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November 30, 2010

O'Malley expected to lead DGA

A group of a dozen Democratic governors set to meet Wednesday in Washington, DC are widely expected to select Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to be their next leader, a move that would give him a turn under the national spotlight.

The role affords the chair the chance to add top to their Rolodex top Democratic donors from in other states, meet a network of emerging party leaders and recruit new faces. It could also provide a chance to install loyal staffers in key national positions.

“It is an important leadership position,” said Nathan Gonzales, the Political Editor with Rothenberg Political Report. “If it is O’Malley it will put him on a larger stage than just being the governor of Maryland.”

Others who’ve chaired the Democratic Governors Association in the past decade entered the mix of possible their party’s presidential contenders, including previous chairs New Mexico’s Bill Richardson, Iowa’s Tom Vilsak and Kansas’ Kathleen Sebelius.

This year Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican who chaired the GOP version of the organization kept his name in the national media, gaining stature as top donors entrusted him with their money rather than the scandal plagued Republican National Committee.

But the job does not necessarily translate into national stardom. “You don’t get this huge national profile unless you seek it out and work it,” said Jennifer Duffy, of the Cook Report.

O’Malley this year gained national prominence for stomping Republican opponent Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a former governor who was at one point was even in the polls. Unofficial results have O’Malley winning by 14.5 percentage points, more than doubling his 2006 victory over Ehrlich in a year where Democrats suffered record losses.

Rick Abbruzzese, an O’Malley spokesman, would not say whether the governor is interested in the position or is actively pursuing it.

But Maryland’s Republican party also weighed in, with state GOP chairwoman Audrey Scott issuing a statement Tuesday accusing the governor of pursuing the position to further “his own political aspirations” and predicted that he would be “gallivanting around the country” to raise money for Democrats instead of focusing on the state’s fiscal troubles.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:06 PM | | Comments (1)

November 29, 2010

O'Malley campaign report details last minute spending

Gov. Martin O'Malley poured money into polling and TV advertising in the final days of the gubernatorial campaign -- emptying out much of his sizable war chest before voters headed to the polls.

The governor, a Democrat, spent about $10 million to be re-elected, outspending former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. spent about $7 million. O'Malley beat Ehrlich by 14.5 percentage points, according to unofficial results.

In the final month O'Malley raised $791,875 from individual donors, and spent about $1.3 million, according to a detailed report of his main campaign account. Reports on two smaller accounts that he uses were still on available Monday.

* The campaign paid $185K to Dixon/Davis Media Group, the strategic communications firm based in Washington, D.C.

* Two payments, one for $42K and another for $48K, went to Peter D. Hart Research Associates, a political polling firm.

* The campaign transferred $447,000 to the O'Malley-Brown Committee slate, and used the slate account to fund their TV advertising in the final days, said Rick Abbruzzese, a campaign spokesman. He said the arrangement simplified internal accounting.

* After the votes were in on Nov. 2, the O'Malley campaign staffers headed to Little Havana in Baltimore for an after party. It cost $2,623.45, according to the campaign report.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Campaign finance

November 26, 2010

Green wine in Maryland

The Sun's Black Friday edition included a story about a product Marylanders would have difficulty buying: Local wines.

But that could change this year, key lawmakers in Annapolis say they are open to modifying the state's alcohol laws so consumers can receive shipments of wine in the mail. That idea pleases those in the burgeoning locavore movement, as it eases access to Maryland wines.

The owner of Maryland's award-winning Black Ankle vineyard explained that members of his wine club have to drive out to his Mt. Airy farm to pick up cases. For every one customer willing to make the trek, he estimates three or four can't be bothered. Finding his wines on the shelves of the corner liquor store is tough -- they only produce 3,000 bottles are year.

In Virginia, where direct shipping is allowed, one vineyard owner said 30 percent of her business is by mail.

The change also would open Maryland to rare wines from fancy Sonoma vineyards, but Black Ankle's owner Ed Boyce says: Bring on the competition.

This year a bill to legalize direct shipping will be introduced in the House by Del. Jolene Ivey, a Prince George's County Democrat who had some success last year making it easier for local vineyards to sell at farmers markets.

But the state's liquor lobby opposes the idea -- and they tend to get what they want in Maryland -- so consumers shouldn't clear space in their wine racks quite yet. 
Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:48 AM | | Comments (5)

November 24, 2010

O'Malley, Ehrlich report-by-report breakdown

We just posted a story about spending in this year's governor's race. The headline numbers: Gov. Martin O'Malley outspent Republican challenger Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. by about $3 million. Together, both candidates spent about $17 million this year.

Can't get enough of the numbers? Here's a report-by-report breakdown of fundraising and spending throughout the year.


Began the year with $141,778 in the bank.
Pre-Primary-1 (covered 1/13-8/10): $3,169,863
Pre-Primary-2 (covered 8/11-8/29): $698,114
Pre-General (covered 8/30-10/17): $2,795,826
Post-General (covered 10/18-11/16): $710,417
Total raised: $7,515,998   

PrePrim-1: $1,245,343
PrePrim-2: 129,484
Pre-Gen: $3,545,817
Post-Gen: $2,147,503
Total spent: $7,068,147  


Began the year with $4,815,924 in the bank.
PrePrim-1: $2,848,728
PrePrim-2: $239,411
Pre-Gen: $1,335,542
Post-Gen: $860,176 
Total raised: $10,099,781

PrePrim-1: $2,298,792
PrePrim-2: $418,352
Pre-Gen: $5,833,775
Post-Gen: $1,373,061
Total spent: $9,923,980  

The candidates' running mates also had campaign accounts, and O'Malley used an O'Malley-Brown slate account; those figures were not used in compiling this information.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Campaign finance

November 23, 2010

Henson got two checks from Ehrlich just before election

Disgraced campaign operative Julius Henson collected $14,000 from Robert Ehrlich's campaign in the final week before the election.

The last two payments included one for $10K on October 21 and another for $4K on October 29. Both went to Universal Elections, one of the two companies Henson heads. Including the latest payments, Ehrlich's campaign sent $111,000 to Henson.

The Sun reported that Henson masterminded a batch of robocalls to more than 112,000 voters hours before polls closed on Election Day. The message was that Gov. Martin O'Malley had already won the election and encouraged voters to "relax" and "watch it on TV."

In a hard-to-follow bit of logic, Henson told The Sun he thought the calls would encourage voters to participate in the election. "We believe the call was made for voters in Baltimore City who were not going to go to the polls, to go to the polls and vote," Henson told The Sun's Justin Fenton. "It never said, 'Don't vote.'"

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler came to the opposite conclusion and filed a civil suit against Henson alleging that the operative intended to intimidate voters and suppress votes. The State Prosecutor's Office is also reviewing the matter.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:38 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Higher education sec also leaving

James E. Lyons Sr., the state's secretary of Maryland's Higher Education Commission, is also leaving the O'Malley administration, we just learned.

That makes two high level departures in one day, and three in the past week. Lyons is retiring and will leave his post as of January 1.

In a statement, Gov. Martin O'Malley thanked Lyons for his "remarkable service" and called him "an effective leader."

Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Administration

Department of Environment Secretary to leave

Maryland’s Secretary of the Environment, Shari T. Wilson, is leaving her post in two weeks, making her the second cabinet-level official to leave the O’Malley Administration since the election.

Gov. Martin O’Malley offered praise in a statement announcing her departure, complimenting her work on new storm water management regulations and climate change rules. "Shari brought an in-depth knowledge of environmental and public health issues to MDE," O'Malley said. "Her expertise will be missed.”

Wilson did not seek re-appointment for a "personal" reason, according to a news release from the agency.

Wilson was the target of intense criticism during the recent gubernatorial campaign, with small business-owners and developers frequently complaining that the agency took too long to reply to requests and unevenly implemented the law.

On the campaign trail Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich would call MDE alternatively the “most broken” or “second most broken” state agency.

The agency is charged with overseeing environmental regulations including compliance with new tougher federal rules, but remains chronically underfunded and understaffed. A recent fiscal analysis showed that the agency’s roughly $264 million budget needs an additional $3 million a year to keep up with personnel costs and additional state and federal mandates.

Robert Summers, a Deputy Secretary at MDE, will take over on an interim basis, the agency announced.

O'Malley's embattled Juvenile Services secretary, Don DeVore, also announced last week that he would not stay on for a second term.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:21 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Administration

November 22, 2010

BaltCo GOP squabbles draw impeachment offer

It’s been a rough first week for Tony Campbell, new chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, who was sworn in last Monday.

Today, Campbell, who was sworn in last Monday, sent an email to the committee saying they should begin impeach proceedings if they don’t want him to head the party.

“Clearly they don’t want me as chairman,” Campbell said. “I don’t want to spend the next four years beating my head against the wall for people who don’t care what the voters of Baltimore County want.”

Campbell has faced criticism for suggesting that his committee support Democratic Councilman Ken Oliver as County Council chairman, and also for requesting to be compensated if he organized a fundraiser for Republican candidates back when he was chairman-elect. Area bloggers have covered the flap in detail.

Though Campbell said he expected to find detractors after beating longtime chairman Chris Cavey in September, he didn’t expect a “smear campaign.” Now, he’s not sure if the relationship with the executive board can be repaired.

Al Mendelsohn, the party’s first vice chairman, said he hasn’t heard anyone discuss impeaching Campbell.

“We’re interested in the good of the party. I know of no one who wants to impeach Tony,” said Mendelsohn, who’s known Campbell ever since he was a member of the Young Republicans. “There isn’t a movement afoot.”

However, member at large Chris Defeo suggested otherwise.

“I would like to see us get past this, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen,” Defeo said. “He seems to be dividing the party rather than bringing the party together.”

Tom Henry, the group’s second vice chair, said he was “blindsided” by Campbell’s impeachment talk. He’s hoping the executive board can meet soon to resolve the issue.

“He does not have to feel that he’s been wounded or hurt or that someone is out to get him,” Henry said. “We need to keep things internal so that we can build the party structure and get away from this sniping. This is not helping.”

Another member, Hillary Pennington, said she believes the party can move forward.

“The idea that there’s this coalition [against Tony] is just ridiculous. He knows I’m not a fan of his [but] I never heard the word ‘impeachment,’” she said.

-Raven L. Hill

Posted by Andy Rosen at 5:47 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: In The Counties

1,700 miles away, O'Malley says no to taxes

Gov. Martin O'Malley spent the weekend in Denver for a meeting of the National Governors Association, a group that grew redder with Republicans on Nov. 2. There, the incumbent Democrat told a Bloomberg reporter that Maryland's budget will be balanced entirely with cuts.

From the Bloomberg piece

“We’re going to be on a constant diet of deep and painful cuts,” he said. The trick, he said, will be preserving the state’s economic resiliency, he said.

"There are certain priorities that we must protect in order to continue to come out of this recession,” he said. O’Malley said he hoped to spare college affordability and tax credits for research-job creation from the deepest reductions.

Areas that may be cut, he said, are corrections, employee costs, pensions and Medicaid, the federal-state health-care program for the poor.

Analysts for the Maryland General Assembly say that the state faces a $1.6 billion gap next fiscal year, created in part by flagging revenues and growing costs of health care and other state services. O'Malley's deficit estimate is slightly lower.   

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:39 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Administration

Liberal group attacks Rep.-elect Harris over health benefits

In a possible sign of things to come, a liberal organization is going after Maryland Congressman-elect Andy Harris, starting today.

The initial strike, over health care, is somewhat reminiscent of the Republican strategy against Harris' Democratic predecessor. Republicans began attacking Rep. Frank Kratovil before he was sworn in and kept it up for much of his two years in the job.

Americans United for Change says it plans to whack Harris over a comment he made about health care at a Washington orientation session for new members of Congress last week. The Baltimore County Republican became a Democratic target after he demanded to know why new congressmen had to wait almost a month for their health care coverage to kick in.

The "Drop it or Stop it" mini-campaign against Harris, who favors repeal of the new health care law, argues that he should either drop his own government-provided health care or quit trying to deny coverage to others, according to the group's spokesman, Jeremy J. Funk.

"Call Congressman Harris and tell him to stop whining about his healthcare – and start fighting for ours," declares a 30-second ad the group says it is running on talk radio in Baltimore and Salisbury for two days.

At the same time, the group is extending its anti-Harris effort to Facebook users in the First Congressional District, which covers the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

Full text of the radio spot after the jump.

Our new Congressman Andy Harris vowed to repeal the new health reform law during the campaign.

So what was the first thing Andy Harris did when he got to Washington?

Harris complained that he wasn’t getting HIS new government-provided health care fast enough.

Say what?

Call Congressman Harris and tell him to stop whining about HIS healthcare – and start fighting for OURS.

If he wants to deny Maryland families quality, affordable healthcare, tell him to start with his own.

Paid for by Americans United for Change.

Posted by Paul West at 8:25 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Washington

November 19, 2010

O'Malley selects a new state prosecutor

Gov. Martin O'Malley picked Emmet Davitt, a staff attorney on the Public Service Commission, to be the new state prosecutor.

Davitt's prosecutorial experience comes from time in the criminal division of the Attorney General's office. There he led the the insurance fraud unit. Other courtroom experience on his resume includes prosecuting drug cases in Baltimore.

He graduated from the University of Maryland's law school and earned his undergrad degree from the University of Virginia, according to his bio on the Community College of Baltimore County's website. He is listed as a member of the Board of Trustees for that college.

Davitt would take over from outgoing prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh, who was appointed to the six year term by Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich and did not seek re-appointment.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:59 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Administration

November 18, 2010

Juvenile services secretary steps down

Maryland's embattled Juvenile Services secretary is stepping down to pursue "an opportunity in a different state," the agency announced this afternoon. The secretary, Donald W. DeVore, is the first cabinet-level departure since Gov. Martin O'Malley won a second term.

DeVore's last year was marred by the sexual assault and murder of a teacher, apparently at the hands of a student, at the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George's County. State auditors also recently turned up chronic problems with the agency's procurement and bureaucratic procedures.

In today's Sun, my colleague Julie Bykowicz reported that DeVore (the man on the right with the red tie) was called on the carpet at Wednesday's Board of Public Works meeting when he was forced to defend $171 million in no-bid contracts that were in place for nearly five years without board approval.

From The Sun story: "Asked after the meeting whether he planned to remain as secretary through O'Malley's second term, DeVore said he was having 'private conversations' with the governor about that."

O'Malley's spokesman Shaun Adamec says the Administration will conduct a national search for a replacement and added that DeVore will stay on until the transition is complete.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 4:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Administration

State Dems weighing Jones ouster in Balto. Co.

Julian E. Jones Jr., will know before Thanksgiving whether he’ll be allowed to keep his spot on the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee.

Jones appeared before the state Democratic Party’s credentials committee last night in Annapolis to review the matter, in which local party officials sought to remove him for mounting a write-in challenge to County Councilman Ken Oliver. Oliver beat Jones in September in the same Democratic primary in which Jones was elected to the central committee.

He described Wednesday's hearing as “very contentious.” He argued that the process for removing him was not followed, saying that it could only be done by a majority vote among Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee members or by petition from three people who live in the district that he represents on the committee. He expects to receive a decision within the next five business days.

Jones said a county central committee officer told him to resign from the committee shortly after he filed his write-in campaign paperwork. Jones said he reviewed the bylaws and felt that he wasn’t in violation.

He’s pledged to “fight it to the end” regardless of the committee’s decision.
“I’m not just fighting for me, but fighting for those who entrusted me to represent them,” he said.

Jones said he’s concerned that the rules for removal aren’t being applied equally.

“There are plenty of others who have violated the rules who have not been removed. I heard that someone lived out of state,” he said. “Do you follow them all the time or do you pick and choose?”

-Raven L. Hill

Posted by Andy Rosen at 4:04 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: In The Counties

MD holds ranking in new New Economy survey

Gov. Martin O'Malley amassed another feather in his economic cap today when the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation rated Maryland third in the country for "moving the country toward an innovation economy."

Ranking ahead of us are Massachusetts and Washington state. Maryland took the same place when the study was last published two years ago and was bested by the same two states.

The governor loves these types of studies, and sees them as evidence that he's successfully steering the state toward what he alternatively calls a "knowledge economy" or an "innovation economy." The idea is to woo high-tech, bio-tech and green energy firms with the belief that the captains of these industries value a highly educated workforce and decent infrastructure over cut rate taxes.

In the upcoming legislative session O'Malley will do something else the folks at Kauffman will probably like: introduce legislation that would establish a $100 million venture capital fund that the state -- or a non-profit -- would invest in new economy firms. The money would come from insurance companies forward paying their taxes, an idea that is already stirring ire from some in the House GOP caucus.

During the campaign, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. laid out a different economic vision -- one that involved chopping the state's sales tax and looking for ways to reduce the corporate income tax. O'Malley repeatably pointed out that many states with the lowest tax rates are also fairing poorly during the recession. 

Ehrlich had one other cheaper idea: Replace the heads of what he called "broken" state agencies. He would have re-made the Maryland Department of the Environment (developers say it takes forever to get a permit) and the state's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (which served up a rare mini-scandal over the summer when staffers posted a downbeat economic narrative at odds with the governor's sunnier talking points.) Ehrlich lost by more than 13 percentage points.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:21 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: jobs, jobs, jobs

Jack Johnson: A legacy

A cocktail party intended to celebrate the legacy of disgraced Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson has been officially canceled.

The fete was supposed to happen on Nov. 29 at the gleaming Gaylord National Hotel at National Harbor, one of the massive new developments that sprang up under Johnson's tenure.

Billed as a "Farewell Celebration" for Johnson, who has been the County Exec since 2002, the invite required guests to dress in "cocktail attire" and hinted that his legacy would be defined by "leadership" and "service."

"I don't believe it is happening," said Johnson's spokesman Jim Keary, who called back to assure us it off. Keary could not say why the event was canceled or who was supposed to pay for it.

But, a read through court papers filed in federal court after Johnson was arrested gives some clues: FBI agents set up a sting with a cooperator they are calling Developer A, and they watched as the developer handed Johnson $15,000 in cash.

The feds say that the money was given in exchange for "official influence and authority for the benefit of Developer A," according to court papers. But Johnson shot back that the cash was supposed to be used for a party marking the end of his term.

Regardless, the feds kept that cash and the party has been bagged.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:59 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Crime & Justice

Steele-Barbour rivalry explodes

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's effort to assume greater control over the Republican National Committee is entering a new phase with the emergence of one of his closest advisers as a potential rival to Michael S. Steele for party chairman.

Nick Ayers, the 28-year-old director of the Republican Governors Association, is being promoted as a candidate for Republican National Chairman. Steele's term expires in January, and he's expected to seek re-election for another two years.

An anti-Steele faction within the party has been signaling for some time that the Republican Governors Association meeting this week in San Diego would mark a new phase in their efforts to push an alternative.

Now it's happened. As Politico reports, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the incoming RGA chairman and a potential 2012 presidential contender, made a pitch for Ayers.

"In 2012, the RNC is going to play a very, very important role, so whoever they choose needs to be someone who truly has the ability to represent the party and is a highly capable individual from the standpoint of raising money and organization,' Perry said. 'And I know that Nick Ayers is a very capable young man.' Citing a lesson from the Book of Timothy to boost the 28-year-old Ayers, Perry said RNC committee members ought not 'hold youth against anybody."

Perhaps the biggest hurdle Ayers would face is the fact that he's not a member of the RNC, which is considered an advantage in chairmanship fights. During the 2010 campaign, the RGA was widely credited with attracting millions of dollars from big Republican donors who shunned Steele's RNC.

Barbour, well-remembered within the party for his stint as RNC chairman during the 1990s, is a potential 2012 presidential contender. If he's serious about running, that would rule out a return to the RNC job. His nephew, RNC member Henry Barbour, has been a leader of the anti-Steele faction.

To date, only one candidate has formally announced his candidacy, RNC member Saul Anuzis of Michigan, who lost to Steele two years ago.

Posted by Paul West at 9:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Michael Steele

Democrats pile on Andy Harris

House Democrats are trying to keep the spotlight on Congressman-elect Andy Harris of Maryland. They're demanding that Republicans in Congress declare whether they plan to use taxpayer-subsidized health insurance for themselves and their families, even as they call for repeal of the new health care law.

Harris, you may recall, got unwanted publicity on Capitol Hill after he asked about health benefits during a private briefing for 250 newly elected House members, staff and family this week. The Baltimore County Republican was reported to have expressed surprise that the federal health care plan, which is offered to all federal employees and members of Congress, would not start covering new congressmen until almost a month after they are sworn in.

Four House Democrats, including Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, began circulating an appeal to their colleagues in an effort to keep the story alive. So far, 35 congressional Democrats have agreed to sign a letter to Republican leaders about the issue.

The Democrats' letter said that Harris, described only as "a Republican Member-elect who ran on a platform of repealing" the new health care law "complained about a possible delay in the start of his employer-subsidized Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage."

The Democrats added that "[u]nfortunately, Republicans, like [the unnamed Harris], are happy to receive care that is paid for, in part, with taxpayer funds, but do not want to extend a similar benefit to hard-working, under- or uninsured Americans." According to the Democrats, the federal government -- the taxpayers -- will pay $10,503.48 of the premiums for each member of Congress who chooses a family policy under the Blue Cross standard option offered by the FEHB program.

The letter went on to demand that Republican leaders survey their members "to find out which of their members will forgo the employer-subsidized Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage before trying to make it harder for others to obtain affordable coverage."

In football, they call it piling on. In politics, there's no such infraction.

Harris did not respond to a request for comment sent to his spokeswoman.

In addition to Edwards, the Democrats circulating the letter are Reps. Joseph Crowley of New York, Linda T. Sánchez of California and Tim Ryan of Ohio.

Below is the full text of the Democrats' letter:

Dear Senator McConnell and Representative Boehner:

We were surprised to read in today’s article “GOP frosh: Where’s My Health Care?” in Politico that some of your incoming members are unhappy with the health benefits they are eligible to purchase under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) – particularly the fact that there is a delay before benefits take effect. Ironically, this is the same predicament millions of Americans currently find themselves in.

It is amazing that your members would complain about not having health care coverage for a few weeks, even after campaigning to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which will help provide coverage to millions of Americans who find themselves without health insurance for months or even years.

We also find it interesting that members of the Republican conference would have no problem taking away health coverage from hard-working Americans, but expect expanded coverage for themselves and their families. The system set up by the Affordable Care Act will allow Americans to choose the plan that works best for them from a variety of private insurance plans, just like the FEHB program that members of Congress are now able to access. The uninsured, small-business employees, and the self-employed will now be able to benefit from this same choice and competition.

It begs the question: how many members of the Republican conference will be forgoing the employer-subsidized FEHBP coverage and experiencing what so many Americans find themselves forced to face? If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk. You cannot enroll in the very kind of coverage that you want for yourselves, and then turn around and deny it to Americans who don't happen to be Members of Congress. It is worth noting that in 2011, the Federal government will pay $10,503.48 of the premiums for each member of Congress with a family policy under the commonly-selected Blue Cross standard plan.

It is important for the American people to know whether the members of Congress and members-elect who have called for the repeal of health insurance reform are going to stand by their opposition by opting out of the care available to them at the expense of hard-working taxpayers. We look forward to your response in the coming days about exactly how many of the members in the Republican conference will be declining their taxpayer-supported health benefits.


Posted by Paul West at 5:08 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

November 17, 2010

Hoyer keeps second spot in Dem leadership

Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer retained his spot as the second-ranking member in the House Democratic hierarchy. His new title, effective in January: House Minority Whip.

Hoyer had hoped to move up and many Democrats, in Congress and out, had expected that to happen after Democrats suffered a wipeout in the 2010 midterm election.

Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will remain atop the Democratic leadership ladder as the next Minority Leader. Rep. Heath Shuler, a moderate Democrat from North Carolina, waged a largely symbolic challenge against the Baltimore-born speaker. Because the new, shrunken House Democratic caucus is even more liberal than the group currently in power, he never stood a chance of winning.

Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina was designated as the party's assistant leader in the House, a new position created by Pelosi to avert a divisive clash between Clyburn, the most senior African American in Congress, and Hoyer, both of whom initially sought the Whip spot.

Earlier this month, Pelosi surprised many of her colleagues by deciding to remain in power, rather than stepping down as some recent Speakers have done after their party lost power. Other House speakers, most notably Sam Rayburn, chose instead to become minority leader and waited to become speaker again after their party regain the majority.

The upshot of today's action: House Democrats have opted to resist change and instead leave their aging top leadership intact (the trio at the top is composed of veteran politicians in their 70s).

They did this despite calls from some Democrats for a shakeup after the stomping their party received at the polls this month. On Election Day, Republicans picked up the largest number of House seats since the 1930s and left Democrats at their lowest ebb in the House in more than six decades.

Critics, including some defeated Democratic congressmen, have said the party's chances of regaining power will be hindered by having the same faces in leadership positions. Their concern is that Democrats will have a more difficult time recruiting candidates for the 2012 election, when Republicans could decide to revive the anti-Pelosi campaign they waged aggressively this fall.

A couple hours after the meeting began, the House Democrats voted by secret ballot, 129-68, to proceed with the election of leaders today. An anti-Pelosi faction, which according to that tally appears to represent more than a third of the Democratic caucus, wanted to postpone the election until next month, which could have given opposition more time to make its case, but the move was rejected by the Pelosi forces.

She went on to win election as Minority Leader by a vote of 150 to 43.

Earlier, Rep. John Larson of Connecticut was re-elected caucus chairman by a voice vote. That position had been considered third-ranking in the leadership until the new post was created for Clyburn.

Pelosi has a history of creating positions to get things done inside the caucus. Two years ago, she made Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen one of her assistants in the course of persuading him to serve another two-year term as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which everyone knew would be a thankless task going in -- and it was.

Posted by Paul West at 3:17 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Franchot 'fed up' with 'sloppiness' at DJS

Comptroller Peter Franchot blasted the state Department of Juvenile Services for "administrative sloppiness" that led to a request this morning for the approval of $171 million in no-bid contracts for which work has already been performed.

DJS Secretary Donald W. DeVore said he has made personnel changes and warned his agency officials of "dire consequences" if they continue to circumvent state procurement procedure. He also said he is implementing better contract tracking tools, included a color-coded "dashboard."  

"I'm fed up with it," Franchot said, adding that DeVore has "no credible explanation for why it happened." The multi-year contracts date to July 2008, though some were entered as recently as August of this year, and were uncovered by state auditors.

The exchange at the Board of Public Works followed an audit released last month that described procurement problems and other bureaucratic disorganization in Juvenile Services. The agency oversees juveniles charged with and found responsible for crimes and has an annual budget of about $275 million.

Franchot and fellow board member Treasurer Nancy Kopp have regularly said they detest retroactive approval requests of the sort DeVore was seeking.

Nonetheless, the board approved the $171 million expense, though Franchot voted against it. Kopp and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, sitting in for Gov. Martin O'Malley, voted in favor of the contracts. 

The 61 contracts at issue are for licensed contractors to provide "residential and non-residential services" for juveniles in the court system. The services include group homes, foster care and home-based therapy.

Franchot urged DeVore to rebid the contracts in a competitive manner.

DeVore, a former federal monitor of juvenile programs, has served as DJS secretary for almost four years. Asked after the meeting whether he planned remain as secretary through O'Malley's second term, DeVore said he was having "private conversations" with the governor about that.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:55 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Administration

Murphy spokesman says he's not running

One candidate has exited the exciting race to lead the state's GOP.

Karla Graham, a spokeswoman for Brian Murphy, said today that he's "too busy" with other projects (perhaps baking Smith Island cakes?) and does not want the job.

Still in the offing is Ehrlich's running mate Mary Kane and, our as our colleagues at the Washington Post suggested today, former Senate candidate Eric Wargotz.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Franchot wants caffeinated alcoholic beverages pulled

Maryland’s comptroller wants the state’s liquor stores to stop selling caffeinated alcoholic beverages like the ones made by Four Loko.

Comptroller Peter Franchot called the drinks “a clear public health and public safety threat,” this morning at a Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis. He said that he's been working with industry representatives for about a week to come to an agreement that would pull them from the shelves.

Bruce Bereano, a lobbyist for two major liquor wholesalers in Maryland, said his clients would agree to the ban. "They will cooperate," he said. Bereano did not know exactly when the beverages would be pulled.

Dangers associated with the drinks have been the source of national news stories in recent days, and Franchot said the Federal Drug Administration appears poised take action some action today on the topic, possibly banning the drinks. The comptroller said he wants companies to yank the drinks before that expected administrative process plays out.

The action might not be necessary, according to news reports Four Loko, one of the major manufacturers of the drink, is going remove caffeine and a few other ingredients from the beverage.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:49 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Administration

Gansler campaign finance group meets tomorrow

An advisory committee eyeing reforms to Maryland's campaign finance system will meet tomorrow afternoon in Baltimore. Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler assembled the 10-member group this fall to examine political slates, candidate loans and other perceived loopholes in the system, with the aim of submitting legislation early next year.

This weekend, The Sun wrote about campaign finance, highlighting several situations that, while legal, tend to raise eyebrows:

On a single day in January, developer Steve Whalen used several corporations he controlled to contribute seven times the individual campaign donation limit to the eventual winner of the race for Baltimore County executive, Kevin Kamenetz.

As Election Day four years ago drew near, prominent Washington attorney John Coale loaned half a million dollars to the candidate who would become governor, Martin O'Malley.

A decade ago, Lawrence Bell, a candidate for mayor of Baltimore, spent more than $4,000 in campaign funds on suits.

The meeting at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow at 200 St. Paul Place, the attorney general's office, is open to the public. Members of the public can submit written comments, though it's unlikely that the committee will listen to live testimony.

Comments may be submitted by Dec. 6 to or by mail to Ru Belt at the Office of the Attorney General, 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202.

Gansler ruffled feathers in Annapolis by including four lawmakers on the committee without talking to legislative leaders. 

"As a courtesy, I would always suggest it's a good idea to inform the presiding officers before utilizing members of the body," House Speaker Michael E. Busch told The Sun last week, adding that he might one day assemble a committee of assistant attorneys general without first consulting Gansler.

Committee members: Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (R- Howard County); Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery); Del. Ron George, (R-Anne Arundel); Del. Jay Walker (D-Prince George's); Carville Collins, counsel for the Republican State Central Committee (GOP reports that the party's counsel is actually Robert Ostrom); Bruce Marcus, counsel for the Maryland Democratic State Central Committee; Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator, Maryland Board of Elections; Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance, Maryland Board of Elections; Katherine Winfree, chief deputy attorney general; John B. Howard Jr., deputy attorney general.

Among the topics the panel will study:

•Clarification of the definition and operation of multi-candidate slates.

•Disclosure requirements, including identification of entities subject to disclosure requirements, in light of the Citizens United decision.

•Revision of aggregate contribution limits.

•Permissibility and regulation of contributions made through electronic means.

•Regulation of use of new media in campaigns.

•Treatment of party administrative expenses.

•Role of limited liability companies in campaign finance.

•Distinguishing permissible uses of campaign funds from prohibited uses.

•Loans to campaigns by candidates and third parties.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:44 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Campaign finance

BaltCo Dems may bar member for write-in bid

Intraparty squabbling was on the agenda of last night’s Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee meeting, where members had a raucous discussion about removing former 4th District County Council candidate Julian Jones from the committee.

Jones was elected to the central committee in the September primary election – the same contest where he lost his bid for a seat on the county council to incumbent Kenneth N. Oliver. Jones subsequently lodged an unsuccessful write-in campaign for the seat in the general election.

After the election, five committee members – all officers – submitted a petition to the state Democratic Party requesting Jones’ removal, arguing that he violated the bylaws by running a write-in campaign against the party nominee. Jones is scheduled to appear before the state party’s credentials committee tonight to review the matter.

“We did what we felt we needed to do to support a duly elected nominee of the Democratic Party,” said committee chair Margie Brassil.

However, many rank and file members said they believed the officers jumped the gun by submitting the petition before they brought the matter to the general body, and that the bylaws are somewhat ambiguous. Some members warned the officers that their actions were “radical,” “overreaching,” set a “dangerous precedent” and might cause a “schism” in the group.

The meeting ended with the committee voting to send a letter to the state party requesting to withdraw the petition until the committee received guidance on the bylaws.

UPDATE: State Democratic Party officials will proceed with a hearing tonight on Jones’ credentials. Party chair Susan W. Turnbull said a decision is not expected tonight.

Removing a member from a central committee is unusual, but it’s even more unusual for a committee member to run against the party nominee, she added.

“I can’t think of another example,” Turnbull said, “and I’ve been on the committee for 20 years.”

The central committee supports all Democratic candidates on the ballot. In this instance, the committee provided volunteers and support for all get-out-the-vote efforts, early voting and mailings as part of a coordinated campaign in the county, she said.

The state credentials committee will determine whether Jones, who ran as a Democratic write-in candidate, had a conflict of interest as a member of the committee running against the party nominee, she said.

“We’re going through the process and I know it will be handled fairly and equitably,” Turnbull said.

Oliver said he believes the bylaws might need to be clarified. But he had no doubt that Jones understood the requirements of serving as a central committee member: Support the party nominee.

“His oath was totally clear,” Oliver said.

-Raven L. Hill

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:46 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: In The Counties

November 16, 2010

Murphy-Kane match-up for state GOP chair?

Setting up a possible re-match of the 2010 GOP primary, Brian Murphy's camp began hinting that the conservative upstart wants to be the state's next party chair.

The move has been rumored for days, but gained credence here when Murphy's spokeswoman called to say that the Smith Island Cake investor will appear for three hours Friday afternoon a radio show hosted by former state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV. Karla Graham, the spokeswoman, also said calls have been coming in from county GOP chairs across the state encouraging the run. But she stressed that her boss has not made a final decision.

Murphy lost handily to Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and in September and got a frosty reception from the former governor at an Annapolis rally after the primary. But as his poll numbers plummeted Ehrlich embraced Murphy, calling him "the future" of the Maryland Republican Party at an event with former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani.

If Murphy goes forward, the competition will be familiar. Ehrlich's most recent running-mate Mary Kane has said she wants to take over the Maryland GOP, a position that her husband John Kane held when Ehrlich was in office. Murphy would undoubtedly position himself in the same posture he did during the election: An outsider with business success hoping to shake up the Republican party.

And, with the Ehrlich-Kane team losing to Gov. Martin O'Malley by double digits in year where the GOP made national gains, the Maryland party faithful might be more interested now then they were two months ago.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:47 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: People

Howard Co's Ulman to fight teacher pension shift

Sun colleague Larry Carson reports that Howard County Executive Ken Ulman will fight any state legislative moves to shift the cost of teacher pensions to local governments.

The Democratic Ulman, who becomes the next president of the Maryland Association of Counties in January, picks up the anti-pension-shift torch from Republican Harford County Executive David Craig, MACo's current leader.

Carson writes:

"We're going to be down there [in Annapolis] working hard to make the case that there should not be a pension shift. We already pick up Social Security," Ulman said.

State officials argue that counties set teacher salaries that determine their pensions, so it's not fair for the state to foot the whole bill, but Ulman tried to deflect that by pointing out that the elected school board sets the salaries, not the county executive. In any case, "I don't think that [the shift] is a foregone conclusion," he said.

Both Ulman and Craig see Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley as an ally on the teacher pension issue. A former mayor of Baltimore, O'Malley knows how difficult a time local governments would have picking up even a portion of the $900 million annual tab, Ulman and Craig say.

In a recent article about tax talk bubbling up in Annapolis, Craig expressed his fears that state lawmakers will try to offload the revenue problem to counties. Local officials say they'd likely have no choice but to raise property taxes if they have to start paying for teacher pensions.

"It comes down to an attempt to shove costs to the local governments," Craig said. He noted that local officials are the people most likely to challenge state delegates and senators for their seats.

"They want us to be the ones raising taxes," he said. "They want us to be the ones to look bad."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:43 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: In The Counties

Departing BaltCo Councilmen say goodbye

Goodbyes were tinged with laughter at last night’s Baltimore County Council meeting as departing members Joseph Bartenfelder, Vince Gardina, T. Bryan McIntire, Kevin Kamenetz and S.G. Samuel Moxley marked their final council meeting.

Gardina is retiring after 20 years of service. The others are leaving after 16 years. Kamenetz is the incoming county executive.

Moxley included Council Secretary Thomas J. Peddicord, Jr. in his thank yous.
“The guidance that you provide, I believe, keeps at least this one councilman out of so much trouble,” Moxley said.

Kamenetz acknowledged how his life and appearance have changed since he was sworn in 16 years ago.

“When I was first elected I was single. I had no children. I had a full head of hair and a bushy mustache,” he said. “I grew the mustache to look older. I shaved it to look younger.”

McIntire said he appreciated Moxley’s statements that council members crossed party lines “quickly and easily” over the years.

However, “they only had one to overcome,” said McIntire, the lone Republican.
Gardina recalled spending lots of time with former Councilman Doug Riley in his early years on the council. Riley liked to play a practical joke on him – setting Gardina’s chair lower than the others on the dais.

“I’d always be sitting in a hole,” Gardina said. Tuesday night, Gardina’s chair was once again lower than his council colleagues. “I guess he was up here tonight because I’m back in a hole.”

Right after Bartenfelder gave his parting line -- “Hopefully, somebody will finally remember in the future that Joe was here” – he remembered that he left someone off his list.

“I forgot to thank my family,” Bartenfelder said.

-Raven L. Hill

Posted by Andy Rosen at 3:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: In The Counties

Senior aide leaves with blast at Steele

The Republican National Committee's political director quit today with a blistering indictment of Michael Steele's record as national chairman.

Gentry Collins, a highly regarded strategist and one of few top officials hired by Steele to remain on the staff through thick and thin, made it clear that he thinks Republicans will put their recent political gains at risk if Steele remains in power. The former Maryland lieutenant governor has told party officials privately that he's running for a second two-year term in January, though he has not formally announced his candidacy.

"Sadly, if left on its current path, the RNC will not be a productive force in the 2012 campaign to deny President Obama a second term, retain our House majority, and elect a Senate majority," Collins wrote in a five-page "Dear Chairman Steele" resignation letter dated today and sent to members of the party's Executive Committee.

Among the charges in Collins' bill of particulars:

Steele failed to lead as a fundraiser. The RNC allowed its base of big donors "to wither," according to Collins. The smaller contributions that did come in did "not result from personal solicitation by the Chairman" but instead were a product of anti-Democratic sentiment that helped propel Republicans back to power.

Money was wasted on fundraising. Estimates of fundraising costs were closer to 70 cents on the dollar, compared with less than 50 cents on the dollar, historically.

The rest was not spent wisely. "Regrettably, too much of the nearly 30-cents-on-the-dollar not spent on fundraising was spent on things other than winning elections," according to Collins. He did not elaborate but a $2,000 payment for a night at a Hollywood strip club was among the more embarrassing uses of RNC money over the past year and a half.

In a comparison that could undermine Steele's campaign to convince RNC members that he had the interests of state parties at heart, Collins said that the RNC transferred just $13.1 million in cash to state parties for political purposes in 2010, less than a quarter of the amount transferred in 2006, the last midterm election year.

The party will enter the 2012 campaign with higher debt than usual. In 2008, the party carried over $3.1 million from the midterm into the presidential cycle. "In stark contrast," the RNC figures to enter 2012 with its $15 million line of credit tapped out and unpaid bills "likely to add millions to that debt."

Money shortages produced many "significant" shortcomings. Collins concludes that "21 additional U.S. House seats could have been competitive if not for lack of funds." He provided a list of specific districts in 15 states.

And the party made "only a fraction (about 13%) of the direct-to-candidate contributions" it made in the last midterm election campaign.

Fortunately, according to Collins, other Republican entities, including the Republican Governors Association and funds organized by Karl Rove and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, filled the gap created by the RNC's shortcomings.

"I'm hopeful that the members of the RNC and its leadership will meet the challenges of this next cycle and hope the data, facts, and insights above are helpful toward that end," he
concludes in a not very veiled appeal on behalf of the anti-Steele faction inside the RNC.

In response, the RNC issued the following statement, which made no mention of Collins but did highlight the $175 million raised during Steele's tenure, which the party said was more than the RNC raised in 1994 (indexed for inflation), the last time Republicans took back the House, or that the Democratic National Committee raised in 2006, when that party regained the House:

“For the first time in 16 years the Republican Party held neither the White House or either chamber of Congress. Despite lacking that fundraising advantage, the RNC was able to raise more than $175 million, over $24 million more than the RNC raised during the entire 1994 cycle and over $36 million more than the DNC raised during the entire 2006 cycle, indexed for inflation. Our resources enabled us to expand the playing field to all 50 states and break records with 45 million voter contacts, over 200,000 volunteers, 360 Victory field offices and 358 Victory field staffers. These accomplishments are shared by our entire team at the RNC as well as volunteers, donors and state parties. Their efforts enabled us to contribute to the most successful elections for the Republican Party in modern times.”

To read the entire letter, click on the link after the jump.,0,5297193.htmlpage

Posted by Paul West at 2:44 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Michael Steele

First lesson for Harris: What happens in DC won't stay in DC

It didn't take long for Andy Harris to have his Welcome to the Big Leagues moment in Washington.

On the first day of orientation for new House members, the Congressman-elect from Baltimore County asked a question about health benefits at a closed-door session. Within hours, if not minutes, the exchange got out, and Harris was being slapped around on the Internet.

Politico, which broke the story, portrayed him as an anti-Obamacare Republican greedy to get his hands on government-subsidized health benefits. The paper reported Harris "demanding to know" why he couldn't get coverage the day he was sworn in and reacting "incredulously" when told he'd have to wait a month before the coverage started. (It's the law, apparently).

Harris's spokeswoman Anna Nix was quoted as saying that Harris was merely pointing out the inefficiency of government-run health care. But that's not the way it came out in the piece by Glenn Thrush, which noted that Harris had attacked incumbent Rep. Frank Kratovil over the health care issue, even though the Democrat voted against the legislation.

A spokesman for Kratovil, who lost to Harris earlier this month, was quick to jump on the story.

"Despite railing against the evils of government-subsidized health care for the last two years, Andy Harris chose to introduce himself on the national stage yesterday by demanding earlier access to his taxpayer-subsidized government health care benefits, and expressing shock that he would instead be treated like all other federal employees in having to wait 30 days for his coverage to kick in," said Kevin Lawlor in an email. "It has taken Rep.-Elect Harris less than two weeks to start grabbing national headlines for his arrogance and sense of entitlement."

Posted by Paul West at 11:44 AM | | Comments (84)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

November 15, 2010

Exec Smith's son joins Towson land-use law firm

Baltimore County lawyers and longtime friends Michael Paul Smith and David Gildea made some news during the recent political season by holding a series of fund-raisers for three County Council candidates, and they've decided to take the partnership a step further. Starting in January, Smith will leave his practice in Reisterstown and move to Gildea's shop in Towson, Gildea & Schmidt, a firm specializing in land-use law that also includes former county zoning commissioner, Lawrence E. Schmidt.

"It's the right time in my career to encounter new challenges," said Smith, the son of County Executive James T. Smith Jr., who will be adding his name to the Towson firm.

With the elder Smith leaving office next month after serving the legal limit of two terms, the son will return from what he described as a self-imposed exile from practicing land-use law in Baltimore County. The younger Smith maintained that distance from county land-use cases since his father took office to avoid actual or apparent conflicts of interest. Smith has taken land-use cases in other counties, along with his other work in medical malpractice, personal injury and civil litigation.

He said he's had long-standing friendship with Gildea, Schmidt and other lawyers in the firm, one of whom he's known since they were teenagers, and the two practices will complement each others' strengths.

"I think it's a good fit," said Smith, 44, who lives in Reisterstown, minutes from where he works in the Reisterstown office of the Towson-based firm, Bodie, Dolina, Smith & Hobbs. He said he's been there since he graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law, he said, and figured it was time "to move in a new direction, push myself out of my comfort zone."

Critics said the fundraisers conducted on behalf of Democrats Tom Quirk, Cathy A. Bevins and Gordon Harden were part of an effort by the elder Smith to put his stamp on the new council past his time in office, but his son said it was nothing more than keeping up family tradition of political activism. The elder Smith served on the County Council and as a Circuit Court judge before being elected executive in 2002.

Quirk in District 1 and Bevins in District 6 won their races. Harden was defeated in the District 5 primary by Mike Ertel, who in turn lost the general election to Republican David Marks.

"It was how I was brought up," Smith said. "I started out banging on doors for my father when he was running for County Council."

-Arthur Hirsch

Posted by Andy Rosen at 6:17 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: In The Counties

Mary Kane seeks to lead Maryland GOP

The Republican running mate in this year's governor's race is campaigning for another office. Mary Kane confirmed to The Washington Post that she is seeking to lead the Maryland Republican Party, which selects a new head next month.

Kane spent this summer and fall as the lieutenant governor hopeful in former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's comeback bid. The pair lost earlier this month to the Democratic incumbent ticket, Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

Kane's husband, John Kane, led the state party during Ehrlich's tenure as governor. They live in Montgomery County.

Chris Cavey and Larry Hogan, other Ehrlich allies frequently mentioned as candidates for the state chairmanship, both told The Sun today that they're not running.

Other names being bandied about include Brian Murphy, who challenged Ehrlich in the primary, and Charles Lollar, who waged an unsuccessful but high-profile campaign to unseat Rep. Steny Hoyer. 

Audrey Scott, who has served as chairwoman of the party for the past year, has said she won't seek another term. She helped Republicans transition after the rocky tenure of Jim Pelura, who had a strained relationship with Ehrlich and some GOP lawmakers.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:18 PM | | Comments (5)

Baltimore's mayoral race: An early peek at the candidates

With the gubernatorial contest behind us, political junkies are looking ahead to the race for the city's top office.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was automatically elevated to the city's top post when Sheila Dixon resigned, will likely face off against Otis Rolley, who created the city's first master plan when he served as director of the planning department in 2006 under then- mayor Martin O'Malley.

Other possible challengers include Clerk of Court Frank Conaway Sr., state Sen. Catherine Pugh, Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Councilman Carl Stokes. Even Scott Donahoo, known for the wacky TV commercials for his car dealerships, is rumored to be running.

Former congressman and director of the national NAACP Kweisi Mfume is said to be contemplating a run, although he says his sole focus is running the National Medical Society right now.

Politicos say Mfume, a gifted orator and a well-known name in Baltimore, could give Rawlings-Blake a run for her money. However, his name has been mentioned as a candidate since 1999 and he has never launched a bid for office.

But the landscape could change dramatically before applications for the $155,000 a year position are due in July 2011.

Early stories on the 2007 mayor's race focused on Dixon and City Comptroller Joan Pratt, who wound up dropping out of the race early. Keiffer Mitchell, who was Dixon's major challenger in the race, is barely mentioned.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 4:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: City Hall

Slots commission to hear about temp Arundel site

The panel that issues licenses for slot-machine parlors anticipates hearing next month from developer David Cordish about a temporary facility he'd like to get up and running in Anne Arundel County.

Don Fry, chairman of the Video Lottery Terminal Location Commission, said this afternoon that Cordish will likely pitch his proposal at the panel's Dec. 13 meeting in Annapolis.

This month, the county's voters approved zoning for a casino at Arundel Mills Mall. A year ago, the commission awarded Cordish a license for 4,750 slots terminals, which would be the largest and most lucrative of the five possible sites in Maryland.

At the commission meeting this afternoon, Fry expressed an eagerness to get the Arundel gaming location moving. "I hope we're to the point where there are no further delays," he said. The site has "gone through considerable scrutiny."

The commission also got a recap of a second failed attempt to attract bidders for a slots facility at Rocky Gap resort in Western Maryland. Although five groups had shown varying levels of interest, according to the commission, no one submitted a bid by the Nov. 9 deadline.

Sun colleague Nicole Fuller wrote this weekend about what the Maryland General Assembly might do to lure an operator to that site and to resurrect plans for a large casino in Baltimore. Options include reducing the state's share of slots profits at specific sites and allowing a company to run more than one casino in the state, something that is currently prohibited.

Maryland voters approved slot-machine gambling two years ago, but just one casino, in Cecil County, has opened. An Eastern Shore parlor could be open soon after the New Year. 

"We're six years behind the times here in Maryland," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said in the story.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Slots

November 13, 2010

Corruption accusations in gorgeous Prince George's

Federal agents who pounded on the door of Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson's Mitchellville Friday morning seem to have prompted a drama that is so far overtaking their four year corruption case.

The county exec wasn't home, but his wife Leslie (who in September handily beat a field of five other primary candidates for a county council seat) heard the knock, saw two women at the door and made a brief phone call to her husband that her lawyers will likely spend weeks, if not months, trying to suppress.

The conversation, taped by the FBI, includes Jack Johnson suggesting that his wife flush what the feds assumed to be a $100,000 check from a developer down the toilet. While too early to know how the call will affect the case, it had the immediate impact of making famous yet another plumber. This time it was Steve Willsey, who was called to search the Johnsons' pipes for evidence.

The Post reported that he inspected the Johnsons' toilets, but had not found anything Friday afternoon.

The detail that peaked the most interest was Jack Johnson's apparent suggestion that his wife stuff tens of thousands of dollars in her bra. According to court papers, the couple had a frantic discussion about cash in the home and Johnson said: "Put it in your bra and walk out or something, I don't know what to do." She later told him: "I have it in my bra," according to court papers.

The FBI reported that they "recovered" $79,600 from "her underwear." No details about the denominations of the bills have been made public, though The Post's Martin Weil estimated just how much padding that size a wad of cash would create.

Leslie Johnson's apparent miracle bra made us wonder if political wives being ignored by the billion-dollar lingerie market. Possible slogans for a corruption line of underwear: "When he wants you to cover up more than just your chest ..." or "An underwire that is a wire."

With the feds promising more charges in days to come, we imagine the focus will snap back to the underlying pay-to-play corruption investigation.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:01 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Law and Courts

November 12, 2010

Jeb Bush for GOP chairman?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will be appearing on CNN's Sunday talk show this weekend, and if host Candy Crowley wants to make news, perhaps she should ask if he's interested in leading the national Republican Party for the next two years.

Bush, who has already ruled out a run for president in 2012, is being interviewed with his big brother, currently campaigning for his place in history and selling books.

Jeb, on the other hand, is taking a victory lap after Florida Republicans scored big in last week's election and may be looking to raise his political profile.

He has close ties to Marco Rubio, who won election to the U.S. Senate and will be the nation's first Hispanic senator with tea party connections. Meantime, Florida Republican Gov.-elect Rick Scott has placed three of Jeb's close political associates and former aides on his transition team.

As the next national Republican race, the one for national committee chairman, takes shape, a member of the anti-Steele caucus, Katon Dawson of South Carolina, has been dropping Jeb's name into conversations about possible alternatives to incumbent Chairman Michael S. Steele, who is expected to seek another two-year term in January.

Dawson said earlier this week he'd had no indication that Bush was interested. Today, he emailed that "a big, big name" could join the chairmanship contest late next week. Asked if the name might be Jeb Bush, he replied enigmatically that "no names surfaced yet."

Pursuing the party job would let Bush re-enter the partisan realm, as memories of his brother's administration fade. He's a prodigious fundraiser--which is what the job of national chairman is really all about--and he could help the party reach out to Hispanics--a high-priority task if Republicans hope to thrive in a rapidly changing America.

One Republican strategist with Bush and Rubio ties, who said he'd heard no talk of a Bush run for chairman, nevertheless said that he loved the idea.

Over the next two years, a generation of potential Republican rivals will be duking it out for the presidential nomination. If one of them unseats Barack Obama, it could well end Jeb's chances of becoming a third President Bush (he'd be 67 in 2020). Otherwise, he could be well-positioned for a run in 2016, when the White House would be wide open again.

Of course, it's by no means clear that he has any interest in the party post. Has he got the patience for the more mundane aspects of the job? Would he consider the position beneath him? Has he got better things to do? And would he be trying to emerge too soon? After all, his mother recently remarked that the country is "Bushed out," as Crowley said in an online posting.

Perhaps we'll get some answers Sunday. It couldn't hurt to ask.

Posted by Paul West at 3:52 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

O'Malley beats Ehrlich at home in Balto.Co.

Baltimore County supporters of former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had their share of bad news on Election Day, when it appeared their man had won his native county by only a few hundred votes, far short of the margin he was presumed to have needed to prevail in his re-match with Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley. Now, with all but one small count of overseas ballots completed, it turns out that Ehrlich -- who won the county in 2006 against O'Malley and in 2002 against Kathleen Kennedy Towsend -- actually lost in the county by 1,305 votes.

The new county total: 141,679 for O'Malley to 140,374 for Ehrlich, is the result of a count of 4,511 provisional ballots on Nov. 10 and 873 more absentee ballots today said Katie A. Brown, director of the Baltimore County Board of Elections.

In the weeks before the election, county political junkies didn't figure Ehrlich would match his 2002 county total, when he won with more than 60 percent, but to win the state race they reckoned he had to do better than in 2006, when he topped O'Malley in Baltimore County by about 2 percentage points. Ehrlich campaign signs were everywhere in the county, and supporters on the conservative southwest and southeast corners were said to be fired up with enthusiasm.

The new totals serve only to strengthen other outcomes, including the tightest race for the District 6 County Council seat, where Cathy A. Bevins of Middle River was leading Ryan Nawrocki of Rosedale by a few hundreds votes. The new total has Bevins ahead by 505 votes, 17, 991 to 17,486.

Brown said all that remains to make the results official is a count of about 100 remaining overseas ballots on Nov. 22.

"We're almost there," said Brown. "Hopefully by the 23rd this will all be done and the fat lady will have sung."

-Arthur Hirsch

Posted by Andy Rosen at 2:48 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: In The Counties, Maryland election 2010

November 11, 2010

Source: GOP convo offer mulled as inducement for Steele to leave


Advisers to Republican National Chairman Michael Steele hatched a plan to give him a prominent position at the party's 2012 presidential nominating convention if he decided to step aside as head of the Republican National Committee, according to a party official.

The official's story, which could not be independently confirmed, involved Steele's chief of staff, Michael Leavitt, and longtime consultant, Blaise Hazelwood. Concerned that Steele could not be assured of a winning another two-year term when the RNC meets in January, the duo came up with a fallback plan.

They would support Wisconsin Republican chairman Reince Priebus, a Steele loyalist, for the top party post if Steele chose not to run again. In exchange, Priebus would agree to make Steele chairman of the convention.

Priebus has gone to ground after the New York Times published a report this week that he had warned Steele he should consider stepping aside because he might find it tough to win reelection. Priebus, who is also the RNC general counsel, did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Priebus is "now playing Hamlet," said the RNC source, adding that the Wisconsin chairman backed away from running after Steele "screamed" at him in a phone call last weekend.

Steele is expected to seek another two years in the job but has not announced his candidacy.

Presiding over the national convention in Tampa will be the highlight of the next chairman's tenure, and it's not at all clear how a deal to give Steele a high-profile convention post would work. It would presumably have to be arranged well before the RNC chooses a new leadership team, including a national chairman, in mid-January.

Another RNC source, who is close to party forces seeking to oust Steele but not actively involved in the behind-the-scenes effort, said that regardless of Steele's convention title, a professional manager would run the event.

Anti-Steele forces claim they are gathering momentum in efforts to block the former Maryland lieutenant governor. But they have yet to coalesce behind a single candidate.

A Republican Governors Association meeting next week in San Diego, the first major post-election gathering of party politicians, could be the vehicle for one or more Steele challengers to surface.

Posted by Paul West at 6:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

Franchot talks of 'third way' to approach budget

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot says the state's $1.6 billion deficit is another sign that elected officials "have not adjusted to this new age of austerity."

Lawmakers yesterday learned that the budget hole is deepening. After a hopeful uptick in state revenues that posted over the summer, squeezing the gap to about $1.2 billion, spending on programs such as Medicaid has been higher than expected. And state revenues, as they stand now, aren't likely to recover to pre-recession levels anytime soon.

After the briefing by nonpartisan state analysts, Republicans worried the other party will push tax increases, and Democrats feared the minority party's counter offer would be draconian cuts to programs.

Franchot, who did not attend the legislative briefing, said in an interview yesterday afternoon that there's a "third way" -- a top to bottom review of state spending, estimated to surpass $15.5 billion next fiscal year.

Franchot, a Democrat, is a member of the state spending panel that has slashed the budget in the past few years. He has been talking about the "third way" for a year, and blogged about it in July.

"We need to look at what we're really getting for our money," Franchot said yesterday. "I think you could get the same or higher public services with significantly less money."

Asked what agencies or government programs are ripe for squeezing, Franchot said "everything" should be on the table. He named health care and transportation of areas in need of a careful look. 

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:00 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Tax & Spend

November 10, 2010

State budget hole deepens

Maryland lawmakers will face a $1.6 billion budget hole when they return to Annapolis in January, state fiscal analysts are reporting today, a deficit larger than what they had anticipated earlier this fall.

An unexpected uptick in state revenue from fees and taxes, which the anlaysts reported in September, shrank the gap between income and expenses to about $1.2 billion. But greater spending on programs such as Medicaid has essentially erased that gain, said Warren G. Deschenaux, director of policy analysis for the Maryland General Assembly.

The Assembly’s budget committees will be briefed this afternoon on the latest deficit analysis.
Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, reelected last week, has said he is preparing a budget without any new taxes.

Asked how the the now-rising deficit would be addressed, O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec wrote in an email today that the governor “has repeatedly said that we will continue to be on a steady diet of cuts until we come through the other side of this recession.”

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:18 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Tax & Spend

Van Hollen seeking top Dem spot on Budget


Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland has formally announced his candidacy for his party's top spot on the House Budget Committee.

The job would put Van Hollen in the middle of the biggest domestic debate of the next two years: how to rein in an expanding federal debt burden. It also would potentially position him to become chairman, if Democrats ever retake the House.

Though he was re-elected in last week's midterm election, the Montgomery County Democrat was one of its victims. He has just completed a four-year stint as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and was looking to move up in the House leadership.

Van Hollen, 51, is considered one of the younger, rising stars of his party in the House. He was given a job two years ago as a special assistant to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an incentive to get him to take on the challenging task of holding the Democratic majority in 2010.

The Republican takeover and a desire by more senior Democrats to remain in power, including Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn--all in their 70s--has created a traffic jam that blocked other aspiring Democratic leaders in the House. Van Hollen's bid for the Budget committee position would not preclude him from also getting some sort of minority leadership post, though.

Democrats lost 60 seats in the 2010 election, after picking up seats during his first two years in the House campaign job. Van Hollen contends that his party's losses would have been much worse, if he and Democratic strategists hadn't moved to contain the damage.

Text of his announcement letter after the jump.

November 10, 2010

Dear Colleague:

I write to ask for your support to serve as Ranking Member of the Budget Committee for the 112th Congress.

Over the next two years we will be engaged in a critical debate over how best to strengthen our economy and move our country forward for all Americans. The Budget Committee will be a central front in this national conversation about how to accelerate job creation and economic growth. This will not just be a fight over numbers. It is ultimately a debate about who we are and the future direction of our country.

Our Republican colleagues have made clear their plan to use the budget process to provide a $700 billion tax cut for the wealthiest Americans by adding to our national debt and slashing education and other investments that are necessary for America to compete in the global economy. Other Republican proposals on Medicare and Social Security would jeopardize the health and retirement security of America’s seniors. We must fight these upside down priorities at every turn. At the same time, we must offer a well-defined path to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course.

Having served as a member of the Democratic Leadership and as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, I recognize that the challenges before us are formidable. Our position as a Caucus must be clear and our arguments must be sharp. Armed with the facts, we must engage the public at every step of this national debate.

I believe I can serve our Caucus effectively as we confront these challenges and ask for your support to become Ranking Member of the Budget Committee.


Chris Van Hollen
Member of Congress

Posted by Paul West at 10:48 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Business groups decry tax possibilities

Maryland business groups implored a commission reviewing the state's corporate tax structure to leave it alone. At that same hearing, last night in Annapolis, public interest groups asked the panel to recommend combined reporting as a matter of fairness.

The Maryland Business Tax Reform Commission, established in 2007, is to submit its report to the General Assembly in about a month. Lawmakers will review the panel's recommendations and could propose legislation establishing combined reporting or making other corporate tax changes. Last night's hearing gave the public a chance to weigh in, and dozens signed up to testify.

Combined reporting is one of the tax ideas bubbling up in Annapolis. Newly reelected Gov. Martin O'Malley and legislative leaders say the economy remains too weak to tap citizens and businesses for more state revenue, but other lawmakers are eyeing certain taxes. State officials also must close a budget hole of at least $1 billion. At a briefing today, legislators could learn that it's actually much larger.

One of the tax ideas with populist appeal is combined reporting, which is a change in accounting rules. It would prohibit regional and national companies from sheltering Maryland profits in states with lower taxes.

It's unclear how much additional money the state could gain from moving to combined reporting. Fiscal analysts estimated the state could generate as much as $170 million more annually, but that number is based on pre-recession company profits and does not take into account companies moving to other states if combined reporting is enacted.

"The juice is not worth the squeeze at this time," said Gene Burner, president of the Manufacturers' Alliance of Maryland.

Burner and others called combined reporting "burdensome" and "unpredictable."

Still, some groups called combined reporting a matter of fairness, saying large businesses should not be able to dodge Maryland taxes.

Maryland Public Interest Research Group supplied the tax panel a list of small businesses that are in favor of combined reporting. The group says combined reporting would help level the playing field between small, Maryland-only establishments and their larger competitors.

The tax commission report is due Dec. 15.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:05 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Tax & Spend

November 9, 2010

Welch to retire, council colleagues say

Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Scharper reports:

City Councilwoman Agnes Welch, who has represented Southwest Baltimore for more than a quarter century, is planning to retire before the end of the year, her colleagues say.

Welch, 85, has not set a firm date for her retirement, Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said. She is serving her seventh term on the council.

“She said she was really enjoying her work on the council, but there comes a time when you want to leave still at the top of your game,” said Young, who met with her before Monday’s council meeting.

Calls to Welch were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Her son and longtime aide, William “Pete” Welch, said the councilwoman is contemplating retirement, but has made no formal announcement.

City Hall observers consider William Welch the likely successor to his mother’s seat and speculate that her retirement will be timed to allow him to go into next year’s election as the incumbent.

When a council seat is open, the 14 other council members host public interviews for the seat and vote on a successor.

William Welch laughed off questions of whether he would run for his mother’s seat, saying it was “putting the cart before the horse.”

“When a councilperson who has served for a long time takes a new direction, you don’t know where the dust settles,” he said. “If I’m the dust, I haven’t settled yet.”

Welch said he is a certified public accountant and runs his own accounting practice on evenings and weekends. He has served on his mother’s staff since she was first elected, and was grandfathered when a change in the city charter prevented council members from hiring close relatives.

The Ninth District, home to Poppleton, Rosemont and Sandtown, is one of the city’s poorest.

The chairowoman of the council committee on aging and urban affairs committee, Welch led a group of senior citizens to protest in the spring when Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake threatened to eliminate the budget for the recreation and parks senior programs. The funds were restored when the council approved a package of new taxes proposed by Rawlings-Blake.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:58 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: City Hall, People

Gansler commission to examine campaign finance

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, who last week appointed a commission to study campaign finance in Maryland, is seeking public input on the issue, according to a news release today from his office.

The commission of lawmakers, lawyers and elections officials is to examine the use of political slates, new media, contribution limits, loans, disclosure requirements and other matters and report back to Gansler by the end of the year. Democrats on the committee include Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Jay Walker, and Republicans are represented by Sen. Allan Kittleman and Del. Ron George.

Gansler did not include anyone from the State Prosecutor's Office on the committee, though that office prosecutes many of the campaign finance violations. Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Gansler, said that the commission is reviewing whether to revise regulations and laws and that it is "not about the prosecutorial aspect."

Complete lists of study topics and commission members appear after the jump. Guillory said Gansler's office is trying to arrange public hearings. In the meantime, citizens can submit comments on campaign finance to by Dec. 6. Comments also can be mailed to Ru Belt at the Office of the Attorney General, 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, Md., 21202.

  • Clarification of the definition and operation of slates
  • Disclosure requirements, including identification of entities subject to disclosure requirements, frequency of disclosure and triggering events, in light of the Citizens United decision
  • Revision of aggregate contribution limits
  • Permissibility and regulation of contributions made through electronic means
  • Regulation of use of new media in campaigns
  • Exploratory committees and the timing of candidacies
  • Treatment of party administrative expenses
  • Role of limited liability companies in campaign finance
  • Distinguishing permissible uses of campaign funds from prohibited uses
  • Administrative issues faced by campaign treasurers related to holding, investing, disbursing, and accounting for campaign funds
  • Loans to campaigns by candidates and third parties.

Members of the Advisory Committee are: Senator Allan Kittleman (R-9), Senator Jamie Raskin (D-20), Delegate Ron George (R-30), Delegate Jay Walker (D-26), Carville Collins (attorney, counsel for the Republican State Central Committee), Bruce Marcus (attorney, counsel for the Maryland Democratic State Central Committee), Ross Goldstein (Deputy State Administrator, Maryland Board of Elections), Jared DeMarinis (Director of Candidacy and Campaign Finance Division, Maryland Board of Elections), Katherine Winfree (Chief Deputy Attorney General), John B. Howard, Jr. (Deputy Attorney General)

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Campaign finance

Vote endangers Race to the Top money

A committee of lawmakers last night voted against a proposed regulation that would require half of a teacher's evaluation to be based on student achievment, reports The Sun's Liz Bowie.

The 12-3 vote by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review throws a new kink into Maryland's effort to draw $250 million in federal education funding from a competitive grant called Race to the Top. Maryland was one of a few states to win the contest, but its application included the regulation that the committee of lawmakers tossed out, Bowie writes.

One of the committee's chairmen, Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat and a teacher's union organizer, said legislators felt the regulation wasn't following the letter of a law that passed ths year by the General Assembly. Bowie lays out what could happen next:

The state school board, which proposed the regulation, must now decide whether to proceed without legislative support. If the board does, it will be up to Gov. Martin O'Malley to decide whether the regulation takes effect.

A spokesman for O'Malley told Bowie that the Democratic governor, who frequently referenced winning the Race to the Top when he was on the campaign trail, "isn't going to do anything to jeopardize the $250 million."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:21 AM | | Comments (3)

November 8, 2010

Source: Hoyer has the votes in Minority Whip contest

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland formally announced his candidacy Monday for House Minority Whip, the second-ranking position in the House Democratic leadership.

Hoyer is currently the second-ranking Dem, as Majority Leader, a position he'll lose when the Republicans take over in January. The southern Maryland congressman had been seen by some as a possible Minority Leader in the next Congress but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided she wanted the job after her demotion from the top spot in the House.

Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest ranking African-American in Congress, has also announced his pursuit of the Whip position.

A source close to Hoyer said the Marylander has the votes to win. The election will be conducted by secret ballot, and there's no guarantee that the pledges he has received will actually turn into votes. However, a defeat at this point would be a major surprise.

Clyburn may wind up getting another position in the leadership, as top Democrats attempt to work out a plan that would head off a messy internal fight, probably the last thing they need after getting stomped in last week's midterm elections.

Hoyer's statement announcing his candidacy and a copy of his message to his Democratic colleagues after the jump.










Steny H. Hoyer

Posted by Paul West at 5:59 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Tax talk comes to Annapolis

The election now behind them, lawmakers and Gov. Martin O'Malley are returning to the business of running the state.

Committees of lawmakers will meet for four financial briefings this week in Annapolis: two on pensions, one about combined reporting and one in which they will learn the size of Maryland's budget hole. Some believe the gap could be as large as $1.7 billion.

Meanwhile, the Democratic governor said he is preparing a budget that includes no tax increases, and legislative leaders say the economy remains too weak to tap citizens for more revenue.

But some lawmakers have been open about their desire to increase certain taxes. This weekend, The Sun examined some of the chatter. We focused on six possibilities: the alcohol tax, the gas tax, sales tax on services, combined reporting for businesses, property tax and pension fixes that could translate to higher local taxes. O'Malley has not said whether he would veto such tax increases.

The briefings this week could serve as coming attractions for the General Assembly's 2011 90-day session, which begins in about two months.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 7:53 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Tax & Spend

November 6, 2010

Ehrlich silent on robocalls

Former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. made his most extensive public comments to date about his recent election defeat but had nothing to say about automated phone calls ordered by an operative who said he was working for his campaign.

Democrats have demanded an explanation from the Republican Ehrlich about the Election Day calls, which appeared designed to suppress voter turnout in heavily Democratic Baltimore. Julius Henson, whose companies were paid more than $97,000 by Ehrlich's campaign, acknowledged Friday that he was behind the calls after they were tracked by The Baltimore Sun.

Ehrlich offered a post-mortem on the campaign, and his 24-year career in politics, in a phone call to his wife Kendel's Saturday morning talk show on WBAL radio. During the six-minute conversation, he repeatedly thanked supporters and urged young people to remain involved in politics.

But his tone, and the overall thrust of his comments, was anything but upbeat. At one point, his wife appeared to suggest that Ehrlich regretted his decision to seek a rematch against Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Alluding to their private conversations at home, she said there were no regrets about the campaign "other than possibly the regret of making a decision" to run.

"You knew in your gut it was going to be difficult and uphill," she added.

Ehrlich made a late entry into the race last spring, and his fundraising never caught up to the incumbent's. In a strong year for Republicans, he was defeated by more than 13 percentage points, double the gap in his loss to O'Malley in 2006, a much weaker Republican year.

Ehrlich said he was well aware, going into the race, that Maryland Democrats had built a "huge ratio" in voter registration during the 2008 presidential election and held roughly 60 percent of the state's registered voters to just 26 percent for Republicans.

"But we knew that when we got in the race, obviously, and so . . .," he said, his voice trailing off.

"We thought the tide might carry it through," his wife quickly chimed in, referring to Republican victories in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts last year that encouraged Ehrlich to try again.

The former governor said that for a Republican to challenge a Democrat in Maryland, "you have to be real perfect here, there's no doubt about it."

His wife, who some see as a future candidate, had a gloomy prognosis for Maryland Republicans.

"It's going to be very difficult, with redistricting, going forward, for the party in general, difficult for the party to raise money," she said.

But she also said, of the just completed campaign, there would be "no Monday morning quarterbacking this to death. There's no regrets. We gave it one last stand. We've got the flag."

Ehrlich agreed, remarking that there were "very few decisions we would not have made" during the campaign.

He acknowledged that he'd been hurt by attack ads and by his failure to raise enough money to mount an adequate response.

"Negative ads really do work, particularly if you don't have the money to meet them," he said. "Particularly in the Washington suburbs, we got hit hard there and did not have the money to respond."

Ehrlich set out to make Montgomery County a battleground but, as the fall campaign progressed, fell back to his Baltimore County base, which he carried in his first two gubernatorial runs. He wound up losing Montgomery by almost 100,000 votes while barely breaking even in Baltimore County, according to unofficial results from the Maryland Board of Elections.

"Obviously, we're very disappointed. I'm a competitor, we're competitors, and we're very, very disappointed," he said.

His wife, trying to buck him up, broke in to say that "people are very proud you stepped up to the plate."

"Well, this is a bottom-line business, though, and either you win or you lose," said the former governor. "Obviously the state's going to go in a particular direction now and it's not in a direction that I want it to go in."

At another point, he returned to that theme. "The people of Maryland want a particular direction. They've voted this way just about every time. Forever. And as we said, it is what it is," said Ehrlich. "We'll see where the state goes in the future. But there's clearly a direction with regard to what people want in this state, there's no doubt about it."

Neither Ehrlich mentioned O'Malley by name and they both made it clear that one of them, at least, is done with politics for good.

Ehrlich said his career, which dates from his election to the Maryland General Assembly and includes four terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, "has been uniformly great" over the last 24 years.

"We are very lucky people," he said. Then he added, in an echo, conscious or otherwise, of the ailing baseball great Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech: "I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

Posted by Paul West at 5:13 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Kendel Ehrlich radio show to continue

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. doesn't plan to return to his WBAL-AM radio show but his wife Kendel will continue to host the show solo.

But the former governor called in this morning to encourage young people to get into politics and thank supporters. "It is a very worthy career," he said. Ehrlich also said politics can be a "vicious" business.

He did not comment on the robo-call encouraging voters to stay home that went out hours before polls closed. Our Sun colleague Justin Fenton reported Friday that the call was funded by a Democratic operative on the Ehrlich payroll. (Awkwardly, the story was the lead item on WBAL's brief breakaway for news.)

Kendel Ehrlich also didn't mention the flap. But she did say there is a "sting" in the Ehrlich household over the election. "We fought the good fight," she said. "We are proud that we tried." She said the couple thought they could "thread the needle" one more time and win in a state that is majority Democratic.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:28 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

November 5, 2010

Pelosi's move stymies Steny

Nancy Pelosi has once again blocked Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer from advancing to the top Democratic spot in the House of Representatives.

The first woman to serve as Speaker of the House announced this afternoon that she wants to be Minority Leader, which is the highest-ranking job she can get once she hands over the gavel to Republican Rep. John Boehner in January.

Given the left-leaning cast of the House Democratic caucus in the next Congress, she almost certainly has the votes she needs already. And that could leave Hoyer in second place, again.

The southern Maryland congressman, who lost to Pelosi in a pivotal leadership battle nine years ago, was regarded as heir apparent--if his longtime rival stepped down.

Instead, he's likely to run for the same spot he's been in since 2006, the second-ranking Democrat in the House. That position, of course, won't be worth nearly as much as his current job as Majority Leader, since Republicans will be in charge.

Hoyer's likely new job title: Minority Whip, the same post Pelosi held when she started her climb up the leadership ladder by besting Hoyer in 2001 (and which Hoyer had soon after, when Pelosi moved up again).

The Marylander might have to wage a fight for the post, however.

Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the Majority Whip, has already announced his candidacy for Minority Whip. It's always possible that another spot in the leadership will be found for Clyburn, averting a messy contest between Hoyer and the highest ranking African-American in Congress.

Hoyer responded to Pelosi's announcement with a statement that he is "exploring" a run for Minority Whip. An aide confirmed that Hoyer is supporting Pelosi for Minority Leader.

Full text of Hoyer's statement after the jump.

Hoyer's announcement:

Speaker Pelosi has announced that she will be running for Democratic Leader in the next Congress.

In the days since the election, I have received an outpouring of support from Democratic colleagues who have told me that I should remain in our party’s leadership, so that our Caucus can hit the ground running with a strong, tested leadership team.

Over the next several days, I will continue to speak to my colleagues about serving our Caucus as Democratic Whip, and I will announce a decision after I have consulted with them.

Posted by Paul West at 1:50 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Palin to endorse Steele?

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Is Sarah Palin the secret weapon in Republican National Chairman Michael Steele's re-election campaign?

Some members of the Republican National Committee think so. They expect her to bestow her backing on the former Maryland lieutenant governor's bid for a second term as party chair.

The duo appeared together on Steele's recent coast-to-coast "Fire Pelosi" bus tour. And Steele came to Palin's defense on national television this week, telling critics of the former Alaska governor to "shut up."

Palin's endorsement would be a valuable asset in the coming chairmanship fight and could help counter those who say Steele is the wrong person to head the party going into the 2012 presidential cycle.

Steele has not publicly announced his candidacy, but he's campaigning hard for another two-year term. According to RNC insiders, he's already lined up half the votes he needs.

If Mama Grizzly embraces Steele as her kind of outside-the-Beltway, anti-establishment Republican, the anti-Steele forces are likely to portray it as payback for generous financial help Palin got from the RNC earlier this year.

Some $250,000 from the party treasury was used to pay her legal bills dating from the 2008 campaign. The story got relatively little attention but a Palin endorsement in the chairman's race could give it wider currency.

RNC spokesman Doug Heye has been quoted as saying that Steele and Palin have a "great working relationship." If she runs for president, could it hurt to have the top guy at national party headquarters watching out for her interests?

Posted by Paul West at 5:00 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Michael Steele

November 4, 2010

Delegates with ethics scrapes heal fast

Two delegates whose most recent terms were marred by ethical issues did just fine in Tuesday's elections -- thanks largely to the highly partisan tilt of their districts.

Del. John S. Cardin, a Baltimore County Democrat who came under criticism for the use of a police boat in an ill-conceived 2009 marriage proposal stunt, recovered well enough to lead the House ticket in the three-member 11th District by almost 4,000 votes over his nearest ticket-mate, Del. Dan Morhaim. Cardin eventually apologized and paid $300 for his use of police resources.

Del. W. Anthony "Tony" McConkey, an Anne Arundel County Republican, had his real estate license suspended just a week before the election when he admitted to rules violations. It was a severe enough blow that he ran more than 5,000 votes behind fellow Republican Cathy Vitale in the two-member district. But it wasn't a serious enough lapse to tempt voters to choose a Democrat in the staunchly Republican District 33A. He beat his lone Democratic challenger, Madonna Brennan, by more than 3,500 votes.

Incidentally, an ultraconservative third party may have cost the GOP a pickup in one House race. Unofficial tallies show Democratic Del. David Rudolph holding on to his Cecil County seat with less than 50 percent of the vote after Michael Dawson of the Constitution Party took 766 votes, or more than 5 percent, in District 34B. Rudolph, a stubborn survivor of close races, was beating Republican Theodore Patterson by 404 votes.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:09 PM | | Comments (2)

New votes loosen GOP grip on 2 Senate seats

Republicans' faint hopes of holding on to two Senate seats in prime GOP territory faded even more today as new votes were counted.

The Frederick News Post-reported that Democrat Ron Young widened his lead over Republican Alex Mooney by more than 200 votes as most of the absentee ballots in Frederick County were counted.

The tally now stands at 22,090 to Young to 21,223 for Mooney, an 867-vote Democratic advantage. Frederick County makes up most of the district, along with a handful of precincts in Washington County.

On the Lower Eastern Shore, new vote counting has increased Democrat Jim Mathias' lead over Republican Michael James by 25 votes to 247.

If the Democrats hold on in these races, they will gain two seats in the Senate for a lopsided 35-12 split.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:43 PM | | Comments (3)

Bevins' lead narrows in BaltCo District 6

Democrat Cathy Bevins is still leading the race for the 6th District seat on the Baltimore County Council after Republican Ryan Nawrocki picked up only 50 votes from absentee ballots.

Baltimore County Board of Elections officials had been Nawrocki was more than 300 votes behind before the absentee ballots were tallied. Almost 34,000 votes were cast in the race for the open seat left by Joseph Bartenfelder, who ran unsuccessfully for county executive.

Officials are in the process of counting the total number of provisional ballots, which will be tallied next week. Nawrocki could still request a recount, as well, though the final tally will determine whether he'll have to pay for it or not.

Bevins and Nawrocki were not immediately available for comment.

-Raven Hill

Posted by Andy Rosen at 2:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: In The Counties, Maryland election 2010

Cardin wants robocall investigation

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Election Day eve robocalls that encouraged Democrats not to vote. Cardin, a Democrat, said in a press release that the calls were "clearly intended to suppress voter turnout."

"Relax," the robocaller said in a message that went out about 90 minutes before polls closed on Tuesday. The automated caller assured that Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley had already won the race. "The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight."

Much has been made about the robocalls, which were followed up by an automated message from Rep. Elijah Cummings saying it was still important to vote.

In her column today, The Sun's Laura Vozzella questions whether they were a dirty trick by Republicans -- or Democrats. One conspiracy theory, she writes, is "that the Dems were behind both calls. That would make Republicans look bad, the theory goes, and increase Democratic turnout in the process."

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler also has said he'll look into the matter. 

In addition to his request to Holder, Cardin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he wants a hearing on deceptive voter practices that occured in the election cycle.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:52 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

The next four years begins

Gov. Martin O'Malley put the kitchen table adorned with stickers from the campaign trail in the center of the room for his first post-election cabinet meeting in Annapolis this morning.

"The kitchen table was dragged all over our great state," he told the officials. "This is going to be the symbol for the next four years."

Only the first part of the cabinet meeting was open to the press ... but as reporters were leaving Budget Secretary T. Eloise Foster began her briefing with an ominous note. "It's going to be a tough year," she told the agency heads.

Over the summer, while the political world has been in campaign mode, the agencies had been given reduction targets to fill a General Assembly mandate to cut 500 positions. Most -- if not all -- can come from erasing vacant positions. But, she said repeatedly, it is "too early to tell" what jobs go.

This morning, we looked ahead to what O'Malley might do to kick off his second term. Among the options: overhauling the cabinet.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Administration

Kamenetz looking for staff cuts through attrition

Baltimore County Executive-elect Kevin Kamenetz will ask county staff to start looking for ways to cut county jobs, he announced Thursday as he began rolling out his transition agenda, but he said he does not plan any furloughs or layoffs.

Kamenetz, a Democrat who defeated Republican Kenneth C. Holt on Election Day, began rolling out his agenda Wednesday morning. He said he will ask County Administrative Officer Frederick J. Homan to begin looking for ways to reduce the size of government, Raven Hill reports from Towson. He hopes to make the job cuts through attrition, as workers leave and are not replaced.

He said he is not coming in as a "change agent."

"Government in Baltimore County works well," Kamenetz said. "At the same time, I recognize that we have some budgetary challenges."

Kamenetz also announced that former county executive Theodore G. Venetoulis will advise his transition to the post now held by term-limited Democrat James T. Smith Jr. Venetoulis, a publisher, was executive in the 1970s.

Posted by Andy Rosen at 11:12 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: In The Counties, Maryland election 2010

Andy wants Ag

Congressman-elect Andy Harris wants to fill Rep. Frank Kratovil's shoes in more than one way.

Not only will he be taking the First District congressional seat in the next Congress. He'd also like to be a member of the House Agriculture Committee, where Kratovil currently serves.

The assignment would be a way to stay in touch with an important part of his district's base, the farm economy, chickens and otherwise, on the Eastern Shore.

Harris said in a post-election interview he won't know for a while what other committees he'll be offered. The anesthesiologist wants to play a role on health care issues, including the GOP effort to roll back the Democratic overhaul already going into effect.

Meantime, no post-election beach vacation for Andy, at least not right away. He was back in the operating room this morning.

Posted by Paul West at 10:33 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

I concede. Beep.

After nasty political campaigns, those concession phone calls must be pretty awkward.

Bob Ehrlich may have found a way around that.

Instead of talking to Martin O'Malley on Election Night, Ehrlich phoned the governor's mansion while O'Malley was out at his victory party and left a message.

Makes sense. Ehrlich used to live there, so he knows the number.

That's according to a source close to O'Malley. I tried to double-check that account with Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell. But he wasn't sure that the two had spoken, only that Ehrlich had called.

"I know a call was placed," Fawell said. "I don't know beyond that."

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 9:30 AM | | Comments (2)

Robocall a dirty trick, but whose?

The last time Election Day shenanigans played out in Maryland, homeless Philadelphians got a day trip to Maryland, a welcome from then-first lady Kendel Ehrlich, $100, a couple of meals and a T-shirt.

This time around, the only thing anybody got out of the dirty trick was an annoying dinner-hour robocall. Or in some cases, two calls.

Between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday — before polls closed at 8 p.m. — Baltimore residents reported receiving an automated call telling them to "relax," that Gov. Martin O'Malley had won re-election. "The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight."

About the same time, some Baltimoreans got a second robocall, this one from Rep. Elijah Cummings, warning them about alleged Republican efforts to suppress voter turnout.

Democrats, recalling the homeless Philadelphians bused in to hand out misleading campaign material for Ehrlich and then-Senate candidate Michael Steele at the polls four years ago, immediately blamed O'Malley's Republican opponent.

"Sadly, this is the kind of gutter politics that we have come to expect from Bob Ehrlich and the Republican Party," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

But the swift response by Cummings — Heather Dewar, an Urbanite Magazine editor and former Baltimore Sun reporter, said she actually got the congressman's call before the "relax" one — gave rise to a conspiracy theory: that the Dems were behind both calls. That would make Republicans look bad, the theory goes, and increase Democratic turnout in the process.

For the record, the Ehrlich and O'Malley campaigns said they had no hand in the "relax" call.

As for the Cummings call, Mike Christianson, counsel to the Cummings campaign and a longtime aide to the congressman, explained how it came about.

About 6:30 p.m., someone from Organizing for America, an arm of the Democratic National Committee, contacted Cummings to alert him to the "relax" call, Christianson said. That person asked Cummings to record a rebuttal call, offering to supply a script if need be.

"They gave him a number, and he recorded the call, I think, within 15 minutes," Christianson said.

Christianson said he has heard from people who thought the swift response looked fishy.

"There are people who expressed that," he said. "I would have to say, at least personally speaking, we didn't feel a great need to make Bobby Ehrlich and his campaign look bad. They were doing enough on their own to achieve that goal."

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 9:23 AM | | Comments (2)

November 3, 2010

Mathias lead widens to 222 votes

According to new figures posted by the State Board of Elections a little after 4 p.m., Democratic nominee Jim Mathias has widened his lead over Republican Michael James in the state's closest Senate race to 222 votes.

That 46-vote gain doesn't put it out of range of a reversal with absentee and provisional votes but it makes the climb for the GOP just a little steeper. Earlier in the day, the board listed one Worcester County precinct as not having reported.

James carried the Somerset and Wicomico county parts of the Lower Eastern Shore district by narrow margins. Mathias, a former Ocean City mayor and incumbent delegate, won by a slightly larger margin in Woorcester County.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:14 PM | | Comments (0)

Early voting may have helped sink Mooney

Maryland's venture into early voting didn't make much difference in the outcome of statewide races, but there's at least one legislative contest in which it might have had a significant effect.

In the District 3 Senate race, Democratic challenger Ron Young's strong lead in early voting gave him a 665-vote margin over GOP Sen. Alex Mooney at the end of election night vote counting.

Young actually trailed Mooney in votes cast on election day, but vaulted past the incumbent on the strength of the 878-vote majority he built up before Election Day in Frederick County as Democrats made maximum advantage of the opportunity to vote early. (The district includes a sliver of Washington County, where Mooney prevailed by 118 votes. Washington County did not break out early votes on its web site.)

Now this doesn't mean the people who voted for Young early wouldn't have found their way to the polls on Election Day anyway. But early voting certainly gave Young a cushion going in to the final day, and he used it.

No wonder Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. vetoed an early voting bill while he was governor. And no wonder the Democrats in the General Assembly overode that veto.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:16 PM | | Comments (5)

Maryland election results: GOP +6 in House, maybe -2 in Senate

Maryland's House of Delegates gained six new Republicans, while its Senate may lose two seats long held by the minority party. All 188 seats were on the ballot this year for a General Assembly that has roughly twice as many Democrats as Republicans.

On the House side, four open seats across the state went to Republicans. Republicans also toppled two Democratic delegates, Sue Kullen and Virginia Clagett, who are district-mates of the General Assembly's top leaders. The House now contains 98 Democrats and 43 Republicans -- equaling the minority party's modern-era high achieved under then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in 2003.

The all-but-complete Election Day returns show the Democratic Party, which already enjoyed a thumping majority in the Maryland Senate, appears to have added two Senate seats this year, Mike Dresser reports -- leaving Republican  with a mere 12 seats in the 47-member Senate.

The majority party did that by apparently protecting all of its incumbents -- assuming Anne Arundel's John Astle and Southern Maryland's Roy Dyson hold on to narrow but not paper-thin leads -- and seizing two Republican-held seats.

The upset of the night was Democrat Ronald Young's apparent defeat of Frederick County GOP Sen. Alex Mooney, an outspoken social conservative whose district has been changing shades from red to purple. In Young, a former Frederick mayor, the Democrats found a strong match for the district and backed him with heavy spending at the direction of  Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.  The margin in that race is 665 votes, too narrow to count Mooney out but a difficult number to overcome.

Democrat Jim Mathias is also  leading Repiblican  Michael James for the Eastern Shore open seat vacated by GOP Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus. Mathias, an incumbent delegate and popular former mayor of Ocean City, was perhaps the only Democrat with a shot at this district -- and he made the most of it. The margin in this race is 176 votes, so the GOP has a shot of retaining the seat if absentee and provisional ballots break their way. The state Board of Elections is reporting one precinct out, but it is in Mathias' home county of Worcester.

Perhaps the only consolation for the Republicans is that it would be hard  to do much  worse in the Senate. The party is down to its rock-solid base, and really  has nowhere to go but up. This year, Democratic incumbents did their party the favor of hanging on -- giving them no open seats except  in safe districts. It is unlikely they can go through another cycle with no retirements in swing districts.

Considering how well Republicans did nationally, said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Maryland Democrats held their own.

If the count holds, the Democrats willl still hold a 98-43 advantage in the House -- more than enough for House Speaker Michael E. Busch to maintain firm control, Mike Dresser reports.  

Other Republican gains came in seats with previously Democratic vacancies in Frederick, Baltimore, Harford  and Worcester counties.

No Republican House  incumbents were defeated in the general election.

The big disappointment for the Republicans had to be the half-dozen or so Democratic seats where incumbents appear to have held on in conservative districts by slim margins. These Democratic winners include Dels. Kevin Kelly in Allegany County, John Donoghue in Washington County, John Wood and John Bohannon in St. Mary's County, House Appropriations Commitee Chairman  Norm Conway in Worcester County and David Rudolph in Cecil County. Had the GOP taken even half those seats, they could have boasted of historic gains. Without them, the House wins would be poor compensation for Senate losses.

Kullen represents Calvert County in Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's district. She has been a member since 2004 and is president of the women's caucus. Republican Mark Fisher defeated her by about 5 percentage points.

Clagett, first elected in 1994, is a District 30 delegate along with Busch. She came in fourth place last night, meaning Republican incumbent Del. Ron George and Busch will be joined by Republican Herb McMillan.

Absentee votes are still being counted in Stoltzfus' old district on the Eastern Shore. But Democrats are cautiously optimistic that Democratic Del. Jim Mathias will edge out Michael James. And it appears that Democratic challenger Ronald Young will prevail over Mooney, a senator since 1999.

Here's the piece Sun reporter and State House veteran Mike Dresser filed last night.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:01 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Mikulski leading statewide vote-getter

Re-elected Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski was Maryland's top vote-getter in Tuesday's midterm election, outpolling Gov. Martin O'Malley and other statewide candidates in contested races.

However, her victory margin dipped from past elections, according to unofficial, nearly complete returns. In capturing her fifth six-year term, she received about 62 percent of the vote, down about seven points from the average of her three previous re-election races and the lowest since her initial election to the Senate in 1986.

Except for freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, who was unseated by Republican challenger Andy Harris, other incumbent Democrats also tallied re-election percentages of more than 60 percent. All saw slippage in their winning margins, a reflection of voter unhappiness with Democratic governance in Washington.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the state's lone Republican in Washington until Harris is sworn in next January, bucked the downward trend. The Frederick congressman pulled 62 percent of the vote, up from 58 and 59 percent in the last two elections, when Democrats were ascendant.

Posted by Paul West at 11:33 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Morning after sign wave

Rep. Elijah Cummings joins Gov. Martin O'Malley at a thank-you sign waving this morning at North and Druid Hill avenues in Baltimore. Both Democrats were re-elected last night.



Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:12 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Arundel slots: Temporary site at Arundel Mills?

Now that Anne Arundel voters have apparently approved a ballot question that will allowa slots casino at Arundel Mills mall, a new question emerges: When will gambling begin at the site?

Nicole Fuller
spoke to David Cordish -- who heads the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. that will develop the casino -- on Election Day at a polling place in Russett, near Laurel. He said he will seek approval for a temporary slots facility on the mall grounds by early next year.

"We are going to make a real run at that." Cordish said.

We'll also hear this morning from the Maryland Jockey Club, which financed opposition to the ballot question in hopes of steering slots to Laurel Park race track. The company had made some dire predictions about the outcome of the referendum.

From Nicole's Election Day story:

"[Jockey club President Tom] Chuckas had vowed that horse racing would be destroyed if the referendum passed — that live racing at Laurel Park would end, Pimlico Race Course would operate just 40 days a year and a training center in Prince George's County would close. Cordish fired back that he would buy the tracks if they stopped operating. The Jockey Club contested, saying the tracks are not for sale."

We'll have updates all day.

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:08 AM | | Comments (21)

O'Malley's victory by the numbers

With most precincts reporting, there's some pretty interesting trends in the 2010 gubernatorial election results.

It it tempting to look at Gov. Martin O'Malley's double digit lead over challenger former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich as a sweeping mandate for the incumbent's policies. But figures from the Board of Elections show the voters more likely soured on Ehrlich.

O'Malley picked up 25,000 more votes this year than four years ago, not bad in a year where voters were supposed to be angry at Democrats and incumbents. But Ehrlich's numbers are starker: He appears to have turned off 92,000 who supported him in 2006 (the number could change slightly as more precincts report). Turnout was down with 67,000 fewer people casting ballots.

Looking quickly at county by county results it's clear where O'Malley picked up his support: He earned 27,000 more votes in Prince George's County than last time. Ehrlich, on the other hand, lost big in the DC suburbs. He had 30,000 fewer votes in Montgomery County this year and and 18,000 fewer votes in Prince Georges.

Interestingly both men had fewer votes in Baltimore County this year compared with 2006. Ehrlich came in with 11,000 fewer; O'Malley with 3,500 fewer votes there.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:01 AM | | Comments (31)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

November 2, 2010

O'Malley declares victory

Gov. Martin O'Malley took the stage at his election night party about 45 minutes ago and declared victory, saying that the win was a "very very humbling honor."

The governor was surrounded by some of the state's top Democrats who cheered and chanted with him as he delivered a speech that was largely drawn from his stump remarks.

O'Malley said the country is going through a "tremendous struggle" right now, and, echoing his campaign slogan, said that voters chose to "move Maryland forward." At one point audience members chanted the slogan with him.

The governor was joined on the stage by his wife, Catherine Curran O'Malley, along with dozens of elected officials including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings and House Majority Leader Kumar Barve. Pride by U2 blared after he finished his remarks and then worked a rope line before leaving the party.

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said the governor took congratulatory calls from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden before delivering his remarks.

The governor is scheduled to be in Annapolis bright and early in the morning to preside over the Board of Public Works.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:17 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Steele: Not saying I'm running...yet

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, who needed a big GOP midterm election victory to be a viable candidate for re-election to his party post, says he hasn't decided to seek another term in the job.

"Nope. Haven't made up my mind," the former Maryland lieutenant governor told CNN.

It wouldn't have been politick for Steele to have stolen the glory on his party's biggest night in six years. But both supporters and detractors consider another Steele campaign a foregone conclusion.

He'd like to preside over the RNC Convention in Tampa next year, though he may well face a challenge to keep his post. The election will take place at the RNC's winter meeting.

Steele dismissed internal criticism of RNC fundraising on his watch as "silly talk." He said the national party had put $175 million into campaigns around the country over the last two years.

He also touted his 50-state outreach to state parties, a key part of his aggressive -- if unannounced-- re-election effort, which included a recent coast-to-cost bus tour.

Posted by Paul West at 10:22 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

More scenes from Ehrlich election party

Here's more from Sun reporter Don Markus, staked out with Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.

At a little past 10 p.m., Ehrlich's running mate, Mary Kane, took the stage to enthusiastic applause to thank their supporters.

"This is a great night," she said. "This campaign has been a great journey. You have been our backbone."

Kane told the crowd - not the 4000 to 5000 they hoped for, but respectable given the polls' predictions - "Get comfortable, this is going to be a quite a night."

Kane said "we only have 11 precincts reports and we're closing the gap fast."

The crowd applauded enthusiastically and as Kane left the stage, the band went into a chorus of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" changing the words to "Bobby be good" and how "Bobby was going to be the next governor of"

Posted by Annie Linskey at 10:15 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

O'Malley election party

The room is filling up with volunteers and uber-supporters at Gov. Martin O'Malley-Sen. Barbara Mikulski joint election night party in Baltimore.

O'Malley aides are eagerly reading off the early voting totals which give the governor a double digit lead -- though there's no telling if that will hold as the night continues.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is on the stage saying "Baltimore knows how to turn out the vote."

Rawlings-Blake says voters overcame the "dirty slimely trickery" and supported "someone we could trust."

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings takes the stage and says "our greatest threat to security is  the failure to educate every person."

Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

General Assembly: Democratic bastions solid

Early results show no signs of any cracks in the Democratic Party's hegemony in legislative races in Montgomery, Prince George's and Charles counties. Republicans, who had entertained hopes of a few breakthroughs, are so far being shut out. The same goes for the eastern part of Howard. Rural western Howard is so far holding for the Republicans.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:04 PM | | Comments (0)

Scenes from Ehrlich's party

Sun reporter Don Markus is at the Ehrlich party in Timonium and filed this dispatch a few hours ago (we should have posted earlier, we apologize):

Despite reports filtering into the Exhibition Hall at the Timonium Fairgrounds that Ehrlich was on the verge of defeat, the atmosphere at what was billed as a "Strong Leadership" victory party was surprisingly festive. The first song belted out by a band called "Mood Swing" was Frank Sinatra's "The Best Is Yet To Come."

Unfortunately for Ehrlich's supporters, it wasn't.

Jack Diamond, a 26-year-old medical student from Pikesville who came with his 2-year old son, Jacob, said that he was shocked at the recent polls that showed Erlich behind by as much as 14 percentage points.

"When you see all the signs in Baltimore County and Harford County for Bob Ehrlich, and then you see the polls, I don't know how it dovetails," said Diamond, an Ehrlich supporter since moving to Baltimore from Israel to attend Towson University eight years ago.

"I guess tonight is really the judgment day, whether we're going to find out that what we see on the street is going to pull Ehrlich through."

Diamond said that if O'Malley was reelected, he believed it had more to do with the "negative advertising" used by O'Malley than on the campaign waged by Ehrlich.

John Gowland, who worked in Ehrlich's first administration as the general manager of the MTA, agreed, adding that even in a year when a wave of anti-Obama sentiment helped defeat several prominent Democrats, ".it's a very tough state to get elected as a Republican."

Sandy Brock of Annapolis, the wife of former State Senator Bill Brock, said that he came to Timonium Tuesday night with "great hope" that the polls were wrong.

Brock said she realized it was going to be an uphill battle.

"Maryland is so different," she said. "There's no other state in the country with a 35 percent African American population who are educated, smart and involved like they are here in Maryland" and that because many work in government positions would likely vote for O'Malley.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

General Assembly: Mooney trails early

Early returns show Republican Sen. Alex Mooney of Frederick County trailing badly in his race against Democrat Ron Young, a former Frederick mayor. This could either be a case of early reporting of Frederick city precincts or very bad news for the GOP. Stay tuned.

Also in a dogfight is Democratic Sen. Roy Dyson of St. Mary's County, who faces Republican Stephen M. Waugh.

The battle for gains in the Senate could come down to the Republican open seat on the Eastern Shore, where Democrat Jim Mathias and Republican Michael James are running very close.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:50 PM | | Comments (0)

General Assembly: Busch ahead

Early returns from Annapolis House District 30 show Speaker Michael E. Busch comfortably leading the ticket in his three-member district, willl fellow Democrat Virginia Clagett second and incumbent Republican Ron George third. If those results hold up Republican Herb McMillan would not go back to the House of Delegates.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:44 PM | | Comments (1)

General Assembly: Few Senate surprises

Early returns show few surprises in contested races for the Maryland state Senate. The following candidates are off a solid start. Prospective new senators in bold:

2. Chrtistopher Shank (R); 4. David R. Brinkley (R); 5. Joseph Getty (R); 9. Allan Kittleman (R); 27. Thomas V. Mike Miller (D); 28. Thomas M. Middleton (D); 36. E. J. Pipkin (R); 37. Richard F. Colburn (R).
; 44. Verna Jones (D).

7. J. B. Jennings (R); 32. James DeGrange (D).

6. Norman R. Stone Jr. (D); 8. Kathy Klausmeier (D); 31. Brian Simonaire (R).

30. John Astle (D); 43. James Brochiin (D)

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:28 PM | | Comments (0)

General Assembly: First results for GOP

We're getting the first results from Maryland General Assembly races. The first AP-declared winner of a contested race is the GOP's Jay A. Jacobs for an open Republican House seat in Kent County. He beat Democrat Arthur Hock.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:17 PM | | Comments (0)

Phony robocalls tell Democrats to "relax"

Several residents have called the newsroom to report that they have received robocalls implying that Gov. Martin O'Malley had won his re-election bid and that people should "relax."

"I'm calling to let everyone know that Gov. O'Malley and President Obama have been successful," the caller says, according to a recording provided by O'Malley's campaign staff. "We're ok. Relax. Everything's fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight."

Residents reported receiving the calls around 7 p.m., well before the polls are slated to close at 8.

John Lundquist, a teacher who lives in Highlandtown, got the call on his answering machine at 6:44 p.m.

“It’s just amazing,” he said. “Here we are in the eleventh hour of the election, and these tactics are still going out. Whoever has paid for this call to go out is depending on voter apathy.”

Democrats swiftly denounced the calls and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake released a statement blaming former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's campaign.

"Sadly, this kind of gutter politics that we have come to expect from Bob Ehrlich and the Republican Party," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.

But an Ehrlich spokesman denied that the calls had originated from his team.

"It's new to us, we reject it, we condemn it," said campaign spokesman Andy Barth. "We don't want to mislead any voters or suppress the total. We want a clear, honest process."

Robert Hillman, 71, a semi-retired attorney from North Baltimore, said he received a call this evening. "What was most strange was there was no identification," he said.

And Heather Dewar, an editor with the Urbanite Magazine, reported getting two robo calls-- the female voice others received and one from Rep. Elijah Cummings, urging voters to ignore the phony call and remember that the polls are open until 8.

Calls from the phony female voice reportedly came from this number: 202-640-5113. Various web postings report unsolicited calls from that number regarding school board elections in Tallahassee, Fla., a candidate for mayor in Gadsden, Ala., and even someone purporting to be poet Maya Angelou.

The state Democratic part released a statement from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake denouncing the robocalls.

“I was deeply troubled to hear this misleading robo call targeting Baltimore City residents urging them to relax and stay home as if the the election was over and the polls have been closed,” Rawlings-Blake said in the statement.

“Sadly, this kind of gutter politics that we have come to expect from Bob Ehrlich and the Republican Party. In 2006, Bob Ehrlich’s campaign distributed intentionally false and misleading fliers intended to confuse minority voters and today they’ve reached a new low,” she said.

But Erhlich spokesman Andy Barth denied that the calls had stemmed from the Republican campaign and criticized Rawlings-Blake's statement.

"I am disappointed and surprsed that the mayor would be using the kind of language that she is, when, as far as I know, there's no evidence to suggest that it had anything to do with us," Barth said.

Attorney General Doug Gansler announced Tuesday night that his office would investigate the calls.

Attempts to track the number, which has a DC area code, were not immediately successful; when it is dialed back, the caller receives a dial tone, and database and search engines turned up nothing.

Complaints on various web sites about past calls from the number did not make clear the firm's political leaning, but they seemed to come from Democratic candidates. People have reported getting calls asking them to support the Democratic incumbent governor in Tennessee, Phil Bredeson, and a Democratic candidate for New York State Senate, Susan Savage. Others said they got calls seeking support for school board candidates in Florida, and a non-partisan mayor's race in Gadsden, Ala. (population 37,300). Another said they heard a voice that said he was a "lifelong Republican," but didn't elaborate on what the message was, and another was about a "person hosting a town meeting for Democrats."

Savage's Republican opponent for the New York state senate, Hugh T. Farley, told The Sun that the “robocalls” made against him had been "vicious." He said he never paid for any calls himself, referring to them as "counterproductive."

A call to Savage's campaign headquarters was not immediately returned, but New York state campaign finance records shows she spent tens of thousands on ads produced by a DC firm called GMMB Inc. That firm's web site prominently displays pictures of President Obama, Sen. Harry Reid and other prominent Democrats. But it was not immediately clear whether the firm was behind Savage's call.

-Julie Scharper and Justin Fenton

Posted by Julie Scharper at 7:34 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Elections

Maryland Election 2010: City voter told that someone cast early ballot in his name

When James Moore went to vote at 5:30 p.m. today, the 32-year-old Pigtown resident says he got disturbing news from polling officials at George Washington Elementary School.

"They told me someone had voted early in my name -- and it wasn’t me,” he said.

Moore, a Johns Hopkins University project manager at the Johns Hopkins University, wanted polling officials to override that earlier vote, whoever may have cast it during the early voting period that ended Thursday. But he was told that wasn’t possible. Instead, he was given a provisional ballot.

When Moore said that was unacceptable, he was given the phone number for Baltimore City’s Board of Elections and eventually reached election director Armstead B.C. Jones Sr.

Jones "told me there was nothing they could do, but he assured me my vote would be counted," Moore said. That didn’t satisfy him, either.

"I feel like I haven’t voted," Moore said.

Posted by David Nitkin at 7:22 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Maryland Election 2010: Republicans hope for General Assembly gains

A Maryland Election 2010 dispatch from the Baltimore Sun's Michael Dresser

With a national “wave” election projected and with their national party expecting big gains in Congress, Maryland Republicans are hoping to make substantial strides toward gaining leverage in the Maryland General Assembly, a traditional bastion of Democratic strength.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’re going to pick up seats in both houses,” said Ryan Mahoney, political director for the Maryland Republican Party. He said a good night would bring a pickup of seven to 15 House seats in the 141-seat chamber.

But Alexandra Hughes, spokeswoman for House Speaker Michael E. Busch, expressed confidence that Democrats will hold their losses — if any — to a minimum.

“If the stars align for them, maybe we lose 6-7 seats,” she said. More likely, Hughes said, would be a change of “plus or minus 3” in a House that now has 104 Democrats and 37 Republicans.

The General Assembly has long been a font of disappointment for Maryland’s outnumbered Republicans. Not since 1994 has the party made appreciable gains in either the Senate or the House, and even then they didn’t come close to threatening Democratic dominance.

With actual control of either chamber far out of reach, the legislative Holy Grail for the GOP has been to reach the magic number of Senate seats — 19 out of 47 — where they could sustain a filibuster without attracting a single Democratic ally. As it stands, with a 33-14 Democratic advantage, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller invariably twists enough Democratic arms to invoke cloture.

This year, the GOP is hoping a national tide can bring them the five take-aways they need to reach that goal.

“If we had five additional seats in the state Senate, we would move from being a party and a caucus the Dems can just ignore . . . to where we have some clout,” Mahoney said.
But history is not encouraging.

Even in 2002, a good Republican year nationally and one in which they elected their first governor since 1966, the GOP made modest progress in the House to reach 43 seats — then gave them back in 2006. This year, with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. lagging in the most
recent polls, it is unclear whether national trends will reach Maryland’s down-ballot races.

Republican prospects have been limited by the solid wall Democrats have erected around Baltimore city and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Not since 1994 has a Republican been elected to the legislature from a Prince George’s district; the last remaining Montgomery County GOP delegate was defeated in 2006. Its last Republican senator went down to defeat in 2002.

This year, Mahoney holds out hope of some breakthroughs in the Washington suburbs, contending that incumbent Sen. Brian E. Frosh could be vulnerable to a challenge from Republican Jerry Cave. But Frosh has routinely dispatched challengers with more than 70 percent of the vote in the ultra-liberal district, making such a result a decided long shot.

The parties agree that the most embattled Senate Democrats are Anne Arundel County’s John Astle and Baltimore County’s James Brochin. Republicans have hopes of toppling Roy Dyson of Southern Maryland and Edward J. Kasemeyer, who represents a district straddling Baltimore and Howard counties. If Ehrlich runs strongly in Baltimore County, the seats of
Democratic Sens. Kathy Klausmeier and Norman Stone could be in play.

Democrats dream of upsetting Frederick County Republican Sen. Alex Mooney, but might have a more credible shot of picking up an open seat on the Eastern Shore.

Some first-time senators will coast into office with no general election opposition on the ballot. In Baltimore, Bill Ferguson is assured of taking the seat he wrested from longtime Sen. George W. Della Jr. in the Democratic primary. In Prince George’s, Democratic delegates Joanne Benson and Victor Ramirez face no opposition after unseating incumbents. In Washington County, Del. Christopher Shank faces a write-in challenge from the incumbent he knocked off in the Republican primary, Sen. Donald Munson.

In the House, key battlegrounds will be in Baltimore County and in northern Anne Arundel County, where the controversy over slots at Arundel Mills has cast a shadow on the re-election bids of three incumbent Democratic delegates.

Hughes expressed confidence that the vast majority of Democratic incumbents will win re-election. If the party has problems, she said, they will likely come in districts with open seats.
Republicans are hoping they can duplicate their feat of 2002, when they knocked off the Democratic speaker of the House, Casper R. Taylor Jr., in his Western Maryland district. Ehrlich said at one point that his strategy for dealing with a Democratic legislature would be to “beat Busch” and “medicate” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.

But Hughes said Republicans haven’t come after Busch this year on his record as speaker.
She expressed confidence that he will prevail in his Annapolis district.

Posted by David Nitkin at 6:35 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Social media and the 2010 Maryland election

Eyes are on Twitter, Facebook and other websites tonight as the plugged-in track the election. We're taking a look at three interactive widgets that Mashable, an online guide to social media, highlighted earlier in the day, and seeing how they apply to Maryland.The New York Times has a tool to highlight the number of posts related to candidates' Twitter accounts. The middle circle "grows and shrinks based on the total activity happening" around candidates' accounts, including those of O'Malley and Ehrlich, @GovernorOMalley and @Ehrlich4MD respectively. The smaller circles represent tweets to each candidate, from each candidate and "retweets" (reposts of another user's tweet) of candidates' messages.


Twitter Sentiment is helping social media aficionados discover how people are feeling about candidates and the parties in general. Type in any term you'd like to see the climate. As of 5 p.m., about a quarter of tweeters were expressing negativity about the election using our #mdvote hashtag (track it by clicking here).


Additionally, Foursquare launched its "I Voted" site, though we noted that the counts for Baltimore seem to be a bit inaccurate. Through Foursquare, users who "check-in" at a polling place not only show up on it's map, if they type in "I Voted" during the check-in, they get a badge. Here's a look at Baltimore's participation:

Posted by Carla Correa at 5:59 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Maryland election 2010: Some issues with BaltCo voting machines emerge

Two voting machines at a Parkville precinct were shut down for less than an hour on Election Day morning when three voters trying to choose Republican Baltimore County executive candidate Kenneth C. Holt found the machine was not recording their votes correctly, Arthur Hirsch reports.

UPDATE 6:00 P.M.: The state Republican party send out a news release this afternoon which says about 30 voters have reported similar concerns in more than a dozen counties.

The glitch on the two machines at Pine Grove Middle School was one of a few isolated cases of touch-screen machines not giving voters the choice they wanted, said Katie Brown, director of the county Board of Elections. Brown said she knew of the incident at Pine Grove and two other polling places.

She said the trouble may have been caused by an error in setting up the touch–sensitive screen to record the correct choice. She said it also could be “a matter of the angle of the screen.”

She said election officials are urging voters to review their votes after they have finished making their choices and before they hit the button to cast their ballot.

David Glassman and Joy Rickels, chief judges at Pine Grove, said one voter complained that their choice for Holt instead registered as a “write-in,” and two others said their Holt choice registered as votes for his Democratic opponent, Councilman Kevin Kamenetz. The judges said the problems were corrected and no votes were lost in those three instances.

The machines were shut down for less than an hour at about 11 a.m., Rickels said, then put back into service.

It was not clear if other voters may have made similar errors and not noticed it.

Holt said he’d heard about the problems, and he's been pleased with the Board of Elections’ response.

“They responded quickly and well,” said Holt. “There have not been any widespread concerns.”

He said his own campaign manager, Norman Sines, noticed the trouble during early voting, when twice he tried to vote for Holt and twice the machine registered the choice for Kamenetz. On the third try, the machine recorded the correct vote.

Miriam Barr had to watch her vote carefully, Liz Kay reports, after she had trouble voting at Timonium Elementary Tuesday morning.

At about 10 a.m., she was standing at a machine near the school stage and had successfully chosen her candidate for governor and lieutenant governor. But when Barr, 83, tried to select a senator, Barbara Mikulski’s name popped up.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “It always reverted back to my opposition.”
After three tries to correct it, Barr raised her hand and an election worker came to help. “She tried it, it did the same thing,” Barr said. “She called a couple of people but they never came over.”

The election judge was able to clear the problem by only reverting to the original ballot. Barr was more vigilant at checking her selections that time, and was ultimately able to submit her ballot.

“I checked every one of my votes before I left the machine,” she said. “It took me longer than anyone else but I made sure my votes were right.”

Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator for the state board of elections, added a few other possible explanations for the problem.

People with long fingernails trying to use the pad of their fingers to select their candidates sometimes inadvertently touch the box above with their nail first, he said. Voters with this problem can just use their fingernails or even the back of a pencil or a pen to hit the correct spot. But Barr said her nails are very short. “I can’t get them to grow,” she said.

Machines also get out of calibration, Goldstein said. If election judges could duplicate the problem, they are supposed to shut down the machine and not let others use it. “The calibration is usually pretty good,” he said. Every unit is tested for both calibration and correct ballot counting before Election Day, he said.

“Generally speaking, if a machine is out of calibration, it’s going to be like that for everybody,” Goldstein said.

Barr said she told the poll worker who took her card that the machine was malfunctioning, and he said he would keep an eye on it. “I’ve never had that happen to me — not in the primaries, not last year,” she said.

Posted by Andy Rosen at 5:01 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: In The Counties, Maryland election 2010

Maryland Election 2010: Turnout reports

The Board of Elections projects Election Day turnout to be about 48 percent based on reports from a few key polling locations.

Their estimate does not include absentee and early voting -- when those vote are added the turnout looks as though it will match other recent governor elections, said Ross K. Goldstein the Deputy Administrator at the state's board of elections.

But that's not the message Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's team is putting out. Campaign manager Tom Russell issued an email about 30 minutes ago telling supporters that he has reports that turnout is "lighter than expected ... in a few key counties."

"That's exactly what our opponent needs to close the gap," Russell wrote, hoping to prompt supporters to join the after-work rush at the polls.

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich seemed to have a better sense of the landscape -- his email to supporters said that "the enthusiasm at the polls has been wonderful to see" and encouraged his people to "go vote."
Posted by Annie Linskey at 4:36 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Maryland election 2010: Kratovil stumping for votes

Freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil started the day as the most endangered congressional incumbent in Maryland. He'll end it either as a re-elected representative or a lame duck.

Gus Sentementes
filed this report from Kratovil's day:

Frank Kratovil arrived at the Fallston Diner eager to shake hands and have a cheeseburger. The 1st District Democratic incumbent had been up since 6 a.m., and visiting poll locations all morning.

"Everybody agrees it's going to be close," Kratovil said.

Accompanying him were his four well-behaved young sons, and his 3-month old daughter held by his wife. He entered the diner about 12:30 p.m. and shook hands with several seated patrons, and then sat down with his family, press secretary and driver at tables in a corner. Every few minutes, he popped up from his seat to greet new diners as they entered.

Tim Alston, 37, was surprised to see Kratovil, but the Democratic voter was happy to shake his hand. Alston, a maintenance worker, was eating at the diner counter, and declared to a reporter that he had already voted, including for Kratovil. "If those Republicans get back in, we're in trouble," Alston said.

Kratovil appeared relaxed and smiled frequently. He said that he had done his best in the run-up to the election. "I'm not sure what else I could have done to demonstrate to voters" his qualifications, he said.

"I tend to be more relaxed on election day than any other day," Kratovil said.

For lunch, Kratovil ordered a cheeseburger deluxe, cooked medium, with mayonnaise and fries, and a Diet Coke.

He had spent the morning visiting poll locations in Annapolis and Phoenix. His afternoon schedule includes stops in Phoenix, Abingdon and Pasadena.

Posted by Paul West at 2:54 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Maryland election 2010: Dundalk Dems for Ehrlich

Ken Hadfield was turning a long night into a longer Election Day, standing outside Dundalk Middle School handing out leaflets for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. this afternoon and admiring his work from 12 hours before.

“Did you see all the signs?” said Hadfield, who had been part of a group of volunteers who went from about 10 p.m. through the night and into the morning planting hundreds of signs here and at polling places nearby. “You think we have a few Ehrlich signs?”

He counted 175 here, another 75 at Logan Elementary, another 50 at Dundalk Church of the Brethren. He’s a Democrat all the way, he said, and believes in what he called “Democratic values,” which he said are “liberal. … I people in helping people.”

And in that spirit, he said he’s heading a group of Democrats for the Republican former governor, Ehrlich, over the Democratic incumbent, Martin O’Malley.

Ehrlich is “the better man for the job, in this time, in this area,” said Hadfield, whose 25-year-old son, Jordan, mounted a strong primary challenge against longtime state Sen. Norman Stone in District 6.

Three main reasons for his allegiance in this one race, Hadfield said: jobs, jobs and jobs.
“We’ve lost 142,000 jobs” in the Dundalk area over the last 40 years, he said, a fact he doesn’t necessarily blame on every office holder. They just don’t seem to have done enough to bring in new jobs, he said.

“I teach all 12th graders” in Dundalk High School, said Hadfield, who teaches technology. “They can’t wait to get out of Dundalk.”

In his view, “O’Malley has done nothing for this district,” and Ehrlich has a plan to establish business incubators in Dundalk, Essex, Edgemere and Rosedale to help build new companies, and to reform the tax code to give businesses a break.

He was spending the day passing out literature to voters here and nearby precincts, and said he was finding a most receptive audience in an area where Ehrlich – who grew up on the other side of Baltimore County in Arbutus – has always been an unusually popular Republican.

“Ehrlich all the way,” said Hadfield, referring to the response from voters he’s talked with.

Arthur Hirsch

Posted by Andy Rosen at 1:57 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: In The Counties, Maryland election 2010

Maryland election 2010: O'Malley 'proud of the campaign we've run'

Swinging by a poll in Columbia about an hour ago, Gov. Martin O'Malley posed for photos with Howard County Executive Ken Ulman volunteers and thanked election judges before hitting the trail again. The Democratic incumbent's hectic final campaign day has included stops at a poll in Springdale and at Leisure World senior center in Silver Spring. He heads now to Baltimore.

O'Malley said he is "proud of the campaign we've run," and said he believes he has convinced voters to reelect him today. He said his Republican challenger, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., asked the wrong question in campaign ads that invoked former President Ronald Reagan's, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"

"We're all worse off," O'Malley said, noting the national recession. "The questions is, is Maryland moving forward" ahead of other states. He said he believes the answer is yes.

O'Malley predicted that early voting results, scheduled to be made public shortly after polls close at 8 p.m. "will closely reflect" the outcome of the election.

About 220,000 Marylanders voted early, taking advantage of the state's new system. They account for about 6.3 percent of the electorate. O'Malley called that a good sample, especially given that no major events -- such as a hurricane or crime spree -- have happened since early voting concluded Thursday.

Outside of Columbia's Long Reach High School, an independent voter approached O'Malley to tell him she'd voted for him because he supports President Barack Obama. Fatima Reyhani, 59, of Columbia then asked him for tips on who to choose down ballot.

Reviewing a sample ballot Reyhani had brought along, O'Malley suggested several people whom he had appointed to various positions.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:22 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Maryland election 2010: Write-in campaign in BaltCo

Julian Jones recalled an encounter with an enthusiastic supporter for his write-in campaign as he greeted voters at Milford Mill Academy this morning. Unfortunately for Jones, who is running for County Council, the voter had written him in as a candidate for delegate.

"Jones, I wrote you in," the man told him,"because I can't stand that damn [Del. Emmett] Burns."

"That's the challenge of running a write-in campaign. I anticipate a certain percentage of that happening," Jones said, "but I'm encouraged that we'll make it up."

Jones is campaigning for Ken Oliver's 4th District seat. Oliver narrowly defeated him in the the September primary.

Meanwhile, Oliver was making a quick stop at his Liberty Road campaign headquarters before going back to the polls. He doesn't have a Republican opponent.

It was an unusual Election Day for the two-term councilman. He's never experienced a write-in campaign, not even as a volunteer on other campaigns.

"I just find it interesting that people really want to write in," Oliver said. "To me, the public has spoken when they vote in the primary. That's just me. But again, that's their right to write in."

Raven Hill

Posted by Andy Rosen at 12:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: In The Counties, Maryland election 2010

Maryland Election 2010: Ehrlich: 'A historic day'

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. arrived at the Rolling Knolls Elementary School in a two SUV convoy to vote this morning.

"This is a historic day," Ehrlich told reporters, saying voters have the "opportunity to correct what is wrong with Maryland." He said that he's more calm this Election Day compared with the previous two and added that he's enjoyed the race. "I love the competition," he said. "I love the debates."

Ehrlich and his wife Kendel checked in with poll workers and then waited in a line that snaked around the school's gym.

Kendel Ehrlich said she has "no regrets" about her husband's decision to run and was pleased with the campaign on their end. "He ran the campaign that he wanted to run. This was the year to do it."

In contrast, she felt that Gov. Martin O'Malley took the low road by coming out with an early attack ad. "Hopefully nasty doesn't win," she said.

In recent days her husband has said she played a key role in convincing him to take on O'Malley. "I should be credited with the encouragement," she said. "We are fortunate that life is good no matter what."
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

GOP's Brian Murphy to watch from home

Onetime Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Brian Murphy will watch the election results come in from the comfort of his couch in Montgomery County, his spokeswoman said. Murphy was on our what-to-watch list (No. 9) this morning. His home-bound plans make this a bit more challenging.

The tea party favorite captured about 24 percent of votes in the September primary against Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Since then, the former governor has embraced him as "the future of the Republican party."

But Murphy won't be joining Ehrlich at the state fairgrounds in Timonium tonight. The investor with a Smith Island bakery has a wife and lots of young children and prefers to stay home with them tonight, said his spokeswoman Karla Graham. Murphy called Ehrlich this morning, telling him to "knock 'em dead," Graham said.  

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:13 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Maryland election 2010: Brochin's car not cooperating

Democratic state Sen. James Brochin of Baltimore County has been running hard to hold onto his seat for a third term against tough competition this year from conservative Republican Kevin Carney, a small businessman and president of the Maryland Community Builders Foundation. At Riderwood Elementary School this morning, though, his car had apparently given up the fight.

“It won’t start, it just won’t turn over,” said Brochin of his bronze-colored, 2004 Chrysler Sebring, which got him to the school all right shortly before 7 a.m., but when he went to head off to his next stop a few miles away in Ruxton, turning the key in the ignition produced nothing more than a click.

He hitched a ride with a volunteer for the campaign of House of Delegates candidate Oz Bengur, but said he’d be back to see to his ailing vehicle and call a mechanic. Perhaps the trouble was a fuse, he thought aloud.

But could it also be an ominous Election Day omen?

“I don’t know,” said Brochin, climbing into a black Volvo for the next stop. “I’ll tell you after 8 o’clock.”

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: In The Counties, Maryland election 2010

Holt pitches for black vote in Randallstown

Republican Ken Holt worked the crowd at Randallstown High School on Tuesday, hoping to pick up more votes than conventional political wisdom would suggest he could in the predominantly African American community.

Holt, who is running against Democrat Kevin Kamenetz for Baltimore County Executive, said he believed that voters would be intrigued by his proposal to build a Negro League-themed museum and heritage park along the struggling Liberty Road corridor.

"I felt that if I were here and had the opportunity to articulate the vision, then I could get people excited about my candidacy," he said.

He was then interrupted by a woman who said she voted for him. Holt shook her hand and thanked her for the support.

Another voter cut to the chase: What kind of influence would he have on the schools?

Holt assured the woman that he would have an "active role in how the schools operate." He shared his ideas about providing mentors for parents and students, and improving career training in local schools. For example, he'd like for students to get accounting, marketing and retail experience that they could use close to home at the museum and park.

He gave her his business card.

"I hope that you keep in touch with me so we can work together on these issues," Holt said.

She said that she would.

-Raven Hill

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: In The Counties, Maryland election 2010

Kamenetz starts in Owings Mills, swings east

One more handshake, one more quick pitch for one more vote with less than 12 hours to go before Baltimore County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz's years-long effort to win the county executive seat would be decided in the final count.

"I'm Kevin Kamenetz, I'm running for county executive. I'm going to do a good job for you," said the Democratic nominee, greeting another voter outside Riderwood Elementary School this morning, his second stop on a planned swing from his home turf on the northwest side to Towson and perhaps farther east.

"I get to see the sunrise and the sunset today," said Kamenetz, 52, a lawyer who lives in Owings Mills and has served on the council for 16 years. After a his primary campaign that featured a series of attack ads against his chief rival, fellow councilman, Joseph Bartenfelder, Kamenetz acknowledged that the tone had shifted against Republican Kenneth C. Holt, 59, a former state delegate from Kingsville.

“Our message has been very positive,” said Kamenetz. “I haven’t really let up” the pace of campaigning, he said, although he has not been holding the regular news conferences that he did during the primary season.

Turnout seemed light at Riderwood, but he said it was steady in his previous stop at Har Sinai Congregation near his home. He said he’d been encouraged by very strong early voting at Randallstown Community Center in the neighboring District 4, which Kamenetz used to represent on the council. The county Board of Elections said early voting there was the highest in the county. Local political enthusiasts have said that if voters turn out in their customary big numbers in Kamenetz’s stronghold on the northwest, it will be very difficult for the lesser-known Holt to make up the ground elsewhere.

Asked about the feeling of arriving finally at Election Day after years of planning, fundraising and campaigning, Kamenetz smiled and paraphrased “The Candidate,” a 1972 movie starring Robert Redford.

“The final line was ‘What do we do tomorrow?’ “ said Kamenetz. “I think the answer for me is, win or lose, I sleep. Then we start working again.”

-Arthur Hisch

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

Election Day begins

Campaigning draws to a close today as the focus of the election shifts from what candidates are doing to what voters are doing. By the end of the day, we hope, Marylanders will have selected a governor, senator, congressional delegation and state legislature. Citizens also are choosing local leaders, deciding whether to call a constitutional convention and, in Anne Arundel County, giving the thumbs-up or down to a slots parlor at a mall.

Find your polling place here

The Sun's politics team has sketched out nine things to watch as the day unfolds. Polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Soon after, we're expecting to get our first big clue as to how the night will shape up: the results of almost 220,000 early votes -- 6.3 percent of the electorate -- are to be released. Today's results from 23 counties and Baltimore City will roll in late.

Check this blog, The Sun's homepage and our Twitter accounts (#mdvote) for updates throughout the day. While you're at it, become a fan of our new politics page on Facebook.

The candidates for governor held their final poltiical pep rallies last night. Gov. Martin O'Malley joined Democratic leaders in Upper Marlboro while former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. returned to his boyhood neighborhood in Baltimore County for an event with Republicans.

The two will travel from poll to poll today to visit voters, as will their running mates, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Mary Kane. Ehrlich will conclude his day with an election returns watch party at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. O'Malley be awaiting results at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

Need to know more before casting your vote for governor? Review our candidate issues stories in the upper left of this blog. And be sure to check out our final issues installment, the economy. The Sun's editorial board has compiled a photo gallery highlighting the positions of the two candidates.

Please draw our attention to anything interesting you notice while voting by commenting below. Happy Election Day.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland election 2010

November 1, 2010

Another handicapper gives Harris nod over Kratovil

Independent campaign analyst Charlie Cook has tipped the Maryland One congressional race into the "lean Republican" category.

Until now, Cook had classified the Frank Kratovil-Andy Harris rematch as a tossup.

Other prognosticators, including Stu Rothenberg, publisher of an independent election newsletter, had made Harris the favorite for some time.

Cook has now put 21 Democratic incumbent or open Democratic House seats in the "lean Republican" category, including Kratovil's. Another 8 Democratic districts are in his "likely Republican" group. And he rates a total of 49 House seats now held by Democrats as pure tossups.

By contrast, only one Republican seat is in his tossup category, two others lean Democratic and a third is in the likely Democratic category.

The Cook Political Report's pre-election forecast calls for a net Republican gain of 50 to 60 House seats, "with higher Democratic losses possible." It would take a net pickup of 39 seats for Republicans to regain the control of the House that they lost in the 2006 election.

In the battle for the Senate, Cook's prediction is a Republican gain of six to eight seats, short of the net of ten needed for the GOP to take control of that chamber as well. Cook says the chances of a Senate Republican takeover "are now non-existent."

Posted by Paul West at 2:57 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Jockey Club: Laurel, Pimlico not for sale

Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club released a statement this morning to clarify that the company’s properties – including Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park Race Course – are not for sale, following a back-and-forth last week between Chuckas and David Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Cos. The two sides are locked in a bitter battle over Question A, the Anne Arundel County ballot question that will determine the future of what could be the state’s most lucrative slots parlor.

Here’s Chuckas’ statement:

“The Maryland Jockey Club facilities are not for sale. As I stated Friday morning, if Question A is approved, the Bowie Training Center will close, Laurel Park will cease racing activities with live racing in Maryland reduced to 40 days at Pimlico Race Course. These are the facts. Laurel Park will be developed, not sold, according to an existing development plan which includes mixed use commercial and residential. David Cordish knows that. This is just another in a long list of his misrepresentations.”

-Nicole Fuller

Posted by Andy Rosen at 2:08 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Slots

O'Malley's Freeze: College newspaper backs Ehrlich

Gov. Martin O'Malley never misses a chance to talk about "making college more affordable." He highlighted a years-long tuition freeze in television commercials, contrasting it with a 40 percent tuition increase while Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was governor. And he includes the freeze talking point in nearly every campaign speech. Whether he is at a retirement home in Montgomery County or a community center in Baltimore, it always inspires enthusiastic applause.

One group is not impressed: The Diamondback. The editorial board of the University Of Maryland's independent newspaper this morning endorsed Ehrlich.

The Diamondback wrote that the tuition freeze under O'Malley wasn't all roses and sunshine, noting that it prompted furlough days that harmed staff morale and didn't include student fees, which continued to rise. After four years of freezes, the first of which began under Ehrlich, tuition went up 3 percent this year. The editorial board said both candidates have acknowledged that tuition is likely to go up again next year, "Ehrlich has been more forthright about this unpopular reality."

Both candidates have collected newspaper endorsements across the state. The editorial boards of The Sun and The Post both back O'Malley, while the opinion pages of The Gazette, The Washington Times and others support Ehrlich.

The Diamondback's choice of Ehrlich over the Democratic candidate comes about a month after an editorial that blasted the Republican's taxing policies.

"The naive proposal to cut the sales tax to a level already deemed impractical is not only obvious pandering to anxious voters, it's reckless, too," that editorial concluded. The Sept. 28 piece also noted that "Ehrlich's support of higher education has long been questionable."

Today's editorial endorsing Ehrlich warns "our support comes with significant reservations," but says Ehrlich "has presented a clear vision for the future of higher education in this state."

Diamondback Opinion Editor Justin Snow said the editorial board interviewed both candidates. The endorsement, Snow said in an email, "comes from the perspective of higher education, not all the issues as a whole."

In his interview, Ehrlich committed to increasing need-based aid as tuition rises, while O'Malley focused on the past tuition freeze and "shied away from" talking about how he would approach higher education if reelected, Snow said. 

O'Malley's campaign had no comment. Ehrlich's campaign has touted The Diamondback endorsement on his Facebook page.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:20 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Final campaign weekend in photos

In their final 24 hours of campaigning Gov. Martin O'Malley and his challenger former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich plan to hold dueling rallies, with O'Malley pumping up supporters in Upper Marlboro and Ehrlich set to lead cheers in his hometown Arbutus.

Both candidates are on the go today -- Team O'Malley has a packed 16 event schedule. Ehrlich is swinging from the DC suburbs where he'll much doughnuts with Moms for Ehrlich and then head to Wegman's in Baltimore County to great voters.  

Sun reporters have trailed the candidates to most events in the final days. Last week the O'Malley duty fell to Sun reporter Jean Marbella who spent a few days on "the Katie" and reported that the governor "has methodically developed a loyal political network that, come election time, serves him well."

Our colleague Childs Walker trailed Ehrlich, kept a close eye on Ehrlich who is focusing on hot button issues like immigration and health care and is "spoiling for a fight."

Julie Bykowicz and I took the weekend shift with the candidates and reported that "a confident Gov. Martin O'Malley headlined events across the state, from Southern Maryland to Baltimore, while former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took a more low-key approach, mostly checking in at gatherings organized for other purposes."

We kept our iPhones out, and snapped also photos from the trail.

On Saturday, Bykowicz captured O'Malley emerging from a dilapidated trailer home in Nanjemoy, a tiny rural Southern Maryland town. He had just met a woman living with paranoid schizophrenia. (See left).

The town's residents are some of the poorest in the state, and some live without electricity and running water.

 And on Sunday, O'Malley donned a Ravens jacket (right) and greeted residents in Cherry Hill. Some said they have voted for him ever since his first citywide run, for mayor.




Ehrlich started the weekend with a Saturday rally in Dundalk (below, left), where he stood on stage with Baltimore City Councilman Nick D'Adamo, one of several Democratic elected officials who said their ties to Ehrlich are stronger than their party allegiance.

(Baltimore's City Council is comprised completely of Democrats, though D'Adamo's colleagues frequently refer to him as the Republican on the council.)

Later in the day Ehrlich was moved by the unexpected outpouring of support from a roomful of 250 Russian immigrants, many who support him out of a concern that O'Malley policies represent a turn toward the socialist system of government the fled.

He suspended his usual no-drinking rule and downed half a shot of cognac with the elders who toasted to him.








Posted by Annie Linskey at 8:42 AM | | Comments (0)
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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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