institute.

A perceptive analyst of politics and political behavior, Walters was perhaps best known as a top adviser in Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns.

Cummings' statement follows:

Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07) today released a statement following the death of Dr. Ron Walters, who not only served as campaign manager for the presidential campaigns of Rev. Jesse Jackson, but was also a professor at University of Maryland and at Howard University, where he instructed Rep. Cummings. Walters died at the age of 72.

“Dr. Ron Walters taught me as a student at Howard University during the early seventies. He was a man of great integrity and intellect. He was such a popular professor that there were waiting lists to get into his classes. However, he was a very strict grader. Whenever I was faced with difficult political decisions in life, the professor would always find time for me. He would provide me with the benefits of his thoughts, opinions and extensive knowledge.

"While he was a quiet man, his opinions always carried a lot of weight in the world of politics and beyond. He was a man who consistently told me what I needed to hear even though I may not have wanted to hear it. He touched the lives of all the students who had the honor of being a part of any of his classes.

“Dr. Walters was not only my teacher. He was also one of my most reliable and brilliant mentors. He truly brought life to my life and to the lives of the many people he touched. I will be forever grateful to Dr. Walters for seeing qualities in me that I did not see in myself. He will be greatly missed.

"A true giant of a man has fallen. However, he has left this world a better place than the one that existed the day he was born. For this and many other reasons I am thankful that my life eclipsed with his. May God bless his soul.”

During his distinguished career, Dr. Walters also published well over 100 academic articles and seven books. One book, Black Presidential Politics in America, won the Bunche Prize. As well as his work in Maryland, he was an assistant professor at Brandeis University, an assistant professor at Syracuse University and a fellow at Harvard University.

Posted by Paul West at 9:14 PM | | Comments (4)
        

September 10, 2010

Cardin says he didn't endorse Almond in council race

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin is refuting a claim made in a campaign flier that he has endorsed Baltimore County Council District 2 candidate Vicki Almond.

A statement released by Cardin’s office Friday afternoon says that he endorsed the four candidates for the Maryland General Assembly who are listed and shown on the flier with Almond in a group photograph of the “11th District Team,” but as to the open seat in the 2nd council district, "I have not endorsed a candidate.”

Cardin could not be reached for further comment.

Asked on Friday evening why Cardin would feel the need to issue such a statement, Almond said “I don’t know. I have the deepest respect for him. Maybe there’s some pressure, I don’t know.”

Almond said she did not speak with Cardin personally about an endorsement, which was handled by other members of the 11th District team, which includes state Senator Bobby Zirkin and Delegates Dan K. Morhaim, Dana Stein and Jon S. Cardin, who is the senator's nephew. All four are Democratic incumbents.

Zirkin stood by the accuracy of the flier. He provided an e-mail dated Aug. 29 and headed “quote from b.c.” sent by Del. Jon Cardin to Zirkin, Stein and others, that included the Sen. Cardin quote used in the flier: “The 11th district team has done an excellent job representing the community. I am proud to be their constituent.”

Two of Almond’s five rivals for the Democratic nomination in the district that includes Reisterstown, Pikesville, Ruxton and parts of Owings Mills said that if Sen. Cardin didn’t really endorse Almond, the flier is misleading.


Candidate Sherrie Becker, executive director of the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, said she considered the flier "very deceptive...I think this demonstrates the importance of this race to the incumbents."

Alan P. Zukerberg of Pikesville, a lawyer and community activist running for the seat, said the flier appears to be a "misrepresentation...I think they should have known better."
Cardin is listed as making the endorsement along with four other community leaders:

Congressman Elijah Cummings, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith, the Rev. Dr. Frank M. Reid III and former state delegate Arthur Alperstein. The flier includes quotes from each man praising the team.

Zirkin said the five candidates have been working together since the spring. Almond, a longtime community activist from Reisterstown, had served for four years as Zirkin’s chief of staff and also has managed Stein’s campaign.

Zirkin said Sen. Cardin gave the quote to his nephew, who then conveyed it to members of the team. Given the fact that Sen. Cardin and his nephew talked frequently about the team, he said it would be “preposterous” to suggest that Sen. Cardin didn’t know that the group included Almond when he approved the quote used in the flier.

Zirkin said the quote from Cardin “was given with full knowledge of what it was being used for. Vicki is a major teammate of the 11th District team. To suggest anything else is simply untrue.”

An ad for the 11th District team in this week's “Baltimore Jewish Times” includes mention only of the endorsements from Smith and Alperstein. Zirkin said Cardin's name was not used because "Jon (Cardin) said Ben's people did not want to put Ben's quote in the Jewish Times." He said the ad focused on Smith and Alperstein because they were well known in the district and would be most effective in that publication.

The four legislators — none of whom faces a tough race for their own seat this year — put their endorsement and their financial support behind Almond months ago. The four have contributed $115,800 to a slate that includes Almond, who has raised nearly $83,000 on her own, the most of the five Democrats in the primary race.

Posted by David Nitkin at 9:16 PM | | Comments (22)
        

Currie’s campaign treasurer accused of theft

An Anne Arundel County grand jury indicted the longtime campaign treasurer of state Sen. Ulysses Currie Friday on charges she stole more than $150,000 from his reelection campaign, filed false tax returns and lied on state campaign filings.

The treasurer, Olivia Harris, had managed Currie’s campaign account since the Prince George’s County Democrat was elected to the Senate in 1995. Her attorney, Gerard Martin, said it is a “sad day” that “this wonderful woman has to face this at this point in her career.” He declined to comment on how she will plead.

Prosecutor Robert Rohrbaugh said he found “no indication” that Currie, who was indicted last week by a federal grand jury in a separate bribery case, was aware or played any part in the theft scheme. The senator replaced Harris last month, days after state prosecutors raided her Upper Marlboro.

Proseuctors say Harris, 64, stole the money over three years and filed fake campaign finance reports overstating the amount of money in the account to hide the theft.

“The money in those campaign accounts is to be used for the campaign,” said Rohrbaugh in a statement. “It is not some slush fund for the personal use of those entrusted with the money — including campaign treasurers or the candidates themselves.”

Currie filed his August campaign finance disclosure report about a week late and the report showed $187,000 was drained from the account with no explanation for how the money had been spent. At the time his attorney Gregg Bernstein, who is running for Baltimore City State’s Attorney, wrote in a letter to the Board of Elections that the missing money appeared to be “the result of the treasurer’s conduct.”

Rohrbaugh began examining Currie’s campaign account after The Sun reported that the Senator used his campaign account to make a $41,000 payment to the defense attorney representing him in the federal federal investigation. State officials can only use their campaign funds to pay legal bills connected to their re-election activities, not their official duties.

It is unclear how, or if, that investigation will proceed. Harris would have had to testify against Currie if charges were brought.

Currie faces no opponents in the primary or the general election but the theft of campaign funds adds to a series of problems facing the veteran Senator. He was recently indicted in a separate federal bribary case, causing him to relinquish his chairmanship of the powerful Budget and Taxation Committee.

Two former grocery store executives were also accused in the bribary scheme, with federal prosecutors alleging that the Senator sold his influence to the chain for $245,000 over six years. The chain, Shoppers Food Warehouse, is headquartered in his Prince George’s County district and his attorney Dale Kelberman has argued that Currie was properly employed as a consultant to the firm.

Former Shopper’s Vice President for Real Estate, Kevin Small not guilty to all charges in a federal court Friday, said Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office. He was released under the supervision of pre-trial services. Currie is expected to plead not guilty on Sept. 17.

Shoppers was also implicated in the scheme, but has agreed to pay a $2.5 million fee to avoid prosecution. Represenatives for the firm are set to appear before a federal judge on Monday.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 7:17 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Campaign finance
        

Della loses support of fellow elected officials

Two Baltimore city councilmen have endorsed challenger Bill Ferguson, a 27-year-old aide to city schools CEO Andres Alonso who hopes to unseat veteran lawmaker Sen. George W. Della Jr. in a hotly contested Baltimore legislative race.

In an unusual move, William Cole and Ed Reisinger threw their support to Ferguson on Friday. This year Councilman Bill Henry also broke incumbency ranks and endorsed Hector Torres who is challenging Sen. Joan Carter Conway in Northeast Baltimore.

It's rare for elected officials to eschew an incumbent, and the decision by Cole, Reisinger and Henry carries some risks. If Della wins re-election, he won't soon forget the disloyalty. And neither will Conway.

State senators have significant sway over state-funded projects, liquor licenses and board appointments in the districts they represent, and the councilmen should expect retribution if they seek assistance in those areas.

But perhaps the city level representatives have their fingers in the wind, and sense an upset on Tuesday. In that case, Ferguson would surely remember the allies who stuck their necks out for him. As would Torres. Cole served with Della in the General Assembly, making the endorsement of a rival all the more significant.

“After years of letting our children down, we are on the verge of creating the school system that Baltimore’s kids deserve,” Reisinger said in a statement explaining his decision.

“We need new leadership, new ideas and new energy in the State Senate to get the job done. Bill Ferguson is the right person at the right time.”

“As we looked at this race, there was a vast difference in what the candidates will be able to accomplish for Baltimore’s future,” said Cole in the statement.

“Great schools will help make all of our neighborhoods stronger. We made the decision that it would be wrong to stay on the sidelines. It’s time for all of us to come together behind Bill Ferguson.”
Posted by David Nitkin at 5:53 PM | | Comments (7)
        

What does early voting cost us?

The State Board of Elections released an estimate this afternoon of how much it costs to provide early voting for the primary and general elections. The tally: About $3.4 million.

The bulk of the expense -- 12 days worth of election judges at 46 early voting centers and publicity and outreach materials -- is to be picked up by Baltimore City and the counties, according to Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator of the elections board.

The state also is spending about half a million dollars, mostly on election software and more publicity.

As The Sun reported this morning, relatively few people took advantage of the state's first-ever early voting period. About 77,000 came out to cast balllots -- roughly 2.5 percent of eligible voters and 8 percent of the voters expected to participate in the primary.

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican who vetoed early voting but has a primary contest of his own this year, complained about the cost after he cast his early ballot Thursday in Anne Arundel County.

He said the additional costs associated with polling places and election judges is “an expensive process during a difficult time.”

But early voting is something that Marylanders overwhelmingly approved two years ago. Maryland is joined by 31 other states that have some form of early voting.

Here are some of the estimated costs, provided by Goldstein:

* $1.1 million for election judges (6 days for the primary, 6 days for the general), paid by counties.

* $18,400 for election judge training, paid by counties.

* $500,000 for staff overtime, election board member per diems and lawyer fees, paid by counties.

* $250,000 in voter outreach, required by law, paid by state.

* $646,000 in outreach mailings, including specimen ballots, paid by counties.

* $500,000 in software changes, about half paid by state, half by counties.

The expense estimate provided by Goldstein appears to fall in line with what legislative analysts expected early voting to cost.

Early voting returns Oct. 22 for the general election.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:45 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Early voting
        

Franchot trying to mend fences with Schaefer

Baltimore Sun colleague Laura Vozzella reports from Arbutus:

Comptroller Peter Franchot was the official guest of honor at the Arbutus Roundtable Friday, but participants joked that the gathering was really a rally for Baltimore County Council hopeful Rebecca Dongarra, who joined the political gabfest at Paul’s Restaurant.

Dongarra, of Catonsville, is one of four people vying for the Democratic nomination in District 1. That race is certainly more of a nail-biter than Franchot’s. He has no opponents in the Democratic primary. An 18-year-old is among those in the race for the GOP nomination.

Quite a change from four years ago, when Franchot endured a knock-down, drag-out, three-way primary that ended the political career of the legendary William Donald Schaefer.

Franchot told the group that he’s started mending fences with Schaefer. Franchot’s 88-year-old mother has written to the former Baltimore mayor, governor and state comptroller. After Schaefer’s former chief of staff, R. Dean Kenderdine, happened to mention that Schaefer loved tongue sandwiches, Franchot arranged to have one delivered from Attman’s.

“They knew exactly what he wanted” – on rye with mustard -- said Christine Feldmann, Franchot’s deputy director of communications, who placed the order at the deli. She and former Schaefer spokesman Mike Golden delivered the sandwich in late July.

Franchot said he got a handwritten thank-you note from Schaefer two weeks ago.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 4:09 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Primary early voting closes, few use it

Maryland's first experience with early voting is now over, and it yielded a fairly small turnout.-- just about 77,000 voters out of a possible 3.2 million.

The many voters who didn't weigh in early on the primary election can do so on Tuesday. The State Elections Board published final figures this morning, and they show that yesterday, the final day of the weeklong early voting period, was by far the busiest with more than 18,000 casting ballots.

If the primary election draws its usual 30 percent voter turnout, early voting will account for about 8 percent of the ballots cast. Early voting researchers, including Paul Gronke at Reed College, say that seems low. States with established early voting systems typically see no less than 20 percent of ballots cast that way -- though primary election data is fairly unstudied.

Maryland election officials say the turnout was about what they expected. As we reported this morning in The Sun, early voting coincided with Labor Day weekend, the start of school and Rosh Hashana. High-profile early voters, including Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., publicized the system's debut.

One plus of the small turnout, says state elections administrator Linda Lamone, is that it gave polling judges a chance to hone their skills before what they expect to be the far busier early voting period that will precede the Nov. 2 general election.

More early voting stats after the jump.

Total number of early voters: 77,288

Biggest day: Thursday, with 18,081

Smallest day:Saturday, with 8,891

Early Democrats: 54,770 (about 2.8 percent of registered Dems)

Early Republicans: 21656 (about 2.4 percent of registered GOPers)

Talbot and Kent counties showed best turnout: nearly 7 percent voting early

Prince George's County wins by sheer numbers: 14,551

Washington County had lowest percentage early voting turnout: barely 1 percent

* Numbers provided by Board of Elections. Numbers do not include provisional or absentee ballots. Results will be counted the day of the primary election.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:07 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Early voting
        

September 9, 2010

Harris (finally, almost) hitting airwaves in Maryland One

Republican congressional candidate Andy Harris is releasing his first TV commercial of the 2010 campaign, a 30-second bio-heavy spot that highlights his immigrant parents, training as a physician and five children.

The ad appears designed to soften Harris' image as a hard-edged conservative. It features footage of his photogenic family, complete with pooch.

One other noteworthy feature: The commercial identifies Harris as a Republican. That should be a plus in a district that went for John McCain by a landslide over Barack Obama in the '08 presidential election. Still, it is increasingly rare for candidates to advertise their party affiliation.

The veteran state lawmaker from Baltimore County is considered the favorite, at least by some handicappers, to take the U.S. House seat in Maryland's First District, which covers the entire Eastern Shore plus portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.

Harris has been husbanding resources for a general election rematch against freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, who beat him in 2008 and is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. The incumbent has already started running TV ads touting his independence from his party.

Harris must first win next week's Republican primary. He is opposed by conservative businessman Rob Fisher, a self-financing newcomer who's been running TV commercials for months.

The Harris ad will start running next week on broadcast outlets in the Baltimore and Salisbury markets. It was released online to supporters late Thursday afternoon.

You can watch it by clicking here. Script follows:

ANNOUNCER: “His parents came to America to escape communism. All their belongings in a suitcase.

For Andy Harris’s family, the promise of freedom paid off. Andy became a doctor. Joined the Navy to give back to America. Raised a family.

ANDY HARRIS: “My family’s lived the American Dream. But we’re all worried our children won’t be able to.

The government spends too much, taxes too much, threatens our liberties.

We have to restore that American dream because the future of our children and country is at stake.

I’m Andy Harris and I approve this message.”

Posted by Paul West at 5:21 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Ehrlich holds nose and votes early

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. cast a ballot for himself this morning in the GOP primary, participating in an early voting program similar to the one that he vetoed when in office five years ago.

Ehrlich has repeatedly denounced early voting as a “solution in search of a problem,” saying Marylanders were never “clamoring” for ability to vote before the traditional primary day. Also, he pointed out that the additional costs associated polling places and election judges is “an expensive process during a difficult time.”

That has put Ehrlich’s team in the awkward position of advocating to supporters that they cast ballots before election day, while also acknowledging that Ehrlich opposes the program. Gov. Martin O’Malley, the Democratic incumbent and Brian Murphy, Ehrlich’s GOP challenger, have both made an issue of the inconsistency.

Nevertheless Ehrlich’s black SUV transported him, his wife Kendel and their son Drew to the Annapolis Senior Activity Center around 10 a.m. where the voting age members of the family cast ballots. Asked why he chose to participate in the program – voters can still cast ballots on primary election day – he chuckled and turned to longtime staffer Greg Massoni.

“Why is that Greg?” he asked. Massoni didn't say anything and Ehrlich chuckled. “I don’t know," he continued. "I guess because it is the law. It is what we have so we're doing it. There is no great thought that went into that.”

Ehrlich said that if he becomes governor he would “keep an open mind” about changes to the program. Any alteration to early voting would require changing the Maryland’s constitution via a state-wide ballot question.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:25 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Early voting
        

O'Malley ad targets Ehrlich's credibility

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley today began airing a television advertisement that digs at Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's credibility when he promises no new taxes.

Until now, the likely opponents in the November election have aired positive TV spots, with business leaders touting O'Malley's jobs creation in a tough economy and Ehrlich, against a backdrop of sunny Maryland streets, saying he will fix the budget and help small businesses.

The new O'Malley ad marks a shift in strategy -- directly attacking Ehrlich by name. It began airing this morning in the Baltimore market.

The 30-second ad opens with a woman saying, "Everyone knows a fee is a tax." It cuts to an interview between Ehrlich and MPT's Jeff Salkin. "As you know, there's a big difference between fees and taxes," Ehrlich says. The ad returns to "real Marylanders," O'Malley aides say, who say, "It's a tax," often while smiling knowingly.

O'Malley does not appear in the ad; in fact, there's no reference to him at all (except for the legally required paid-for disclosure at the end). Throughout the ad, lines about Ehrlich's property tax and fee increases appear at the bottom of the screen.

Rick Abbruzzese, O'Malley's campaign spokesman, said the ad targets Ehrlich for his "refusal to take responsibility for his record as governor. ... We think the best predictor or what someone will do in the future is what he has done in the past."

On the campaign trail, Ehrlich has been saying for weeks that he will not raise taxes. At a business event in late August in Gambrills, a reporter asked him if he's raise fees, and he said he wouldn't raise those either because the economy is too weak.

Ehrlich campaign spokesman Henry Fawell predicted the O'Malley camp would regret airing a "an attack ad."

"Martin O'Malley will do anything to change subject from his legacy of massive job losses and record tax increases," Fawell said. "Bob Ehrlich laid out a plan to help small businesses early in his campaign and he has been talking about it ever since. People who are unemployed are not interested in negative attacks and political smokescreens."

Earlier this year, The Sun examined each governor's record of taxing and spending. From that article:

"Both (governors) increased taxes. Ehrlich added $2.9 billion in new revenue over his four years, according to a legislative analysis. Major increases included the flush tax, designed to upgrade water treatment plants that filter sewage destined for the Chesapeake Bay. He increased property taxes by nearly a nickel (though he scaled the hike back later in his term), increased corporate filing fees and a tax on health care plans.

O'Malley raised the sales tax by a penny, increased the corporate income tax and hiked the tobacco tax to pay for expansions to health care. He submitted and then repealed a tax on computer services; substituting it for a tax on those who make more than $1 million a year. His plan was designed to raise about $4.7 billion in revenue over four years, according to a legislative estimate from the time."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:20 PM | | Comments (42)
Categories: Political ads
        

Mikulski: Quran-burning 'disgraceful,' 'un-American'

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is calling plans by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Muslim holy book on Saturday "disgraceful and un-American."

“The anniversary of the devastating terrorist attacks of 9/11 should not be marked with an act of hatred," the Maryland Democrat said in a statement. "Book burning is the action of fanatics and fascists. The Quran should be treated with the same respect given to the Bible and the Torah."

Terry Jones, pastor of the nondenominational Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., says the church will proceed with "International Burn-a-Quran Day" despite condemnations by the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the White House.

Gen. David Petraeus warned in an e-mail to The Associated Press that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence."

Petraeus spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the matter Wednesday, the AP reports.

"They both agreed that burning of a Quran would undermine our effort in Afghanistan, jeopardize the safety of coalition troopers and civilians," spokesman Col. Erik Gunhus said, and would "create problems for our Afghan partners ... as it likely would be Afghan police and soldiers who would have to deal with any large demonstrations."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Jones to cancel the event, the AP reports.

"It is regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distrustful, disgraceful plan and get the world's attention, but that's the world we live in right now," Clinton said in remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Mikulski's comments followed a statement Tuesday by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, and Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, the chairman and co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission, condemning anti-Muslim rhetoric from opponents of the Park51 Islamic center proposed for Lower Manhattan near Ground Zero.

"In a country founded on the principles of religious freedom we should not be in the business of picking and choosing when to apply those principles," they said. "It is unfortunate that so many national leaders have said they would deny Muslims or persons of any faith the right to build a place of worship."

Mikulski called on religious, political and community leaders to denounce the "hateful" Quran burning.

“It could incite hate crimes like the burning of mosques and churches and the defacement of synagogues," she said. "These are hate crimes that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The actions of Pastor Terry Jones and his church are dangerous and despicable. They are an insult to America and all that we value.”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (28)
        

September 8, 2010

Health care workers union backs O'Malley

The Maryland chapter of the country's largest health care workers union announced today that it is endorsing Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley in the fall election. The union, which includes 8,000 workers at hospitals and nursing homes across the state, also backed O'Malley in 2006 and in his Baltimore mayoral campaigns.

Led by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the O'Malley administration worked this year to crack down on Medicaid fraud and to prepare the state for national health care reform. O'Malley also has expanded health care access for families in recent years.

Pat Lippold, a spokeswoman for the Maryland chapter of 1199 SEIU (Service Employees International Union), said the endorsement comes with "powerful benefits."

"We put a lot of boots on the ground for our candidates," she said. She estimated about 40-60 members would be out campaigning almost every night until the Nov. 2 election. She also noted that the union's political action committee has "vast resources"; half of the union's members voluntarily contribute $10 per week.

O'Malley will join members of the union Friday in Baltimore for the official announcement of the endorsement.

The governor's likely Republican challenger, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., recently picked up the endorsement of MCEA, Maryland Classified Employees Association.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:47 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Slots Wars: Cordish kicks off Arundel Mills campaign

The battle over whether to build a slots parlor near Arundel Mills Mall is heating up, with a group tied to developer Cordish airing its first pro-slots commercial.

Colleague Nicole Fuller wrote about the ad in this morning's Sun. From the story:

"A narrator lists the windfall that Anne Arundel purportedly would receive from slots — "4,000 new, good-paying jobs … $400 million a year for school construction … $30 million for police, fire and critical county services," backed by images of construction workers and schoolchildren sitting before laptop computers. The 30-second ad features county residents from Glen Burnie and Brooklyn Park."

The opposing group, backed by the Maryland Jockey Club -- which wants the county's only casino license for itself -- has been airing television ads for weeks.

Sun business columnist Jay Hancock also blogged about the new Cordish ad.

Nicole has more today on the opening of a new headquarters for the Cordish-backed group in Severna Park, where company president David Cordish proclaimed, “We’re going to win.”

“I feel good,” said Cordish, stressing both his company’s and his personal Maryland roots. “I know we’re going to win. We’re not going anywhere. My number’s in the phone book. We’re the home team.”

Cordish was joined by a coalition of supporters, including union leaders, and president of the local chamber of commerce.

Speakers stressed the revenues that they claim both the county and state are losing with the project’s postponement – 4,000 new jobs, $30 million in annual local tax revenue and $400 million annually to the state’s Education Trust Fund.

Timothy Mennuti, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, said the funding would benefit teachers and students who are studying in “inadequate facilities,” citing a $2 billion maintenance and school construction backlog.

“We can’t see a more effective or efficient way to provide funding for our county,” said Mennuti.

Wayne Frazier, president of the Maryland Washington Minority Contractors Association, said Cordish was committed to hiring local workers.

“Jobs are the key,” said Frazier. “This is a shovel-ready project. All we need is zoning. With that, we’ll be able to go to work sometime in December.”

The County Council has approved zoning for the slots parlor, but the developer has faced opposition from residents near the mall. Opponents of locating the casino at the mall site, calling themselves “No Slots at the Mall,” are being backed financially by the Maryland Jockey Club, which hopes to revitalize Laurel Park by situating the county's slots facility at the racetrack.

Todd Lamb, an Annapolis consultant hired as campaign manager for Jobs & Revenue, said over the next 55 days, the group would be organizing volunteers, and going door-to-door.

“We have the facts and we’re going to use them to the detriment of our opponents.”
David Jones, a spokesman for the opposition group, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in July that the ballot referendum on the zoning
ordinance allowing slots at the mall should go forward, reversing a lower court decision that the zoning was tied to an appropriations bill and therefore could not be put to a vote.
When asked how much his company was spending to finance the pro-slots campaign, Cordish said “We’re spending a pittance compared to what [the opposition] spent.”


Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:57 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Slots
        

Pence plugs Harris candidacy, raises funds

Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence is in Annapolis today to raise money for Andy Harris, the likely Republican nominee for Congress in Maryland's First District.

Pence, a prominent conservative, could figure in the reshuffling of House leaders if Republicans recapture control of the chamber in the November election, as a growing number of prognosticators are forecasting.

Pence made an unsuccessful try to become Republican leader after his party lost its House majority in the 2006 election. The man who defeated him, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, is expected to become the next House speaker.

Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia would probably move up to replace Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer as Majority Leader, the second most influential House post. And Pence, currently number three in the Republican hierarchy, could advance to Majority Whip.

That presumes, however, that there aren't other ambitious Republicans who want to climb the leadership ladder, as often happens when majority control changes hands.

Pence would appear to be better positioned than he was four years ago, when he lost to Boehner by more than 100 votes in a closed-door Republican caucus meeting. He is identified with the most conservative group of House Republicans, whose numbers are expected to expand significantly in the new Congress.

The possibility of a leadership shift is one reason Pence is traveling the country, helping Republican colleagues and would-be colleagues in key contests. If and when there is a Republican leadership election, he can cash those IOUs.

Harris is no worse than an even bet to regain Maryland's easternmost, and traditionally Republican, congressional district. Democratic freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, who narrowly defeated Harris in 2008, is regarded as one of the nation's most vulnerable incumbents and the only Maryland congressman thought to be in danger of losing his seat.

Posted by Paul West at 10:22 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Few vote early so far

Just over 33,000 Marylanders had taken advantage of the state's new early voting rules in the first three days of early voting, according to data on the Maryland Board of Elections website.

That means roughly one percent of the state’s 3.1 million registered voters had gone to the polls from Friday to Monday. Early polling places will be open two more days. Primary elections don’t usually draw large numbers of voters – four years ago 29 percent of registered Maryland voters participated. (See photo below of an early voting center at Northpoint Library courtesy of Sun reporter Julie Bykowicz.)

Statewide, the two busiest counties so far are Prince George’s with 5,800 voting and Baltimore County where 5,780 voted. Overall larger percentages of eligible Democrats are voting early than Republicans – but not by much -- 1.21 percent of Dems have voted verses one percent of GOP voters. These figures do not inNorthpoint Library in Baltimore Countyclude absentee ballots.

GOP leaning Kent and Garrett counties stood out as the two areas with the largest percentage of registered voters taking advantage of the new rules. That’s a bit surprising given Republicans in the General Assembly vehemently opposed the early voting program when it was first suggested in 2005.

In Baltimore city's waterfront 46th district, Senate challenger Bill Ferguson has not yet marshaled his promised troops to take on Sen. George Della. The young candidate touted a sophisticated early voting plan to beat the incumbent, however as of Monday a mere 428 had cast ballots.

(UPDATE: Ferguson says via text message that turnout is "slightly lower than expected" but says his supporters are going to the polls by a four to one margin. There is no real way of verifying this that I can think of.)

Instead, most of the early voting in Baltimore is occurring in Northeast’s 43rd District, where 963 (or 1.7 percent) have voted in the contest between incumbent Sen. Joan Carter Conway and challenger Hector Torres.

Torres, a former Baltimore City Fire Department spokesman, hasn’t raised much money but is trying to ride the year’s anti- politician theme by accusing Conway of being bought by Annapolis special interests. The district had high turnout four years ago; with 34.43 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in that district. That percentage beat the state average and made the 43rd the second most vote happy district in the city.

Oddly, Northwest Baltimore’s 41st legislative district, where there are no contested races for the General Assembly, so far has the second highest voter turnout with 923 taking part. Del. Sandy Rosenberg hypothesized that the top of the ticket State's Attorney match-up between incumbent Patricia Jessamy and challenger Gregg Bernstein could be driving the higher turnout there. Also, he noted, two of the city’s five early voting centers are located in the district.

Another reason could be that residents there just really like to vote – in 2006 the district had the highest participation figures in the city.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:05 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Early voting
        

September 7, 2010

BaltCo Council hopeful Harden had tax trouble

Democratic Baltimore County Council candidate Gordon Harden acknowledged Tuesday that he didn’t pay state and federal income taxes between 1997 and 2005, troubles that led to heavy government penalties.

Harden said his taxes were about 25 to 30 percent of the $144,000 that he eventually paid. The remaining amount was interest and penalties. Harden said a rough divorce left him in serious financial straits with three children to raise on his own. The news website Lutherville-Timonium Patch reported the troubles, which led to multiple tax liens on his property.

“I didn’t pay taxes so I could pay my kids’ tuition and keep my people working,” said Harden, who owned a Nationwide Insurance agency in Owings Mills before retiring earlier this year. “I thought that financially things would get better but they didn’t for three or four years. It was a horrible time. I never thought it would get so bad.”

Harden, of Towson, said he had limited options.

“I would’ve had to tell my kids that they couldn’t go to college. This was the only way I could get them there,” he said. Two of his three children graduated from college.

Harden said he has put the matter behind him – all taxes were paid off in 2006 – but he would have done it again for his children.

“I didn’t live my life planning to run for office,” he said. “If I’d planned to run for office, I’d have kept myself looking real good and let my kids worry about their own lives.”

He stressed that his personal financial issues never impacted his ability to serve on the Planning Board, where he worked on 13 capital budgets. Harden said it was easy to stick to the county’s conservative fiscal management philosophy given what he was dealing with in his personal life.

“I had to live very fiscally conservative and the person who got hurt most in the whole thing was me,” Harden said. “I had employees, children, rent, expenses. … Everything and the government got paid.”

-Raven Hill

Posted by Andy Rosen at 6:53 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: In The Counties
        

Currie gets a court date

State Sen. Ulysses Currie, indicted by a federal grand jury last week on corruption charges, is set to make his first court appearance at a hearing Sept. 17, Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports. The Prince George’s County Democrat is expected to plead not guilty.

Currie is alleged to have accepted $245,000 in payments from Shoppers Food Warehouse in exchange for his help removing state bureaucratic hurdles. He stepped down from his position as chair of the senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee after the indictment was announced.

Currie’s attorney, Dale Kelberman, describes his arrangement with Shoppers as a consulting position similar to the outside employment many of the state’s legislators hold during the nine months that the General Assembly does not meet. The supermarket chain is headquartered in Currie’s district.

Two former executives from the chain also were indicted last week. Former president William White is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 17. Former vice president for real estate R. Kevin Small has not yet been assigned a court date.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 6:33 PM | | Comments (1)
        

B'More Green: Candidates wade into Bay politics

The Chespeake Bay is getting some unexpected face time in recent political ads and campaign literature. Candidates are usually quiet on green issues in part because the environment barely registers in polls about what issues are important to voters.

Sister blog B'More Green notes that Bob Ehrlich, a Republican gubernatorial candidate and former governor, features the Chesapeake Bay in a television ad. And in Baltimore County's heated county executive race, the Democratic challengers have traded barbs about the environment.

From B'More Green:

"The latest, most visible example, is the ad from former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that debuted on Facebook/YouTube on Sunday and will begin airing on local TV stations later this month. The 30-second spot, "Let's Get to Work," doesn't make any specific claims or promises, just flashes through a series of reasons why the Republican candidate says he's running - including the Bay.

The campaign issues Ehrlich has been hammering throughout the summer are mentioned, including fixing the state's budget woes, helping small businesses and ensuring excellent schools for all. But the brief litany ends with what appears to be a waterman saying "Protect the Bay - Finally."

The governor's race isn't the only one where the Bay or the environment are getting some attention. In the Baltimore County executive's race, Democratic Councilman Kevin Kamenetz is hitting his primary rival, Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, for votes he made years ago as a legislator on pesticides and bayfront development.

Bartenfelder has responded with his own ad saying Kamenetz is misrepresenting his environmental record. Such green-themed campaign ads are remarkable because polling routinely shows environmental issues aren't high on most voters' minds, whether in national, state or local races. Other than limited, targeted appeals to devoted greenies, candidates rarely bring up the environment on their own."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Political ads
        

Harris gets nod from conservative Republican leader in House

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the third-ranking Republican in the House leadership, is lending his voice to Andy Harris' campaign for Congress.

Pence chairs the House Republican Conference and is regarded as one of the leading conservatives in Congress. He will take questions from reporters Wednesday on a conference call with Harris, a veteran state lawmaker from the Baltimore suburbs.

Harris is being challenged by political newcomer Rob Fisher in the September 14 Republican primary in Maryland's First District, which covers the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.

The winner will face freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in November. Congressional handicappers give Republicans an excellent chance of picking up the seat, which had been held by a Republican, centrist Wayne Gilchrest, for almost two decades.

Posted by Paul West at 11:20 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Ehrlich raises more, still short of O'Malley

Political candidates rushed to turn in another round of campaign finance reports before the Labor Day weekend -- they were due before midnight Saturday -- and results have been trickling out ever since.

It was a short reporting period, just about two weeks compared to the seven months contained in the one that came out in mid-August.

Colleague Justin Fenton wrote Sunday about the amounts raised by the major gubernatorial contenders and checked in on the Baltimore state's attorney's race. And colleague Arthur Hirsch reported yesterday on this blog about the campaign finance reports in the contentious Baltimore County executive race. 

Here's the bottom line:

* Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley raised $267,000 and has $6.5 million in the bank.

* Republican former Gov. Robert. L Ehrlich Jr. raised $725,000 and has $2.5 million in the bank.

* Republican gubernatorial challenger Brian Murphy raised $34,000 (including a $14,000 loan to himself). He has self-financed much of his campaign, despite a name-recognition boost that came when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed him.

* Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy loaned her campaign $100,000 to buy television ads in what has become an interesting and well-documented race for the top city prosecutor job.

* Fenton writes that Jessamy's Democratic primary challenger, Gregg Bernstein, "turned some heads" by raising $220,000 in the previous reporting period. He padded his account by raising another $70,000 in recent weeks.

* Baltimore County executive candidate Kevin Kamenetz has spent four times as much on advertising as his chief opponent for the Democratic nomination, Joseph Bartenfelder -- about $967,000 compared to $244,000.

* Bartenfelder has a cash balance of $461,219, and Kamenetz has $357,425 in the bank.

 

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:35 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Campaign finance
        

Ehrlich TV ad: 'Let's get to work.'

The first television ad for Republican candidate for governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is out, and it's filled with sunny images and a call to action.

Ehrlich, who is trying to win back the post from Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, calls the spot "Let's Get to Work." It debuted early Sunday morning on Facebook, the social media site that he has used for other major announcements, including his selection of running mate.

It'll air in the Baltimore media market, where O'Malley's ads have been playing for weeks. Stations WBAL and WJZ confirm Ehrlich's ads will air until Sept. 19, costing him more than $150,000.

There isn't much to analyze in Ehrlich's 30-second spot. He makes no claims, makes no specific promises and refrains from directly attacking O'Malley. Rather, he uses a few simple phrases meant to motivate voters:

"Today, Maryland is in trouble," he says, in front of the Annapolis State House.

"We're worse off than we were four years ago... dangerous debt, higher taxes, not enough jobs. We need real leadership to turn this state around."

Others in the ad briefly discuss the budget, small businesses, the Chesapeake Bay and schools. Ehrlich is joined at the end of the ad by his family.

"It's why I'm running," he says, as wife Kendel Ehrlich gazes at him. "To make the state we love not just good, but great. Now let's get down to work."  

The Sun's longtime television critic gives the ad rave reviews. Hop over to his blog, Z on TV, to check it out.

O'Malley has been on television most of the summer, spending about $160,000 per week, with a series of ads that feature business owners praising his handling of the national economic recession. Z on TV called those spots "smart."

Here's the bike shop O'Malley ad.

So far, at least, both major gubernatorial candidates seem to want to stay positive on TV -- a striking contrast from O'Malley's early radio attack ads, that included one called "Big Oil Bob."

Underdog Republican challenger Brian Murphy also has a television ad out. It is airing daily during Fox's Glenn Beck show until the primary election.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 7:55 AM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Political ads
        

September 6, 2010

Campaign finance reports out for Baltimore County executive race

Sun reporter Arthur Hirsch gives us an update from the Baltimore County executive race

Baltimore County executive candidate Kevin Kamenetz has spent four times as much on advertising as his chief opponent for the Democratic nomination, Joseph Bartenfelder, according to the last campaign finance reports that will be filed before the primary next week.

Reports show that Kamenetz, 52, a county councilman from Owings Mills, has spent $969,211 on media, as compared with $243,893 for Bartenfelder, 53, a councilman from Fullerton. Also running for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 14 primary is Ronald E. Harvey, a former county employee from Nottingham, who reported total expenses of $1,278 and a cash balance of $3,872. 

The winner will face Republican Kenneth Holt, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates who is running unopposed for his party’s nomination.

While he’s way behind in advertising spending, Bartenfelder has spent more than five times as much as Kamenetz for campaign signs, brochures and other printed materials, reflecting both a difference in resources and a different approach to the campaign. Bartenfelder’s campaign chairman, W. Michael Seganish, has said they never expected to match Kamenetz in fundraising, and have focused on using more traditional methods of posting lots of signs and relying on volunteers to get their voters out. Bartenfelder reports spending $175,987 on printing and campaign materials, compared with $33,807 for Kamenetz.

Bartenfelder  has raised $889,866 and reported a cash balance of $461,219. Kamenetz has raised $1,445,471 and reported a cash balance of $357,425.

Kamenetz’s television advertisements have so far focused on his accomplishments in public safety and his work on helping to get air conditioning installed at the Ridgely Middle School in Lutherville-Timonium. He has also aired a 30-second spot criticizing Bartenfelder’s record on the environment when he was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates between 1982 and 1994. Both men have served on the County Council since December 1994.

In his television advertisements, Bartenfelder has introduced himself to voters who don’t know him, touted his contribution to winning school construction funds and claimed that Kamenetz has misrepresented his record. Kamenetz has also accused Bartenfelder of distortions in his ads.

Kamenetz argues that Bartenfelder has claimed undue credit for winning school construction money and misrepresented his record on voting against council pay raises and on council pension reform. Bartenfelder voted against the pay raise in 2005, but in favor of two others before that. In January of this year, Bartenfelder supported pension reform that would have cut benefits 40-percent to current members, while Kamenetz – along with all council members but Bartenfelder – supported a 40-percent cut only for future members.

Bartenfelder argues that Kamenetz’s advertising leaves the incorrect impression that Kamenetz has been endorsed by county police and that air conditioning has been installed at Ridgely Middle. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #4 has endorsed Bartenfelder. While the Ridgely Middle air conditioning project has been approved, the installation hasn’t begun.

The police advertisement, featuring former county officer Rainier Harvey, says Kamenetz “put more police in our neighborhoods.” While Kamenetz says that he worked with the police department to deploy 82 new police officers to new neighborhood programs in 1996, the police were hired with a federal grant. Kamenetz does not claim to have helped secure the grant.

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 3:04 PM | | Comments (0)
        

September 3, 2010

Brian Murphy spot to air during Glenn Beck

Bob Ehrlich isn't the only Republican gubernatorial hopeful with television news today. Underdog challenger Brian Murphy he will debut a TV spot tonight on the jumbotron at Frederick's minor league baseball team stadium, after throwing out the game's first pitch.

Murphy's spot will air during Fox's Glenn Beck show tonight, next week and on the day before the Sept. 14 primary election, said campaign spokeswoman Karla Graham. The campaign disclosed the ad buy in a release announcing the beginning of his "Refuse to Settle Tour."

The Montgomery County investor plays up that theme in the ad, saying small businesses have been "choked" for the past eight years, under Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Gov. Martin O'Malley, and that "our last two governors forgot their role." The ad includes text saying "Ehrlich = largest spending increase in state history" and "O'Malley = largest tax increase in state history."

Murphy, who started a successful Smith Island bakery, gained national attention when he attracted the backing of Sarah Palin, Alaska's former governor and a Tea Party idol.

Still, Murphy faces significant name-recognition challenges headed into the Sept. 14 primary. And the Maryland Republican Party has thrown its support behind Ehrlich, who has broader appeal than the more conservative Murphy. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2-to-1 in Maryland.

Murphy has self-funded much of his campaign. This is his first television advertisement.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:50 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Political ads
        

Ehrlich going up on TV

Gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. made his first TV buy this week. The Republican former governor will pour $91K into television advertisements on WBAL-TV starting Sunday and is spending $62K for ads on WJZ. His ads on both stations go for at least two weeks -- until Sept. 19, the station confirms.

Typically candidates buying in the Baltimore market will put up ads on all four major stations -- though were waiting to hear from FOX45 and ABC2.

Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth would not comment on the content of the ads. "We prefer not to discuss media strategies, purchase, etc," he said in an email.

The ads will run during news programs, and will be Ehrlich's will be his first paid spots on television -- typically the medium candidates spend most of their money. The purchase raises the question of Why Now? Campaigns often heat up after Labor Day, though many had thought the Ehrlich team would wait until after the September 14 primary to start spending money on TV since he does not appear to be threatened by Republican challenger Brian Murphy.

It will also be interesting to see if Ehrlich will run positive ads like the ones O'Malley has had up throughout the summer -- or if he'll jump out of the gate attacking the incumbent governor. O'Malley's ads feature business owners and executives praising the governor's handling of jobs and the economy.

Baltimore area viewers will be blanketed. Other candidates buying time include Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy and her opponent Gregg Bernstein; U.S. Rep. Frank M. Kratovil Jr. and his challenger state Sen. Andrew P. Harris; Joe Bartenfelder v. Kevin Kamenetz, who are vying for the Democratic nod in the Baltimore County Executive's race.

Even longtime Congressman CA Dutch Ruppersberger will be challenged on air - his primary opponent Raymond Atkins bought time.


Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:09 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Horserace, Political ads
        

September 2, 2010

Early primary voting is test run for general election

With the start Friday of early voting, Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Bykowicz reports, for the first time in state history all Maryland voters will be able to cast their ballots ahead of the Sept. 14 primary elections.

Candidates across the state are viewing this round of early voting as something of a dry run for the weeklong voting period that will precede the general election in November. Only registered Democrats and Republicans can participate in the primaries.

The new system has cast office-seekers in the role of de facto educators, explaining the process to voters. Many also include early voting information in their campaign literature and have begun mentioning it in automated phone calls to voters. Many, including the governor and his chief competitor, hope to lead by example by casting their own votes early.

“It's kind of crept up on us,” Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley said at an early voting rally this week in Annapolis with legislative leaders and the legislative black caucus. “It is still new to people as I encounter them on the street. Let's hope for a big turnout.”

The incumbent faces only token opposition in the Democratic gubernatorial primary; his two challengers have little name recognition or money. But aides have said early voting in the primary will provide a valuable preview of how the process will unfold in November.

In the Republican gubernatorial primary, former Gov. Robert L.Ehrlich Jr. must face down Montgomery County businessman Brian Murphy, who is far less widely known but drew national attention when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced her support for him this summer.

“It’s hard to figure out what early voting means in the Republican primary, given that this is the first time,” Murphy said this week. “We’re aware of it, but it’s a nonfactor.”

Murphy and others — Republicans and Democrats alike — predicted that only a tiny fraction of registered voters would cast their ballots early in the primary election. In Maryland’s 2006 gubernatorial primary, about 855,000 people voted, less than 30 percent of those who were eligible.

Voter registration has ticked up slightly since then, but primary elections tend to bring out only the most committed voters, political analysts say. Most predict that early voters in the primaries will be people who would have cast absentee ballots otherwise. States with long-established early voting typically see about 20 percent of votes cast before election day.

Ross Goldstein, deputy state elections director at the Maryland Board of Elections, said the state is ready.

There are 46 early voting centers across the state, compared to about 1,900 polling places on Election Day, he said. Each will be monitored by Democratic and Republican elections judges, just as on primary election day. Neither party has reported problems staffing the centers.

All early voting centers are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Thursday, with the exception of Sunday, when they are closed. Registered voters may cast ballots at any center in their home county.

Populous places have several early voting sites — there are five in Baltimore — while more rural areas such as Washington County have just one.

“I don’t anticpate that large of a turnout for early voting, at least this county,” said Del. Christopher B. Shank, a Republican in a tight primary election angainst an incumbent Republican senator in the area. “But smart campaigns have to be prepared and get their message out early, not just on Sept. 14. You’ve got to balance the importance of that day against the people who might vote early.”

One way that candidates appear to be striking that balance is by encouraging early voting. Many are leading by example: O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Democratic House Speaker Michael E. Busch of Anne Arundel County plan to vote Friday.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy said she plans to vote Friday in the Democratic primary so that she can see for herself how the process works.

“As we go out to community, we’re telling people that they can vote early, and they seem surprised,” said Jessamy, who faces the well-financed and police-backed Gregg Bernstein in her toughest primary in years. “Our message to people is: vote early, vote on the 14th, but don’t vote late.”

Bernstein has no plan to vote early but has been trumpeting the process in his robust social media campaign.

Early voting has posed a bit of an awkward situation for Ehrlich, who led the charge against it while he was governor.

Ehrlich composed a YouTube message in which he attempts to reconcile his opposition to early voting with his desire for you to vote early for him.

In the video, released Friday, Ehrlich says he saw early voting as a “solution in search of a problem.” Still, he says his campaign hopes to take “full advantage” of what is now state law.

His position has not gone unnoticed by his primary challenger or his likely general election opponent.

“Ehrlich's change of heart on early voting [is] nothing more than an opportunistic about-face by a career politician,” Murphy said in a release Tuesday, some of his strongest criticism to date of Ehrlich.

O'Malley's campaign spokesman said in a message to supporters Tuesday that early voting was a “no-brainer for public officials on both sides of the aisle, but if Bob Ehrlich had had his way early voting would never have been possible.”

The Maryland General Assembly approved early voting in 2005, Ehrlich vetoed it that May and then the legislature overrode his veto the next year.

It didn’t matter. The state’s highest court ruled in 2006 that the state consitution is clear: Voting day is a specific day, meaning the question of whether to change how the elction works needed to be put directly to voters. Marylanders voted overwhelmingly in 2008 to approve it, and the legislature set up the process.

Today is its debut.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 4:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Early voting, Elections
        

September 1, 2010

Baltimore Co. Councilman Moxley endorses Kamenetz

From Baltimore Sun reporter Arthur Hirsch:

Baltimore County Councilman S.G. Samuel Moxley is the last of the Democrats on the council to choose sides in the primary race for county executive between councilmen Kevin Kamenetz and Joseph Bartenfelder. His endorsement of Kamenetz could provide a lift in the southwest end of the county, where Bartenfelder is expected to run strong.

"It was a very difficult decision for me," said Moxley, who joined the council in 1994 along with Kamenetz, Bartenfelder and T. Bryan McIntire. "I think they're both good people."

He joins councilmen John Olszewski Sr. and Vincent Gardina of the east side in backing Kamenetz, who represents the area including Reisterstown, Pikesville, Ruxton and parts of Owings Mills. Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver of the west side, next to Kamenetz's district, is supporting Bartenfelder, a farmer from Fullerton. McIntire, the lone Republican on the council, has said he'll be supporting his party's candidate, Kenneth C. Holt, who is running unopposed in the primary on Sept. 14.

In describing why he chose to back Kamenetz, Moxley echoed many people who have announced their support for the 52-year-old lawyer from Owings Mills: he's smart, analyzes situations well and understands the details of policy.

Moxley, who chose not to run for a fifth term, mentioned specifically Kamenetz's role over the years as the county's negotiator with cable companies Comcast and Verizon, and his work on legislation, particularly land use law that has had impact not just in Kamenetz's 2nd District, but countywide.

"Kevin is an appropriate and good leader," said Moxley, of Catonsville. "A very intense person when it comes to issues. He does delve into the small details as well as the big picture."

Moxley said he'd be getting out to spread the word about Kamenetz, even as he acknowledged that less than two weeks before the election he still runs into many people who are unaware that Moxley himself won't be on the ballot.

"I'll do whatever I can to assist in the campaign," he said.

Posted by Maryann James at 11:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Elections
        

Currie, supermarket execs indicted

A federal grand jury in Maryland has charged the chairman of the Senate’s powerful budget panel and two former supermarket executives with bribery, extortion and other criminal offenses in an 18-count indictment, Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports.

In announcing the charges Wednesday, prosecutors said Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Democrat, misused his influence for personal gain while helping Shoppers Food Warehouse expand in Maryland.

“Government officials cross a bright line when they accept payments in return for using the authority of their office, whether they take cash in envelopes or checks labeled as consulting payments,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

“When businesses can obtain valuable government benefits by putting a senator on the payroll, it diminishes public confidence and disadvantages companies that refuse to go along with the pay-to-play approach.”

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, a close ally, said in a statement that Currie has agreed to relinquish his post as the chairman of Budget and Taxation Committee, which oversees the state’s $32 billion annual spending plan. Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, the vice-chairman, will lead the committee, Miller said.

Currie’s attorney, Dale Kelberman, put out a statement saying Currie would plead not guilty to the charges.

A 15-year veteran of the Senate, Currie filed for reelection in January and faces no opposition in the primary or general election.

The federal investigation became public when agents searched Currie's District Heights home in May 2008. The federal agents at that time alleged that Currie was paid $200,000 by Shoppers Food Warehouse over five years and did not disclose it on required ethics forms.

While receiving the payments, Currie supported legislation that would help the company, including a bill in 2005 that allowed the chain to transfer liquor licenses between locations, according to federal agents. He also pushed for state financial incentives that would help a Shoppers store at Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore.

Currie has been beset by other problems; he replaced his longtime campaign treasurer this month after filing an August 10 financial disclosure that showed $187,000 had been drained from the account with no explanation for how it was spent.

State Prosecutors have also been investigating Currie’s campaign spending since he raised eyebrows by using his campaign account to pay Baltimore law firm Miles & Stockbridge for helping fend off the federal probe. Campaign funds are only supposed to be used for investigations that relate to campaign spending; and are not permitted to be used on investigations into the public duties of elected officials, according to the Attorney General’s office.

Currie’s fundraising has been lackluster, though it appears some in his party are rallying around him. He filed his most recent report days early, and it showed $5,534 contributions; including a check from for $2,595.92 from the Democratic Attorneys General Association and one for $2,438.43 from Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot.

Travis Berry, with the DAGA said Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler requested the funds to help pay for a sample ballot that supports all candidates in the district. Franchot’s political director, Andrew Friedson, also said the comptroller’s check was for that ballot. The three other delegates in Currie’s district are Dereck Davis, Aisha Braveboy and Melony Griffith, all of whom are Democrats seeking reelection.

Currie’s previous report showed he raised a mere $1,050 in the from January to August from four donors.

Currie was first elected to the General Assembly 24 years ago as a delegate representing Prince George's, and then ran successfully for the Senate in 1994.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:51 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Police endorse Jessamy opponent in primary

The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police today endorsed Gregg Bernstein over Patricia Jessamy in the Democratic primary battle for city state's attorney.

Bernstein, a former federal prosecutor and successful defense attorney, also has the unofficial backing of Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld, who raised Jessamy's hackles by sticking a Bernstein sign in his lawn earlier this summer. (He has since removed it.)

Meanwhile, Jessamy, the city's top prosecutor since 1995, has corralled the support of much of Baltimore's political establishment. But a recent letter to the Afro-American newspaper from the city's senators backing Jessamy has generated controversy: Sen. George Della, in a tough Democratic primary of his own, was not listed among the co-signers even though his name appears on the letterhead.

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley -- a frequent critic of Jessamy when he was Baltimore mayor -- offered supportive words about Jessamy in July but stopped short of an endorsement. He implied one would be forthcoming, but with less than two weeks to go until primary election day, it has yet to materialize.

Please hop over to Baltimore Crime blog for more details on this tangled and interesting race.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:19 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Crime & Justice
        

Murphy, O'Malley hit Ehrlich on early voting

* Updated below *

Maryland's gubernatorial candidates want you to vote early. But two of them, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican underdog challenger Brian Murphy also want to remind you that Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Republican former governor and current contender, once vetoed early voting.

"Ehrlich's change of heart on early voting [is] nothing more than an opportunistic about-face by a career politician," Murphy said in a release late Tuesday, some of his strongest criticism to date of his primary challenger.

O'Malley's campaign spokesman said in a message to supporters Tuesday that early voting was a "no-brainer for public officials on both sides of the aisle, but if Bob Ehrlich had had his way early voting would never have been possible."

Anticipating such criticism, Ehrlich composed a YouTube message in which he attempts to reconcile his opposition to early voting with his desire for you to vote early for him.

In the video, released Friday, Ehrlich says he has been critical of early voting because it is a "solution in search of a problem." Still, he says his campaign hopes to take "full advantage" of what is now state law.

Murphy, in his release last night, says Ehrlich's push on early voting is meant to counteract his challenger's momentum. A little-known Montgomery County investor, Murphy attracted national attention when former Alaska governor and Tea Party fixture Sarah Palin endorsed him.

On early voting, Murphy said of Ehrlich, "Before he was opposed to it, but now that our campaign is gaining ground, he supports it."

Here's a timeline on early voting's legislative history, compiled by colleague Annie Linskey:

Winter 2005 -- General Assembly passed early voting law

May 2005 -- Ehrlich vetoes early voting

Winter 2006 -- Maryland General Assembly overrides Ehrlich's veto

Spring 2006 -- Board of Elections prepare for early voting in 2006 elections

August 2006 -- Maryland Court of Appeals rules early voting unconstitutional, noting that the voting schedule is clearly laid out in the state's constitution. Changing it requires voter approval. 

Winter 2007 -- General Assembly approves constitutional referendum on early voting

November 2008 -- Voters overwhelmingly approve early voting

Early voting begins Friday, and primary election day is Sept. 14. Check out this state web site for details on early voting locations.

Update: The Maryland Democratic Party and Maryland Republican Party are to hold a joint press conference tomorrow morning to promote early voting.

Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Turnbull and Republican Party Chairwoman Audrey Scott both will give remarks in just outside the State House in Annapolis. The parties are billing it as an educational event.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:07 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Early voting
        

Comptroller releases annual MD revenue report

Maryland pulled in less revenue than almost any time in four decades -- but outperformed its bleak financial forecast, state Comptroller Peter Franchot reported this morning.

The state's revenue collections, which include sales and property taxes and various fees, amounted to $12.6 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30, representing a year-over-year decline of 3.7 percent, Franchot said.

But because financial analysts had predicted an even more dramatic decline, the state actually ended the year with $183.7 million more than projected. The state ended the year with a fund balance of $344 million (the unexpected money plus planned transfers), which, by law, goes into the state's rainy day fund.

Franchot summarized the report this morning at the Board of Public Works, a three-member panel of Democrats that also includes Gov. Martin O'Malley and Treasurer Nancy Kopp.

It was a striking contrast from last year, when lower-than-anticipated revenues prompted the board to slash spending to bring the state budget into balance.

Still, Franchot maintained a gloomy tone, saying only that the state had "outperformed its catastrophic projections."

"That's great," O'Malley said.

"It's not just great, it's a great sense of relief," Franchot said. He went on to say that the national recession has taken its toll on Maryland, even though it is doing better than other states.

To get back to where state revenue stood before the recession, Maryland would have to see 14 percent growth each year for the next four years. State revenue is projected to grow by 3.6 percent this year.

"Anyone who thinks we can grow our way out of this is mistaken," Franchot said. "We simply have to face reality."

He said the state would need to continue its belt-tightening in "this new age of austerity."

O'Malley focused on the positive signs, pointing to five months of job growth, lower unemployment claims in recent months and Forbes Magazine's prediction that Maryland would be one of just three states to see revenue growth this year.

"We'll just have to keep up the cutting and the tough choices that we've shown ourselves capable of," the governor said.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:10 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Tax & Spend
        
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About the bloggers
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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