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October 31, 2010

Governor candidates give closing arguments on TV

*** Update: Over the weekend, O'Malley began airing a third new spot, a reprise of an attack ad from earlier in the campaign. It highlights Ehrlich's "a fee is not a tax" statement and cuts to "real Marylanders" calling Ehrlich a "typical politician." A similar spot became controversial when Maryland Public Television's Jeff Salkin objected to being used in a poltical ad.

In three commercials on the air now, Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. make their final pleas for your vote. The commercials are stylistically quite different, but they are similar in that they quickly dismiss the opponent and then attempt to drive home the candidate's message.

O'Malley's two commercials, called "One Leader" and "Only One," are nearly identical to each other in style and content. "Only One" opens with a scene of an empty governor's chair and the words, "Two governors, but only one has made the tough choices to put our priorities first."

"One Leader" touts his endorsement by The Washington Post. In both, images of O'Malley at work are interwoven with iconic Maryland scenery. A narrator says the Democratic governor cut spending while protecting priorities such as education and public safety.

Ehrlich's commercial, titled "I Ask," features the Republican former governor in a candy-cane-striped tie, against a white backdrop. It opens with Ehrlich calling O'Malley's negative ads "nonsense." Looking directly at the camera, he says, "This election isn’t about Martin O’Malley or me. It’s about you." He then says he will "stop spending money we don't have" and repeal the sales tax increase.

All new spots appear after the jump.

O'Malley's "Only One"

O'Malley's "One Leader"

Ehrlich's "I Ask"

O'Malley's "Again"

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 6:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Political ads

October 30, 2010

State ordered to extend overseas ballot deadline

A federal judge has ordered the State of Maryland to extend the deadline for accepting overseas ballots by 10 days, the Associated Press reports.

Judge Roger Titus issued an order Friday extending the deadline from Nov. 12 to Nov. 22.

The judge ruled on a lawsuit against the state Board of Elections by a member of the Maryland National Guard who said overseas voters have not been given enough time to obtain and return ballots for next week's election.

The guardsman, identified in court papers as Officer John Doe, and the Washington-based Military Voter Protection Project alleged that officials mailed overseas ballots listing candidates for federal office only by the deadline set in a new federal law designed to protect military voters.
They say this prevents them from voting for state office candidates, including governor.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)

October 29, 2010

Early voting draws more than 200K voters

Democratic leaders were so enthusiastic about the 219,000 Marylanders who participated in the six-day early voting program that Friday there was already talk of expanding it.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was campaigning in Rockville, said that he’d like to look at adding more locations there and in neighboring Prince George’s County — where voters stood in line to cast ballots.

The program, which ended Thursday, attracted 6.3 percent of eligible voters and was far more popular than the early voting period for the primary election which only drew 2.4 percent or 77,000 participants.

Democrats cast 64 percent of total early votes, outstripping their voter 56 percent registration advantage. Republicans cast 27 percent of the vote — slightly better than their 26 percent registration, according to the state board of elections. Absentee returns are following that trend, with 65 percent of the vote-by-mail cast by Dems and 27 cast by GOP so far.

Political watchers warned not to read too much into early voting numbers, as The Sun reported earlier this week. Actual results will not be tallied until election day. But that didn't stop partisans from celebrating.

Susan Turnbull, the chairwoman of the state Democratic party, said she was “very pleased” with the participation levels. “These votes are in the bank,” she said. “We don’t have to concentrate on those people,” she said.

Voting picked up as the days went on, with Thursday by far the most popular day at the polls.

Prince George’s county residents cast the most early votes, with 38,500 participating. Baltimore County took second place with 31,000 voters turning out early.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:00 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Early voting

Ehrlich and O'Malley talk jobs, jobs, jobs in final days

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. made a final pitch to business leaders Thursday telling the audience at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner that he'd "clean out" the state's regulatory agencies if elected.

"Enough of the over-regulation," Ehrlich said. "Enough. That is what I see and feel from this crowd tonight."

Ehrlich and Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, have different views on how to improve the state's economy, an issue The Sun wrote about Thursday. Stories on other issues, including crime, juvenile justice, education, transportation and the environment are on the right. ====>>

In his speech, Ehrlich called the Maryland Department of the Environment and the state's labor department "job killers" and accused business leaders in the audience of "placating" the Democratic politicians who "regularly cut your throat."

Gov. Martin O'Malley was invited, but a Chamber official announced that the governor won't make it. The line prompted Ehrlich top staffer Greg Massoni to clap loudly from the back of the room.

O'Malley talked to business leaders Friday, though his focus was Montgomery County. He lunched with a group who largely work in the "innovation economy" that the governor would like to build here.

The group seemed to be doing well financially, with Scott Nash, the founder of My Organic Market, a specialty grocery store saying the economic downturn didn't hurt him much. Gary Skulnik, of Clean Currents, a green energy firm, explaining that new state rules requiring more solar energy production caused him to expand and hire more people.

Several could not resist reminding O'Malley about the so-called tech-tax, a short lived levy on computer services that passed in the Fall 2007 special session and only to be repealed months later.

"It was like having a bad dream and than waking up from it," O'Malley said of the tax. He called the bill the "best tax I ever repealed" and said it was a "boneheaded" thing to do.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:59 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

O'Malley rallies base in Prince George's Co.

Democrats deployed green-shirted troops and signs to vote-thick Prince George's County yesterday, the final day of early voting. Gov. Martin O'Malley joined his supporters there in the evening for a series of cautiously optimistic rallies, as he enters the final weekend of the campaign trail.

O'Malley rendezvoused with Teamsters, members of his 1,000 Women for O'Malley group and others in a Bowie parking lot just after 5:30 p.m. The women erupted into a "four more years chant," but O'Malley -- who'd been in Hagerstown, Columbia and Baltimore earlier that day -- interrupted them: "But only four more days."

That evening, Route 450 was dotted with O'Malley sign-wavers. They repurposed giant Steny Hoyer for Congress signs to advertise early voting in thick black hand writing. They also hoisted huge "We've got your back" Obama signs urging passers-by to vote Democrat.

Later, O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown held a pep rally in the parking lot of the Bowie Library, the state's top early voting center in the primary and one of the leading spots in the general election, too. As they spoke, the line of early voters wrapped around the building.

Mayors of local municipalities extolled the Democratic gubernatorial candidate on loud speaker. "Don't be down, O'Malley-Brown's in town!" Edmonston Mayor Adam Ortiz cheered.

Brown and O'Malley used the occasion as a warning that they can't take their projected lead (double digits over Republican former Gov, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in three recent polls) for granted.

"We've got the ball,"  Brown said in a lengthy football analogy. "But we've got to play like we're down." He called O'Malley the "best quarterback" in the country.

O'Malley continued the admonishment: "I have a friend. His name is Ray Mabus."

Telling a story he also used in speeches earlier in the day, O'Malley explained that Mabus, now U.S. secretary of the Navy,  was a one-term governor of Mississippi. Going into the home stretch of his reelection campaign, Mabus was "15 points up in the polls," O'Malley said.

But his supporters got too comfortable, O'Malley said, and he lost on Election Day.

To avoid a similar fate, the O'Malley campaign will be working overtime for the next four days. Brown called for 6,000 volunteers to pitch in and said the campaign hoped to make 150,000 phone calls to voters this week.

On Election Day, O'Malley said, as many as 20 sound trucks -- a tradition in East and West Baltimore -- will deploy across the state. 

"It's a mad dash to the end," O'Malley said. Today, he spends much of his day in Montgomery County.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:45 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Democrats promoting Libertarian to undermine Harris

In what appears to be a national pattern, the Democratic Party is highlighting a longshot third-party candidate in an effort to undermine a Republican nominee--in this case, Andy Harris, the GOP challenger in Maryland's tightest House race.

The tactic is either a desperation move, or a sign of how close the contest is, or both. It has special resonance in Maryland's First District, where the Libertarian candidate's two percent of the vote arguably tipped the historically Republican seat to Democrat Frank Kratovil in '08.

The Democratic mailer, first reported by Eastern Shore blogger Michael Swartz, masquerades as an attack on Richard Davis, the third man in the race, running again this year on the Libertarian line, with no realistic chance of winning.

Paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the flier describes Davis, twice, as an outsider and Tea Party type.

Davis "plans to cut government spending, will drastically reduce the size of government across the board, is a complete outsider . . . Davis and the Tea Party think government is part of the problem, and want to make it as small as possible."

"Richard Davis: Is he too conservative?" asks the mail piece.

The audience for the flier appears to be conservative voters. The barely disguised ploy to pull votes away from the Republican is a tactic Democrats are using elsewhere, too.

In Illinois, Democrats are promoting another Libertarian candidate, Mike Labno, in an attempt to cut into Republican Senate nominee Mark Kirk's support in conservative southern Illinois, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.

A second mailer that portrays the Libertarian as more serious than Harris about deficit reduction also went out recently in the district, according to blogger Mark Newgent. The piece does not say who paid for it, but Davis has issued a statement saying that neither he nor the Libertarian Party had any involvement in the mailing.

In 2008, Davis got 8,873 votes in the First District, which takes in the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties. That was more than double Kratovil's 2,852-vote victory margin. If the Libertarian had not been on the ballot, some Republicans believe, enough of those votes would have gone to Harris to change the outcome of the election.

"Obviously the Democrats are scrambling to try to get this race closer. They know Andy is pulling away in the polls, and it's an obvious Hail Mary attempt," Harris campaign spokeswoman Anna Nix said of the fliers. "They're pulling out all the tricks in the books, across the nation and in Maryland One, to try to get this race competitive again."

Posted by Paul West at 5:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

October 28, 2010

Hoyer: Kratovil "batting .800-plus with us"

Vice President Joe Biden, at a last-minute fundraiser for Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil of Maryland, called the Eastern Shore freshman's re-election battle "a really big race."

Urging an audience of about 80 at state Democratic Chairwoman Susie Turnbull's Bethesda home to get behind Kratovil, the vice president described Republican challenger Andy Harris as "genuinely out of the mainstream."

Before Biden spoke, House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland defended Kratovil against liberal critics of his voting record, which includes opposition to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

"Frank is batting .800-plus with us," he said. "I don't want you to tell anyone that," he added.

Told moments later that a reporter had been present for his remarks, Hoyer said he wasn't saying anything that he did not believe.

Harris and the Republicans have been countering Kratovil's claims of independence by portraying him in attack ads as a puppet of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who voted with her 84 percent of the time. Kratovil has said those attacks distort his voting record, which is closer to the center than any other member of the Maryland congressional delegation.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which put more than $800,000 into those anti-Kratovil ads, said in a statement prior to the event that “Frank Kratovil voted for the $800 billion Obama-Pelosi stimulus and continues to call it a ‘good thing.’ And for him, it is: Joe Biden’s thank-you visit will add hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign account. But for everyday Marylanders, it’s wasted their money and failed to create jobs. Contrary to the congressman’s belief, that’s not a ‘good thing’ – but it’s a great reason to fire him.”

Tickets to the event were in the $250-$500 range, according to one person who was invited.

Check out the complete pool report from the event, by our colleague Emily Cadei of Congressional Quarterly magazine, after the jump.

VP Joe Biden made an appearance at a fundraiser at a private home in Bethesda for Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil of Maryland, who is in a tough race against Republican Andy Harris (recent polls have Kratovil trailing)

No major news. Biden spoke for approx. 10 mins, exhorting the guests in attendance to rally their friends and contacts in support of Kratovil because "this is a really big race." He acknowledged that it is a tough district for Democrats to win but said the party "can't afford to lose a great congressman" to someone who is "genuinely out of the mainstream."

Like Obama has, Biden also tried to rationalize voter anger, noting many Americans have "had everything turned upside down" as a result of the economic crisis. And he said that they understand that is the fault of the Bush administration, but have yet to translate that knowledge into action.

Voters are "only now making up their minds" Biden said.

Democrats, he said, have to make sure the election is about a comparison between the Democrats and the alternative.

"Look at the message it sends" if Kratovil loses, Biden exclaimed, before urging the crowd to "get up!"

In attendance: Maryland Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer, Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards; Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough

Prior to the Biden's arrival, pool was also brought upstairs to hear opening remarks.

The hostess, Maryland State Democratic Party Chair Susan Turnbull, started off, thanking guests for attending this "wonderful event" for Frank.

She introduced Rep. Donna Edwards.
"We stand with each other as Democrats," Edwards said of the Maryland congressional delegation.

Edwards also thanked the guests for "standing tall with us at this really difficult time."

DCCC Chair/Rep. Chris Van Hollen then spoke. "We have a huge battle in Maryland across the board," he said.

CVH: "Frank Kratovil is a perfect fit for his congressional district."

"He has listened to his constituents every step of the way."

Harris, his opponent, "is way off on the right."

Rep. Steny Hoyer came next. He called Kratovil's race the most important in the state of MD, and said this election is "about the character of our country." The Repubs, he said, are "the narrowest-based party I have seen in my lifetime" and will "put our country in danger."

He also said that while some liberals may complain that Kratovil is not a loyal enough Democrat, "Frank is batting .800 plus with us."

"I don't want you to tell anyone that," though, he said.

Informed moments later that the press was here, Hoyer exclaimed that he wasn't saying anything he didn't believe.

Kratovil then got up and made a few remarks. He likened Republicans to people who "set fire to a house" and then criticize the people trying to put out the fire.

And he said he and his opponent "couldn't be more different."

"We can win this!" He concluded.

Some background on the event:

It is taking place at the home of Maryland Democratic Party Chair Susan Turnbull.

Approximately 80 people are in attendance.

The menu consists of passed and stationary hors d'oeuvres, including:
- blackened salmon sliders
- lamb polpettine and persian chicken skewers
- butternut squash soup sips
- antipasta - imported and domestic cheese; spreads; bread and crackers
- spiced nuts
- mini tarts

Posted by Paul West at 6:55 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Bailey offers to bail on BaltCo prosecutor race

Five days before the general election – too late to remove his name from the ballot – Republican Steve Bailey has offered to withdraw from the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s race if his opponent, first-term Democrat Scott D. Shellenberger, agrees to take a pay cut and opt out of the county pension plan.

“It’s time for local leaders like our State’s Attorney, the second highest paid elected official in the State, to step up and lead by example,” Bailey said. “Elected officials should not receive pension benefits that most working folks could only dream of.”

Shellenberger, whose campaign has primarily focused on his law-and-order record, declined.

“Since Day 1, I’ve been saying that this job is about fighting crime and law and order and that’s what this race should be about,” Shellenberger said. “I’ve known Steve Bailey for years. This last-ditch effort at once again talking about an issue that doesn’t apply to this job is just not the Steve Bailey that I know.”

Bailey agrees that for the most part Shellenberger has done a good job as state's attorney, and he wants to expand some of his initiatives. But his campaign platform is heavy on money matters - salary, pension, perks, financial efficacy and campaign backers.

He’d like to see the state’s attorney’s salary cut to $150,000 and for Shellenberger to enroll in a 401(k)-style retirement plan.

-Raven L. Hill

Posted by Andy Rosen at 4:57 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: In The Counties

Rest in Peace, Cousin Dupree

DJ Mark Bishop will play Steely Dan's "Cousin Dupree" next Wednesday night at Castaways, as he has pretty much every Wednesday since 1995, when Circuit Judge John Prevas got hooked on karaoke at a law clerk's going-away party.

And then, nevermore.

"We're going to get up one last time at Castaways and sing 'Cousin Dupree,'" Bishop told me. "We are going to officially retire the song. That song will never be played again in Castaways karaoke, or in my show, period, no matter where I go. Just like baseball when you retire a number. We're going to retire that number."

Bishop is planning a memorial for Prevas, who died Monday of a heart attack at the age of 63. It will take place at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Canton bar where the judge was known for singing and to his favorites. (The performances live on, on YouTube, under "Castaways karaoke." -- and on our blog.)

With a sober day job and a form of arthritis that prevented him from turning his head, Prevas was an unlikely karaoke devotee. And his theme song, about a guy making an incestuous play for his cousin, was an unlikely theme song for a judge.

But Anton J.S. Keating, the former Baltimore state's attorney candidate who sometimes joined Prevas at the mike, intends to send flowers and sign the card "Cousin Dupree."

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 2:33 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Law and Courts

Wargotz's hip-hop Hail Mary

Wa-aay behind in the polls, the Republican who's trying to unseat Democrat Sen. Barbara Mikulski has resorted to a most unusual Hail Mary pass.

Dr. Eric Wargotz has posted a video of his three kids — Jacob, 13; Samuel, 11; and Leila, 9 — singing a campaign rap song. (See it on YouTube under "Wargotz-Mikulski Rap.")

Here's a snippet: "Yo, what's up now, my brothers and sisters / Let me tell you 'bout a very smart mister / His name is Eric Wargotz and he's running for Senate / U.S., that is. And he's in it to win it."

Maybe this is part of that hip-hop makeover RNC chief and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele vowed to bring the GOP. It is certainly, as Steele promised, "off the hook."

(You can check out the video after the jump.)

Wargotz told me his kids thought up the song themselves.

"They wanted to do something to help, and like most kids these days, they like rap, they like hip-hop," he said. "I was flattered. They surprised me with it."

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 1:44 PM | | Comments (2)

Sen. Munson, defeated in primary, runs in general

* Updated with Shank reaction.

Washington County Sen. Donald Munson announced yesterday that he will try to keep his seat as a write-in candidate in the Nov. 2 election.

Del. Christopher Shank toppled Munson last month in the Republican primary. But Munson, senator for two decades, isn't giving up.

"Since the primary, I have had a huge number of Republicans say to me that they simply took me for granted and didn't bother voting on primary day," Munson said this morning. "I gave it a great deal of thought, and I decided that if they have that much confidence in me, I'm going to use this one last piece of the process."

Munson said he completed the necessary paperwork yesterday and has already returned to the campaign trail.

Shank, who is otherwise unopposed in the General Election, said this afternoon that Munson is "waffling" in an attempt to "cling to power."

Munson's last-minute decision, Shank said, deprives voters of debates and forums between the two candidates.

The 72-year-old senator announced his decision last night on his Facebook page and in a Twitter posting.

"I have continuously received requests to fill out the paperwork required to allow those of you who insist on writing my name in to count," Munson wrote in a Facebook status update posted at about 8:30 p.m. "Now I need all of those who have encouraged me to show up at the polls on November 2nd and vote!!!"

At least 66 people "like" this status. Some people commented that they had already written in Munson's name when they voted early.

Shank, 38, posted his own reaction today, telling followers, "I am extremely disappointed that he would enter the race at such a late date."

The House minority whip ran against Munson on the platform that he's the more conservative of the two. Shank criticized Munson for "siding with Democrats," particularly in the budget process.

Munson is a member of the Senate budget committee and said he finds it disingenuous to oppose his own work product, though many Republicans vote against the budget every year.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 9:05 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Ehrlich draws line between taxes and fees

Sandwiched between a slew of political ads, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich chatted this morning with FOX45's morning anchor Patrice Harris in a brief live interview.

He pledged not to raise taxes if elected, but hesitated about when questioned about fees. "Fees you'd have to define," he said. "Cutting taxes is part of our platform."

The answer will likely delight incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, who deployed a campaign ad questioning whether voters distinguish between taxes and fees.

Ehrlich and O'Malley both raised taxes and fees as governor, and in the past Ehrlich has said he would not raise fees. O'Malley says his planned budget for next year does not include a tax hike, but he has not ruled out the option.

Ehrlich says he'd try to reduce the state's sales tax if elected, a pledge he reiterated this morning. The tax cut could be funded by more effective investigation of Medicaid fraud, cutting vacant positions in state government and more better stewardship of the state's gambling program, he said.

Ehrlich also said he believes the tax rate on casino is set too high, and suggested that he'd lower it. Maryland takes 67 percent of gaming revenues, making it one of the highest rates in the country. Lowering the tax rate does not require amending the constitution.

The interview is one of a series Ehrlich is doing this morning, he also hit the WBAL-AM airwaves and will be on WCBM at 10 a.m.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 8:30 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Kratovil-Harris race nears top of spending list

The down-to-the-wire rematch between Frank Kratovil and Andy Harris for Maryland's easternmost congressional seat is now one of the ten most expensive House races in the nation, in terms of spending by outside groups.

With less than a week until Election Day, more than $3.75 million has been pumped into the contest, according to Federal Election Commission figures. The latest cash infusion: $348,000 from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on behalf of Kratovil, the endangered Democratic incumbent.

That brings the DCCC's total investment in Kratovil to nearly $1.5 million. Over the last week, however, the Republican Party's House campaign arm has put even more into the race on behalf of their candidate, Harris.

As residents of the district know all too well, virtually all of those dollars have been used to pay for attack ads on TV and radio.

According to the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, the Maryland contest has attracted the ninth largest amount of outside spending among 435 House districts across the country.

Nationwide, total outside spending in the 2010 midterm elections for the House and Senate now tops $400 million, Sunlight reported.

A recent Sun poll showed the Kratovil-Harris race dead even.

The money from the national parties and outside groups is in addition to dollars raised and spent by the candidates themselves.

Kratovil had collected over $2.3 million and Harris picked up a total of more than $2 million as of mid-October, FEC figures show. And the money chase isn't over yet.

Vice President Joe Biden will help fatten Kratovil's account today, when he headlines a fundraiser in Bethesda for the Eastern Shore congressman.

The race in the First District, which spans the Chesapeake Bay to take in portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties and the entire Eastern Shore, is already among the most expensive House contests in Maryland history. Total spending has already topped $8 million and could go significantly higher before the final numbers are reported.

Posted by Paul West at 5:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

October 27, 2010

Ehrlich says he probably wouldn't run again

A campaign trail dispatch from The Sun's Childs Walker:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said Wednesday that if he loses, this year’s race would be his last.

“It’s up or out,” he told reporters after a rally with seniors at Leisure World in Montgomery County. Ehrlich said it would be “difficult to imagine” a better environment to run in than this year’s election, with polls showing a GOP tide likely to sweep the nation.

He said he’s also finding it harder to be away from his children and that he has attractive fallbacks in his WBAL radio show and private sector legal work.

He told the crowd at Leisure World that he believed he was done with politics after Democrats dominated the 2008 election but that his wife, Kendel, urged him not to rule anything out.

He said he decided to run “for the greater good” after seeing rampant enthusiasm for his candidacy at political club meetings and other appearances in 2009.

“I’m very happy I made the decision,” he said. Ehrlich added that his campaign’s internal polls show his chances strengthening by the day.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:34 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Dialing-for-votes: Robocalls in Maryland

* Update: Here's the story, published Thursday.

Have you had the misfortune of picking up an "unknown" call in the past few weeks? The Sun is seeking true stories of robocalls you've received this political season.

In September, Sarah Palin recorded an electronic message urging voters to choose newcomer Brian Murphy in the Republican gubernatorial primary. The automated voices of Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown should be familiar to many voters by now, as the pair tries to fend off a challenge from Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and running mate Mary Kane.

And earlier this year, residents in Maryland's easternmost congressional district, where Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil is now in a tough fight with Republican challenger Andy Harris, were flooded with Republican robos on national health care reform.

Who is robo-calling you? Share your stories below.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:22 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Opponent hits Del. McConkey on real estate license

Republican Del. Tony McConkey's Democratic challenger unleashed a scathing attack on the incumbent this morning, calling McConkey a “bi-partisan fraudster” in response to reports that that a state regulatory commission suspended his real estate license on Monday after he admitted violating rules designed to protect homeowners during foreclosure proceedings.

At the regulatory hearing, McConkey , a member of the House of Delegates since 2003, admitted that he violated the Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act – a law he voted for twice in the General Assembly. Under the terms of his agreement, McConkey did not admit to “fraud or misrepresentation,” according to a representative from the Maryland Real Estate Commission. He has not been charged with any crime.

A lawyer for three women alleged McConkey tricked them into signing over their homes to him and left them homeless.

Madonna Brennan, who is running against McConkey to represent District 33A, called McConkey a “criminal” and said he “continually victimizes the voters of their district.”

“This is not a partisan issue,” said Brennan, of Gambrills. “I don’t believe Del. McConkey cares if you are a Republican, Democrat or an Independent. He is a bipartisan fraudster. … You don’t get to be a delegate by day and a criminal night.”

McConkey could not be reached for comment this morning. His legislative assistant Barbara Wilson said he was taking a class for the next three days and was unavailable. She said no one in the office could comment in his absence.

This is not the first time McConkey has been accused of wrongdoing related to his real estate dealings.

In 2009, a county Circuit Court jury ordered McConkey to pay $11,000 to a woman who signed her home over to him, although the jury ruled that McConkey did not intentionally defraud her.

-Nicole Fuller

Posted by Andy Rosen at 11:39 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: In The Counties

Tea leaves and early voting

It is tempting to see evidence of a Democratic leaning enthusiasm gap when examining trends in the early voting data released by the state's election board, but national political observers say: Resist that urge.

In Maryland the numbers show that Democratic voters have cast 63 percent of the vote so far -- even though the make up 56 percent of the electorate, a trend the Sun reported in a story for Wednesday's paper. Republicans, on the other hand, made up 27 percent of the vote, doing slightly better than their 26 percent registration.

The data would seem to show that Maryland is already bucking the predicted tend of highly energized GOP voters this year. After all, if the Rs were truly excited about Maryland's race, wouldn't the numbers show them flocking to the polls ahead of the allegedly disgruntled Democrats?

Jennifer Duffy, of The Cook Political Report, warned that the data is best used as a progress report for the competing D and R early voting programs. Indeed, the Democrats seem to be reaching more people on a nightly basis, though the GOP in Maryland claim they are exceeding goals.

George Mason University's Michael McDonald, who this week got into a lively debate with The New York Times' Nate Silver on this very topic, says early voting seems to be tracking pollsters' predicted outcomes in a number of states. But, he argues that the most insightful way of looking at the figures is to compare them with the turnout breakdowns by party from previous elections. Such a comparison is impossible here where early voting is brand new.

Todd Eberly, of St. Mary's College of Maryland, takes a stab at Mason's suggested analysis anyway and notes that in the September primary GOP voters stayed away from early voting places, but percentage-wise turned out more than Dems when the election was over.

Bottom line: Fun as this is, we're just not going to know much until Nov. 3.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Early voting

October 26, 2010

Danny Schuster puts another $47,200 behind Harris

With a big new investment in Andy Harris' congressional bid, Baltimore area concrete magnate Danny Schuster appears to be cementing (ahem) his status as Maryland's top donor of the 2010 midterm campaign.

The vehicle for Schuster's largesse, DGS Construction Inc., which he owns, just put $47,200 into a radio ad campaign on behalf of Harris, the veteran Republican state lawmaker who is challenging incumbent Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in Maryland's First District (parts of Baltimore, Harford, Anne Arundel counties, plus the Eastern Shore).

In addition to Harris, the big beneficiaries of Schuster's latest spending are WBAL radio, which charged DGS $25,600 for airtime, and--interestingly--Radio One, which sold $21,600 worth on its stations, which include WOLB, that largely aim their programming at African American audiences.

Black voters make up about ten percent of the district's population but aren't expected to turn out at nearly that rate in the election. A recent Sun poll found a tiny number of black voters who were either undecided or were Kratovil supporters who said they could change their mind; a total of 12 voters who said they were African-American were included in the survey (of 520 likely voters) and none said they were supporting Harris.

Earlier this month, Schuster's company put $300,000 into a Super PAC that has gone on the attack against Kratovil.

To put Schuster's giving into context, bigtime Democratic money man Peter G. Angelos, the Baltimore lawyer who owns the Orioles and historically ranks among the state's biggest political donors, has contributed a total of $128,700 to a variety of candidates and Democratic Party committees in the 2010 campaign.

Schuster, you may recall, had $600 of the money he donated directly to Harris refunded, because it exceeded the $2,400 limit an individual can give a candidate for each election. The rest of his 2010 giving on Harris' behalf is for so-called independent expenditure ads, which typically copy what a candidate is saying but are not supposed to be coordinated with the campaign.

It's all legal as a result of a Supreme Court ruling last winter, and related federal court action, that opened the spigots for unlimited spending by corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals.

Posted by Paul West at 6:20 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

General election Early voting exceeds primary total

Friday was the first day of a weeklong early voting period -- and people seem much more enthusiastic than they did during the primaries.

Both Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. stormed the state Saturday to get out the early vote.

The State Board of Elections reported that 32,000 people voted Friday. On Day One of primary early voting, merely 14,000 came out. In total, 77,000 people voted early in either the Democratic or Republican primary. As of Tuesday morning, more than 95,200 statewide had cast early votes for the general election, according to State Board of Elections figures.

Friday's numbers showed that twice as many Democrats as Republicans voted. That tracks from the primary early voting turnout. Prince George's County, a Democratic stronghold, has notched the highest turnout, with more than 15,800 casting ballots, the elections board reported.

The early voting centers are open to registered voters from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Thursday. Check here for details

Tallies from each day of early voting won't be made public until after the polls close on Election Day, Nov. 2.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:50 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Early voting

Sun Poll chat with Steve Raabe of OpinionWorks

Have questions about The Baltimore Sun's new poll? OpinionWorks President Steve Raabe will participate in a live chat at noon today. You can click the widget below to join the chat then, or, if you can't make it, click in and submit a question.

Raabe has been a pollster for 25 years and founded Annapolis-based OpinionWorks in 2001.

Sun poll methodology

The Baltimore Sun telephone survey of 798 likely voters was conducted Oct. 15-20. The Sun's pollster, OpinionWorks of Annapolis, used a Maryland Board of Elections database to identify registered voters with a history of voting in gubernatorial elections or who had registered to vote since the last election, and obtained survey results from those who ranked themselves seven or higher on 1-to-10 scale of their likelihood to vote.

The Sun's sample was designed to approximate the racial, gender, geographic, partisan and age breakdown of the state's voting population as a whole, based on turnout patterns averaged over the last four Maryland general elections. Results were weighted to reflect a higher-than-average Republican turnout this year, and slightly lower African-American participation than in recent elections. The margin of error for questions that reflect the entire sample is 3.5 percentage points, which means that in 95 times out of 100, the actual answer obtained by surveying every Maryland voter would be within 3.5 percentage points of the answer obtained by using the sample. For questions about Anne Arundel voters and slots, the sample size was 422 voters, with an error rate of 4.8 percentage points.

Posted by Carla Correa at 11:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Horserace

'Rockfish Republicans' are target in First

Rep. Frank Kratovil and his supporters are battling for support from environmental voters as the closely contested First District congressional campaign enters its final days.

Just out is a new attack ad from Defenders of Wildlife. It goes after Republican challenger Andy Harris' voting record on the environment during his years in the Maryland legislature as a state senator from the suburbs north of Baltimore.

According to the interest group's ad, Harris "just doesn't care" about improving the health of the Bay, an economic engine for the congressional district that spans it.

Kratovil, a centrist Democrat, is making a strong bid to win over "Rockfish Republicans." They are the district's more environmentally inclined GOP voters, many of whom backed former moderate Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, who represented the area in Congress from 1991 through 2008. Gilchrest has endorsed the Democratic incumbent and is raising money for his re-election.

You can check out the new ad by clicking here.

Posted by Paul West at 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Wargotz hits the airwaves at last

Republican Senate underdog Eric Wargotz is launching his first TV ad of the general election campaign, a 30-second spot that portrays incumbent Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski as Maryland's public enemy number one.

"At some point, Barbara Mikulski stopped working for us and started working against us," says the narrator. The ad, featuring a sledgehammer smashing a brick wall, lays out a list of disasters that occurred "on Senator Barb's watch." They include the health care "fiasco," mushrooming federal debt and the current foreclosure mess. The ad concludes with Wargotz delivering the disclaimer with a promise to "build Maryland up, not tear it down."

With Wargotz trailing by roughly 30 points in the polls and early voting already underway, it's hard to imagine anything that can turn the tide decisively for him at this stage.

You can click here to check out his ad, or wait for it to appear on a TV screen near you.

Posted by Paul West at 7:29 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Political sports: Ravens top Redskins

If the Ravens and Redskins met in the Superbowl, more than half of Maryland's likely voters would cheer for the team in purple, a Baltimore Sun poll has found.

Of 798 respondents who also answered weightier questions about the governor's race and their financial worries, 51 percent said they'd root for the Ravens while 31 percent would back the Redskins in a theoretical Superbowl matchup.

A closer look at the numbers reveals that fans of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. prefer the Ravens to Redskins by a wider margin than supporters of Gov. Martin O'Malley. (Ehrlich voters: 55 percent to 30 percent, O'Malley voters: 50 to 32.)

Redskins fans appear more enthusiastic about O'Malley than Ravens fans. (Redskins fans: 53 percent to 37 percent for Ehrlich, Ravens fans: 51 to 40)

Politicians in the making? Six O'Malley voters volunteered that they would "root for both teams," while only one Ehrlich voter gave such a fence-sitting answer.

Both candidates have closer ties to the Ravens. Ehrlich, who played ball at Princeton, grew up in and represented Baltimore County as a delegate and a member of Congress. O'Malley was mayor of Baltimore when the team won the 2001 Superbowl, though he grew up in Montgomery County, Redskins territory. 

The Ravens dominate in nearly every category of poll respondent -- black, white, male, female, Democrats, Republicans.

Baltimore's team also seems to have locked down its region in a way the Washington team has not. In metro Baltimore, 75 percent of poll-takers said they'd cheer for the Ravens. But in metro Washington, the Redskins can count on the support of only 56 percent of voters.

Maryland's two pro football teams have become somewhat of a hot-button this election year.

At debate this month in Washington, a moderator asked Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. what they would do to keep the Redskins in Prince George's County in the event of a threatened defection to the District, which the team has said it has no plans to do. 

Ehrlich replied that Redskins owner Dan Snyder is a fan and campaign contributor. "Obviously, having two franchises in Maryland is fantastic," he said, but went on to say there are big traffic problems with the Landover stadium.  "We'll see where the franchise wants to go, where the owner wants to go, and what the taxpayers have to say about it, as well."

(O'Malley camp quickly issued a release with the screaming headline: EHRLICH WOULD ALLOW TOP DONOR SNYDER TO MOVE REDSKINS BACK TO DC.)

In response to the debate question, O'Malley said he wasn't sure of the right answer. "But we would like to keep the Redskins stadium, and the Redskins playing in Prince George's County," he said.

Another debate question sough gubernatorial advice on how to the Orioles could improve. O'Malley offered, "Practice, practice, practice." Ehrlich thought they needed "a power-hitting first baseman."

The Sun's pollster didn't ask any questions about that team.

(Sun photos: Ehrlich in August at Ravens training camp in Westminster. O'Malley in January 2007 talking to Ray Lewis.)

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:00 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: For fun

October 25, 2010

Uneventful Mikulski, Wargotz debate strikes few sparks

The first and presumably final debate between Sen. Barbara Mikulski and her Republican challenger, Eric Wargotz, is unlikely to alter the dynamics of a Maryland Senate contest that seems all but decided.

Airing tonight on Maryland Public Television, the 24-minute joint appearance is probably the only opportunity for voters to see the candidates side-by-side. They answered questions from moderator Jeff Salkin and, occasionally, responded to one another, though the discussion never grew heated.

The Wargotz team has tried to accuse Mikulski of refusing to debate, but, in reality, the front-running senator could have easily ducked this encounter without suffering serious damage.

As it was, she took a risk--admittedly a small one--by agreeing to sit across a table from her opponent in the Owings Mills studio. The danger: that a Mikulski gaffe or other unexpected development, caught on camera, might alter the outcome of the Nov. 2 vote.

That did not happen. Instead, their encounter turned out to be uneventful and almost sedate.

Wargotz, a Queen Anne's county commissioner, did his best to play on anti-establishment and anti-incumbent sentiment, promising that he would not be part of the "same old, same old" in Washington. In fact, the word "old" popped out of his mouth several times.

When Mikulski broke into a longwinded Wargotz answer at one point ("I thought we weren't going to filibuster, Jeff," she complained), the challenger said he'd try to wrap up quickly, then added, "I'm new at this. You're an old pro."

Mikulski, 74, may have lost a few steps in recent years, but her 53-year-old opponent isn't expected to knock her off. A new Baltimore Sun poll shows her with almost a two-to-one lead, in line with other statewide surveys.

Mikulski stuck to the formula that has worked extremely well for her over the years, softening her image by referring to herself as "Senator Barb," repeatedly drawing on her record of delivering federal money for the state and throwing off the corny one-liners that are her stock-in- trade.

"I‘m not a slogan senator, I’m a solution senator," she said in her closing comments, neatly coining another slogan.

She defended the Democratic stimulus package as a plus for the economy, talked about the need to do more to help small businesses create jobs, touted her work on health care legislation that will benefit women and said she favors a moratorium on new home foreclosures.

Mikulski also called for carbon pricing as part of new energy legislation and said it is both an environmental and a national security imperative. Reducing American reliance on imported oil will "keep us from funding these petro-jihadists that want to kill us," she said. "Every time we fill up a tank, we’re filling up a terrorist's gun."

Wargotz, a physician, tried to work his campaign message into every answer: Mikulski has been on Capitol HIll for too long (34 years, he noted) and is responsible for many of the state's problems. He said he has the new ideas that Maryland and the country need, though perhaps he didn't have enough time to outline them.

Most of those he mentioned--extending the Bush tax cuts, repealing the just passed health care law and reducing large jury awards in medical malpractice cases--didn't sound terribly new. Then again, there was nothing particularly novel about Mikulski's proposals, including public-private partnerships to create new jobs statewide, from the docks of Baltimore to the high-tech labs of the I-270 corridor.

"We’ve heard this same old rhetoric," Wargotz said, getting another chance to use the O-word, "yet we don’t create jobs. In Maryland, our unemployment rate went up again last month. What we need are fresh ideas."

Both candidates said afterward that they were satisfied with their performance. Wargotz used a chance hallway encounter to introduce his wife and three children to Mikulski, who was gracious and told them she was sure she'd be seeing them around.

If they do meet again, though, it won't be at a debate.

Posted by Paul West at 6:40 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Governor's race issues: Crime

The Sun has been examining key issues in the governor's race over the past few weeks, and we've corralled that content at the top right of the blog. ==> ==> ==>

Watch for one more before Election Day. Today, we described how Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. cross traditional party lines when it comes to some criminal justice issues.

O'Malley, who cut his political teeth in crime-addled Baltimore, takes more of a hard-line stance than one might expect from a Democrat. And Ehrlich, who is married to a former public defender, acknowledges being out of sync with Republicans in his support of clemency and some prisoner reform programs.

With four years apiece in the governor's office, voters can reflect on the records of O'Malley and Ehrlich to get a feel for how they might govern going forward. Take a spin through The Sun's issues pieces.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Sun poll roundup: What voters say they want

Over the past few days, we've published results of a poll conducted for us by Annapolis-based OpinionWorks. The pollster assessed the mood of 798 likely voters in telephone interviews from Oct. 15-20. The margin of error on statewide questions is 3.5 percent. For Question A, the sample was 422 and margin of error 4.8 percent.

Tomorrow, Sun pollster Steve Raabe will participate in a live chat on this blog.

Congressional Race: Dead even, 40 percent for Andy Harris, 40 percent for Frank Kratovil

Colleague Paul West reported this afternoon that the contest for Maryland's easternmost Congressional seat remains intense. He writes:

The same candidates fought to a near draw two years ago. In the latest poll, each man was favored by 40 percent of likely voters.

This year, with control of Congress in play, Maryland's easternmost district features one of the most closely watched, and expensive, House races in the country. Both sides have subjected voters to a heavy dose of negative advertising that has shaped opinions about the candidates.

Constitutional Convention: Voters are divided, 37 against, 34 percent for, 29 percent unsure

In a story this morning, Sun colleague Jessica Anderson reminds voters that they can choose whether to call a Constitutional convention. She writes:

To call a convention, a majority of the people who vote in the fall election — not just on the ballot question, but everyone voting for anything — must approve. Then, perhaps in a special election, four citizens from each of Maryland's 47 state legislative districts would be elected as representatives.

Slots at Arundel Mills: Voters are divided, 47 percent for, 45 against, 8 percent undecided

In a story this morning, The Sun's Nicole Fuller quotes the pollster calling the findings "a toss-up." She writes:

Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., which has a license to build the slots parlor at the mall, is lobbying heavily for the zoning measure, while the Maryland Jockey Club and related interests are fighting against it, hoping to steer the project to the Laurel Park race course.

The ballot question addresses only the zoning issue, and its rejection would not mean that the slots project automatically goes to the racetrack.

More results follow.

Governor's Race: 52 percent support O'Malley, 38 percent Ehrlich, 10 percent undecided or refused

Sun colleague Annie Linskey and I wrote Sunday about the governor's race findings, which show that Gov. Martin O'Malley seems to have solidified his Democratic base while challenger former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. struggles to capitalize on voter anger propelling Republicans in other parts of the country.

We also wrote about how O'Malley is viewed more favorably now than he was in our last poll, conducted in January 2008. At the same time, the percentage of respondents who have a favorable view of Ehrlich has decreased -- a change that some attribute to O'Malley's relentless advertising this election year.

The Economy: Two-thirds worry about finances, one-quarter fret every day

Sun colleague Gus Sentementes wrote Saturday about voters' top issue this year: the economy. But as he noted in the story, the pollster found that views of the economy differ by political affiliation. He wrote:

Three in 10 Democrats surveyed said the economy is getting better, and the same proportion said it was getting worse. But among Republicans, just 4 percent said things were improving, while 66 percent said economic conditions were declining.

New License Plates: Voters like 'em -- by 2-to1 margin (if they've noticed)

The Sun's Michael Dresser and Jessica Anderson kicked off our poll coverage Friday by reporting that Marylanders seem to like the new license plates:

State residents who have both noticed and cared about the star-spangled design like it better than the plain-vanilla version that preceded it as Maryland's standard-issue plate, according to a new poll by The Baltimore Sun.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:25 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Horserace

Sun pollster to take questions tomorrow

Got questions about The Baltimore Sun's new poll? OpinionWorks President Steve Raabe will participate in a live chat at noon Tuesday on this blog.

If you can't make it but would like to submit a question, please comment on this post. You can also leave a question tomorrow morning, in advance of the chat. Raabe has been a pollster for 25 years and founded Annapolis-based OpinionWorks in 2001. 

Sun poll methodology

The Baltimore Sun telephone survey of 798 likely voters was conducted Oct. 15-20. The Sun's pollster, OpinionWorks of Annapolis, used a Maryland Board of Elections database to identify registered voters with a history of voting in gubernatorial elections or who had registered to vote since the last election, and obtained survey results from those who ranked themselves seven or higher on 1-to-10 scale of their likelihood to vote.

The Sun's sample was designed to approximate the racial, gender, geographic, partisan and age breakdown of the state's voting population as a whole, based on turnout patterns averaged over the last four Maryland general elections. Results were weighted to reflect a higher-than-average Republican turnout this year, and slightly lower African-American participation than in recent elections. The margin of error for questions that reflect the entire sample is 3.5 percentage points, which means that in 95 times out of 100, the actual answer obtained by surveying every Maryland voter would be within 3.5 percentage points of the answer obtained by using the sample. For questions about Anne Arundel voters and slots, the sample size was 422 voters, with an error rate of 4.8 percentage points.


Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:45 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Horserace

Second poll in two days gives O'Malley 14 point lead

The Washington Post Monday morning released a new poll that estimates Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley is 14 percentage points ahead of his GOP challenger former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., a spread that exactly matches the Sun poll published Sunday.

The Sun's poll, conducted by OpinionWorks, showed O'Malley with 52 percent support and Ehrlich at 38.

The Post's poll gives O'Malley a stronger lead over than survey they published in late September which had O'Malley with an 11 point advantage.

Ehrlich will undoubtedly try to downplay the results of both papers' questionnaires when he outlines of his plans for his first week as governor at an afternoon event in Essex. His campaign over the weekend had tried to spin The Sun poll as an outlier that bucked a general trend that the race was narrowing.

On Sunday during an appearance with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani Ehrlich  quipped that the Sun's poll was unreliable because it was over sampling from "new Americans," a euphemism O'Malley frequently uses for illegal immigrants. He also stressed his recent fund raising numbers that show he's raked in more cash than O'Malley in the last reporting period -- though O'Malley has raised more overall.

And Ehrlich joked with a crowd of supporters the only indicator that matters is the number of "friends" on each candidate's Facebook page. Ehrlich has 63,589. O'Malley has 29,179.  

Here are some comparisons between the two polls.

The spread (among likely voters):
The Sun: 52 O'Malley to 38 Ehrlich
The Post: 54 O'Malley to 40 Ehrlich

Black voters:
The Sun: 88 O'Malley to 4 Ehrlich (Sun model assumed black voters would be 19 percent of electorate)
The Post: 88 O'Malley to 6 Ehrlich (Post model assumed black voters would be 21 percent of electorate)

White voters
The Sun: 48 Ehrlich to 42 O'Malley
The Post: 50 Ehrlich to 44 O'Malley

Dates in field:
The Sun: Oct. 15 to 20.
The Post: Oct. 19 to 22.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:30 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

October 23, 2010

Ehrlich, O'Malley campaigns react to Sun poll

The Sun just published the findings of its recent poll, showing Gov. Martin O'Malley with a substantial lead over former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The headline numbers: The Democratic incumbent has a 14-point advantage over his Republican challenger, 52 to 38. More than half of respondents viewed O'Malley favorably, compared to less than half with a favorable view of Ehrlich.

Both campaigns quickly fired off reaction statements. One from The Maryland Republican Party came in later in the evening.

Ehrlich's team issued "briefing points" questioning the accuracy of the poll, pointing to other recent polls that have shown the candidates to be in a tighter race. "The Sun poll published today is in total conflict with the trend over the past month showing Bob Ehrlich consistently closing the gap with Martin O’Malley," Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth said in a statement. (Entire Ehrlich and GOP poll reaction after the jump.)

Here's what O'Malley Campaign Manager Tom Russell had to say: "The latest Baltimore Sun poll shows that Maryland families are rejecting Bob Ehrlich's failed policies of the past in favor of Martin O'Malley's plan to move Maryland forward. With Maryland citizens already casting early votes, we fully expect Bob Ehrlich to become increasingly more desperate and negative as he tries to save his 24-year political career. Maryland families know what's at stake in this election -- they don't want to go back."

Ehrlich Briefing Points

* The Sun poll published today is in total conflict with the trend over the past month showing Bob Ehrlich consistently closing the gap with Martin O’Malley.

* A month ago, a Washington Post poll showed Bob Ehrlich down by 11 points. Two weeks ago, a Rasmussen poll showed Bob Ehrlich narrowing O’Malley’s lead to 8 points. Just four days ago, a Gonzales poll showed Bob Ehrlich closing the gap yet again to just five points. After six months of dishonest attack ads from Martin O’Malley – and his failure to propose any new ideas for Maryland – Bob Ehrlich has consistently closed the gap with a concrete plan to get Maryland working again.

* Bob Ehrlich takes clear momentum in to the final 10 days of this campaign.

* Fundraising: Yesterday it was reported that Bob Ehrlich nearly doubled Martin O’Malley in fundraising for the second consecutive reporting period. Not only did Ehrlich raise more money than O’Malley ($2.8 million to $1.6 million), but he also has a sizeable advantage in cash in the bank ($1.7 million to $1.1 million.)

* Economic Stagnation: Maryland’s unemployment rate rose for the second straight month in September to 7.5% as the private sector continues to shed jobs in Maryland. Maryland’s economic woes are in stark contrast with Martin O’Malley’s dishonest campaign rhetoric and reinforce O’Malley’s failure to create one single job in Maryland over the last four years.

* Endorsements: Bob Ehrlich is picking up several endorsements in the closing days of the campaign, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, The Gazette Newspapers, and the Patuxent Newspapers. In its endorsement, The Gazette wrote, “Ehrlich is the best candidate to take on Maryland's unavoidable financial problems, all while maintaining quality schools, investing in vital transportation improvements, protecting basic human and health services and restoring a can-do business climate.”

* Bob Ehrlich is running to bring strong leadership to the governor’s office. His agenda of more jobs, lower taxes, and less spending is exactly what Maryland needs to move past Martin O’Malley’s legacy of record job losses, record deficits, and record tax increases.

From Maryland Republican Party spokesman Ryan Mahoney:

"Today’s poll from the Baltimore Sun runs contrary to every poll from the last month showing Bob Ehrlich closing the gap with Martin O’Malley. It’s difficult for Maryland voters to take seriously, a poll conducted by the same pollster that the O’Malley lackeys at Center Maryland* hired to prop up their former boss earlier this summer. This election is about solutions for making Maryland stronger and Bob Ehrlich has laid out a plan, while Martin O’Malley has run a year long smear campaign to distract from his failed record. Next week on Election Day, Maryland voters will conduct the only poll that matters in this race and I’m confident they will choose Bob Ehrlich and his vision for restoring Maryland’s economy.”

* Here is an earlier blog entry on the OpinionWorks poll released to Center Maryland.



Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:00 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Horserace

Ehrlich has increased media spending

Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Bykowicz reports:

Republican former Gov. Robert L Ehrlich Jr. has spent more than $2.6 million on advertising on television and other media in the past month and a half, a campaign finance report released Saturday morning shows.

Ehrlich ad buys are a dramatic increase from the much tinier amount — roughly $100,000 — he spent on advertising between April, when he anounced his election bid, and the beginning of September, the last time finance reports were made public.

By contrast, Gov. Martin O’Malley has invested steadily in media throughout the election season. From the beginning of the year through early September, the Democratic candidate spent about $1 million on advertising and other media outreach. His latest camapign finance report was’t immediately available Saturday.

Reports for all statewide and local candidates were due Friday night to the State Board of Elections. They are expected to be made public over the weekend and will provide the final look at campaign finances before Election Day.

O’Malley’s campaign said Friday that it has raised about $1.6 million in the past month and a half, compared with $2.8 million raised by the Ehrlich campaign over the same period.

As of a week ago, O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown had about $1.1 million in the bank, while Ehrlich and running mate Mary Kane had $1.7 on hand.

But O’Malley’s campaign aides say they have already purchased advertising spaces through Election Day. It does not appear that Ehrlich’s campaign had done that.

Ehrlich’s latest report also shows he had spent more than $400,000 on campaign employee salaries since the beginning of September, about $300,000 on direct mailings to voters and about $125,000 to hold fund-raising events.

On the contribution side, he accepted about $62,000 from Maryland Political Action Committees, about $16,000 from federal committees, about $15,000 from political committees in other states and about $25,000 from other Maryland political candidates.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:20 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010, People, Political ads

Biden to raise dough for Kratovil

Vice President Joe Biden will headline a fundraiser for Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil of Maryland on Thursday, October 28.

The event, just five days before voting ends, will take place in Bethesda. It was announced late Friday by the vice president's office.

Kratovil has already had high-level fundraising help from former President Bill Clinton, among others. Biden collected campaign cash earlier this fall for the top two statewide Democratic candidates, Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

Freshman Kratovil is in a tight race with Republican state Rep. Andy Harris of Baltimore County in the state's easternmost congressional district. The contest has attracted more than $6 million in spending, making it one of the most expensive House races in Maryland history.

Posted by Paul West at 8:06 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

October 22, 2010

O'Malley reports raising $1.6 million

Gov. Martin O'Malley has raised more than $1.6 million since the end of August and had about $1.1 million in the bank as of Sunday to finance the rest of his reelection bid, his campaign said Friday.

O'Malley's Republican competitor, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., outraised him by more than $1 million in that period of time.

Throughout the election season, however, the incumbent Democrat has had significantly more cash available Ehrlich -- evidenced by his dominant presence in television ads.

Ehrlich's campaign reported earlier this week that he had raised $2.8 million and had $1.7 million in the bank as of Sunday.

But the O'Malley campaign said it had purchased TV ad spaces for final two weeks, while Ehrlich apparently hadn't done so as of Sunday.

The full campaign reports are due tonight to the State Board of Elections and are to be made public tomorrow.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:50 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Campaign finance

DGA makes an argument for Ehrlich?

The Democratic Governors Association is running an ad in Rhode Island arguing that fence-sitting Democrats should not support an Republican independent gubernatorial candidate because he proposes a one-percent sales tax on items not currently covered by the state's 7 percent tax.

The issue plays a little differently in Maryland: In our pitched gubernatorial race Republican challenger Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the state's former governor, has promised to repeal the 20 percent increase that Democrat Gov. Martin O'Malley added to the state's sales tax. (Its a promise that Ehrlich has not explained how he would fund, as The Sun detailed in a story today.)

Ehrlich's team points out that the DGA ad provides a solid reason to vote for their guy -- and its a good time for the Republican candidate to get some outside national help. The Republican Governors Association has cut their ad buys in the Washington market. Also Politico reported this morning that RGA chairman Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, is hitting 13 states on a final election tour of places with competitive races. Maryland is not listed. (We contacted the RGA's press person, who, perhaps busy with reporters elsewhere, has not returned our message.)

You can watch the DGA's ad here. in it a lefty sounding narrator is considering voting for Lincoln Chafee, who was a Republican until 2007. The narrator considers Chafee, but in the end asks us "Is a sales tax that is going to hurt people who have the least a good idea? I don't think so."
Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:42 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Political stars shine anew in governor's race

Former President Bill Clinton rallied Democratic troops yesterday for Gov. Martin O'Malley while former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will fire up Republicans on Sunday for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Think of it as a reprise. Those same political stars shined four years ago, the last time O'Malley and Ehrlich fought for the Maryland governor's office.

Colleague Laura Vozzella wrote about Clinton's appearance yesterday at Baltimore's Federal Hill Park:

Bill Clinton's old campaign anthem, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," blared from speakers in a Baltimore park as the former president tried to rally voters Thursday for Gov. Martin O'Malley and other Democrats.

And just like the Fleetwood Mac song from the '70s, Clinton was at once forward looking and retro.

"Show up," Clinton urged a crowd of more than 1,000 in Federal Hill Park. "Claim your future. Keep your governor."

Meanwhile, Ehrlich is promoting a rally with Giuliani at 2 p.m. Sunday at a farm in Clarksburg in Montgomery County.

Care for a trip down memory lane? Here's what we wrote about Clinton and Giuliani visits four years ago. Both had appeared earlier in the 2006 campaign, as well.

Down to their final 48 hours, the rival campaigns of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Mayor Martin O'Malley are hoping to receive major boosts today from national political luminaries visiting for rallies in Prince George's County.

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani is set to appear on behalf of the Republican incumbent at a volunteer fire station in Glenn Dale, and former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to stump for the Democratic nominee -- as well as for the Democrat's U.S.. Senate nominee, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin -- in Upper Marlboro tonight

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:36 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

October 21, 2010

Another poll shows dead heat on slots

Another new poll on slots shows that likely Anne Arundel County voters are split on their support for a ballot referendum that will determine whether a slots parlor will be built near Arundel Mills mall.

The newly released poll shows 42 percent of county voters said they would vote for the ballot referendum, Question A, while 42 percent said they were would vote against it.

Another 16 percent of likely voters said they were undecided. Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Politics at Anne Arundel Community College, conducted the poll of 415 likely voters from Oct. 11 to Oct. 14.

On Wednesday, Pollster Patrick Gonzales released numbers showing that a slim majority of Anne Arundel County voters favor installing a slots emporium at the Arundel Mills Mall, but the margin is within the sampling error.

The passage of Question A would affirm zoning law passed by the County Council and allow the Cordish Cos. to construct that state’s most lucrative slots parlor. Opponents of Question A have argued the mall is an inappropriate venue for gambling, and would increase traffic and crime around the mall.

The poll also asked voters who they would vote for in the race for county executive. Respondents favored current County Executive John R. Leopold, who is running for re-election, over the Democratic challenger Joanna L. Conti, an Annapolis business executive. Leopold received 59 percent, Conti 37 percent and Michael Shay, the Green Party candidate received 4 percent.

In the governor’s race, the poll also shows county voters favoring Republican Robert L. Ehrlich over Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley. Ehrlich received 59 percentage points and O’Malley got 42.

-Nicole Fuller

Posted by Andy Rosen at 1:58 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: In The Counties, Slots

Cordish touts business support on Arundel slots

With a recent poll a showing an even split in public opinion on slots at Arundel Mills mall, developer David Cordish held a press conference at a Millersville contracting company headquarters Wednesday to showcase support in the business community for his planned casino.

The Cordish Cos. Chairman is asking Anne Arundel County voters to support Question A on the Nov. 2 ballot. If passed, Cordish can proceed with plans to build a 4,750-machine slots parlor and entertainment complex adjacent to the mall.

Cordish, with about 30 county business leaders who support the planned casino, stressed the project would bring 4,000 jobs and millions to the county and state at the gathering outside of Reliable Contracting.

Cordish said he was encouraged by the polling, which "indicated momentum," but added, "We're not going to let up.

Cordish also announced that he has invited business owners to invest in the casino as partners.

Kevin Johnson, CEO of the Hanover-based Commercial Interiors, an 18-year-old general contracting company, said he supports the project and "hopes to get some work from it."
"This is an important project for Anne Arundel County," Johnson said. "It will put a lot of people to work."

Jerry South, CEO of Annapolis-based Towne Park, said, Gaming in Maryland will happen. Let's get our fair share."

-Nicole Fuller

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:14 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: In The Counties, Slots

WOLB gubernatorial debate wrap-up

Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley kept to his campaign talking points while his challenger, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., went on the attack in a wide-ranging debate this morning on WOLB radio.

The exchange was the third -- and possibly last -- between the two main gubernatorial candidates and comes one day before early voting starts.

Both talked about issues dear to Baltimore's African-American community, including mass arrests, minority contractors and funding for historically black colleges and universities. Ehrlich said he appointed the first black judge to an Eastern Shore jurisdiction. O’Malley said he doubled the number of African-Americans on the bench.

O’Malley repeatedly brought up the NAACP, saying the group rated Ehrlich an "F" as a congressman and said the Republican had asked President George W. Bush to investigate the civil rights organization. Ehrlich, at one point, counted out loud the “gratuitous” Bush references.

The two had several testy exchanges. O’Malley made a reference to Ehrlich’s private sector job as a partner with the Baltimore law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. Ehrlich shot back: “It is OK to get a job in the private sector. You are going to be looking for one in a few months.”

Early on, radio host Larry Young, a Democratic former state senator, queried O’Malley on his zero tolerance policing policy that have been since abandoned. O’Malley responded that the city was in dire straits with “open-air drug markets” but has improved in part because his policies. Ehrlich disagreed, saying that O’Malley “created criminal records for people who did nothing more than walking around.”

On minority contracting, O’Malley said his administration has given a record amount to black- and women-owned companies and accused Ehrlich of wanting to end the program. Ehrlich flat-out denied the charge.

The two also clashed over President Barack Obama’s health care plan with O’Malley calling it “courageous” and Ehrlich saying it was “counter-cultural” and would result in providing less care to older people who become sick.

As the debate wound down, the two touched on veterans affairs. O'Malley noted a "moment of agreement" with Ehrlich about providing a tax exemption for military veterans. O'Malley says he chose to spend tight dollars on mental health services for veterans but is open to the tax idea in the future.

The first few callers to the station after the debate said O'Malley won, though both campaigns quickly issued the required statements declaring victory. 

Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:11 AM | | Comments (35)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Governor candidates take to radio this morning

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. are scheduled to debate at 8 this morning on WOLB-1010 AM, a black radio station in Baltimore.

This might be their final verbal matchup of the election season; they recently postponed a Washington-area radio debate on WTOP because both want to attend the funeral of a prominent Prince George's County church leader.

This race has featured two televised gubernatorial debates, the same number that aired four years ago. It does not appear that they did any radio last time. As host of a Saturday talk show on WBAL for more than three years, Ehrlich should be particularly comfortable in the studio.

The debate will air live for an hour and be moderated by WOLB host Larry Young, a Democratic former senator who is friendly with both candidates. We hear that sidekick "Coach," an open and ardent Ehrlich fan, won't be on air during the debate.

Follow our #mddebate Tweets and come back to this blog shortly after the debate for a quick analysis.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 7:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Shouldn't you be running along?

Catherine PughState Sen. Catherine Pugh founded the Baltimore Running Festival a decade ago and has remained involved with the event ever since. So it should have been no surprise that she’d show up last week at a news conference to promote the marathon at Under Armour’s corporate headquarters.

But it sounds as if her appearance did not go over well with the mayor’s office.

A source who was there tells me that Renee Samuels, a special assistant to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, asked Pugh to leave before the event got underway.

Pugh not only ignored the request, I’m told, but had a chair brought forward so she could sit with race organizers and other dignitaries at the front of the room.

Pugh, said to be on Rawlings-Blake’s bad side because she is considering a run for mayor herself, did not dispute the story when I called. But she wasn’t commenting, either.

“I have a lot of things I’m focused on,” she said. “Negativity is not one of them.”

I also phoned Samuels and said I’d heard she’d asked Pugh to leave.

“Did you?” she asked. She referred me to the mayor’s communications office.

I emailed Rawlings-Blake spokesman Ryan O’Doherty, telling him what I’d heard.

“Sound realistic to you?” he wrote back.

Well, yeah.

“Sen. Pugh and many other officials attended the press event from beginning to end,” he said in a follow-up e-mail. “Of course, no one ever asked anyone to leave the event.”

I also called Lee Corrigan, whose Corrigan Sports Enterprises puts on the race, to ask about the most taxing part of the marathon. Not running 26.2 miles, but managing two mayoral rivals in the same room. He laughed.

“I’m going to have to do the diplomatic thing and say, ‘No comment’ on that point because I don’t want to get myself in a bad spot with either one,” he said. “I love both of them. They’re both very supportive of the event.”

But is it true that the mayor’s office tried to oust Pugh from the press conference?

“The only thing I’ll say is Catherine Pugh did a terrific job helping us get this off the ground,” Corrigan said, “and Stephanie has done a wonderful job continuing to support the event.”


Sun photo of Catherine Pugh by Amy Davis

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 5:29 AM | | Comments (2)

October 20, 2010

Democrats up ante; put $1 million behind Kratovil

So, do the folks at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee know something about the Frank Kratovil-Andy Harris rematch that the wise-guy analysts don't?

If not, why have they poured $1.1 million into a race that some--though by no means all--handicappers see as a likely Republican pickup?

The DCCC just put another $300,000 into attack ads against Republican Harris in Maryland's First District, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission. That brings the DCCC's total investment in Kratovil's re-election to $1,118,981.78.

That spending vaults Maryland's easternmost congressional district into the top ranks of House races nationally and raises the stakes for a party fighting to keep its majority in Congress.

Perhaps it's simply home-state pride. After all, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is the DCCC chair. And Baltimore-born Speaker Nancy Pelosi--the GOP's punching bag in its anti-Kratovil ads--and neighboring Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, the Majority Leader, are the top Democrats in the House.

Or might Democratic strategists have reason to think Kratovil will hold off Harris, long regarded as one of the Republican Party's best bets in the nation to take back a Democratic seat this fall?

If it's merely an attempt to entice the national Republican Party into redoubling its support for Harris--which would deflect resources that could be deployed elsewhere--that's a very expensive ploy. For now, though, the National Republican Congressional Committee is being outspent better than two-to-one in the conservative district, which takes in parts of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties and the entire Eastern Shore.

Posted by Paul West at 2:52 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Ehrlich's fashion show fundraiser

A dispatch from Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson:

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Republican nominee for governor, and his wife Kendel held a “Back in Black Again” campaign fashion show fundraiser Tuesday night at Martin’s West in Baltimore County.

Kendel Ehrlich wore a bright blue satin dress by Jackie Rogers. The former governor simply wore his “own tux.”

“I just knew this would be a great idea to rally women behind Bob,” Kendel Ehrlich said following the show. “It was a huge hit.”

About a dozen models wore gowns, outerwear and other popular items for this fall from the Bettina Collections in Cross Keys and Alpaca International to a room full of mostly female Ehrlich supporters.

Kendel Ehrlich said that her husband never faced any reservations about attending or appearing in the fashion show. “He’s pretty comfortable anywhere,” she said.

But since the Ehrlichs began doing the show, the former governor said there’s “definitely more men,” this year. Outside the ballroom, promotional items in pink letters said “Women for Ehrlich.”

When the couple and their two sons appeared on the catwalk following the show to the Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling,” they met a roar of applause.

“Kendel wanted to do this. This is Kendel’s night,” he told the crowd. But while the gala-like event was his wife’s plan, Ehrlich credited her with keeping him motivated to run for governor again.

“And here we are,” said Kendel Ehrlich. “The husband was wrong again,” Ehrlich quickly responded.

Ehrlich not only asked for continued support from party members, he also also mentioned some of the recent “goofy, negative, ludicrous” campaign ads. He said that most people now know he was “not responsible for the Louisiana oil spill,” referring to radio advertisements that linked Ehrlich with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“We need serious leaders,” Ehrlich said, saying that Nov. 3, following election day — ”that’s when we go back to work fixing this state.”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 7:03 AM | | Comments (17)

Poll: Arundel voters evenly split on slots at the mall

Pollster Patrick Gonzales released numbers Wednesday morning showing that a slim majority of Anne Arundel County voters favor installing a slots emporium at the Arundel Mills Mall, but the margin is within the sampling error.

The questionnaire found voters want the 4,750-machine casino at the mall by 48 to 45. Eight percent are undecided. (The error margin is +/-3.5 percent.) The casino would be the state's largest and residents, supported by a group that wants to build a casino at the Laurel racetrack, want to stop the project by killing a zoning measure the County Council passed.

The question will only appear on Anne Arundel ballots, but the issue has the feel of a state-wide race because both sides have poured millions into television advertising seen well beyond the county boarders.

The ballot question is extremely difficult to pick through (but is worth reading just for the sake of amusement - or horror depending on one's mindset). It essentially asks if voters are "for" or "against" the zoning plan.

Voting "for" supports the zoning and allows billionaire developer David Cordish to begin constructing a gambling site at the mall. Sun colleague Nicole Fuller reported recently that Cordish, 70, has taken to door-knocking to persuade voters that the casino is a good idea. (Meanwhile, the developer is potentially losing a contract for his gaming venue in Indiana.)

Voting "against" puts the process back to square one and the newly elected council would need to pass a new zoning bill. (Which could, again, trigger a referendum.)

The issue does not break neatly along party lines like most of the other major questions in the poll, though Republicans tend to dislike putting gambling in the mall (51 percent against; 44 percent for) and Democrats tend to want gambling at the mall (56 percent for; 37 percent against.) Unaffiliated voters broke 39 percent for and 54 percent against.)

Still the voter affiliation is somewhat interesting because it appears that the gubernatorial candidates have each staked out views unsupported by the majorities within their respective parties.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, wants the slots question to go down. Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., brought in Cordish in as a client to his former firm worked to support slots at the mall.

Gonzales wrote in his analysis that, even though a slight majority supports slot at the mall, the Cordish team should still focus on "flipping" some of the Republicans and Independents.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:05 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Slots

October 19, 2010

O'Malley and Ehrlich to resked Friday radio debate

One of the two radio debates between the state's two gubernatorial contenders is off the table - for now at least.

The Post's John Wagner reports that the debate planned in the Washington suburbs at WTOP radio was canceled because both candidates want to attend the funeral of Betty Peebles a co-founder of an important Prince George's County megachurch.

A spokesman for Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich said their camp "hopes" to reschedule and is "working" to do so. Rick Abbruzzese, with Team O'Malley, said they are "continuing to work" with the station and Ehrlich's campaign to find reschedule. With the election about two weeks away, the timing might be hard.

Ehrlich and Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley with still face off at 8 a.m. Thursday at Baltimore's WOLB radio station.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:43 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Horserace

Holt releases BaltCo economic development plan

Republican Baltimore County executive candidate Kenneth C. Holt has released a 7-point economic development program designed to "expand career choices" for county residents, according to a statement released by the campaign.

The statement released by Holt, a Kingsville investments executive who is running against Democratic Councilman Kevin Kamenetz in the Nov. 2 general election, proposes continuing efforts already being pursued by the county's Department of Economic Development and includes new initiatives.

"I'm trying to articulate a vision," Holt said in an interview. "I'm not saying these are exclusive, I'm not saying the Department of Economic Development doesn't have good ideas. They do."

The freshest proposals call for programs Holt has advocated in public forums and in interviews, including a Negro League Baseball Museum and a performing arts center on Liberty Road, and promoting "agritourism" along the lines of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and the wine regions of California.

A senior vice president with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Holt said he wants to create more county "enterprise zones," or districts identified as needing help in boosting business. Such zones now exist in the southeast and southwest ends of the county, where businesses moving there can be eligible for county and state tax credits.

Holt, a former one-term member of the Maryland House of Delegates, said he would expand the concept to include more regions and specific sites, such as the Solo Cup plant and Shire Pharmaceuticals, both in Owings Mills and both slated to close in 2012 with a combined loss of about 700 jobs. He said he would add an enterprise zone at the industrial complex of Sparrows Point, owned by steelmaker Severstal North America, which announced last month that it would suspend operations for the rest of the year until the market improved.

The release said his administration would work with federal and state agencies to create rail and bus links between new enterprise zones at Woodlawn in the northwestern part of the county and Baltimore Crossroads, a mixed-use business park east of Middle River.

Holt said he would expand the county's offerings in vocational and what he's calling "career oriented education," designating certain schools to work more closely with businesses in developing courses and internships. Some of this is already being done, said Holt, and "I want to improve that linkage."

Holt said his administration would reorganize and expand the Department of Economic Development, and create new partnerships between private business and government agencies to cultivate new businesses in manufacturing and such new industries as cyber security, biotechnology and nanotechnology.

-Arthur Hirsch

Posted by Andy Rosen at 5:45 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: In The Counties

Democratic "Super PAC" dropping $400K hit on Andy Harris

Spending in Maryland's hot First District House race continues to escalate, with a new Democratic "Super PAC" disclosing today that is spending $400,000 to attack Republican Andy Harris, the challenger to Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil.

The new group, America's Families First Action Fund, is financed by wealthy Democrats, who have chipped in at least $1.225 million, and the International Association of Firefighters, which gave a half-million.

The Democratic group is active in more than a dozen key House races across the country. It was organized under the new rules of campaign finance that allowed the creation of so-called "Super PACs."

Rulings by the Supreme Court and other federal judges have wiped out limits on campaign money, allowing wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want, so long as they don't give directly to candidates or coordinate their activities with candidates or their campaigns.

A Republican "Super PAC" recently entered the First District campaign in Maryland, putting at least $149,000 behind attack ads against incumbent Kratovil. Most of the financing for the effort came from Baltimore area industrialist Danny Schuster, whose Owings Mills-based concrete company donated $300,000.

In a statement to The Baltimore Sun today, and in a subsequent interview, Schuster said he is supporting Harris because Kratovil supports "spending policies that are devaluing the savings of each and every American. Dr. Harris’ monetary positions are sound and in the best interest of the American people."

Schuster indicated that he's reached a stage in life in which he wants to give back more to the community. Earlier this year, the Reisterstown resident and father of seven children educated in the parochial school system offered the Baltimore archdiocese $700,000 to transport pupils displaced by the closing of Catholic schools.

Through his efforts, 350 children were able to continue attending the parochial system, Schuster said.

Posted by Paul West at 4:37 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Gilchrest gives nod to O'Malley

Though most of the state's Republicans appear to be solidly behind GOP former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Team O'Malley scored an endorsement from one high profile moderate Republican Tuesday.

Former Congressman Wayne T. Gilchrest announced that he's backing Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.

In an O'Malley campaign press release Gilchrest cited the governor's handling of environmental issues including work to restore the the blue crab population and the "innovative" BayStat program O'Malley created to coordinate various agencies working on clean up plans.

Gilchrest, pictured on the right, is no GOP ideologue. In Congress he frequently voted with the Democrats and, after losing his seat in the 2008 Republican primary to Andy Harris, he crossed party lines to support eventual winner Frank Kratovil, a Democrat. Gilchrest also endorsed Barack Obama that year.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:24 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Holton to speak on restoring trust in City Hall


Councilwoman Helen L. Holton, who pleaded no contest to a campaign finance violation two weeks ago, will speak tonight at a panel discussion at Loyola University on "Restoring Public Trust in City Hall."

Holton, who traveled to Palm Springs, Fla. last week for a conference at the city's expense, will join Councilmen William H. Cole IV and James B. Kraft for the fifth annual "Law and the City" discussion.

Andrea Giampetro-Meyer, chair of Loyola's Law & Social Responsibility Department and the event's organizer, said Holton would bring a "unique perspective" to the discussion.

"Holton's recent experiences will allow her to offer insights about what it is like to have your behavior questioned from an ethical perspective," Giampetro-Meyer said.

The West Baltimore councilwoman will bring "unique insights about legal and ethical guidelines" for city elected officials, she said.

Earlier this month, Holton pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor stemming from a deal she struck with developer Ronald Lipscomb and bread magnate and developer John Paterakis Sr.

Holton asked them to pay $12,500 for a poll during her 2007 re-election campaign, circumventing campaign finance regulations and exceeding the $4,000 cap on donations from individuals during an election cycle.

A related and more serious bribery charge, which was dismissed on the grounds that elected officeholders' official acts cannot be used as evidence against them and appealed by prosecutors to the state's highest court, remains before the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young stripped Holton of her role at the helm of the council's taxation and finance committee following her plea.

Last week, Holton traveled to Palm Springs for the National Association of Counties conference. The city spending board approved $1,100 for Holton's travel and expenses two days after her plea.

The panel discussion starts at 6:30 in the Andrew White Student Center on Loyola's North Charles Street campus.

When asked yesterday whether she expected challenging questions from the audience, Holton said, "Come tomorrow and find out."

Posted by Julie Scharper at 12:47 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: City Hall

National Democats hardly giving up on Kratovil

For months, the conventional wisdom in Washington was that freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil of Maryland was hopelessly doomed. He might just be the most vulnerable House Democrat in the country, some said.

Others confidently predicted--with no apparent evidence to back it up--that the national party would abandon him by early fall and take its money elsewhere, to races where Democrats actually had a chance of winning.


The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has now put more than $800,000 behind Kratovil's rematch with Republican state Sen. Andy Harris of Baltimore County. That makes the Kratovil race one of the top 10 in the nation, in terms of the DCCC's investment, at the moment.

For now, at least, the national Democratic Party's House campaign arm is outspending its Republican counterpart by more than $300,000 in Maryland's First District.

The Kratovil-Harris contest remains extremely tight. Some prognosticators still forecast a Harris victory.

But the Eastern Shore congressman is now off the "most critically endangered" list.

Non-partisan handicapper Charlie Cook's newsletter recently rated the 12 most vulnerable House Democrats in the country. Kratovil was not on the list. Cook regards the Kratovil-Harris rematch as a tossup.

Posted by Paul West at 11:50 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Ehrlich reports raising $2.8 million

The Republican former governor, down in recent polls, has been raising significant amounts of campaign money, his aides say. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and running mate Mary Kane have collected more than $2.8 million since the end of August, said Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell.

The pair had about $1.77 million* left in the bank as of Sunday night, Fawell said, adding that 98 percent of the money raised came from Maryland families and small businesses and that the campaign took out no loans.

"This strong showing demonstrates that Maryland families and small businesses continue to embrace Bob Ehrlich’s vision of strong leadership to create more jobs, lower taxes, and hold the line on government spending," Fawell said in an email.

There might be a damage-control aspect to releasing the numbers this morning.

Also out this morning is a Gonzales poll showing Gov. Martin O'Malley ahead by five points -- the third survey in recent weeks with the Democratic incumbent leading Ehrlich. And yesterday, we reported that the cash-flush Republican Governors Association had cut at least one ad buy for Ehrlich.

The last campaign finance reporting period before the Nov. 2 election closed Sunday night. Reports are due just before midnight Saturday to the State Board of Elections, meaning we might not see the official documents until this weekend or early next week.

O'Malley's campaign hasn't released his numbers yet, but as of the last reporting period, which became public in early September, he had $6.5 million in the bank, compared to Ehrlich's $2.5 million at the time. 

* Corrected from earlier posting.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 9:22 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Campaign finance

RGA getting jumpy in MD?

With three recent polls showing Gov. Martin O'Malley ahead of opponent Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.-- there's some evidence that the Republican Governors Association is pulling up some Maryland stakes and moving elsewhere.

The organization cut at least one ad buy that supported Ehrlich, a former MD governor, in expensive D.C. market, but the group is still committed in Baltimore. A poll released today by Patrick Gonzales shows O'Malley with a commanding 40 point lead in the D.C. suburbs.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a member of the RGA's executive committee, called late Monday after getting wind that The Sun was writing a story and said nothing should be read into week by week fluctuations with RGA ad buys. Early voting starts in Maryland this week.

He said the group, which just reported raising $31 million in three months, remains committed to Ehrlich and thinks he can win.

Most of this year's 37 governor's races are considered competitive and the RGA is also putting money into large and expensive states like California, Florida and Texas.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 8:02 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Horserace

New poll: O'Malley five points ahead of Ehrlich

Maryland pollster Patrick Gonzales Tuesday issued a new survey of the gubernatorial election showing a five point spread between Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and his GOP opponent former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr..

Gonzales' poll reports the race at 47-42 with four percent voting for a third party candidate and six percent undecided. The survey shows that most (72 percent) of the state's Democrats have fallen in line with O'Malley, a trend O'Malley's campaign manager Tom Russell has long predicted. The state's unaffiliated voters are more likely to support Ehrlich.

There is a 3.5 percent margin for error and likely voters were interviewed via phone from Oct. 11 to Oct. 16, a week that included two televised debates between Ehrlich and O'Malley.

The new report shows O'Malley better off than he was in July, when Gonzales had O'Malley up by three points. Other recent polls have predicted a wider gap between the two candidates: The Washington Post put the race at 11 points and Rasmussen Reports recently measured it at 8. Each survey made different assumptions about turnout.

The analysis includes a helpful geographical breakdown, which shows Ehrlich up by eight points in the Baltimore suburbs, a margin that Gonzales says is "not enough" to overcome O'Malley's 40 point advantage in the Washington suburbs. O'Malley has a nine point lead among women -- a group that both camps have tried to court in recent weeks.

As the election looms closer, more Marylanders dislike how President Barack Obama is leading the country, according to the poll. The president's disapproval ratings went from 38 percent in July to 43 percent this month, Gonzales reports.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski's ratings have dropped precipitously: She's gone from a high water mark of 67 percent approval in a September 2009 Gonzales poll to a 53 percent rating this month. Still, she's 17 points ahead of GOP candidate Eric Wargotz.

African-American voters tend to view her the most favorably, with 71 percent of that group saying they approve of how she's done her job. Forty-eight percent of white voters support her, according to the poll.

On issues Democrats tend to think the state is going in "the right direction" while Republicans are more pessimistic. The independents are split fairly evenly on that question. The top concern remains the economy, followed by education, the state budget, taxes and the environment.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:05 AM | | Comments (60)
Categories: Horserace

October 18, 2010

O'Malley woos women, too, with new Mikulski ad

Women voters are getting a lot of attention in these final days of Maryland's gubernatorial race.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's campaign just released a new television advertisement featuring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a fellow Democrat. It is in effect an answer to a women-themed ad Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. began airing over the weekend.

In the new O'Malley ad, the senator -- who repeatedly shows up as the state's most popular politician in polls -- talks directly to the camera, recounting how long she has known O'Malley (25 years) and what she believes he cares about most (families).

Transcript and ad appear after the jump.

Transcript provided by O'Malley campaign.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI: "Martin O'Malley's always been a hard working , 24/7 kind of guy. I've known him for 25 years. A lot of late night chats, always about families, what they're going through, how to protect them. He shrunk the state budget, cut billions. Even in these tough times, he froze college tuition rates to make it more affordable. For him, it's always about us, the people. And there's never a doubt whose side he's on. He's on our side. Martin O'Malley Moving Maryland Forward."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:12 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Political ads

Ehrlich courts women in new campaign ad

A new attack ad from Team Ehrlich hit the airwaves this weekend hammering Gov. Martin O'Malley on familiar themes: Taxes and pocketbook issues. What's new about the spot is the overwhelming number of women featured in it.

The 30-second ad is mostly black and white and includes the voices of 13 women who point out flaws with O'Malley's tenure. (One woman in the ad mentions concern for her daughters' futures.) The piece is capped off with GOP lieutenant governor pick Mary Kane offering up Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. as a more palatable alternative.

The overt focus on women marks a shift for Ehrlich, who has not used paid advertising to make an outright appeal for the female vote. It is also the first TV ad featuring Kane with a solo speaking role. Ehrlich's voice is not used at all in the spot.

Ehrlich has ground to make up with female voters. He consistently trails O'Malley, a Democrat, with the group. The Washington Post recently pegged the gender gap at 56 to 38. O'Malley isn't taking female support for granted, said his deputy campaign manager Rick Abbruzzese. The governor just wrapped up a series of rallies focused on generating enthusiasm with the group.

The ad makes a series of claims that are worth examining. The first woman is annoyed with O'Malley because every time she goes to the grocery store she pays "a little more," a reference to O'Malley's 20 percent increase to the sales tax. Food, however, is not subject to the state's sales tax.

Ehrlich campaign spokesman Henry Fawell said the claim is supportable because grocery shoppers frequently pick up other items that are subject to the new tax like shampoo, detergent, books and magazines. A central plank of Ehrlich's platform is a promise to repeal O'Malley's increase -- but has not detailed how he'd pay for that change.

Another woman in the ad is irritated with O'Malley because college tuition is going up, a reference to the three percent hike at Maryland's public university system this year. She does not mention that costs at the state's public schools also increased during Ehrlich's watch.

A third is upset about hikes to her utility bills, referring to the 72 percent increase to utility costs that dominated the 2006 campaign cycle when it was proposed by an oversight panel. O'Malley latched on to the proposed increase when running against Ehrlich last time but, after toppling him with the promise of holding down rates, the bills still skyrocketed. We've blogged about the history of the BGE issue - one both camps like to rehash.

The last gripe is the largest: A woman says O'Malley would "raise taxes even more." The governor said in a meeting last week with The Sun editorial board that the budget he's preparing for next year includes no new tax increases. He has not ruled out raising taxes in ensuing years but has often said he'd prefer not to do that.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:30 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Political ads

October 14, 2010

Live blog of second O'Malley-Ehrlich debate

** 12:55 p.m. Rapid-fire question phase.

Should gay marriages be recognized in Maryland? Ehrlich says no, but bundles of rights should attach to committed, unmarried couples. O'Malley says he supports the decision to recognize same-sex marriage in Maryland and would sign any bill legalizing such unions in the state.

How can the Orioles become a better team? Power-hitting first baseman, Ehrlich says. O'Malley says, "practice, practice, practice."

PepCo had a rough summer, how can it be better? O’Malley briefly addresses a commission he formed, but then the candidates start talking about BGE. There’s direct sniping, talking over each other. Audience is openly disobeying rules about clapping, booing.

Tell us one thing people don't know about you. Ehrlich says he is “good on 70s and late 60s music trivia.” O'Malley says wife wants him to come home earlier. He says he’ll pass on a question about his favorite song.

Click below to read the rest of the live blog, which we've since cleaned up.

** 12:48 p.m. The Post moderator, pushing a theme that the candidates "don't like each other," asks them to say something nice about each other.

O'Malley says he liked Ehrlich's "flush tax" funding for the Chesapeake Bay Restoration fund. Ehrlich admires O'Malley for "putting himself out there" to be governor.

** 12:45 p.m. Question about whether race card was played in the first debate.

Ehrlich: You have to be unafraid to care about Baltimore City schools. He revisits the 11 dysfunctional schools state takeover issue from four years ago, which he resurrected at Monday’s debate. Ehrlich also revisits arrest policies O'Malley had as mayor.

O'Malley does not directly respond to a question about whether he was calling Ehrlich racist at the last debate. Says he believes there is a calculation of blaming Baltimore City and illegal immigrants as way to take voters’ eyes off the fact that Republicans drove the economy into ditch.

O'Malley says it is "almost amusing" how Ehrlich is recasting his record. He mentions Ehrlich bussing in homeless black men from Philadelphia to give out misinformation at polls four years ago. Ehrlich says the sales tax hurts poor people.

** 12:40 p.m. Immigration question: Should state money go to organizations that assist illegal immigrants? (a reference to Casa de Maryland)

Asked whether he would fund organizations that help illegal immigrants, O'Malley talked about "the politics of fear and division." We will not support groups that conspire to break the law, but the nation has not come to consensus on how to deal with immigration, O’Malley says. Continually uses phrase "new Americans."

Ehrlich says O'Malley celebrated Casa de Maryland. Ehrlich prefers the term "illegals." Says immigration has been a bi-partisan failure. Says O'Malley supports in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Decries Maryland driver’s license system.

** 12:38 p.m. Both governors talk about how their upbringing by loving parents helped them become leaders. Ehrlich calls himself "part Arbutus, part Princeton.

** 12:35 p.m. Both governors want to keep the Redskins in Prince George's County. Shocking.

** 12:30 p.m. Question about pensions: The system is in trouble.

Ehrlich answers directly, saying the state should move to a defined contribution system for new hires; defined benefit has hurt the state. He says those already vested should retain benefits they signed up for. But counties “need to share the burden.” Says “everyone is scared to death to talk about it.”

O'Malley says the state “needs to do the responsible thing, in the responsible way.” He does not support ending defined benefit; wants to wait for a commission report.

Ehrlich says O'Malley “just dropped a bunch of cliches.”

** 12:24 p.m. Question: Name on thing each of you would do for Montgomery County and Prince George’s County?

O'Malley talks about the light rail, Prince George’s hospital.

Ehrlich talks about rapid buses instead of the light rail on the purple line.

O'Malley says all local leaders favor the light rail, which is more expensive up front but cheaper in the long run. And it is good for the business areas, he says. O’Malley says the rapid buses “is a metaphor” for Ehrlich’s administration: “More expensive and less effective.”

** 12:19 To Ehrlich: Is it really smart to issue a "blanket statement" that you should not raise taxes?

Ehrlich says that with a $32 billion budget, “we don't need to increase taxes.”

O'Malley calls out his credibility. “You made the same pledge four years ago,” O’Malley says to Ehrlich. “You raised the property tax Bob,” O’Malley says.

Ehrlich snaps back, “The governor doesn't understand the fundamentals of state government.”
The audience bursts into boos and applause.

** 12:11 p.m. To O’Malley: Shouldn't you be more friendly to businesses?

O'Malley mentions a Chamber of Commerce report that says Maryland is No. 2 on innovation. He also mentions other business ranking.

To Ehrlich: How will you pay for the sales tax reeducation that you want to make?

"We've become a tax hell," Ehrlich says. To O’Malley, "You've passed the largest tax increase in Maryland history," Ehrlich says. A sales tax hurts retail Maryland. Pressed about how to pay for the tax, Ehrlich says, “I don't believe we'll lose that much money because people will spend more.” He then mentions pension reform and agency overhauls.

O'Malley jumps in: "You have no idea how you are going to pay for the ... " sales tax reduction.

** 12:06 p.m. Question on Jobs: What is best new idea for creating jobs?

O'Malley: We have been holding on to job base better than most states.

Moderator: Can you tell us something new?

O'Malley: We created $5,000 job credit, invest Maryland venture fund, the largest public-private partnership to modernize the Port of Baltimore. Increase bio tech tax credit. Cybersecurity.

Ehrlich: A small business bill of rights. We have one of the most hostile business environments.

Moderator: What would you do to create jobs?

Ehrlich: Small business should get "consistent" answers.

** 12:02 p.m. O’Malley won the coin toss and chose for Ehrlich to give the first opening statement.

Ehrlich thanks his wife and running mate, Mary Kane. Says the debate will be about "who can you trust." Says O'Malley pushed through highest tax increase.

O'Malley thanks Marylanders and his wife, goes to campaign talking points and says voters have a decision to make -- move Maryland forward or backward. Says he has cut state spending. Mentions transit projects.

** 11:53 a.m. O'Malley and Ehrlich are taking the stage.

Audience split into chunk of O’Malley fans on one side, Ehrlich fans on the other. Ehrlich is in a dark suit with a red tie, and O'Malley has a black suit with a blue tie -- keeping with traditional party colors.

** 11:50 a.m. A makeshift auditorium at The Washington Post is filing up with supporters for Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The two are expected to take the stage in a few minutes for their second and (probably) final televised debate.

O'Malley's campaign RV, "The Katie" is parked outside and -- this being Washington, DC in the rain, parking is tough. Top O'Malley staffers are in the room as are former top Ehrlich aides. O'Malley campaign manager Tom Russell reported that it took him two hours to get from Baltimore to D.C.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:46 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Sun coverage of today's noon debate in DC

The Sun will live-blog today's debate between Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., which kicks off at noon in Washington. You can follow us (@annielinskey and @bykowicz) on Twitter. We'll again be using the #mddebate hashtag.

Want to watch it for yourself? Lots of options. It'll stream live at noon on and be broadcast live on Washington's WUSA and statewide on Maryland Public Television. The hourlong debate will be rebroadcast at 7 p.m. on MPT and air at 8 p.m. on WAMU.

As colleague Annie Linskey wrote this morning, "the pressure is on Ehrlich to convince voters in the Democrat-rich Washington suburbs that incumbent O'Malley should be fired."

After the debate, we'll again fact-check some of the major claims. This morning, Linskey preempted one we're sure to hear: that O'Malley was responsible for the largest tax increase in Maryland history. Not exactly true. You can also review our fact-checking from Monday's debate. We examined claims about spending, tuition, the DNA database, job losses and still more taxes.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 7:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

O'Malley and Ehrlich square off again at noon

When Maryland's two gubernatorial candidates face each other in Washington, DC today for their second (and likely last) televised debate there is one charge we feel confident that we'll hear: Gov. Martin O'Malley is responsible for the largest tax increase in Maryland history.

It's been a favorite line from former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., who uses it to remind voters of a 2007 package of tax hikes the governor passed during a 2007 special session that raised roughly $1 billion new new revenues. Ehrlich frequently says a second O'Malley administration will mean another major increase.

The claim has thus far gone undisputed by the O'Malley camp, which would prefer to focus the conversation on the governor's eight trips to the Board of Public Works to cut budgets mid-year.

But a review of Maryland tax history shows that, at least by some measures, there was a tax increase even larger than the one O'Malley passed. One must travel back to 1967 when the state instituted a graduated income tax. Ironically enough, the man responsible for it was Republican Gov. Spiro Agnew.

To be clear here we are not quibbling with Ehrlich's characterization O'Malley's increase on its face value. O'Malley's package raised $1 billion in today's dollars and Agnew's change raised $120 million in 1967. Even when Agnew's figures are inflation adjusted (according to this Internet calculator) they still don't top O'Malley's figure.

But when comparing tax increases historically, the state's economists look at the impact on a per capita basis: Agnew's increases came in at $203 per person in today's dollars. O'Malley's are $179 per person, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

Tax increases are also measured as a percentage of the state's revenues. The 1967 tax increase jacked up state general fund revenues by 26 percent, accord the DLS. The 2007 increases added a 5.8 percent increase to state revenues, says DLS. Agnew's plan was one of the few major overhauls to the tax code and created an graduated tax rate that varied from 2 percent to 6 percent depending on income. It also allowed counties to levy their own piggyback tax.

According to the tax scales, which were helpfully reprinted in The Baltimore Sun at the time, those making more than a whopping $6K a year got stuck on the high end and had to fork over 6 percent to the state. Agnew, in a April 16, 1967 Sun story hailed tax changes to the tax code "enlightened" and "progressive."

So called "tax dissidents" sued the state, the law was appealed to the highest court, and found constitutional. A rally in Annapolis billed to draw tens of thousands of angry taxpayers only netted about 50.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:30 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

October 12, 2010

Clinton to star in Baltimore rally for O'Malley

The previously reported O'Malley campaign fundraiser featuring former President Bill Clinton will now also include a public rally, the governor's re-election campaign said.

O'Malley's team sent out an email, ostensibly from Clinton himself, inviting supporters to attend. It will be on Thursday Oct. 21 and the exact time and location are still to be determined, said campaign manager Tom Russell. The timing works well for the campaign's get out the vote efforts: It is the day before early voting starts.

Unlike in 2006 when Clinton's appearance for Gov. Martin O'Malley's election effort was one of the few campaign events the former President scheduled, this cycle he appears to be all over the place.

The photo on the left was taken Tuesday in Morgantown, W. Va. at a Clinton rally for Gov. Joe Manchin who is running for the seat that opened up when Sen. Robert Byrd died.

Clinton also stumped Tuesday for Jack Conway who is running against Rand Paul for a Kentucky Senate seat.

O'Malley also benefited last week from a rally with President Barack Obama.

And, though not connected with anyone's political campaign but continuing the theme of presidential love for Maryland, former President Jimmy Carter also made a recent stop in Annapolis to promote Habitat for Humanity, one of his pet causes.  
Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:54 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Governor debate post-mortem begins

** UPDATE **

Read the Sun's coverage of Monday's gubernatorial debate here, along with a fact check on claims made by Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on taxes, the economy, education, DNA and government spending. The Sun also covered the day's second exchange between the two men at a forum on disabilities issues.

Sun columnist Jean Marbella weighed in about the retro issues discussed and Sun opinions editor Andy Green noted that Ehrlich focused on issues dear to the far right and far left. Business columnist Jay Hancock bemoaned the lack of discussion about pensions during the exchange.


The hourlong fact-filled debate between Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wrapped a short time ago. It was taped at WJZ-TV in Baltimore and will air tonight at 7 on that station and statewide on Maryland Public Television.

At several points the debate became heated, with each candidate accusing the other of interrupting. Ehrlich referred repeatedly to O'Malley as "Gov," and O'Malley referred to Ehrlich as "Bob." The nicknames grew icier as the debate unfolded.

They're now pow-wowing with their supporters and are expected to emerge soon to give statements. As soon as the debate ended, each side began declaring victory.

Top Democrats who'd come to the station to support O'Malley, including Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Rep. Elijah Cummings, said the governor did a better job of laying out a vision for the future. Mikulski predicted viewers would "be glued to their screens" tonight to see the lively exchange. "There was so much energy, so much content."
Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 9:50 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Jim Smith on the radio for O'Malley

Gov. Martin O'Malley is airing a new spot on Baltimore radio this morning, this one featuring friend and political ally Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr.

Smith is wrapping up his eighth year as a popular county executive and has been campaigning hard for O'Malley, a fellow Democrat, all through the election season.

Four years ago, Smith unleashed what was considered one of the most effective television commercials of the year, a spot in which he said then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had gone years without talking to him or returning his calls. Smith accused the Republican of being out of touch with one of the largest counties in the state -- charges that Ehrlich never refuted.

Smith recently reminded county residents about the snub with this door hanger.

In the new radio ad, Smith talks taxes and spending. More on the content after the jump.

The minute-long spot opens with Smith saying, "I wanted to talk to you about taxes, spending and the truth."

He goes on to say that O'Malley "cut over $5 billion in government spending," though he protected education.

* Check: O'Malley and the Board of Public works cut $1.6 billion from state budgets that had been approved by the legislature. He also used $4.5 billion in federal tax dollars instead of Maryland tax dollars. So "government spending" might be a bit too broad, since federal money does come from the government.

Smith also promises that O'Malley has "no new taxes" in the next state budget he is preparing, should he be elected.

* Check: No real way to verify this, since the governor's budget won't be presented until next year. However, O'Malley has said in several interviews that his draft of the budget includes no new sources of revenue,

By contrast, Smith says, Ehrlich "proposed the biggest spending increase in Maryland history." He said Ehrlich was responsible for $3 billion in taxes, tolls and fees and increased tuition by 40 percent.

* Check: The state did develop about $2.9 billion in new revenue during Ehrlich's tenure, but that includes tax bills he vetoed and the Democrat-led General Assembly overrode. Tuition, set by the Board of Regents after receiving the university budget from the governor and legislature, rose 40 percent during Ehrlich's time as governor.

The ad concludes with Smith saying O'Malley is "a governor we can trust. .. He's a governor on our side."

Specifically, O'Malley may be a governor of Smith's side. After decades of public service, as a judge and county executive, Smith will be looking for work come January. Could a state post be on the horizon?

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 7:51 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Political ads

October 11, 2010

Candidates agree to second televised debate

The next televised gubernatorial debate will not be held in the state of Maryland.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, a Republican, will travel beyond the state's borders and spar with each other for an hour at a live forum noon Thursday in the nation's capital. The event, to be hosted by The Washington Post, WAMU radio and WUSA TV, has been the topic of considerable bickering between the two campaigns, but came together shortly after today's WJZ forum.

The debate is free and open to the public but anyone wishing to attend must register and seats are limited, according to The Post. The event will be moderated by Pulitzer prize winner Mary Jordan, who has reported from London, Tokyo and Mexico City.
Two additional radio debates are set for next week: One on Oct. 21 to be broadcast by WOLB and another the next day at WTOP.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:04 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

O'Malley camp declares victory

Gov. Martin O'Malley spoke to reporters directly after the debate, saying the event was a "lovely exchange of ideas."

“I believe the people of our state understand what’s at stake here,” he said after the debate.

“In much easier times, the former governor made the wrong decisions," O'Malley said. "In the toughest of times we made the right decisions to move the state forward.”

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Congressman Elijah Cummings and Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. declared their fellow Democrat O’Malley the victor, charging that Ehrlich did not offer specifics on how he would create jobs should he be elected.

O'Malley's press people sent out a flurry of "fact checking" emails in addition to a press release declaring the governor "won." That release came a full 25 minutes before Ehrlich's camp made the same claim.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:53 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Ehrlich: No post-debate spin

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. slipped out the back door and left WJZ a few moments ago. Confronted by reporters he said, "No questions right now."

He did say he was "happy, very happy." Ehrlich waited in a back room for about 30 minutes talking to staff before jetting. His SUV drove past the huge O'Malley press conference that is going on right now.

At a separate press conference, Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth said Ehrlich did a "better job explaining to people what he would do if elected." Barth said he thought Ehrlich "spoke with force." His campaign just put out a statement saying "Ehrlich scores decisive win" in first debate.

Pressed by reporters as to why the former governor took no questions after the sometimes-heated in-studio exchange, Barth said, "We want to let the debate speak for itself."

Top Ehrlich aide Greg Massoni was also tight-lipped, saying only, "We'll let the debate stand. We're very pleased."

O'Malley camp reaction coming soon.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:49 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Governor debate: Pep rallies in parking lot

The parking lot of WJZ-TV in Baltimore, where Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich will soon begin their first debate of the campaign, is filled with supporters for both candidates.

The cheering throngs of green-T-shirted O'Malley supporters outnumber Ehrlich team members, but both have signs hoisted enthusiastically. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Rep. Elijah Cummings both are on site, as is first lady Katie O'Malley. Both candidates are here. 

The hourlong debate begins at 10 a.m. and will be broadcast at 7 tonight. Washington-area residents can watch it on Maryland Public Television. Want a preview? We'll tweet live this morning with the #mddebate hash tag.

-- Photos by Annie Linskey.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:02 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Baltimore Mayor at White House today

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is expected to join a group of governors, mayors and Cabinet secretaries at the White House this morning for an event with President Barack Obama highlighting infrastructure investments.

The gathering in the State Dining Room is part of a fresh attempt by the administration to focus attention on Obama's plan to invest $50 billion in highway, rail and runway improvements.

Those on hand will include Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Transportation secretary Ray LaHood and mayors from Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A., Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Columbus and Charleston, S.C.

Among the topics expected to be addressed is a new administration report which says that 80 percent of the transportation infrastructure jobs would be created in the construction, manufacturing and retail trade sectors, and that the work would go to sectors of the economy currently being battered by high joblessness.

Click here for a copy of the report.

Posted by Paul West at 9:47 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: City Hall

False campaign material leads to charges

A 57-year-old Prince George's County man is accused of creating an official-looking but false sample ballot that incorrectly linked top Democrats to underdog candidates,distributed during the early voting period that preceded the Sept. 14 primaries.

Jerry Mathis, 57, faces three counts of distributing campaign material without proper authority line in violation of Maryland’s election law. Each charge, filed Friday by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $25,000 fine.

Mathis is the lone person charged with election law violations this year, Gansler's spokeswoman said.

Prosecutors allege that Mathis used the authority line "Citizens for Change,Charles S. Summers, treasurer" on the fliers. Such an entity does not exist, prosecutors said. There is a Citizens for Change registered in Maryland, but it is an Anne Arundel County Republican group with a different treasurer. Summers, prosecutors said, had no role in the false flier.

In the days leading to the primaries, numerous candidates reported the distribution of not-so-accurate sample ballots and fliers. We reported on several instances, including in the Della/Ferguson matchup and in the Stone/Hadfield race.

What sets the Mathis flier apart, prosecutors said, is that it included a phony authority line -- a clear violation of the law. Sample ballots and fliers urging voters to select candidates who haven't endorsed each other, as in the examples linked above, aren't necessary illegal, so long as the authority line is real.

The Mathis fliers drew the attention of Angela Alsobrooks, a candidate for Prince George's County state's attorney who was surprised to see an "Official Democratic Ballot" with a checkmark for Sen C. Anthony Muse comingled with one for her opponent, Thomas Dernoga.

More checkmarks for little-known Democratic delegate candidates, rather than ones Muse was known to support, also served as red flags for Alsobrooks.

In her letter to Gansler and other election law authorities, Alsobrooks noted that "Prince George's County has a well-documented history of last-minute fraudulent election practices."

Gansler obtained a restraining order Sept. 7 on those sample ballots, and the charges against Mathis followed. A trial date has not been set.

Incidentally, the ballots seemed to have little influence among voters: Alsobrooks walloped Dernoga and other Democratic primary opponents.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:03 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Primaries 2010

Debate day

The sole scheduled televised debate of the O'Malley-Ehrlich re-match (don't say grudge match), is on for today. Viewers can see it on WJZ-TV at 7 p.m. The video will also be posted on the station's website at that time.

Prognosticators say that Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Republican former governor, has the most to prove: He's anywhere between 8 and 11 points down in the polls and can use the forum to cut through paid advertising where he is being outspent and make a fresh and direct pitch.

Gov. Martin O'Malley has a chance to excite his base -- a feat that appears particularly difficult this year after one of the most lackluster primary races in recent history.

Every gubernatorial cycle seems to include a debate about the debates and this year is no different. O'Malley's camp sent out a statement Sunday evening designed to pressure Ehrlich into accepting a second televised debate in the Washington D.C. media market. The two camps have already agreed to two other debates to be broadcast on the radio.

It is hard to know how many minds can be changed via a debate, though a freewheeling back-and-forth is a terrific environment for unscripted moments. The Associated Press put together this nice collection of memorable debate moments thus far.

O'Malley and Ehrlich are both seasoned politicians comfortable with their talking points causing even one die hard politico from Harford County to predict the event will be a "snore." But we'd advise keeping a close eye on the body since the two men are longtime foes.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

October 10, 2010

Baltimore Co.: Bartenfelder praises but doesn't endorse Holt

It wasn't an official endorsement.

But Baltimore County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, who was defeated in the Democratic primary for county executive last month, sure likes the Republican nominee for the county's top job, calling him "a person of honesty and integrity" at a gathering to thank his supporters Sunday night.

Bartenfelder praised Republican candidate Kenneth C. Holt, who attended the event with his wife Mary at the fire hall in Kingsville, but stressed his kind words for Holt were not an endorsement.

Bartenfelder, who lost the nomination to fellow Democrat Kevin Kamenetz, invited Holt.

"Let's get one thing clear," said Bartenfelder, in opening remarks to about 100 of his campaign volunteers who dined on burgers, hot dogs and barbecue chicken. "This is not an endorsement party."

Some in the crowd booed.

Later, Bartenfelder introduced Holt to raucous cheers.

"Ken is a person of honesty and integrity. Like someone said earlier, the people of Baltimore County are going to choose who's best...," Bartendfelder said, before addressing Holt directly."I'm proud to be here with you today and I'm proud to have you and Mary as friends."

Before the event kicked off, Bartenfelder told a reporter there would be no endorsement. But when asked if Holt's invitation could be construed as one, Bartenfelder said, "I'm not commenting on that. This is a supporters thank you party."

Of his relationship with Holt, Bartenfelder said, "He asked for advice. I give him advice, that's all.

Holt, who ran unopposed for the GOP nomination, said he would be glad to get Bartenfelder's endorsement.

"I think that Joe and I share a lot of values, a lot of conservative values," said Holt. "I think these folks who have been loyal to him see something in me that they can have faith in -- handling their tax money responsibly."

Bartenfelder, meanwhile, kept the door open on his own political aspirations, telling supporters to hold onto their campaign T-shirts.

"Don't throw them away," he said. "Who knows what four years is going to bring. You never say never."

Posted by Maryann James at 11:14 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Elections

October 8, 2010

Chamber of Commerce promoting Kratovil

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, under fire from President Barack Obama and the Democrats for allegedly using foreign money to influence next month's election, is on the air in Maryland with a substantial wallop of new advertising on behalf of freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil.

The big business lobby dropped $168,841, according to Federal Election Commission records, on its buy on behalf of Kratovil in Maryland's First District, which spans the Chesapeake Bay to take in portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties, plus the entire Eastern Shore.

Kratovil recently won the endorsement of the Chamber, which has now put its money behind his re-election run in one of the tightest House contests in the nation. The congressman from the Eastern Shore is being challenged by Republican state Sen. Andy Harris, a veteran lawmaker from Baltimore County.

The new advertising is part of a national buy of some $2 million by the Chamber on behalf of Blue Dog Democrats like Kratovil. Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, who gained national attention at a media adviser to Howard Dean's presidential campaign, produced the ads, according to FEC records.

The new ads would seem to undercut Democratic attempts to make an issue out of the Chamber's spending, which largely favors Republicans, or at least muddy the matter.

On Friday evening, House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who has worked hard to re-elect Kratovil, issued a broad-gauged attack that included these lines:

"This Fall, corporate special interests are trying to drown out the voices of the American people with a flood of negative advertising funded by shadowy front groups. These groups are taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that has enabled them to collect unlimited and undisclosed money from powerful, wealthy and sometimes foreign corporations – all without telling anyone where the money is coming from. The American people deserve to know exactly who is funding nasty attack ads and trying to sway their elections.

"...well-funded special interest groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and the Chamber of Commerce are pumping in millions of dollars, possibly from foreign interests and foreign governments, to try and overwhelm the voices of average Americans."

Our Tribune colleagues in the Washington bureau have more details on the national picture here.

Sharp-eyed readers of the Maryland Politics blog may have noticed that a reader named Mary first mentioned the Chamber ads in a comment posted just before 9 a.m. today.

Posted by Paul West at 5:17 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Third-party gov candidates demand to be in debate

Updated 5 p.m.

Baltimore Jewish Council Executive Director Art Abramson has issued this statement: Due to the significant time limitations inherent in the televised format of the upcoming debate, as well as the desire to maximize the educational value of the event, The Baltimore Jewish Council has determined that participation in a debate should be limited to those candidates who have received support from at least 10 percent of the voters in any major, independent poll conducted within 30 days prior to the debate. The Baltimore Jewish Council does not endorse any candidate for public office.

*** End update.

The three minor party candidates for governor are accusing WJZ-TV and the Baltimore Jewish Council, sponsors of a debate Monday between Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., of "electioneering," by excluding them.

Green Party candidate Maria Allwine, Libertarian Party candidate Susan Gaztanaga and Constitution Party candidate Eric Knowles have written several letters this week to the television station, demanding to be part of what could be the only gubernatorial debate this year.

The hourlong back-and-forth between O'Malley and Ehrlich, who appear to be in a tight race for governor, will be taped at WJZ at 10 a.m. Monday and will air at 7 that night. 

But the third-party candidates wrote this morning that the debate sponsors "have engaged in electioneering for the Democratic and Republican candidates by refusing to present ALL the candidates running in the November general election."

The candidates' letter was addressed to WJZ General Manager Jay Newman and Jewish Council Executive Director Arthur C. Abramson. And it was forwarded to the Maryland State Board of Elections and the Federal Communications Commission.

A letter earlier this week expressed laid out the candidates' frustrations: "We are, to put it mildly, dismayed, offended and angered that you have deliberately chosen to exclude us from this debate."

Whether to include third-party candidate in debates and other forums is a question that emerges each election season. In the 2006 race, they were not included in the two televised Ehrlich-O'Malley debates.

Sun colleague Annie Linskey wrote about the lesser-known gubernatorial hopefuls in June. From that story:

Allwine, 57, the Green Party candidate, is making her fourth bid for office, though it is her first run for governor. She received 17 percent of the vote when she ran for Baltimore City Council president in 2007. She has worked as a legal secretary and has no experience as an elected official — but plenty in rankling them.

Maria Allwine, a Baltimore resident and prolific letter writer to newspapers, has protested against the Iraq war, sometimes standing on street corners in a black robe to evoke the infamous image of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

"Our state is in dire straits. They talk about closing the budget deficit, but they won't close corporate tax loopholes," she said in reply to a question last week about why she is running for governor. "They just won't do it. They want to be a friend of business at the expense of ordinary people."

Maryland's tiny Constitution Party will be represented by Annapolis bartender Eric D. Knowles, 32, who said he is running because he does not believe that O'Malley is upholding the U.S. Constitution. Asked for an example, he said: "I can't come up with one offhand."

Susan J. Gaztanaga, who lives in Baltimore and is running as a Libertarian, did not reply to several e-mails sent last week to the address she listed on her campaign filing papers. She left no phone number. An occasional writer of letters to the editor, she protested an increase in the city's income tax and expressed dismay over the government's handling of the deadly showdown in 1993 between federal agents and the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas.

The next day, after Linskey heard from the candidate, she blogged this: Gaztanaga has a concise three point plan: eliminating the state sales tax; order the Maryland National Guard back to Maryland; and allow anyone without a criminal record to carry a handgun.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:00 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Obama back in Maryland again today

Less than 24 hours after headlining a re-election rally for Gov. Martin O'Malley in Prince George's County, President Barack Obama was back in Maryland (and P.G.) delivering a brief statement on the latest jobless figures.

Obama's destination was Bladensburg, which he's previously used as a handy real-world backdrop. It's minutes from the White House but outside the evil capital city, if only barely (the entire event--door-to-door--took less than an hour of the president's day).

After touring Ernest Maier, Inc, a block and masonry company, Obama called economic recovery "the moral and national challenge of our time."

The president attempted to put a positive spin on the economy's very slow pull out of the worst downturn since the Depression. But as he stood behind a microphone on the shop floor, he acknowledged that "the damage (has been) so deep that it's going to take a long time to get out."

Trying to look the part of a chief executive working to turn things around, he addressed a live cable TV audience coatless, with shirtsleeves rolled (though his tie remained tightly knotted).

Obama touted provisions of a small business jobs law that he recently signed, including one designed to bolster state lending programs.

"Maryland, for example, will be able to support $250 million in new lending for businesses that are expanding and creating jobs in communities like this one," he said.

The latest jobs report, the final one before next month's midterm election, was more bad news for the administration and for Democratic candidates who--unlike Obama--are facing voters at a time of discontent and unease spurred by persistently high unemployment and slow economic growth.

Non-farm payrolls dropped by 95,000 nationwide, a result not only of the end of temporary Census jobs but also a reduction in employment by hard-hit state and local governments. The White House chose to highlight what little positive news there was in the latest figures.

Austan Goolsbee, the president's chief economic adviser, said in a statement: "Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 64,000 in September, continuing nine consecutive months of private sector job growth. This growth provides more evidence that the economy continues to recover, but we must do more to put the economy on a path of robust economic growth. At the same time, the rate of job growth is not as large as needed to bring the unemployment rate down quickly, as the unemployment rate remained at 9.6%."

Brendan Quinn,who bought the masonry block company from the Maier family in 2001, lives in Washington, DC. The chief operating officer, Frank Keeney, lives in Fallston, Maryland.

The lightning visit was Obama's 60th to Maryland since taking office.

Posted by Paul West at 12:40 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Administration

Another governor debate takes shape

...speaking of debates, looks like we have another one.

Baltimore radio talk show host Larry Young announced on his program this morning that Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. have agreed to a debate on WOLB. It will be broadcast live on the station from 8 to 9 a.m. Oct. 21.

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese confirmed O'Malley's participation, and Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said Ehrlich also has agreed to the debate.

Young, a Democratic former city senator friendly with both candidates, has worked for months to secure a debate for his Radio One station. He provided few details but promised more information in the coming days.

"Thank you for keeping your word," Young said, announcing the debate moments ago on his morning program.

Young has been on WOLB since 1998. The station's web site describes The Larry Young Show as the No. 1 black talk show in Maryland. O'Malley and Ehrlich have been guests on the program several times this election season.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

October 7, 2010

Melanie Sabelhaus responds

SabelhausIn my column today, I wrote about Melanie Sabelhaus, a former Marylander who was George W. Bush's No. 2 at the Small Business Administration and who was mentioned as a possible running mate for then-Gov. Bob Ehrlich four years ago.

The column notes that Sabelhaus appeared in an infomercial for National Grants Conferences, a company that got in trouble with 24 state attorneys general for making dubious promises to hook people up with federal grants.

The company has been accused of using high-pressure tactics to get people to pay for grant information that is publicly available for free online or in libraries, the Associated Press has reported. The infomercial was made several years ago, but it surfaced recently in the U.S. Senate race in Arizona.

If you want the details, check out the column.

I failed to reach Sabelhaus before the column ran. I tried several numbers and Facebook, but she did not see the Facebook messages and it turns out the phone numbers were old. Sabelhaus moved in July to Naples, Fla.

She called today after seeing the column, and here's what she had to say:

"I did the infomercial in 2005 and 2006," she said. "They were a top-rated small business. What they did is take all the red tape out of government and put it into a course you could understand. They netted it out and put it into a conference."

Which is not to say Sabelhaus would play pitchwoman for the company today.

"I'm not standing by the company," she said. "I am not responsible for what they are doing now and have for the past several years."

Sabelhaus at a charity event in 1996. Sun file photo

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 5:29 PM | | Comments (0)

Bill Clinton to fundraise for Kratovil

Former President Bill Clinton will headline a fundraiser for Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil of Maryland on Sunday in D.C.

The event will be held at the Acadiana restaurant, a Kratovil aide confirmed. Tickets are $500 for individuals. PACs are asked to chip in $1,000, according to Roll Call, which broke the news.

Clinton is also to appear at a Baltimore fundraising event for Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley later this month.

Kratovil, a freshman, is in one of the tightest House races in the country. Republican challenger Andy Harris is raising buckets of money and benefitting from lavish ad spending by outside Republican groups.

The race is rated a tossup. A recent independent poll showing Harris holding a three point lead, within the poll's margin of error, and there was a sizable undecided vote.

Posted by Paul West at 5:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Obama stumps for O'Malley

Bowie -- President Barack Obama praised Gov. Martin O’Malley at a Democratic pep rally today at Bowie State University, saying he “walks the walk, doesn’t just talk the talk.”

Adopting many of O’Malley’s campaign talking points, the president referenced a multi-year college tuition freeze, investments in public education and cuts to government spending. He also championed Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, both of whom are up for reelection this year.

The speech, similar in tone and content to many that Obama has given across the country in recent weeks, was designed to pump up Democratic voters, whom political observers believe to be as dispirited as Republican voters are energized.

Before Obama took the stage, O’Malley repeatedly referred to himself as the president’s partner. “I’m proud of our president,” the governor said, a line that elicited huge cheers from a crowd thick with students and O’Malley and Mikulski supporters.

Obama said he was confident Election Day would "prove the pundits wrong."

Referencing his own election two years ago, Obama said voting for him “made each of you shareholders in the mission of rebuilding our country.” Later, he said, “change happens from the bottom up.”

Several people fainted during the 30-minute speech in the hot sun outdoors on the campus of the historically black college. At one point, a heckler shouted “You’re a liar,” and was shoved toward the back of the crowd, though he continued to listen to the speech.

Obama questioned whether Republicans have a plan for improving the economy, deriding their recently unveiled Pledge to America as “the same old snake oil.” He said that just as he and Democrats were trying to steer the country out of a recession, Republicans "tapped them on the shoulder and asked for the keys back.”

“You can’t have the keys back, because you don’t know how to drive,” Obama said as many in the crowd laughed. “We’ll give you a ride if you want, but you’ve got to sit in the back seat.”

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:06 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Holt plans to attend Bartenfelder supporters rally

Baltimore County councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, who lost the race for the Democratic nomination for county executive last month, has apparently invited the Republican nominee to attend a gathering for his supporters on Sunday in Kingsville.

Kenneth C. Holt, who ran unopposed for the GOP nomination, said Bartenfelder asked him about a week ago to attend the late afternoon event at the fire station in Kingsville, but would not say why he wanted him to be there or whether he would endorse him in his general election contest with Bartenfelder's former opponent, councilman Kevin Kamenetz of Owings Mills.

"He asked me to be there, and I will be there," said Holt, 59, of Kingsville, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates. "He's given no indication what he's going to say to me or to the audience."

Bartenfelder could not be reached for comment, but he said last week that it was "pretty unlikely" that he would endorse Kamenetz. Bartenfelder said he was unhappy with Kamenetz's campaign advertisements, which he considered misleading about his record.

Holt said he and Bartenfelder struck up a friendship while attending the candidates' forums, and have been talking regularly since the primary. He said he's found his fellow east-sider Bartenfelder to be an "excellent counselor" on issues and conducting his campaign.

"He's a farmer, I'm a farmer," said Holt, who raises beef cattle on 120-acres, and is now on leave from his position as a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. "We have many similarities. We're both conservative. There's just a natural affinity between us."

-Arthur Hirsch

Posted by Andy Rosen at 3:06 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: In The Counties

Crowds: We are not the Tea Party

One theme emerging from the crowds of people waiting to see President Barack Obama: The Tea Party has competition.

Brenda Pridgen, a 59 year old Baltimore resident isn't particularly enthusiastic about Gov. Martin O'Malley but came to “restore my understanding that the whole country has not gone crazy.”

She'll vote for O'Malley, a Democrat, reluctantly. “When you have two devils to chose from you might as well pick the one who is more progressive,” Pridgen said. “You can’t vote for the top of the ticket and leave the bottom naked.”

Faye Salisbury, 59 year old Bowie woman took off work from her human resources job to attend the rally out of a desire to “be part of the crowd.” Salisbury does not blame Obama – or O’Malley – for the rocky economy, which she said “feels like it hasn’t gotten any better” and also wanted to show that Republicans are not the only voters enthused this season.

Naturally there were a few perennial rally goers. Yvonne Neal, an 80-year-old Maryland Democrat used her O’Malley campaign sign as a chair. (Pictured on left) She said she comes to “as many rallies as possible” and reports back to her senior citizens community in Upper Marlboro.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Maryland Democrats fire up Obama crowd

Bowie-- A stream of top Maryland Democrats, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Sen. Ben Cardin, fired up the crowd gathered at Bowie State University, where President Obama will soon be speaking.

They didn't hold their tongues about the Tea Party, health care or what they saw as the need to "get Obama's back," as they implored -- sometimes shouting -- people to vote Nov. 2.

A selection of their comments:

Miller: "We're not going to stand for the Tea Party people here in Maryland."

Busch: "They made the tough decisions for you," referring to Democrat support of education funding.

Comptroller Peter Franchot: "Thank God for Barack Obama."

Rep. Elijah Cummings: "It's our moment, but if we don't seize it, it'll be gone forever."
Obama "keeps marching up that mountain."

Rep. Donna Edwards: "We have his back. He's our coach, and he wants to hand us the ball."

Cardin: "We don't need any witchcraft."

Next up are Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:51 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Crowds gather at Bowie for Obama rally

Bowie -- President Barack Obama is to take the stage at Bowie State University this afternoon to fire up Democrats in Maryland, giving a special nod to Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

Throngs of supporters, many clad in O'Malley-green or Mikulski-red T-shirts have already gathered in an outdoor quadrangle at the historically black college. Meanwhile, Maryland Republicans, in a telephone press conference today, predicted voters will reject the Democratic message.

Obama remains more popular in Maryland than nationally, and seemingly unending security lines at Bowie State show he can still draw a crowd.

Baltimore resident Mike Canady and girlfriend Tisa Silver of nearby Mitchellville, both 31, said the presidential pep rally will help Maryland's Democratic candidates.

"If you can get support from the White House, that's great," Silver said. "Democrats need a swift kick in the butt like this to get out and vote."

Canady, who also attended Obama's inauguration, said he hopes voters will do their own research and come to live events such as this, rather than relying upon questionable candidate advertisements.

"It's really important to hear what everyone has to say," he said.

Earlier this afternoon, Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Audrey Scott -- a former Bowie mayor -- welcomed Obama to the college but said his policies have failed.

"We are far worse off than we were when O'Malley and Obama took office," she said in a telephone press conference call. She was joined by Republican candidate for Congress Charles Lollar who is angling to unseat House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Lollar accused Hoyer of "following (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi around the country" instead of helping people in his home district. With the still-struggling economy, he added, "this is no time for partisan politics."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:52 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Tweeting from the O'Malley-Obama rally

Maryland Politics bloggers Julie Bykowicz and Annie Linksey will be tweeting live from Barack Obama's stop at Bowie State University to stump for Gov. Martin O'Malley. They, along with politicians, political enthusiasts and other reporters, will be using the #mdvote hashtag to talk about the rally and other political news. Follow #mdvote tweets below, or use the hashtag yourself to be part of the conversation.

Posted by Carla Correa at 12:23 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Scathing DJS reports land amid governor's race

Two reports released in the past 24 hours blast the state Department of Juvenile Services for lapses in everything from facility security to medical documentation. The criticism comes less than a month before Election Day, when Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley faces his Republican predecessor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

In an interview this morning, O'Malley said Juvenile Services was "the most underperforming department in the state" when he took office in January 2007. "We're still not perfect. We still have a lot of work to do." 

A state legislative audit out Wednesday showed the department was poor at keeping supervision records for even the most dangerous and at-risk kids. In addition, the audit found documentation problems that led to losing $3 million in federal money and signing $150 million in contracts before they were approved by the Board of Public Works.

This morning, the state's independent juvenile monitor issued findings in a teacher killing on the grounds of Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George's County. A 14-year-old juvenile housed there at the time is charged with the sexual assault and murder of the teacher, Hannah Wheeling. The monitor's report says the facility lacked basic security equipment and staff frequently violated policies requiring constant sight and sound supervision of youth.

Responding to the legislative audit this morning, O'Malley echoed an agency spokesman, saying many of the problems had been corrected in the year since audit review period ended.

"We don't look at it every four years," he said. "We look at it every day."

He also described the February killing of the Cheltenham teacher as one of the "greatest tragedies" in his nearly four years as governor.

Juvenile advocates say neither governor can claim success in reforming the long-troubled agency, which handles youngsters charged with or found responsible for crimes. The Sun has examined the policies of O'Malley and Ehrlich, both of whom pledged reform.

From that story:

If history is a guide, solutions for how to handle young violent offenders could elude whoever wins in November, and the realities of slumping state tax revenue and other agenda items could quickly swamp campaign promises.

"It's not easy, because there's nothing good politically when you look under that rock," said state Sen. Bobby A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who has studied the agency, adding that Ehrlich and O'Malley both deserve credit for paying attention to an agency that had long been neglected.

Others say neither governor moved rapidly enough to bring change to a system that, when working properly, turns kids' lives around. Child advocates point to an upward trend in the rearrest rate for juveniles released from youth facilities, an increase that comes even as the state pumps more money into the agency each year.

"What I would say for both of these governors is that the juvenile justice system has remained significantly dysfunctional," said Matthew Joseph, who, as director of the Maryland Advocates for Children and Youth, has tracked the system for almost 15 years.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:12 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Crime & Justice

Martin O'Malley and the Giant Hat

Governor Martin O'Malley greets this enthusiastic supporter during morning sign waving at Holabird and Merritt Boulevard in Dundalk. The inflatable hat is a repurposed Killian's Irish Red beer prop.
Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:26 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: For fun

Poll shows exec race tightening in Howard

A Howard County poll taken for a Republican candidate late last month shows incumbent County Executive Ken Ulman, a Democrat, with an eight point lead over Republican challenger Trent Kittleman, a sign, pollster Patrick Gonzales said, that the national uptick in Republican voting combined with a decline in Democrats is changing the dynamics from 2006.

The poll taken from September 22 to 27 using 381 voters, showed Ulman with 49 percent to Kittleman's 41 percent, with 10 percent undecided. Gonzales said the dynamics this year are working against Democrats, given that their turnout in last month's primary was down 19 percent in Howard compared with 2006, while 26% more Republicans voted this year compared to four years ago.

Ulman's campaign said he had a similar poll done August 30 to September 1 with 400 voters that showed him with a 62 percent margin over Kittleman's 29%.

Len Lazarick of first reported the new figures this morning.

Kittleman, a former Ehrlich administration transportation official running a lightly funded, grassroots campaign, has never been elected to public office, but that may be an advantage this year, she believes.

"I was delighted to hear the numbers," she said Thursday morning. the poll shows Ulman leading in the three county council districts that include Columbia, but trailing in two others covering the western county and Ellicott City/ Elkridge.

-Larry Carson

Posted by Andy Rosen at 9:11 AM | | Comments (14)

Obama stumps for O'Malley today

President Barack Obama will swoop in to Maryland today with one task: Energize the Democratic base for Gov. Martin O'Malley. It will be his 59th stop in the state, making Maryland the president's favorite destination.

The president will want to reel in voters who might otherwise sit out this election, particularly in the Washington suburbs and Baltimore where O'Malley is wooing African-Americans.

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich played down the appearance saying Wednesday that it would be unlikely to change any minds. It's no surprise, he said, that a Democratic president would want a Democrat controlling Annapolis. But Ehrlich is frequently quick to add that he too would work well with the president.

RNC spokesman Parish Branden predicted that Obama's remarks would be "another hollow stump speech" and stressed that Maryland employers cut 5,700 jobs last month. Maryland GOP chair Audrey Scott has planned a 12:30 p.m. conference call with reporters, which will likely touch on the same themes.

Nationally, other candidates haven't embraced the President, as the Washington Post observed in a story today, but there doesn't appear to be a significant political downside to the President's presence on the Maryland campaign trail. Sen. Barbara Mikulski has also touted the stop as support for her campaign.

Obama will give his speech at Bowie State University in Prince George's County. Former President Bill Clinton is also planning an event with O'Malley in Baltimore on the eve of early voting. There had been some talk about a second Obama appearance (or maybe Michelle) in Baltimore, though with a pair of polls showing O'Malley solidly ahead of Ehrlich, the First Couple might be deployed elsewhere.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:30 AM | | Comments (6)

October 6, 2010

After plea, Holton traveling to Fla. on city's dime

The Baltimore Sun's Julie Scharper reports:

Baltimore City Councilwoman Helen Holton, who pleaded no contest this week to a campaign finance violation, will attend a three-day conference in Palm Beach, Fla., next week at the city’s expense.

The city spending board voted Wednesday to approve the $1,100 trip for Holton, who will be attending the National Association of Counties conference in Palm Beach from October 13 to 15.

Holton pleaded no contest on Monday to a misdemeanor stemming from a deal she struck with developer Ronald Lipscomb and bread magnate and developer John Paterakis Sr.

Holton asked the two to pay $12,500 for a poll during her 2007 re-election campaign, circumventing campaign finance regulations and exceeding the $4,000 cap on donations from individuals during an election cycle.

A related and more serious bribery charge remains tied up in an appeal to the Court of Appeals.
Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who presides over the five-member Board of Estimates, abstained from the vote. His spokesman said Young normally abstains from votes involving the council members.

Spokesman Lester J. Davis said the trip was planned long before the plea deal was announced and that Young, who serves as leader of the council, “did not have a role in picking who went on this trip.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake voted in favor of the expenditure. Asked if Holton’s trip should be approved after her plea, Rawlings-Blake said “I don’t think the two are related.”

“She is a working councilwoman with a budget and the expenses are part of that budget,” Rawlings-Blake said.

Holton’s charges are to be paid from the “elected officials’ expense account.” The board approved an additional $36 per day for hotel costs and $40 per day for food in addition to the normal daily $164 subsistence rate for the location.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:54 PM | | Comments (27)

Ehrlich would cut education dollars (still)

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. this morning repeated a pledge made last week that he if elected governor he would cut an education grant that goes *primarily* to Prince George's and Montgomery counties and Baltimore city.

"It is not part of the baseline," he said. "If the dollars are there, we'll fund it," he said. Asked if the dollars would be there he said: "Of course not."

His words come hours before Prince George's County Executive-elect Rushern Baker and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett plan to hold a news conference criticizing him for that call. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, whose city also stands to lose money, is not planning on participating, according to the press release.

Separately , Ehrlich told business leaders that a pair of polls showing his opponent, Gov. Martin O'Malley, with a sizable lead was driven by "weeks of negative ads" from the governor's team. Ehrlich hinted that his campaign is preparing his back. "That gets fixed tomorrow," he said.

The Republican former governor also offered a new answer to an old question about how he would work with Democratic leaders in the General Assembly. "We are going to medicate Miller and defeat Busch," he quipped. )

See how much the state's counties received from the GCEI after the jump.
GCEI Funding


Fiscal 2011


School System






Anne Arundel




Baltimore City
























































Prince George's




Queen Anne's




St. Mary's




























Posted by Annie Linskey at 10:09 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Poll: Harris and Kratovil in tight rematch

Republican challenger Andy Harris holds an insignificant lead over incumbent Democrat Frank Kratovil in the race for Congress in Maryland's easternmost district, according to a new poll just out.

The survey, the first independent poll to be released in the high-profile contest, suggests that the 2010 rematch could be about as close as the 2008 election, which Kratovil won by roughly 3,000 votes.

In the new poll, Harris, a veteran state legislator from the Baltimore suburbs, is favored by 43 percent of likely voters to 40 percent for Kratovil, a first-term representative from the Eastern Shore. Another 15 percent said they were undecided.

When the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error is taken into account, the contest is a statistical tie. The survey of 400 likely voters was conducted September 28-30.

The results reflect the strong Republican leanings of the district, which went for the Republican presidential ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin over Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden by almost 20 points.

However, the survey offers some flickers of hope for Kratovil, considered one of the most endangered Democrats in the country. It shows him winning independent voters by a 38-35 margin.

Independents make up the largest bloc of undecided voters in the district.

In fact, Kratovil was one of just two freshman Democrats out of 12 nationwide in the new survey to be leading among independents. The former Queen Anne's County prosecutor has been highlighting his independent voting record in his re-election campaign.

The survey was published by The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, and conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, a Democratic firm that has done work for the Clintons. The poll was co-sponsored by America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a trade association representing gas producers and exploration companies.

Interestingly, the survey asks respondents whether they would favor Obama or Hillary Clinton if the Democratic primaries were held today.

In Maryland One, which includes the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties, the answer was Clinton. But that includes answers from Republicans. Among Democrats in the district, Obama was the pick and they approved of the job he is doing by 72 percent to 24 percent.

Overall, most likely voters in the district disapprove of the job Obama is doing. A total of 59 disapproved compared with 38 percent who approved. Independents gave him a negative job rating, by a 52-44 margin.

Check out the results in Maryland and 11 other districts represented by vulnerable Democratic freshmen here.

The survey is the first one to be published that was not sponsored by either Harris or Kratovil or the two major parties. For the Maryland specific results, click here.

Posted by Paul West at 7:28 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

October 5, 2010

Bill Clinton to headline fundraiser for O'Malley

Gov. Martin O'Malley is awash with presidential attention this cycle -- invitations just went out inviting donors to an Oct. 21 fundraiser in Baltimore with former President Bill Clinton.

Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Abbruzzese would not confirm the event, say how many people are expected to attend or how much money the event is meant to raise. But, according to the invitation, the fundraiser will be at the Museum of Industry, a waterfront location frequently used for such purposes.

Ehrlich's campaign also announced a political star appearance -- he's holding an event with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who warmed the hearts of fiscal conservatives this year by chopping that state's budget. Christie also, in a speech earlier this year, singled out Maryland as a state that makes poor budgeting decisions.

For O'Malley, the Clinton fundraiser will follow an appearance by President Barack Obama in Prince George's County on Thursday. Vice President Joe Biden has also stumped for O'Malley this cycle.

The Clinton event won't be open to the public. But there's some chatter that Clinton might also do a rally for O'Malley. The timing would make sense -- the former President will be here on the eve of the first early voting day.

Clinton and O'Malley have friendly history. The pair traveled to Ireland together in 2000 and Clinton had warm words for the then-newly minted Baltimore mayor at a New York Democratic leadership event that year.

Clinton also campaigned hard for O'Malley in 2006, cutting a television ad and appearing at a rally in Prince George's County. (See photo on left.)

In what was widely viewed as payback, O'Malley was one of the first governors to support Hillary Clinton's failed presidential bid.

Interestingly the two were not always so cozy. In 1992, as a Baltimore City Councilman, O'Malley managed the Maryland campaign for Sen. Bob Kerrey who vied with Clinton for the party's presidential nomination but then dropped out.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 4:22 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: People

Cordish: O'Malley should support Arundel casino

Baltimore developer David Cordish, who wants to build the state’s largest slots casino in Anne Arundel County, waded into the governor’s race today, criticizing Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley for supporting opponents of Cordish’s planned casino at Arundel Mills mall.

“The only thing I can say about Gov. O’Malley’s position is he must apparently want to raise taxes,” said Cordish, citing projections that the proposed casino would provide millions of dollars in annual revenue.

Anne Arundel County voters will consider a referendum on zoning for slots on the November ballot. O’Malley has said he thinks racetracks are better forums for slots than shopping center and voiced sympathy for the residents who live near the mall, and mostly oppose the casino.

Cordish hired Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's law firm last year to do public relations work in Anne Arundel -- something the O'Malley campaign highlighted in a radio ad released today.

Cordish is urging county residents to vote for Question A, which would affirm the zoning approved by the County Council and enable the developer to build the 4,750-slot machine casino.

A citizens group called No Slots at the Mall, which is financed by the Maryland Jockey Club, has urged voters to reject the measure, in hopes of steering slots to Laurel Racetrack.

“I don’t understand his position,” said Cordish, speaking about O’Malley. “But he’s entitled to his position. He’s the governor…If you’re the jobs governor of Maryland, not West Virginia, you ought to be for Question A.”

Cordish added that O’Malley “ought to be doing what [former] Governor Ehrlich’s doing, supporting Question A.”

Cordish’s comments coincided with the release of a 60-second radio advertisement from the O’Malley campaign attempting to paint Ehrlich as a champion of special interests by highlighting the public relations work -- which O'Malley supporters call lobbying -- that Ehrlich's law firm did for Cordish.

“This ad is about who Bob Ehrlich is really working for, and the fact that he is not on the side of Maryland families,” said Rick Abbruzzese, deputy campaign manager for the O’Malley campaign. “Especially in these tough economic times, Marylanders need a governor on their side, representing their interests and allowing their voices to be heard.”

Andy Barth, a spokesman for Ehrlich, responded that O'Malley is "making stuff up" when it comes to slots.

"Once again, Martin O’Malley is 'making stuff up' to cover up the pitiful failure of his efforts to get slots machines up and running in Maryland; they are only being discussed at Arundel Mills because O’Malley’s Constitutional amendment resulted in this being the only place in AA county where they could now go," Barth said in an email

-- Nicole Fuller

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: In The Counties

Second poll out showing O'Malley momentum

A just-released Rasmussen Reports poll shows Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley with an eight-point advantage over Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a lead that comes after months of polls by the firm that had the race in a dead heat.

The results prompted Rasmussen, which some consider a Republican-friendly firm, to reclassify the governor's race from "toss-up" to "leans Democratic." Other groups, including The Cook Political Report, still regard the race as a toss-up.

It's the second poll out in the past week to show O'Malley gaining momentum as the governor's race enters its final month. A Washington Post poll published Sept. 29 gave O'Malley an 11-point advantage over Ehrlich among likely voters. An earlier poll by the newspaper had the candidates tied among likely voters.

Henry Fawell, a spokesman for the Ehrlich campaign, said the candidate continues to find enthusiasm on the campaign trail. He had a large roast over the weekend in Baltimore County, attended by 3,000 or so supporters, and will soon roll out details of a busy final month schedule, Fawell said.

"It is clear as Bob Ehrlich travels that state meeting with everyday Marylanders that their concerns remain the stagnant economy and a tax burden that makes it harder to pay bill," Fawell said. "They're aligned with Ehrlich's message of more jobs and lower taxes."

O'Malley yesterday launched his "On Your Side Express," an RV tour replete with a traveling kitchen table.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:19 PM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Horserace

Former Bartenfelder backer endorses Kamenetz

The Baltimore Sun's Raven Hill reports:

Defeated Baltimore County Council candidate Bill Paulshock, who ran on Joe Bartenfelder’s ticket in the primary, plans to back Kevin Kamenetz in the general election.

Though he said he will not make an endorsement in the 5th District race between fellow Democrat Mike Ertel and Republican David Marks, he left little doubt about where his loyalties lie.

“I feel David is the most qualified at this point,” said Paulshock, adding that he’s known Marks for years through his work on various committees and community organizations. “I’ve seen firsthand how he works. He’s very professional. He cares about people. If I had to make a choice, David is the most qualified.”

Paulshock asked his backers to support Kamenetz in a statement that outlines his reasons:

“My decision to endorse Kevin for County Executive was an easy decision for me. Over the past year of campaigning, I have come to realize the type of leader that it takes to run Baltimore County Government. That leader must be experienced; possess the knowledge and capability to oversee the operations of Government; and must surround himself with professional and experienced personnel. Kevin Kamenetz satisfies all of these requirements.”

The Kamenetz endorsement shouldn’t be taken as a knock against Bartenfelder, he said.

“I am dear and close friends with Joe. Everyone gave it their 100 percent with Joe, but we have to move forward,” he said. “You do that with business, you do that with life and this is the way forward that’s best for Baltimore County. But there’s no dearer friend than Joe Bartenfelder with us.”

There still is no word on who Bartenfelder will be endorsing in the county executive race.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (2)

October 4, 2010

National GOP goes after Kratovil

The national Republican Party's House campaign arm is on the air on the Eastern Shore with a new ad that attacks incumbent Frank Kratovil's support for the federal stimulus program.

Republican Andy Harris, a veteran state lawmaker from the suburbs north of Baltimore, is challenging Kratovil, an endangered Democratic freshman, in one of the closest House contests in the country. The Democratic campaign committee was the first to enter the general election fight with TV advertising aimed at district voters.

The 30-second Republican spot, airing in the Salisbury market on broadcast TV and running on cable in the Baltimore market, tries to exploit Kratovil's support for the unpopular stimulus program. It also is designed to undermine his claims to independence, noting that he voted for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker (the ad does not explain, of course, that only Republicans voted against making Pelosi speaker, as is normally the case; votes for speaker routinely follow party lines).

The Republican commercial describes the stimulus as "failed," an assessment at odds with the judgment of many economists. According to an August report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus helped pull the nation out of the deepest recession since the Depression and provided jobs to between 1.4 million and 3.3 million people nationwide.

Kratovil voted against the stimulus the first time it went through the House in 2009, then approved the revised version. He has made public appearances in the district to highlight projects funded by the $814 billion spending measure.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which targeted Kratovil even before he took office, financed new TV ads in 27 districts across the country over the weekend, including Maryland One, which takes in the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.

An NRCC official said the committee has reserved more than $532,000 in TV ad time in the Maryland district through the Nov. 2 election, which is four weeks from Tuesday. Click here to view the latest ads, including the anti-Kratovil spot.

Kratovil's campaign took issue with the ad's attack on the Democrat's claim to independence.  The Republicans used a Washington Post voting analysis that showed Kratovil voting with Pelosi 84 percent of the time (this is a cookie-cutter attack line that Republicans in Washington are using in campaigns across the country, attempting to drag down Democrats by linking them to the unpopular House speaker).

The Kratovil campaign notes that the Post analysis catalogs every vote taken by the House, including on relatively non-controversial topics like renaming post offices.  By that yardstick, Kratovil voted with Republican Leader John Boehner 60 percent of the time, the Democrat's campaign said.

Kratovil's campaign prefers to cite the ratings of two respected Washington-based publications. Congressional Quarterly ranked the Eastern Shore congressman as the tenth most independent House member and National Journal placed him right-of-center in terms of ideology in its vote ratings, the Kratovil campaign says.



Posted by Paul West at 12:22 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Mikulski: Big lead but no longer biggest favorite

It has been a standard line for years about Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski: She's "the most popular politician in Maryland." 

Not any more, apparently.

Mikulski is still viewed favorably by Maryland voters.  A total of 52 percent of registered voters in a newly released Washington Post poll gave her a favorable rating.

But that's down from 64 percent favorability in the same poll, in January, 2004, the last time she ran for re-election.

By comparison, the statewide poll, conducted Sept. 22-26, showed two other politicians whom Maryland voters view more favorably than Mikulski: Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, rated favorably by 64 percent,  and Republican nominee Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., by 55 percent (that last number falls within the poll's margin of error with Mikulski's, but O'Malley's does not).

She may no longer be Maryland's favorite pol, but the 74-year-old senator appears to be cruising toward another six-year term in Washington.

The Baltimore native holds a lopsided two-to-one lead in the poll over Republican challenger Eric Wargotz, a Queen Anne's County commissioner.

The state's senior senator led by 59 percent to 24 percent among registered voters and by 61 percent to 29 percent among likely voters. The survey found Mikulski leading Wargotz in every part of the state and among nearly all demographic groups, the Post said.

Campaign analyst Stu Rothenberg attributed Mikulski's drop in popularity to anti-incumbent sentiment seen nationwide this year. But that speculation may not account for her slippage in favorability, since O'Malley, also an incumbent, drew a higher rating in the same survey.

Instead, the responses of younger voters help explain her fall from first place.

Among those in the 18 to 34 age group, Mikulski's favorable rating declined from 53 percent in 2004 to 32 percent. Her unfavorable rating rose by 9 percent and the percentage of those expressing no opinion increased by 12 points, to 48 percent.

Even younger voters who favored Mikulski were unfamiliar with her and her work, the poll found. As the Post noted, Mikulski is an influential senator, but she's not a party leader and doesn't chair a full committee. She also doesn't attract national attention to her campaigns because they're not competitive.

Her favorability also fell sharply among Republicans, independents and white voters (clearly there's overlap among those categories). For more details, click here.

Posted by Paul West at 11:03 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

O'Malley begins final drive

Gov. Martin O'Malley will tour the state in a recreational vehicle he's calling the "On Your Side Express," as he pushes toward the Nov. 2 election that pits him against former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

O'Malley, a Democrat, is to kick off the tour today with a stop at the University of Maryland in College Park. There, he'll be introduced by one of the "real Marylanders" featured in a recent television commercial highlighting his tuition freeze (with thawed this year with a 3 percent increase) and its impact in making state schools more affordable. The young Harford County woman says her family wouldn't have been able to send her to school if tuition had continued to rise.

The governor will then hop into the 31-foot RV and head to businesses in Prince George's County. His tour over the next four weeks will cross Maryland, from the Eastern Shore to its mountainous western points. At stops along the way, he'll pull out a kitchen table -- a reference to his "kitchen table talks" on the campaign trail -- and talk to voters. He'll decorate the table wiith stickers and memorabilia from the trail. He hopes to install the table in the State House at the the start of his second term, his aides say.

This is a busy week for O'Malley: On Thursday, President Barack Obama will campaign for him at Bowie State University.

Ehrlich, meanwhile, is discussing agriculture today in Frederick County's Walkersville. The Republican candidate has not yet released his plans for the rest of the week.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:36 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

October 1, 2010

New Ehrlich attack ad focuses on jobs report "fiasco"



The war on credibility continued Friday with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich airing a new attack ad in the Baltimore area Friday that alleges Gov. Martin O'Malley ordered his labor department to falsify a downbeat jobs report.

It's not a huge surprise that the issue would find its way on TV. Ehrlich on Monday released a stack of embarrassing emails recording how stressed-out staffers struggled to do damage control after a negative jobs report went up briefly on the state's website.

Those emails show tortured efforts at spin in the agency, but do not directly implicate O'Malley or anyone in the governor's office. Ehrlich, however, clearly hopes to use the issue to support a narrative his campaign is trying to establish: O'Malley can't be trusted to steer the state's economy.

Rick Abbruzzese, O'Malley's deputy campaign manager, noted that so far this year Maryland employers have added 33,000 jobs. He called the ad "desperate" and accused Ehrlich of "lashing out" because "he knows his 24-year political career is slipping away."

For those who missed the news story here's a quick synopsis: The state's labor department in August put out a report saying that Maryland's economy "stalled" in July. A sharp-eyed GOP staffer noticed that it was at odds with O'Malley's economic message and blasted out an email to supporters.

Shortly after, labor department employees pulled down the report, deleted the negative sounding language, and re-posted it. The agency head, Alexander Sanchez, explained the incident by saying that the initial jobs report was an unfinished draft never intended to be posted. The kicker is that the downbeat assessment proved accurate -- the July jobs numbers were revised from a net gain to a net loss.

Ehrlich, via a public information act request, obtained the emails that went back and forth between state staffers who were dealing with the dueling reports. Emails include such gems as Sanchez telling a staffer: "Call mw (sic) as soon as you know who posted this outrageous info" and agency communications director Bernie Kohn writing "Whatever we can do to make this disappear, we need to do it. That is coming straight from the top."

Ehrlich, in his ad, picks up on that last email and tries to pin job-gate directly on O'Malley. An announcer says: "O’Malley attempts a cover-up, falsifying the jobs report to help his campaign."

But there's a problem: The released emails don't support the notion that O'Malley was personally aware of the negative report or had anything to do with the decision to remove it from the state website. Kohn, a former Baltimore Sun editor, said in an interview that his orders came from Sanchez, not O'Malley. O'Malley was also questioned this week by reporters and repeatedly denied that he was aware of the negative report.

Announcer-After months of Martin O’Malley telling us that Maryland is moving forward.

Martin O’Malley- Moving Maryland forward

Announcer-This jobs reports tells the truth

Announcer-Maryland’s economy stalled

Announcer 2-We face an uphill struggle in trying to regain the jobs lost

Announcer-O’Malley attempts a cover-up, falsifying the jobs report to help his campaign

Announcer 2-Whatever we can do to make it disappear, we need to do it

Announcer 2-That’s coming straight from the top

Announcer-Martin O’Malley: First he makes stuff up. When caught, he covers stuff up

Announcer-We need a governor who tells the truth

Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:19 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Political ads

Ehrlich family lunch

Gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. took a mini-campaign break this afternoon and stopped at Grilled Cheese & Co. to lunch with his parents. The Baltimore Sun recently reviewed the new restaurant in Catonsville and summed up the experience as "reasonably quick and pleasing."

The Republican former governor ordered the BBQ Chicken grilled cheese and said he enjoyed it. His father, Robert L. Ehrlich, Sr. and mother, Nancy Ehrlich are also photographed on the right.

Ehrlich didn't miss the opportunity to tout his support for small businesses at the eatery and urged reporters to talk with the owner and staff. He promised part owner Scott Pevenstein: Your taxes will go down on Nov. 3.


Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:59 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: For fun

Drivers can't make calls and other new laws

Taking a brief break from the breathless gubernatorial horse race, we'd be remiss to neglect the host of new laws that officially go on the books today.

The one getting the most attention is a new rule barring drivers from talking on cell phones. There's been a lot of coverage of eager rule followers hitting Best Buy to stock up on earpieces for their phones including this story by my colleague Gus Sentementes.

As a reminder, talking on the cell phone is a secondary offense, meaning a driver has to be breaking another rule (like speeding or having one light out) before triggering a citation.

Asking the two gubernatorial candidates about for their take on the rule we found some common ground. Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, who signed the bill into law, told my colleague Julie Bykowicz this week that the new law is "important" and added that "distracted driving leads to death."

He noted that he has a driver and is rarely behind the wheel, but said that his two driving-age daughters "better be ready."

Challenger Robert L. Ehrlich, the Republican former governor, is also being driven around this campaign season. When asked about the new law he also talked about his children, saying he plans to teach his sons drew and josh to be careful on the roads when the boys turn 16. "It is all common sense," Ehrlich said. "I hope everyone pays attention to the law and drives safely."

Another new rule that drivers have to give at least three feet of space to bikers when passing (we are curious to see how this ends up working on the crowded Baltimore streets) and others listed after the jump. Sex offenders: Convicts will see longer mandatory sentences. In some cases the minimum prison sentence will go from five to 15 years.

Gang prosecution: A new measure expands the base of crimes that trigger a 2-year-old anti-gang statute.

Bicycle safety: Drivers must give a 3-foot berth when passing bicyclists.

False health claims act: The state may file civil lawsuits cracking down on Medicaid fraud.

Incarceration representation: For the purposes of legislative redistricting, inmates will be counted at their last known address instead of the city or town in which they are incarcerated.

B-Corp: Creates a new business entity intended to give boards of directors legal protections for making socially conscious business decisions.

Dirt bikes
: Gas station operators may no longer sell gasoline to fuel dirt bikes.

Child support guidelines
: The first major revision to child support rates in two decades will mean most noncustodial parents will pay more, though the new schedule does not affect existing agreements.

Marriage fee: The cost of obtaining a marriage certificate from a Baltimore court increases from $25 to $75 marriage. Additional revenue is to be used for programs to combat domestic violence.

Alternative energy: Drivers of electric cars may use the state's network of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes even if they have no passengers.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: General Assembly 2010

Cook Political Report moves MD race to 'toss up'

National political analyst Charlie Cook disregarded a recent Washington Post poll giving Gov. Martin O'Malley an 11 point advantage among likely voters in his rematch with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich and yesterday moved the contest from "leans Democrat" to "toss up."

In his Sept. 30 report, Cook stresses that both candidates have said the race will be close, both the RGA and the DGA have poured money into the state, and that this year O'Malley has the "political winds blowing in his face."

"It looks increasingly like the race will end up being a single-digit contest," Cook wrote.

It could also be that Cook is hedging his bets, as he's nearly emptied out all of his other categories and has piled 17 other governor's races in the toss up category. That also shows there's considerable competition for national money.

The report hardly represents a consensus view: Real Clear Politics has Maryland in the leans Democrat column, showing that the last three polls put O'Malley ahead by various margins. RCP guesses that O'Malley has a +5.7 advantage over Ehrlich.

Still, some Maryland prognosticators are scratching their heads about the Post's poll, with Todd Eberly, the interim director at St. Mary's College's Center for the Study of Democracy hypothesizing that the paper's pollster overstated likely turnout. (Eberly e-mailed to say he just chatted with the Post's pollster Jon Cohen and the conversation that confirmed his belief that the survey was flawed. Eberly says The Post overestimated Democratic turnout in their model by assuming it would match 2008 numbers and understated GOP turnout by assuming it would be weaker than 2008. "Not likely," Eberly says of those assumptions.)

It is also worth noting, as The Sun's Andy Green did on his Second Opinion blog, that the Post didn't veer from the methodology used for their May poll which showed 47-47 split among likely voters, meaning at the very least the trend line is one Ehrlich will want to turn around if he hopes to win.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 8:30 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Horserace
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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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