June 13, 2011

Andy Barth: Journalist. Flak. Movie star?

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr's campaign spokesman will be back on the small screen -- playing a political journalist.

Andy Barth wrote an op-ed in today's Sun about a bit part he landed in Game Change, an HBO made for TV movie about the 2008 presidential election that is being filmed in Baltimore. Barth plays a political journalist and his one-line part involves a woman-on-the-street interview with a Sarah Palin supporter. The supporter is at a Palin rally, and Barth provides an amusing anecdote about how hundreds of extras must cheer in the background each time he does a take of the scene.

It's a role that pulls together a number of previous jobs that Barth has held. He was a real journalist for WMAR. He also ran for Congress unsuccessfully (as a Democrat). Most recently he was a spokesman for Ehrlich's 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Memorable work included a series of web videos about the campaign where Barth pretended to be a reporter.

Continue reading "Andy Barth: Journalist. Flak. Movie star? " »

Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:12 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

March 15, 2011

Ehrlich lands job at Washington law firm

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich will be joining the Washington, D.C., offices of King & Spalding, a mega-sized law firm with offices all over the globe.

Ehrlich, who was unsuccessful in his challenge last year of Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, said he will be doing government affairs work for the firm, which will include attracting new clients. He described the work as helping to "grow the business."

The former governor said that his close ties with the office's managing partner, J. Sedwick "Wick" Sollers, was a reason he decided to work for the firm. The two went to rival high schools in Baltimore (Ehrlich to Gilman and Sollers to St. Paul's). The two also attended Princeton together. 

"I've known him since high school, that was one of the determining factors," Ehrlich said in an interview.

Long-time Ehrlich aide Greg Massoni will also work for the firm. He will be in the communications shop. Ehrlich said there could be additional announcements about other aides shortly.

It'll be Ehrlich's second stint a big-time firm. After he lost the gubernatorial race in 2006 he took a job with the Baltimore offices of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice.

There he worked as a government affairs specialist and made nearly $800,000 a year.

Ehrlich said he and his wife are still considering doing another radio show, but his focus is now on national politics. He said he'll appear on FOX News this Friday and will be doing the cable talk show circuit. He's also working on a book.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 8:08 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

December 17, 2010

Investigators raid home of Ehrlich robocaller

Investigators for the state prosecutor on Friday raided the home and office of Julius Henson, the political operative who ordered the controversial Election Day robocalls for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Emmet C. Davitt, Maryland’s new state prosecutor, declined to comment on the raid. Neither Henson nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Friday.

WBAL-TV, which broke the news of the morning raid, aired footage showing investigators carrying boxes away from Henson's home from an early morning raid.

Henson, a Democratic operative who was working this year for the Republican Ehrlich, ordered more than 112,000 robocalls before the polls closed on Election Day last month.

The calls focused on Democratic precincts in Baltimore and Prince George’s County. The recorded message featured a female voice suggesting that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley had already won the election and encouraging supporters to stay home.

The woman told voters to “relax” because “Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful.… Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight.”

Nobody answered the door Friday at Henson’s home on Decker Street. There was also nobody answering Friday afternoon at his office on North Charles Street.

Henson has acknowledged orchestrating the calls. He told The Baltimore Sun last month that the message was meant to encourage turnout.

“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 said in early November. “It never said, ‘Don't vote.’ ”

Henson said Ehrlich “probably” did not know about the calls. Ehrlich’s campaign paid Henson $111,000 for “community outreach.”

Ehrlich told the Annapolis Capital last week that the calls were “done outside of my purview.” When news of the calls broke on Election Night, an Ehrlich spokesman called them “absolutely irresponsible.”

Continue reading "Investigators raid home of Ehrlich robocaller" »

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

November 17, 2010

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

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

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

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.

Continue reading "O'Malley's Freeze: College newspaper backs Ehrlich" »

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

October 29, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "O'Malley rallies base in Prince George's Co." »

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

Democrats promoting Libertarian to undermine Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Democrats promoting Libertarian to undermine Harris " »

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

October 28, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Hoyer: Kratovil "batting .800-plus with us"" »

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

Sen. Munson, defeated in primary, runs in general

* Updated with Shank reaction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Sen. Munson, defeated in primary, runs in general" »

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

Ehrlich draws line between taxes and fees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kratovil-Harris race nears top of spending list

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Kratovil-Harris race nears top of spending list" »

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

October 27, 2010

Ehrlich says he probably wouldn't run again

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Ehrlich says he probably wouldn't run again" »

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

Dialing-for-votes: Robocalls in Maryland

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 26, 2010

Danny Schuster puts another $47,200 behind Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Rockfish Republicans' are target in First

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

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

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

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

You can check out the new ad by clicking here.

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

Wargotz hits the airwaves at last

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

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

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

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

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

October 25, 2010

Uneventful Mikulski, Wargotz debate strikes few sparks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Uneventful Mikulski, Wargotz debate strikes few sparks" »

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

Governor's race issues: Crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some comparisons between the two polls.

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

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

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

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

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

October 23, 2010

Ehrlich has increased media spending

Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Bykowicz reports:

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Ehrlich has increased media spending" »

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

Biden to raise dough for Kratovil

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

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

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

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

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

October 22, 2010

DGA makes an argument for Ehrlich?

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

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

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

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

Political stars shine anew in governor's race

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Political stars shine anew in governor's race" »

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

October 21, 2010

WOLB gubernatorial debate wrap-up

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "WOLB gubernatorial debate wrap-up" »

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

Governor candidates take to radio this morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 20, 2010

Democrats up ante; put $1 million behind Kratovil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ehrlich's fashion show fundraiser

A dispatch from Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Ehrlich's fashion show fundraiser" »

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

October 19, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gilchrest gives nod to O'Malley

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

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

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

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

National Democats hardly giving up on Kratovil

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

October 14, 2010

Live blog of second O'Malley-Ehrlich debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Live blog of second O'Malley-Ehrlich debate" »

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

Sun coverage of today's noon debate in DC

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

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

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

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

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

O'Malley and Ehrlich square off again at noon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tax increases are also measured as a percentage of the state's revenues. The 1967 tax increase jacked up state general fund revenues by 26 percent, accord the DLS. The 2007 increases added a 5.8 percent increase to state revenues, says DLS.

Continue reading "O'Malley and Ehrlich square off again at noon" »

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

October 12, 2010

Clinton to star in Baltimore rally for O'Malley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governor debate post-mortem begins

** UPDATE **

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

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


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

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

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

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

October 11, 2010

Candidates agree to second televised debate

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

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

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

O'Malley camp declares victory

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

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

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

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

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

Ehrlich: No post-debate spin

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

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

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

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

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

O'Malley camp reaction coming soon.

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

Governor debate: Pep rallies in parking lot

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

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

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

-- Photos by Annie Linskey.

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

Debate day

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 8, 2010

Chamber of Commerce promoting Kratovil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third-party gov candidates demand to be in debate

Updated 5 p.m.

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

*** End update.

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Third-party gov candidates demand to be in debate" »

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

Another governor debate takes shape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 7, 2010

Bill Clinton to fundraise for Kratovil

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama stumps for O'Malley

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

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

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

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

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

Crowds: We are not the Tea Party

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

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

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

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

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

Maryland Democrats fire up Obama crowd

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

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

A selection of their comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crowds gather at Bowie for Obama rally

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Crowds gather at Bowie for Obama rally" »

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

Tweeting from the O'Malley-Obama rally

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

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

October 6, 2010

Ehrlich would cut education dollars (still)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Ehrlich would cut education dollars (still)" »

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

Poll: Harris and Kratovil in tight rematch

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

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

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

When the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error is taken into account, the contest is a statistical tie. The survey of 400 likely voters was conducted September 28-30.

The results reflect the strong Republican leanings of the district, which went for the Republican presidential ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin over Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden by almost 20 points.

However, the survey offers some flickers of hope for Kratovil, considered one of the most endangered Democrats in the country. It shows him winning independent voters by a 38-35 margin.

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Posted by Paul West at 7:28 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

October 5, 2010

Former Bartenfelder backer endorses Kamenetz

The Baltimore Sun's Raven Hill reports:

Defeated Baltimore County Council candidate Bill Paulshock, who ran on Joe Bartenfelder’s ticket in the primary, plans to back Kevin Kamenetz in the general election.

Though he said he will not make an endorsement in the 5th District race between fellow Democrat Mike Ertel and Republican David Marks, he left little doubt about where his loyalties lie.

“I feel David is the most qualified at this point,” said Paulshock, adding that he’s known Marks for years through his work on various committees and community organizations. “I’ve seen firsthand how he works. He’s very professional. He cares about people. If I had to make a choice, David is the most qualified.”

Paulshock asked his backers to support Kamenetz in a statement that outlines his reasons:

“My decision to endorse Kevin for County Executive was an easy decision for me. Over the past year of campaigning, I have come to realize the type of leader that it takes to run Baltimore County Government. That leader must be experienced; possess the knowledge and capability to oversee the operations of Government; and must surround himself with professional and experienced personnel. Kevin Kamenetz satisfies all of these requirements.”

The Kamenetz endorsement shouldn’t be taken as a knock against Bartenfelder, he said.

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Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (2)

October 4, 2010

National GOP goes after Kratovil

The national Republican Party's House campaign arm is on the air on the Eastern Shore with a new ad that attacks incumbent Frank Kratovil's support for the federal stimulus program.

Republican Andy Harris, a veteran state lawmaker from the suburbs north of Baltimore, is challenging Kratovil, an endangered Democratic freshman, in one of the closest House contests in the country. The Democratic campaign committee was the first to enter the general election fight with TV advertising aimed at district voters.

The 30-second Republican spot, airing in the Salisbury market on broadcast TV and running on cable in the Baltimore market, tries to exploit Kratovil's support for the unpopular stimulus program. It also is designed to undermine his claims to independence, noting that he voted for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker (the ad does not explain, of course, that only Republicans voted against making Pelosi speaker, as is normally the case; votes for speaker routinely follow party lines).

The Republican commercial describes the stimulus as "failed," an assessment at odds with the judgment of many economists. According to an August report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus helped pull the nation out of the deepest recession since the Depression and provided jobs to between 1.4 million and 3.3 million people nationwide.

Kratovil voted against the stimulus the first time it went through the House in 2009, then approved the revised version. He has made public appearances in the district to highlight projects funded by the $814 billion spending measure.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which targeted Kratovil even before he took office, financed new TV ads in 27 districts across the country over the weekend, including Maryland One, which takes in the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.

An NRCC official said the committee has reserved more than $532,000 in TV ad time in the Maryland district through the Nov. 2 election, which is four weeks from Tuesday. Click here to view the latest ads, including the anti-Kratovil spot.

Continue reading "National GOP goes after Kratovil" »

Posted by Paul West at 12:22 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Mikulski: Big lead but no longer biggest favorite

It has been a standard line for years about Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski: She's "the most popular politician in Maryland." 

Not any more, apparently.

Mikulski is still viewed favorably by Maryland voters.  A total of 52 percent of registered voters in a newly released Washington Post poll gave her a favorable rating.

But that's down from 64 percent favorability in the same poll, in January, 2004, the last time she ran for re-election.

By comparison, the statewide poll, conducted Sept. 22-26, showed two other politicians whom Maryland voters view more favorably than Mikulski: Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, rated favorably by 64 percent,  and Republican nominee Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., by 55 percent (that last number falls within the poll's margin of error with Mikulski's, but O'Malley's does not).

Continue reading "Mikulski: Big lead but no longer biggest favorite" »

Posted by Paul West at 11:03 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

O'Malley begins final drive

Gov. Martin O'Malley will tour the state in a recreational vehicle he's calling the "On Your Side Express," as he pushes toward the Nov. 2 election that pits him against former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

O'Malley, a Democrat, is to kick off the tour today with a stop at the University of Maryland in College Park. There, he'll be introduced by one of the "real Marylanders" featured in a recent television commercial highlighting his tuition freeze (with thawed this year with a 3 percent increase) and its impact in making state schools more affordable. The young Harford County woman says her family wouldn't have been able to send her to school if tuition had continued to rise.

The governor will then hop into the 31-foot RV and head to businesses in Prince George's County. His tour over the next four weeks will cross Maryland, from the Eastern Shore to its mountainous western points. At stops along the way, he'll pull out a kitchen table -- a reference to his "kitchen table talks" on the campaign trail -- and talk to voters. He'll decorate the table wiith stickers and memorabilia from the trail. He hopes to install the table in the State House at the the start of his second term, his aides say.

This is a busy week for O'Malley: On Thursday, President Barack Obama will campaign for him at Bowie State University.

Ehrlich, meanwhile, is discussing agriculture today in Frederick County's Walkersville. The Republican candidate has not yet released his plans for the rest of the week.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:36 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

September 30, 2010

O'Malley and Ehrlich agree to debate on WJZ

Yes, you read that correctly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington business groups backs O'Malley

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

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

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

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

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

Ehrlich would cut education money

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

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

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

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

NRA endorses Kratovil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Dems put $125,000 more into Maryland


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

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

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

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

Continue reading "National Dems put $125,000 more into Maryland" »

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

September 29, 2010

Dueling endorsements: NYC mayors for Md. govs

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

Neither endorsement was a surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

Mother to replace Green nominee on ballot

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

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

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

Continue reading "Mother to replace Green nominee on ballot" »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 28, 2010

Obama coming to Maryland for O'Malley

** Updated with location information **

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Clinton to headline Mikulski fundraiser

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

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

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

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

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

Cardin off the 2010 ballot but in the game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Cardin off the 2010 ballot but in the game" »

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

September 27, 2010

AFSCME backs O'Malley; FOP for Ehrlich

* Updated Monday with comments from AFSCME and FOP presidents. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "AFSCME backs O'Malley; FOP for Ehrlich" »

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

September 24, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Harris challenges Kratovil to joint appearances; incumbent counters with multi-candidate debates" »

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

O'Malley visits Montgomery County kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 23, 2010

Boehner to raise money for Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the lowdown:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Biden hopes Mikulski has coattails, finds silver lining in tea party wins" »

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

Bainums host Biden and Mikulski at funder

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

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

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

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

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

September 22, 2010

Biden to shake Maryland money tree for Mikulski

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

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

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

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

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

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

DGA to fund anti-Ehrlich ads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "DGA to fund anti-Ehrlich ads" »

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

September 21, 2010

Jim Smith reminds Balto Co voters about Ehrlich snub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 20, 2010

Ras poll puts O'Malley at 50; Ehrlich 47

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

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

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

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

The poll also showed that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 19, 2010

O'Malley gets nod from NYC mayor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wargotz campaign brings Bo Harmon back to Maryland politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 17, 2010

Defeated foe backs Harris in Maryland One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kratovil first to go negative in Maryland One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ehrlich maps issues; O’Malley not impressed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(More on Ehrlich's plan after jump)

Continue reading "Ehrlich maps issues; O’Malley not impressed" »

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

Jessamy to concede to Bernstein for State's Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

O'Malley returns to kitchen, Ehrlich to barber

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "O'Malley returns to kitchen, Ehrlich to barber" »

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

September 15, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Five Maryland pols who are feeling better today..and two less so" »

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

House of Delegates loses few incumbents

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

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

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

Continue reading "House of Delegates loses few incumbents" »

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

BaltCo exec: Holt comes out swinging at Kamenetz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Arthur Hirsch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wargotz to face Mikulski in November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislative dust settling: changes in Senate

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

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

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

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

More close calls and interesting matchups:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Murphy says he'll endorse Ehrlich

Capital News Service reporter Stacy Jones reports from Crofton:

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Murphy says he'll endorse Ehrlich" »

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

September 14, 2010

Harris bypasses Kratovil, aims for Pelosi

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Harris bypasses Kratovil, aims for Pelosi" »

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

Steele congratulates Republican winners

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

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

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

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

Republican governors congratulate Ehrlich

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

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

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

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

Bartenfelder hitting every polling place he can

Talk about taking the pressure casually. Baltimore County executive candidate Joseph Bartenfelder voted this morning in his undershirt at the Fullerton Fire Station, although that wasn't exactly the plan. They made him remove his black campaign polo shirt before he stepped to the voting booth in deference to the rule against electioneering in a polling place.

So there the county councilman and former member of the Maryland House of Delegates
stood in his white T-shirt, olive drab khakis and athletic shoes casting his vote in his race against fellow council member Kevin Kamenetz, who was working the polls in a navy pinstripe suit, tie and black loafers.

Bartenfelder slipped the polo shirt back on after voting, the 131st Democrat to cast a ballot at the fire station by a bit after 11 a.m. It was the ninth stop of his morning polling place tour on his east-side home turf before heading over the west side.

“It’s a pretty day, it’s a great day for everybody to get out and vote,” said Bartenfelder, 53, a farmer from Fullerton, four-term county councilman and former state delegate. Kamenetz, an Owings Mills attorney who had planned to spend a good part of the day on his own west-side turf.

Continue reading "Bartenfelder hitting every polling place he can" »

Posted by Andy Rosen at 12:06 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, In The Counties, Primaries 2010

Veteran BaltCo voters look for Jim Smith qualities

Voters in the Owings Mills said that when they cast their primary ballots for county executive Tuesday, they chose a candidate that most closely resembled the leadership Baltimore County has been afforded for the last six years.

Issues such as leadership presence, education and smart growth were among those on residents’ minds when they headed to polls at Owings Mills High after the early morning rush Tuesday morning.

“It’s a shame that Jim Smith decided to enjoy life more,” joked Sheila Hoster, 62, of Owings Mills.

Hoster said that education brought her to the primary polls because “no matter how you look at it, there are too many students slipping through the cracks, and we need more programs for them.”

She said she believed that Baltimore County Councilman Joe Bartenfelder had the right ideas for the job.

Carla Ward, 45, of Owings Mills also said she cast her ballot with education at the forefront, particularly in how the next county executive will handle accommodating the exorbitant amount of population growth taking place in the county. She also said that there needed to be more investment in existing business hubs, such as the dilapidated Owings Mills Mall.

Ward said that Smith “served us well in the county executive seat,” commending him for opening new schools, and keeping the county fiscally sound. But, the time for change is welcomed, she said, stopping short of naming who she thought was the next best candidate for the job.

“I’ve become weary of the status quo, so I’m looking for a change agent in the county executive office,” she said.

When asked what he looked for in a candidate, 70-year-old A. Pinkney, a Democrat, said that he “would like to see someone follow in Jim Smith’s footsteps." He said he wanted the new county executive to continue to be “in and around all the things happening in the county.”

-- Erica L. Green

Posted by Maryann James at 11:59 AM | | Comments (0)

Light turnout early, as Kamenetz starts on west side

Baltimore County executive candidate Kevin Kamenetz put on the navy pinstripe suit, the black loafers, powder blue shirt and blue patterned necktie and headed out shortly before 7 this morning to begin his rounds of polling places. He planned seven stops from his home turf on the west side to the central part of the county in the 13 hours until the polls close and this phase of the campaign ends.

First stop Har Sinai Congregation as the polls opened at 7, minutes from Kamenetz’s home in Owings Mills, then on to Fort Garrison Elementary School in Pikesville, where the county councilman stood out front greeting voters, who at about 9 a.m. were greatly outnumbered by poll workers.

“This traditionally has been one of my strongest precincts,” said Kamenetz, 52, a lawyer who has served on the council since December, 1994. His chief opponent for the Democratic nomination, Joseph Bartenfelder, a former state delegate from the east side of the county, took his seat on the council at the same time. Bartenfelder hit nine precincts on the east side in the morning before heading over to the western part of the county.

“This is the precinct that got me elected in 1994, and they’ve been very supportive ever since,” said Kamenetz.

So far, there were precious few voters to support anyone at the school on Woodvalley Drive, the location of two election precincts – one in a multi-purpose room, one in the cafeteria -- with a combined registration of more than 5,000 voters, the overwhelming number of them Democrats.

Continue reading "Light turnout early, as Kamenetz starts on west side" »

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, In The Counties, Primaries 2010

Howard County turnout light so far

Turnout in Howard County appeared very light, despite the gorgeous weather.

Guy Mickley, deputy Howard election board administrator, said one county precinct had reported only three voters showed up in the first 90 minutes the polls were open. At Clarksville Middle School, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and a gaggle of supporters far outnumbered the occasional voter who showed up.

"This is our polling place," said Ulman as his wife Jaki stood nearby. "We like to come here, if only to see friends and neighbors."

Ulman is backing incumbent Democratic county councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty in the county's hottest Democratic primary.

Alan Klein, Sigaty's opponent in one of the few primary races in the county, was also at Clarksville. He said that precinct and the one across the street at Pointers Run Elementary school "are the two biggest precincts."

-Larry Carson

Posted by Maryann James at 9:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Primaries 2010

Campaign workers outnumber voters as polls open

At Francis Scott Key Elementary School in South Baltimore’s Locust Point, a trickle of voters strolled past six campaign workers set up in the middle of the parking lot. Just past 8 a.m., most people appeared rushed, and they sped off to work after voting.

Signs for “Della” dominated the landscape, including several on a pickup truck decked out in red, white and blue bunting and parked near a sign that advertised the school’s “Grandparents Day,” which had occurred Monday.

Patti Berky drove to the school from Riverside and echoed a common complaint: “There was too much literature. I heard that from a lot of people. But I guess it’s good to have an informed electorate."

She said the advertising didn’t sway her, but she was pleased to “see some new names on the signs. It’s good that more people are involved.”

For Berky, the central race is the one for state’s attorney – pitting incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy against attorney Gregg Bernstein. It’s one of the most hotly contested races in this primary, and the two Democrats have fought hard on the issue of crime and who is best suited to make the city safer.

“I think we need to move in a different direction,” Berky said, while politely declining to say for whom she voted. “I’m not pleased with the way things have gone in that arena.”

In the span of about 45 minutes, just a handful of voters made their way to the polls. It appeared a bit busier at other polling places, such as Federal Hill Elementary School on William Street. But there too, campaign workers clogged the sidewalk, outnumbering the 8:30 a.m. voters six to one.

-- Peter Hermann

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 8:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Primaries 2010

A slow start in Columbia

From reporter Larry Carson, a look at the start of primary day in Howard County:

Warren B. Mayo III of Columbia said he came straight from his 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift as a technician for public broadcasting in Northern Virginia to vote, even though there is little at stake on the Democrat's primary ballot.

"It's my right to vote. My voice can be heard through voting," the 35-year-old said.

He was one of four people who stood at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center when it opened at 7 a.m. The parking lot was festooned with a campaign signs, but no poll workers or candidates were in sight.

Tim Zayatz, 45, the second voter to arrive, is a Republican. He said he came to support former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., for the GOP nomination.

"I figured they'd have a line," he said, and he wanted to beat it. Last night he said he received a robo call at home from Sarah Palin touting the candidacy of Ehrlich rival Brian Murphy, but it did no good, he said.

Two others, both Democrats, also arrived just as the doors opened for the day. Richard Krantz, 70, said he and his wife Nancy are "dedicated citizens and believe in our right to vote."

Posted by Maryann James at 7:27 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Primaries 2010

Primary Day: Polls are open

It's Primary Day, and about 1,900 polls across the state opened moments ago. They'll close at 8 p.m. -- making for a long day for election observers and candidates in the tightest of primary races.

Click here to find out if you're a registered Democrat or Republican (the only voters allowed to cast ballots today) and where to vote. More than 77,000 of you voted early this month; results from those ballots will be released shortly after 8 p.m. Another 18,000 of you returned no-excuse-needed absentee ballots, which will be tallied in a few days.

Maryland is one of seven states and the District of Columbia with primaries today. It's the closest round to the Nov. 2 general election. And in a heavily Democratic state, some primary races are tantamount to final selection.

"When you watch two or three of the big jurisdictions, [the] primary is in actuality the general election," former House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. told colleague Annie Linskey in a story this morning. "Most elected officeholders will indeed be re-elected or newly elected [today]. Therefore, that creates a lot of interest."

Please click on the The Sun's Primary Guide to check out mini profiles of candidates in some key races.

Among the races we'll be watching today are the gubernatorial primaries in both races -- though Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. are expected to prevail, the Baltimore County executive Democratic primary and the Baltimore state's attorney Democratic primary.

What are you most interested in? Check this blog frequently today for updates, and let us know what's happening out there.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 7:17 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Primaries 2010

September 13, 2010

McCain backs Ehrlich in GOP primary

Former presidential candidate John McCain supports former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the Republican primary, the Associated Press is reporting.

The endorsement is extra notable because McCain's would-be vice president, Sarah Palin, backs Ehrlich challenger Brian Murphy, who has drawn the support of tea partiers for his more conservative positions.

Ehrlich is "a fine guy," McCain told the AP's Brian Witte in an interview today after a meeting of the U.S. Naval Academy's Board of Visitors.

Ehrlich said in a statement that he is "honored to have earned John McCain's trust and support."

(Ehrlich and McCain pictured at American Legion post in Halethorpe in 2008)

Continue reading "McCain backs Ehrlich in GOP primary" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:36 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Flier flap emerges in Baltimore County D6

A Baltimore County delegate has filed a complaint with the Maryland Board of Elections over a flier claiming he's partnering with a new Senate candidate and delegate hopeful rather than fellow incumbents.

Del. John Olszewski Jr. submitted an electronic complaint to the board, state prosecutor's office and to the attorney general. The faux flier asks voters to choose "Team O" and names newcomer Jordan Hadfield for Senate and Olszewski, fellow incumbent Mike Weir Jr. and newcomer Todd Crandell for delegates.

The flier carries an authorization line by Olszewski, which is why he filed a complaint on Saturday. It reads, in part:

Yesterday, many residents in my district received the attached postcard, which professes to be sent from my campaign. To be clear: I did not authorize, produce, or pay for this piece of literature, and have endorse two candidates other than listed on this postcard (I have endorsed Senator Norman Stone and Delegate Joseph "Sonny" Minnick -- and have not endorsed either of the opponents: Jordan Hadfield nor Todd Crandell, both listed on this literature).

I would like to ask for a complete investigation into this matter, and for a temporary restraining order on this literature to avoid future distribution.

Continue reading "Flier flap emerges in Baltimore County D6" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Gilchrest backs Fisher over Harris in Maryland One primary

Former Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest has delivered a late endorsement of conservative businessman Rob Fisher in the First District primary for the House seat Gilchrest held from 1991 through 2008.

Gilchrest and Fisher got together last week, just days before the Sept. 14 election, according to a release issued Sunday night by Fisher's campaign.

The meeting was described by the campaign as "one longtime Eastern Shore resident to another." Fisher is putting special emphasis on his Eastern Shore roots in his uphill primary race against state Sen. Andy Harris, who lives in the suburbs north of Baltimore.

A release issued Sunday night by Fisher's campaign contained a Gilchrest endorsement.

"I was very impressed by the knowledge and breadth of experience Rob brings to the table and appreciate that the values he learned growing up on the Eastern Shore continue to influence him today. His commitment to the issues and running a positive campaign is commendable, particularly given the exceedingly negative tone of the current political climate," Gilchrest was quoted as saying.

"Of the candidates currently competing in the Republican primary, Rob Fisher is far and above the best candidate to carry those values forward into the general election. I wish him the best this Tuesday and look forward to talking with him more as the Republican nominee for Maryland's First District," Gilchrest said, according to Fisher's campaign.

Harris defeated Gilchrest in a divisive 2008 Republican primary contest. Harris lost the historically Republican district to Democrat Frank Kratovil, who had Gilchrest's support in the general election. The wording of the Gilchrest statement leaves open the question of which candidate he would support if Fisher were to face Kratovil in November.

Posted by Paul West at 9:20 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Governor candidates ditch primary for real estate

The primary election is less than 24 hours away, but you won't find either of the major gubernatorial hopefuls trying to win over their party with campaign events today.

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. both will spend the public part of their day in Ocean City, talking this afternoon to the Maryland Association of Realtors at their annual conference.

Each person's schedule says they're making remarks at 1 p.m. It's a good bet that one of them will be late.

O'Malley, who faces two little-known challengers with no money, can safely assume he'll win his party's primary. But political observers expect disaffected Democrats to vote for others simply to send O'Malley a message.

Meanwhile, Ehrlich's day trip to the OC can be viewed as a way for him to underline his point that GOP challenger Brian Murphy isn't a threat. "I haven't given it one thought," Ehrlich told reporters before voting early Thursday, according to The Washington Post. "It is what it is. Obviously, we expect to win by significant margins."

Murphy has picked up the support of many tea partiers and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Given the mood of the national electorate, that should have Ehrlich worried. But this is Maryland.

Continue reading "Governor candidates ditch primary for real estate" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:50 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

County Council candidate touts her religion

Baltimore Sun colleague Arthur Hirsch reports:

In the race for the Baltimore County Council in District 2, with its large Jewish population, identity politics is never far below the surface.

Candidate Sherrie Becker – one of six candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the open seat being vacated by county executive candidate Kevin Kamenetz -- made a point of saying in upper case letters in a recent direct mail flier that she is the “ONLY JEWISH WOMAN CANDIDATE” in the contest.

“It’s who I am, I’m proud of who I am,” Becker, who is executive director of the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, said on Sunday. “It’s one of the things that people need to know about me.”

She quickly added that “I have always asked people to vote for me because I’m the most qualified candidate.” Because she mentioned her religion “does not mean I’m asking people to vote for me for that reason.”

She said the mailer went out in late August to Democratic voters in three district zip codes that have had the highest voter turnout in recent elections. She could not say how many households that would be.

She said part of the content of the mailer was dictated by the fact that the primary election falls between the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and was meant to wish voters a happy new year. That phrase in Hebrew, “L’Shana Tova,” appears on the mailer.

Continue reading "County Council candidate touts her religion" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (13)

September 12, 2010

Hoyer: Kratovil a top priority, will win reelection

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Sunday that Democrats “probably” will lose seats in the midterm elections — but not their majority in the House.

Appearing on CNN, Hoyer also identified freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, an Eastern Shore Democrat, as one of two House members who are “absolutely top priorities for me and for our party.”

Hoyer was responding to a front-page report in The New York Times last Sunday that the House Democrats’ campaign operation would soon be cutting funding to candidates it sees as having little chance of winning and diverting the money to more competitive races.

“If there are candidates that are very substantially behind, and they can't make it, clearly we will have to make some tough judgments,” Hoyer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“But with all due respect to my good friend [Times congressional correspondent] Carl Hulse, who I think is a terrific reporter, that decision has not been made, as Chris Van Hollen [the Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] made it very clear.

“And in fact, [Democratic Rep.] Betsy Markey [of Colorado], who was one of those, Frank Kratovil, one of those mentioned in Carl's article, are absolutely top priorities for me and for our party. Betsy Markey is tied in the polls. Frank Kratovil is slightly ahead. So these candidates are in very good shape, and they are going to win.”

Continue reading "Hoyer: Kratovil a top priority, will win reelection" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 1:03 PM | | Comments (6)

September 9, 2010

Harris (finally, almost) hitting airwaves in Maryland One

Republican congressional candidate Andy Harris is releasing his first TV commercial of the 2010 campaign, a 30-second bio-heavy spot that highlights his immigrant parents, training as a physician and five children.

The ad appears designed to soften Harris' image as a hard-edged conservative. It features footage of his photogenic family, complete with pooch.

One other noteworthy feature: The commercial identifies Harris as a Republican. That should be a plus in a district that went for John McCain by a landslide over Barack Obama in the '08 presidential election. Still, it is increasingly rare for candidates to advertise their party affiliation.

The veteran state lawmaker from Baltimore County is considered the favorite, at least by some handicappers, to take the U.S. House seat in Maryland's First District, which covers the entire Eastern Shore plus portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.

Harris has been husbanding resources for a general election rematch against freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, who beat him in 2008 and is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. The incumbent has already started running TV ads touting his independence from his party.

Harris must first win next week's Republican primary. He is opposed by conservative businessman Rob Fisher, a self-financing newcomer who's been running TV commercials for months.

The Harris ad will start running next week on broadcast outlets in the Baltimore and Salisbury markets. It was released online to supporters late Thursday afternoon.

You can watch it by clicking here. Script follows:

Continue reading "Harris (finally, almost) hitting airwaves in Maryland One" »

Posted by Paul West at 5:21 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

September 8, 2010

Health care workers union backs O'Malley

The Maryland chapter of the country's largest health care workers union announced today that it is endorsing Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley in the fall election. The union, which includes 8,000 workers at hospitals and nursing homes across the state, also backed O'Malley in 2006 and in his Baltimore mayoral campaigns.

Led by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the O'Malley administration worked this year to crack down on Medicaid fraud and to prepare the state for national health care reform. O'Malley also has expanded health care access for families in recent years.

Pat Lippold, a spokeswoman for the Maryland chapter of 1199 SEIU (Service Employees International Union), said the endorsement comes with "powerful benefits."

"We put a lot of boots on the ground for our candidates," she said. She estimated about 40-60 members would be out campaigning almost every night until the Nov. 2 election. She also noted that the union's political action committee has "vast resources"; half of the union's members voluntarily contribute $10 per week.

O'Malley will join members of the union Friday in Baltimore for the official announcement of the endorsement.

The governor's likely Republican challenger, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., recently picked up the endorsement of MCEA, Maryland Classified Employees Association.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:47 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Pence plugs Harris candidacy, raises funds

Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence is in Annapolis today to raise money for Andy Harris, the likely Republican nominee for Congress in Maryland's First District.

Pence, a prominent conservative, could figure in the reshuffling of House leaders if Republicans recapture control of the chamber in the November election, as a growing number of prognosticators are forecasting.

Pence made an unsuccessful try to become Republican leader after his party lost its House majority in the 2006 election. The man who defeated him, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, is expected to become the next House speaker.

Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia would probably move up to replace Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer as Majority Leader, the second most influential House post. And Pence, currently number three in the Republican hierarchy, could advance to Majority Whip.

That presumes, however, that there aren't other ambitious Republicans who want to climb the leadership ladder, as often happens when majority control changes hands.

Pence would appear to be better positioned than he was four years ago, when he lost to Boehner by more than 100 votes in a closed-door Republican caucus meeting. He is identified with the most conservative group of House Republicans, whose numbers are expected to expand significantly in the new Congress.

The possibility of a leadership shift is one reason Pence is traveling the country, helping Republican colleagues and would-be colleagues in key contests. If and when there is a Republican leadership election, he can cash those IOUs.

Harris is no worse than an even bet to regain Maryland's easternmost, and traditionally Republican, congressional district. Democratic freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, who narrowly defeated Harris in 2008, is regarded as one of the nation's most vulnerable incumbents and the only Maryland congressman thought to be in danger of losing his seat.

Posted by Paul West at 10:22 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

September 7, 2010

B'More Green: Candidates wade into Bay politics

The Chespeake Bay is getting some unexpected face time in recent political ads and campaign literature. Candidates are usually quiet on green issues in part because the environment barely registers in polls about what issues are important to voters.

Sister blog B'More Green notes that Bob Ehrlich, a Republican gubernatorial candidate and former governor, features the Chesapeake Bay in a television ad. And in Baltimore County's heated county executive race, the Democratic challengers have traded barbs about the environment.

From B'More Green:

"The latest, most visible example, is the ad from former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that debuted on Facebook/YouTube on Sunday and will begin airing on local TV stations later this month. The 30-second spot, "Let's Get to Work," doesn't make any specific claims or promises, just flashes through a series of reasons why the Republican candidate says he's running - including the Bay.

The campaign issues Ehrlich has been hammering throughout the summer are mentioned, including fixing the state's budget woes, helping small businesses and ensuring excellent schools for all. But the brief litany ends with what appears to be a waterman saying "Protect the Bay - Finally."

The governor's race isn't the only one where the Bay or the environment are getting some attention. In the Baltimore County executive's race, Democratic Councilman Kevin Kamenetz is hitting his primary rival, Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, for votes he made years ago as a legislator on pesticides and bayfront development.

Bartenfelder has responded with his own ad saying Kamenetz is misrepresenting his environmental record. Such green-themed campaign ads are remarkable because polling routinely shows environmental issues aren't high on most voters' minds, whether in national, state or local races. Other than limited, targeted appeals to devoted greenies, candidates rarely bring up the environment on their own."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Political ads

Harris gets nod from conservative Republican leader in House

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the third-ranking Republican in the House leadership, is lending his voice to Andy Harris' campaign for Congress.

Pence chairs the House Republican Conference and is regarded as one of the leading conservatives in Congress. He will take questions from reporters Wednesday on a conference call with Harris, a veteran state lawmaker from the Baltimore suburbs.

Harris is being challenged by political newcomer Rob Fisher in the September 14 Republican primary in Maryland's First District, which covers the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.

The winner will face freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in November. Congressional handicappers give Republicans an excellent chance of picking up the seat, which had been held by a Republican, centrist Wayne Gilchrest, for almost two decades.

Posted by Paul West at 11:20 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

September 6, 2010

Campaign finance reports out for Baltimore County executive race

Sun reporter Arthur Hirsch gives us an update from the Baltimore County executive race

Baltimore County executive candidate Kevin Kamenetz has spent four times as much on advertising as his chief opponent for the Democratic nomination, Joseph Bartenfelder, according to the last campaign finance reports that will be filed before the primary next week.

Reports show that Kamenetz, 52, a county councilman from Owings Mills, has spent $969,211 on media, as compared with $243,893 for Bartenfelder, 53, a councilman from Fullerton. Also running for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 14 primary is Ronald E. Harvey, a former county employee from Nottingham, who reported total expenses of $1,278 and a cash balance of $3,872. 

The winner will face Republican Kenneth Holt, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates who is running unopposed for his party’s nomination.

While he’s way behind in advertising spending, Bartenfelder has spent more than five times as much as Kamenetz for campaign signs, brochures and other printed materials, reflecting both a difference in resources and a different approach to the campaign. Bartenfelder’s campaign chairman, W. Michael Seganish, has said they never expected to match Kamenetz in fundraising, and have focused on using more traditional methods of posting lots of signs and relying on volunteers to get their voters out. Bartenfelder reports spending $175,987 on printing and campaign materials, compared with $33,807 for Kamenetz.

Bartenfelder  has raised $889,866 and reported a cash balance of $461,219. Kamenetz has raised $1,445,471 and reported a cash balance of $357,425.

Continue reading "Campaign finance reports out for Baltimore County executive race" »

Posted by at 3:04 PM | | Comments (0)

September 1, 2010

Baltimore Co. Councilman Moxley endorses Kamenetz

From Baltimore Sun reporter Arthur Hirsch:

Baltimore County Councilman S.G. Samuel Moxley is the last of the Democrats on the council to choose sides in the primary race for county executive between councilmen Kevin Kamenetz and Joseph Bartenfelder. His endorsement of Kamenetz could provide a lift in the southwest end of the county, where Bartenfelder is expected to run strong.

"It was a very difficult decision for me," said Moxley, who joined the council in 1994 along with Kamenetz, Bartenfelder and T. Bryan McIntire. "I think they're both good people."

He joins councilmen John Olszewski Sr. and Vincent Gardina of the east side in backing Kamenetz, who represents the area including Reisterstown, Pikesville, Ruxton and parts of Owings Mills. Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver of the west side, next to Kamenetz's district, is supporting Bartenfelder, a farmer from Fullerton. McIntire, the lone Republican on the council, has said he'll be supporting his party's candidate, Kenneth C. Holt, who is running unopposed in the primary on Sept. 14.

In describing why he chose to back Kamenetz, Moxley echoed many people who have announced their support for the 52-year-old lawyer from Owings Mills: he's smart, analyzes situations well and understands the details of policy.

Moxley, who chose not to run for a fifth term, mentioned specifically Kamenetz's role over the years as the county's negotiator with cable companies Comcast and Verizon, and his work on legislation, particularly land use law that has had impact not just in Kamenetz's 2nd District, but countywide.

"Kevin is an appropriate and good leader," said Moxley, of Catonsville. "A very intense person when it comes to issues. He does delve into the small details as well as the big picture."

Moxley said he'd be getting out to spread the word about Kamenetz, even as he acknowledged that less than two weeks before the election he still runs into many people who are unaware that Moxley himself won't be on the ballot.

"I'll do whatever I can to assist in the campaign," he said.

Posted by Maryann James at 11:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Elections

Police endorse Jessamy opponent in primary

The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police today endorsed Gregg Bernstein over Patricia Jessamy in the Democratic primary battle for city state's attorney.

Bernstein, a former federal prosecutor and successful defense attorney, also has the unofficial backing of Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld, who raised Jessamy's hackles by sticking a Bernstein sign in his lawn earlier this summer. (He has since removed it.)

Meanwhile, Jessamy, the city's top prosecutor since 1995, has corralled the support of much of Baltimore's political establishment. But a recent letter to the Afro-American newspaper from the city's senators backing Jessamy has generated controversy: Sen. George Della, in a tough Democratic primary of his own, was not listed among the co-signers even though his name appears on the letterhead.

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley -- a frequent critic of Jessamy when he was Baltimore mayor -- offered supportive words about Jessamy in July but stopped short of an endorsement. He implied one would be forthcoming, but with less than two weeks to go until primary election day, it has yet to materialize.

Please hop over to Baltimore Crime blog for more details on this tangled and interesting race.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:19 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Crime & Justice

August 31, 2010

Kratovil hits airwaves in re-election run

Rep. Frank Kratovil of Maryland is launching the first TV ad of his re-election campaign Tuesday. If the initial spot is any indication, the freshman Democrat will try to do whatever it takes to put distance himself between himself and the toxic political scene in Washington.

The spot portrays Kratovil as an independent operator and promotes his centrist voting record during his first term. In the ad, Kratovil says he's tried to make decisions based "on facts, not politics."

Looking into the camera, the congressman highlights his vote against President Barack Obama's health care legislation and against the "big bank bailout."

That last claim is something of a stretch, since the unpopular bank bailout legislation--creating the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP)--was approved during the Bush administration, before Kratovil got to Congress.

He did cast a vote in early 2009 to withhold the final $350 billion in TARP money--but that vote was largely symbolic, since the Senate had already acted to guarantee release of the bailout money.

"You see, for me, it's not about Democrats or Republicans. It's about common sense, and doing what's best for our families," says Kratovil, as he strolls a small-town street in a blue knit shirt.

Click here to view the spot.

There's no mention of his party affiliation, but that's hardly a surprise. When was the last time you saw a candidate of any party do that?

In Kratovil's case, the "D" next to his name may well be his biggest liability. Maryland's First District, which takes in the entire Eastern Shore and largely Republican portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties, went for Republican John McCain by a landslide in 2008.

Kratovil, a former prosecutor who lives in Stevensville, not far from the eastern end of the Bay Bridge, is the first Democrat in nearly two decades to represent the district. He is also rated as one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country this fall, largely because he holds an historically Republican seat in an election expected to favor Republican candidates.

Continue reading "Kratovil hits airwaves in re-election run" »

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

August 30, 2010

Governor's race: The battle for votes

Each candidate has a successful political playbook for reference. Eight years ago, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. inspired enough support in Democratic Maryland to win a governor’s office his Republican party hadn’t occupied in a generation. Four years ago, Baltimore’s Democratic mayor, Martin O’Malley, toppled a governor so popular that his approval rating had never dipped below 50 percent.

But these 2010 gubernatorial hopefuls each face new hurdles if, as expected, they turn away challengers in the Sept. 14 primary. O’Malley is seeking the support of an electorate that has tired of incumbents. Ehrlich is himself a longtime politician, with a long record to defend.

On Sunday, The Sun examined the territories -- both geographic and demographic -- where the 2010 election will be hardest fought.

Continue reading "Governor's race: The battle for votes" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:44 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

August 28, 2010

Few surprises in O’Malley’s tax returns

As promised, Gov. Martin O'Malley released some tax returns at his campaign HQ in Baltimore this morning. The Democratic governor and his wife Catherine, a district court judge, make about $300K a year, earning roughly $900,000 since 2007.

The income is mostly from his $150K yearly salary as governor, her roughly $120K salary as a judge and two years worth of city pension payments O'Malley earned from two terms in the city council and two terms as Baltimore mayor.

O'Malley was not required to release the forms, though said he would do so if his political opponent, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, made his public. O'Malley issued three years worth of forms; Ehrlich released five years. O'Malley released W2 forms; Ehrlich did not. Neither candidate allowed reporters to keep copies of the forms or photograph them.

Ehrlich's tax forms, which were made public Friday afternoon, showed that the and his wife Kendel have made nearly $2.5 million since he lost the 2006 election and joined the private sector as a partner in the Baltimore offices of Womble, Carlyle Sandridge and Rice. A story detailing Ehrlich's income was in today's Sun.

O'Malley and his wife Catherine filed jointly. The couple has donated about $20,000 to charity in the last three years. They did not provide any detail about which organizations benefited from their giving.

The O'Malley's also checked off voluntary contributions to the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species fund in 2009 and 2008. In 2008, the O'Malley's also contributed $50 to the Fair Campaign Finance Fund.

O'Malley has not earned any income from his band, O'Malley's March, since he became governor, his reports show. His spokesman, Rick Abbruzzese, said any earnings from CD sales and tickets have gone to band members.

O'Malley received one $7.58 payment from Walt Disney in 2009 -- Abbruzzese said those funds from O'Malley's brief appearance in the 2004 movie Ladder 49, which starred John Travolta and a young Joaquin Phoenix.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 10:45 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

August 27, 2010

Ehrlich made $821K in private sector last year

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich and his wife took home $821,641 last year, nearly all of it from the Baltimore office of Womble Carlyle, where he earned $734,663.

Ehrlich made five years of tax returns available for reporters to review for three hours Friday afternoon. The campaign would not release copies. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s campaign will allow reporters to review his returns Saturday morning.

“If it were up to Bob Ehrlich he would have never been in the private sector,” said Henry Fawell, an Ehrlich campaign spokesman. “He looks forward to joining public service again next year.”

Ehrlich and his wife Kendel filed join returns. She earned roughly $45,686 from her board membership on BankAnnapolis, campaign officials said.

The couple took in about $31,230, mostly from their WBAL radio show, campaign spokesman said.

The Ehrlichs also earned a sizable income in earlier years, making $884,502 in 2008 and $784,372 in 2007.

Read The Sun story about Ehrlich's tax disclosure here.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:21 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

August 25, 2010

Race to the Top bragging rights

Almost exactly 24 hours after beating out other states to win a competitive education grant, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s re-election campaign issued an email newsletter touting the so-called Race to the Top award is proof that the governor is “leading the way.”

Prediction: The award will start showing up in the governor’s stump speech. A story in today’s Sun analyzed the political implications of winning the grant.

O'Malley's top challenger, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said through a spokesman Tuesday that his charter school law helped clear the way for the award. So perhaps both candidates will claim some credit.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:23 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

August 24, 2010

Ehrlich promises tax break to vets

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. told Maryland’s veterans he’d push to fully exempt their pensions from state income taxes, a pledge Gov. Martin O’Malley’s campaign dismissed as another “budget busting” promise.

Ehrlich, a Republican, made the same promise to veterans while governor, but was unable to fulfill it. “This is about unfinished business,” he told reporters.

In 2006 Ehrlich signed into law a measure that allows the state's 47,000 veterans to exempt $5,000 of their pension income from state taxes, and today at a VFW hall in Howard County, blamed the General Assembly for not enacting a broader exemption.

"I promised you," he said. "Mike Busch promised you. Mike Miller promised you."

Ehrlich, who wants to reclaim his old job from O’Malley, cast the initiative as an economic stimulus program, saying it would draw more veterans and their spending power to the state.

O’Malley’s campaign was ready to respond, putting forward Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a Colonel in the army reserves, for a press avail outside the campaign's Canton headquarters. He called the initiative, which has been introduced in Annapolis four times, “something that ought to be looked at.”

Brown also said the plan is another example of Ehrlich of making “budget busting promises.” Ehrlich has also promised to give an additional $60 million to local governments to pay for road maintenance and would reduce the state sales tax by a penny, which would cost the government about $600 million. He has not said how he would pay for those proposals.

Whomever wins the election will already need to close a $1.6 billion gap between government spending and revenues. Ehrlich estimates his the veterans’ tax relief idea would cost $37 million over five years – an amount he said is so small it is equivalent to “a rounding error.”

It was unclear where he got those figures, a similar bill introduced in 2008 would have cost the state about $40 million a year, an amount that is more than twice the budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Other, similar bills have been introduced in 2009 and 2007. All have died in committee.

When asked how Ehrlich would be able to convince the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to move forward on the proposal that they’ve rebuffed in past years, he said there would “pressure” on them and suggested that some recalcitrant Democrats could lose their jobs in November.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:10 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

August 20, 2010

Angelos to bat for O'Malley

Orioles owner Peter Angelos will host a fundraiser for Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley next month before an Orioles-Boston Red Sox game at Camden Yards.

The $1,000-per-person event is to be co-hosted by Angelos, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and real estate guru Wayne Gioioso. Attendees will mingle in a SkyBox at the Sept. 2 game.

Earlier this summer, Vice President Joe Biden and Baltimore developer Patrick Turner hosted pricey fundraisers for O'Malley.

But O'Malley hasn't always been touched by Angelos' "Orioles magic." 

Last time around, Angelos favored Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., taking out a full-page ad thanking him protecting his Orioles as the Washington Nationals came to the region. Angelos said at the time, in 2005, that O'Malley was a "Washington suburbanite" who does not understand Baltimore.

Angelos isn't the only sports team owner who likes to play politics. Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder wrote Ehrlich a check for $4,000 this year.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:45 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

August 19, 2010

Latest poll: O'Malley, Ehrlich 'essentially tied'

Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. remain “essentially tied” according to results of a Rasmussen Reports poll released Thursday.

The statewide telephone survey of 750 likely voters conducted Tuesday shows O’Malley with 45 percent support and Ehrlich with 44 percent. For the third straight month, the difference fell well within the 4 percent margin of error.

In the first independent survey to be released since former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed businessman Brian Murphy for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, 3 percent said they supported what Rasmussen identified as “some other candidate.” The survey results do not name Murphy or any other candidate.

When taking into account “leaners” – defined by Rasmussen as respondents who initially indicate no preference for either of the candidates but say in a follow-up question they are leaning towards one of them – O’Malley and Ehrlich are tied with 47 percent support.

According to Rasmussen, the numbers without leaners are generally more significant early in a campaign; later the numbers with leaners matter more. Rasmussen continues to rate the race a toss-up.

Other findings, after the jump.

Continue reading "Latest poll: O'Malley, Ehrlich 'essentially tied'" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:00 AM | | Comments (16)

August 18, 2010

FEC finds major errors in Bartlett's campaign account

An audit by the Federal Election Commission has uncovered significant errors in Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's campaign account, the agency disclosed Wednesday.

A final audit of the Bartlett for Congress Committee for 2007 and 2008 found that it failed to report dozens of expenses and significantly under-reported the amounts he raised and spent during that period, which covered his '08 re-election run.

The FEC, which enforces federal election law, has not imposed any penalties. Nor did it describe the errors as intentional. However, it said it reserved the right to take enforcement action.

Bartlett, in a statement, said there had been no wrongdoing or misuse of funds. He said the FEC audit showed that he was "honest, not perfect" and that he had acknowledged and corrected the errors.

The state's only Republican congressman, who lives in the Frederick area and represents western Maryland and northern portions of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties, is seeking another two-year term this fall. He was first elected in 1992.

Continue reading "FEC finds major errors in Bartlett's campaign account" »

Posted by Paul West at 2:35 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Arab group to Md. leaders: Speak up for liberty

The Baltimore chapter of a national Arab-American rights group is calling on Maryland leaders to support the religious freedom of all Americans, following criticism by some of the proposal to build a mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in New York.

The statement by the local chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee comes a day after Republican state Sen. Andy Harris drew national attention by calling the Park51 project “blatantly disrespectful.”

A spokesman for Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., meanwhile, said Ehrlich was “firmly opposed” to a proposal he believes “is clearly inappropriate and insensitive to the victims” of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Bash Pharoan, Baltimore chapter president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said Maryland politicians were failing to counter “election-profiteering Islamophobia against Muslims.”

In a statement, the committee called on elected officials and the media to speak up “in support of the rights of every American to worship or build a place of worship, as they chose, as long as they are not in violation of local, State or federal laws.”

It was the latest in a series of comments and statements by Marylanders on the New York proposal. On Sunday, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County told CNN’s Candy Crowley that he agreed with President Barack Obama on the subject.

Continue reading "Arab group to Md. leaders: Speak up for liberty" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:41 PM | | Comments (26)

August 17, 2010

Ehrlich walks a fine line in Western Maryland

Gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. put himself in the middle of a hot political contest this afternoon in Hagerstown at one of his many small business round table events.

Ehrlich was at a long table – with rival Republican state Senate candidates on either end.

“Everyone is watching my actions,” Ehrlich said.

Incumbent Sen. Don Munson, seated to the right of Ehrlich, complimented the former governor for spurring growth in the county’s burgeoning wine industry. To the left sat Del. Chris Shank, who just put out a campaign mailing featuring a photo of Ehrlich.

Ehrlich called the race interesting in part because it is “generational.” Munson is 72 and Shank is 38. “The major difference is approach,” Ehrlich said. Shank, a Republican whip in the General Assembly, has been a key strategist in the House GOP. Munson has taken a more low-key tact toward legislating.

Ehrlich described Shank as “one of our young stars” but said Munson is a senator who “knows the process” and “knows how things get done.”

Both candidates heaped praise upon Ehrlich and listened intently to a group of small business owners gathered to discuss concerns about the economy. As he has in the past, Ehrlich pledged to try to have the state sales tax reduced and improve what he called the “unfriendly” regulatory attitude at state agencies.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:20 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Howard: Ulman outraises Kittleman for exec

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, a Democrat running for re-election, has added to a sizable cash advantage over challenger Trent Kittleman this year.

Ulman reported having $713,424 on hand in campaign finance reports filed Tuesday, compared to $23,297 for Republican Trent Kittleman, who remained undaunted.

“I wish it were more,” Kittleman said, adding that “running against an entrenched incumbent in such a Democratic state puts roadblocks in the way.” But she predicted a close race in November.

Continue reading "Howard: Ulman outraises Kittleman for exec" »

Posted by Andy Rosen at 3:12 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010, Elections, In The Counties

Opponent-less Gansler continues to raise money

What do you do when you have more than $2 million in your campaign coffers and no opponent in either the primary or general election?

That’s Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler’s enviable predicament.

Taking a look at his latest campaign finance report -- he got his in early – the first-term Democrat raised $261,286 between Jan. 20, the date of the previous report, and Aug. 10, the closing date of this report. He spent about $65,000, mostly on media and campaign materials, and his available cash stands at just over $2.3 million.

In March, Gansler transferred $450 to the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, but he doesn’t appear to be sharing his wealth with other candidates.

Continue reading "Opponent-less Gansler continues to raise money" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010

Harris: Mosque proposal 'blatantly disrespectful'

A second Maryland politician has weighed in on plans to build a mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in New York.

On Sunday, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County told CNN’s Candy Crowley that he agreed with President Barack Obama that the developers have the right to build the project called Park51 on private property two blocks from Ground Zero, subject to local laws and ordinances. Obama said he would not comment on the wisdom of building the mosque and community center on the site.

Now state Sen. Andy Harris is offering his view.

“The proposal to build an Islamic mosque and community center near Ground Zero is blatantly disrespectful to the sacred ground that is a memorial to the 3,000 Americans who died on September 11th,” Harris, a Baltimore County Republican challenging Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in the First Congressional District, said in a statement Tuesday.

“The president is once again trying to have it both ways; publicly supporting the project while saying he won’t get involved in local politics,” Harris said. “He is thinking like a lawyer and not like an American, making declarations without America’s best interest in mind.”

Continue reading "Harris: Mosque proposal 'blatantly disrespectful'" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:45 AM | | Comments (146)

City councilman supports Senate challenger

Senate challenger Hector Torres touted an endorsement from City Councilman Bill Henry this morning, providing one establishment stamp of approval for the Senate hopeful.

Torres, a former fire department spokesman, wants to unseat veteran Senator Joan Carter Conway, who chairs the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee.

She’s known for her fiery presence in Annapolis and frequently takes the floor push back efforts to reduce funding for the city. But she ruffled feathers this year when she did not allow a bill permitting Marylanders to purchase wine via the Internet to leave her committee.

Torres says she’s too cozy with the state’s powerful alcoholic beverages lobby, which opposed the wine bill. She denies that charge, but he’s also trying to tie her to other special interests, showing on his website that her campaign donors have obtained state contracts.

"It is not about cozy," Conway said. "I tell people you can send me your money if you want, but it is not going to affect what I do."

The race is one of the few contested legislative contests in Baltimore this year and so far it has not attracted the attention as the Della v. Ferguson match up on the city's waterfront.

Henry’s councilmanic district overlaps part of the area Torres hopes to represent. In a statement, Henry said: "Hector Torres has a proven track record of dedicated public service in Baltimore City and I believe he is the candidate who will best represent the interests of the 43rd District in Annapolis," said Henry.

Conway said she was not suprised by the endorsement, and does not think it will not have much of an impact on the race. "It is a democracy, you have the right to endorse whoever you want," she said.

The rest of the councilman’s statement after the jump.

Continue reading "City councilman supports Senate challenger " »

Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:27 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, City Hall

Campaign finance reports due at midnight

The hundreds of hopefuls for the state's 188 legislative seat, the gubernatorial contenders and the scores of people trying for local offices must submit campaign finance reports by midnight.

The State Board of Elections will make those reports public as they come in until the office closes at 5 p.m. -- so expect to wait until tomorrow morning for much of the information. Marylanders are hungry for the reports because not since January have we had a look at the finances of any candidates.

Because the reporting period closed Aug. 10, most candidates know at least basic information about how much money they have raised and how much cash they have on hand. Some have made those numbers public.

Here's what we've learned so far:

Continue reading "Campaign finance reports due at midnight" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010

August 16, 2010

O'Malley-Ehrlich radio debate appears to firm up

Could it be that O'Malley and Ehrlich have agreed to a debate? The two major candidates for governor appear to have committed to an Oct. 29 appearance on Washington-based WTOP radio.

Last week, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican candidate for governor, released a five-point debate proposal that included two television appearances and three radio gigs. Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's aides say they have been working behind the scenes to set up debates with Ehrlich. They had contacted some of the same outlets on Ehrlich's wish list. 

The candidates have a history of squabbling about debate specifics, though both say they are eager to argue their views before the voters.

One of the radio debates Ehrlich proposed was a one-hour appearance at 10 a.m. Oct. 29 -- just a few days before the general election -- on WTOP. O'Malley has already agreed to that appearance, his aides say.

Of course, there's a complication.

Continue reading "O'Malley-Ehrlich radio debate appears to firm up" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:10 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

August 13, 2010

Ehrlich raises $3.2 million,has $2 million in bank

* Updated. *

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. released his hotly anticipated campaign fundraising numbers this morning. The Republican says he has raised $3.2 million -- about the same as his chief opponent, Gov. Martin O'Malley.

O'Malley, a Democrat who began the year with $5.7 million to Ehrlich's $140,000, now has $6.7 million cash on hand, his campaign reports. Ehrlich reported this morning that he has "in excess of" $2 million in the bank.

Ehrlich said he exceeded his money-raising expectations and noted that he'd pullled in cash from more than 13,000 individual donors, 96 percent of whom live in Maryland.

O'Malley has raised money from about 13,000 donors, as well, his campaign manager, Tom Russell, says.

In a statement today, Russell trumpeted O'Malley's 3-to-1 cash advantage over Ehrlich.

"Momentum is clearly on our side," Russell said. "momentum is clearly on our side. "The Ehrlich campaign’s cash on hand number is lower than we expected to see. It appears the Ehrlich campaign suffers from the same problem that the Ehrlich administration had. They just spend too much money."

Ehrlich's campaign, based on the numbers he released, has spent more than $1 million so far, without running costly television ads. O'Malley appears to have spent more than $2 million this year. He has purchased numerous television and radio ads. Campaign reports on next week will provide details of such spending.

O'Malley released his numbers Wednesday morning, hours after the reporting period ended. The State Board of Elections will make official campiagn finance reports for all candidates -- including the hundreds of hopefuls trying for the state's 188 legislative seats -- available Tuesday.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:00 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010

August 12, 2010

Ehrlich to release fundraising numbers Friday

We'll have to wait at least another day to see how much money former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has raised in his bid to win back the office from Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Although Ehrlich, a Republican, said at a campaign event yesterday that he'd put out the numbers by this morning, his campaign spokesman said in an e-mail this afternoon that the information will actually come tomorrow.

O'Malley, a Democrat, released his totals on Wednesday, the morning after the campaign finance reporting period had closed. He had raised $3.3 million this year and had $6.7 million in the bank.

Asked why Ehrlich's campaign wouldn't be putting out the information today as the former governor had said, spokesman Andy Barth said in an email, "... it’s well ahead of the Tuesday deadline, it’s when we’ll have everything ready to distribute."

(On Tuesday, the Maryland Board of Elections will release official campaign finance reports for all candidates for state and local offices.)

E-mails this week to supporters indicate that Ehrlich was hoping to raise $3 million since March.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:29 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010

O'Malley v. Ehrlich: Return of the debate debate

Just when it seemed this week's political news would center on how much money the major candidates had raised, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has instead decided to talk about ... talk.

This morning, Ehrlich communications director Henry Fawell released a letter to O'Malley's campaign mananger proposing five debates. (Where'd that come from?! Neither campaign had talked publicly about debates in four months.)

"I am confident our respective campaigns will agree that holding multiple public debates is the best way for the citizens of Maryland to learn about the two leading gubernatorial candidates," Fawell writes.

Here's Ehrlich's proposal:

Continue reading "O'Malley v. Ehrlich: Return of the debate debate" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:45 AM | | Comments (34)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

August 11, 2010

Offside? Delegate's NFL experience questioned

His district is the heart of Redskins territory, but on his campaign web site, Prince George's County Del. Michael Vaughn highlights his time as a player for the hated Dallas Cowboys.

Lately, though, the Democratic legislator has been tussling with the Washington City Paper over his NFL record.

Last week, City Paper's Dave McKenna wrote that Vaughn "plays fantasy football with his bio." Specifically, McKenna wrote, the lawmaker falsely claimed on his web site that he played for three years with the Cowboys. McKenna wrote that the Cowboys have no record of Vaughn.

When confronted by the reporter, Vaughn said he practiced with the Cowboys for a few months in 1980 but acknowledged he'd never played a game with them -- and certainly hadn't spent three years on the team. 

Continue reading "Offside? Delegate's NFL experience questioned" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Ehrlich claims 20,000 donations; will release fundraising numbers 'soon'

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. says he has amassed more than 20,000 individual contributions in his bid to unseat Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Ehrlich, a Republican, has not released campaign fundraising totals but says he will do so within the next 24 hours. This morning, O'Malley, a Democrat, said he and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown had raised more than $3.3 million in the past four months and have $6.7 million in the bank. O'Malley campaign manager Tom Russell said the O'Malley-Brown ticket has more than 13,000 donors, including many who have given multiple times.

The campaign finance reporting period ended at midnight, and official numbers will be out next week. The previous report, which came out in January, months before Ehrlich made his reelection bid official, showed he had about $140,000 to O'Malley's $5.7 million.

Although Ehrlich said he wasn't ready to release his new totals, he called the amount he'd raised "pretty good." In an email earlier this week to supporters, Ehrlich said he was seeking their help in reaching $3 million raised since March.

"We hit the number we thought we'd need to hit to win the race," Ehrlich said after a campaign event this morning in Dundalk.

Ehrlich said he was "not unhappy" with the numbers that O'Malley posted, saying he'd expected him to raise more. However, the 2006 Ehrlich campaign raised $2.4 million in the same four-month period that this year's O'Malley campaign raised $3.3 million. (Sitting governors are not allowed to raise money during the January-April legislative session.) The state has more than double the number of registered Democrats as Republicans.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:35 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010

O'Malley raises $3.3m, has $6.7m in bank

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown raised $3.3 million in the last four months, and now have more than $6.7 in cash on hand for their reelection bid, their campaign announced Wednesday.

Maryland candidates are required to report how much they raised through midnight Wednesday, but the reports are not made public until next week. We are working on getting numbers from Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and running mate Mary Kane.

O'Malley and Brown, who were handicapped by a prohibition on fundraising until after the legislative session ended in April, have raised more than they had through the same point in 2006, when they faced no such impediment. In August 2006, O'Malley reported raising $3 million, with $4.4 million in cash on hand. With Brown's account included, the total was $5.1 million.

Interestingly, the O'Malley-Brown campaign release refers not only to Ehrlich, but also to Brian Murphy, the Republican longshot who received some attention last week with a surprise endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Clearly, the O'Malley-Brown campaign doesn't mind giving Ehrlich's GOP challenger a little promotion, as well.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:20 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010

August 10, 2010

Md. candidates plead for cash as deadline looms

It's not just Cinderella watching the clock today. The stroke of midnight marks the end of a critical fundraising period for Maryland politicians.

Not since January has the public had a look at campaign finances. The reporting period that ends today will show how much a candidate has been able to raise since announcing a run for office, becoming official and diving into election season. This camapign finance report, which will become public in a week, is one way to measure just how serious a candidate is.

The major candidates for governor, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., seem to understand the importance of today's deadline and have flooded supporters with last-minute requests for cash.

Continue reading "Md. candidates plead for cash as deadline looms" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:45 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010, Elections

O'Malley supports Purple Line, dodges on gas tax

UPDATED, with response from Ehrlich campaign

Baltimore Sun transportation writer Michael Dresser reports from Silver Spring:

It was no accident that Gov. Martin O’Malley wore a purple tie to his campaign event in Silver Spring this morning.

The governor met with about two dozen small business owners and other voters at the Tastee Diner in this Montgomery County community to discuss his approach to transit issues -- and to underscore his support for a light rail project known as the Purple Line and the opposition of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to it.

While O’Malley launched no new verbal missiles at his prospective Republican opponent, he used the Purple Line issue to underscore a stark policy difference between the two.

Ehrlich has said he would scrap the O’Malley administration’s plan to build a light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, saying the state can’t afford it. O’Malley cast that position an an example of a retrun to the past -- a central theme of his re-election campaign.

“For whatever reason, Bob Ehrlich has decided to turn back the clock and take Maryland back,” O'Malley said. “I think it shows a contrast between the way the two of us look at the future.”

But Andy Barth, a spokesman for the Ehrlich campaign, said O'Malley's promises to build the Purple Line and Baltimore's Red Line light rail systems would not move the state forward.

"It would be nice to build every transportation project that comes up, but Bob Ehrlich wants to be honest with the voters and the money to do those projects doesn't exist," Barth said. He said Ehrlich would consider a rapid bus system, which he said would be much cheaper to build, along the proposed route of the Purple Line.

Continue reading "O'Malley supports Purple Line, dodges on gas tax" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:48 PM | | Comments (22)

Steele to raise money for Arundel candidate

Maryland House of Delegates candidate Cathleen M. Vitale says Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele will attend a fundraiser for her next week in Severna Park.

The outspoken GOP leader -- who most recently stoked controversy by saying the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan was "a war of Obama's choosing" -- has made few public campaign stops in Maryland this year.

Along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Steele headlined the annual Maryland Republican Party fundraiser in Linthicum, but the onetime lieutenant governor hasn't played a prominent role in former partner Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s new gubernatorial bid. The RNC did not make Steele available to comment last week when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed Ehrlich's main Republican opponent, Brian Murphy, in the GOP primary.

Vitale, a Republican member of the Anne Arundel County Council, attributed the chairman's support to their longtime friendship. Before Steele was Ehrlich's lieutenant governor, he was chairman of the state GOP.

Continue reading "Steele to raise money for Arundel candidate" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:55 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Michael Steele

August 9, 2010

On the waterfront, a generational clash

Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey -- a former City Hall reporter who now covers state government -- opens her roundup of Baltimore's legislative races with one of the few competitive contests in the city. She describes it is as a clash of generations:

Dodging raindrops Thursday night, the incumbent senator sped from door to door in a South Baltimore neighborhood.

"I'm George Della," he said at one door. "Keep me in mind on election day." Then he was off to the next.

A few miles south in Westport his young upstart of an opponent, Bill Ferguson, was leading a group of supporters in the same activity.

"We've had the same senator for 27 years," he said. "I don't think he's pushing hard enough."

In a city where most incumbents face little or no opposition at the polls, the contest in Baltimore's 46th district is shaping up to be the most dynamic legislative race. Della and Ferguson each embody a different force tugging at the gentrifying district, an area that encompasses the entire waterfront from Curtis Bay to Dundalk.

Della, 67, is the old-school pol who started his public career as a Baltimore City councilman, winning a Senate seat the year Ferguson was born. When he knocks on a door, Della often knows the current occupants — and sometimes the families that lived there before.

Ferguson, 27, is a Teach for America import from Rockville with bundles of energy who is using social media to spread his message of school reform. He moved to Baltimore five years ago, though his campaign stresses that he's a "fifth-generation Marylander."

Read more about Della, Ferguson and Baltimore's other legislative hopefuls at

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

August 8, 2010

Kamenetz, Bartenfelder invade each other's turf

In Dundalk and Essex, they're getting to know Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, who is from way over on the West Side of Baltimore County. In Pikesville and along Liberty Road, they're taking a closer look at Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, from way over on the East Side.

Baltimore Sun colleague Arthur Hirsch takes a look at efforts by the two best-known candidates for Baltimore County executive to make inroads into each other's home turf:

East or west allegiances might not be the potent force that some older political players suggest, but the fallout from one prominent east-side politician's endorsement of Kamenetz, a lawyer from Owings Mills, shows that some political activists still expect more regional loyalty.

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

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

Kamenetz and Bartenfelder have each won support in their opponent's backyard from local officials who have opened doors. One step at a time, they're learning about communities where they have not sought votes before. The candidates are hoping to bridge distances of geography — with the county's extreme east and west poles separated by a city in between — as well as the culture gap between places such as the affluent suburb of Ruxton and working-class Dundalk.

Read more about Bartenfelder's and Kamenetz's campaign strategies at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (0)

August 7, 2010

Jessamy says Bealefeld fuels distrust

Baltimore's top prosecutor has accused the city's police commissioner of using the power of his badge to help her opponent in next month's primary, Baltimore Sun colleague Peter Hermann reports.

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said in a statement last week that Frederick H. Bealefeld III has broken years of precedent with "overt actions … to influence the outcome of an election" — which she warned "can only lead to divisiveness and distrust in the community."

Jessamy said it was "unprecedented and inappropriate" for the city's top police officer to put a campaign sign on his lawn. Her campaign spokeswoman, meanwhile, said staff members have learned that Bealefeld, while in uniform, "approached some citizens, recruiting volunteers" for Gregg Bernstein's campaign.

Spokeswoman Marilyn Harris-Davis said Bealefeld asked city resident Billy Taylor, a Jessamy supporter, to meet with Bernstein.

Bealefeld's spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, denied that the commissioner made any such requests while on duty. He confirmed that Bealefeld spoke with Taylor at an event but said that Bealefeld did not try to influence his vote or recruit him as a campaign worker. He said Bealefeld spoke with Taylor about Bernstein in detail only when he was off-duty.

Taylor, who supports Jessamy, said he met with Bernstein for lunch. "I don't know about if it's appropriate," he said. Of Bealefeld, he said, "We're friends, and he asked me to do that and so I did it."

Read more about Jessamy and Bealefeld at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (2)

August 5, 2010

First District Republican Fisher ups ad buy

Rob Fisher, the political newcomer challenging state Sen. Andy Harris for the Republican nomination against Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil, is doubling down on his self-financed longshot bid.

Fisher has just put another $80,000 into TV advertising, with 30-second commercials set to air over the next three weeks on Baltimore and Salisbury broadcast stations. The ads start Thursday, Aug. 5.

The 43-year-old businessman is financing his run primarily out of his own pocket. He started TV advertising two months ago on cable outlets in the First District, which covers the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford Counties.

His new buy ups the ante, taking Fisher's outsider message to broadcast stations, which have wider audiences.

The 30-second spot includes footage of Fisher walking down the street with an unidentified man, actually campaign aide Sal Sabatino. The spot is designed to reinforce Fisher's message that he is a political outsider who will "fight career politicians"--like Harris, a 12-year veteran of the Maryland legislature, and incumbent Kratovil, who would face the winner of the Sept. 14 Republican primary.

Continue reading "First District Republican Fisher ups ad buy" »

Posted by Paul West at 4:56 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Ehrlich: Palin endorsement will not impact race

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said today that Sarah Palin's nod to his primary opponent "doesn't change anything" in his bid to win back the governor's mansion.

"It just doesn't mean much at all," the former Princeton linebacker said from the sidelines of the Ravens' training camp in Westminster. Polls show that Ehrlich is running neck-and-neck with Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley in a general-election matchup.

Some analysts have posited that Palin's support for his opponent could help Ehrlich convince wavering Democrats that he is the moderate Republican that he says he is.

"That school of thought has been advanced," Ehrlich said. "There may be some truth to that."

Palin shocked Marylanders and national pundits Wednesday when she waded into state politics with a endorsement for Brian Murphy, a political novice who is trying to capture the GOP nomination by presenting himself as a conservative alternative to Ehrlich.

Murphy has said that Palin is frequently in Washington, D.C., and might come and stump for him toward the end of the month -- closer to the Sept. 14 primary.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 10:45 AM | | Comments (37)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Vozzella: Putting their 'Nazi' past behind them

The first time Bob Ehrlich ran for governor, Baltimore political operative Julius Henson called him a Nazi. This time around, Baltimore Sun colleague Laura Vozzella writes, Henson just calls him boss.

Henson, who lost his job as a Democratic campaign mobilizer in 2002 over the Nazi remark, is working as a political consultant to Ehrlich's campaign, Henson and the campaign confirmed this week.

“I'm going to be doing some work for Ehrlich, yes,” Henson said. “I've already begun consulting.”

Vozzella asked Henson how he squared that gig with his comments eight years ago. Back then, Henson told The Washington Post: “Bobby Ehrlich is a Nazi. His record is horrible, atrocious. ... He should be running in Germany in 1942, not Maryland in 2002.” He told the paper that Ehrlich was against “blacks, schools and old people.”

“I did say that, but also, it was in context,” Henson told Vozzella. “The context was, I thought his policies — I disagreed with them and said so. Since that time, if you look at his record, many things — small business — many things I care about in the African-American community, Governor Ehrlich's been pretty right on.”

Continue reading "Vozzella: Putting their 'Nazi' past behind them" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (4)

August 4, 2010

Palin endorses Brian Murphy for governor

Conservative darling and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy today, posting a note of support on her Facebook page. It is the first Palin endorsement in Maryland.

Murphy is running for the state GOP nomination as a more conservative alternative to Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who has most of the establishment GOP support in the state.

So far, Murphy has not shown up in polls or had much of an impact on the race, but in other states a nod from Palin has given outlying candidates momentum. On the stump Murphy says both Gov. Martin O'Malley and Ehrlich have spent too much state money and says he would cut corporate income taxes and reduce government spending.

Murphy’s campaign put out the following statement from Palin:

“I’m honored to endorse Brian Murphy for Governor of Maryland. Brian is a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment commonsense conservative and a firm believer in the free market and the cause for energy independence. As a former energy industry executive and current small business owner, Brian has the private sector experience that is so lacking in government today. He knows how to incentivize industry to get our economy moving again. Together with his running mate for lieutenant governor, Mike Ryman, Brian will provide Maryland with principled and results oriented leadership.”

Murphy said in a statement that her endorsement is "an honor and a privilege."
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:14 AM | | Comments (77)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

August 3, 2010

Coulter, Ed Meese raising money for Md. candidates

The tight gubernatorial race is not the only contest in the state attracting national attention this cycle: Ann Coulter and Ed Meese will stump for various state legislative candidates.

Ben Lawless, a Republican running to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Katherine Klausmeier in Baltimore County, will host the Coulter event.

Lawless is paying Coulter to speak – but didn’t say how much. The amount should turn up on his campaign finance filing.

The event is billed as Lawless’s “First Annual Baltimore gala;” Lawless said he picked Coulter because she “says what is on her mind.” Top-tier tickets will go for $1,000 and includes an exclusive reception with Coulter and a suite at the Tremont Hotel, where the party will be held.

Depending on how much a donor is willing to pay, the evening could also include: a VIP reception on a yacht, which will be “Butler’d [sic] with Open Bar;” dessert with Coulter; and a photo with Coutler. All participants will hear Coulter give a “dialogue.”

The event, originally scheduled for Sunday, has been bumped to mid-October due to an illness in the Lawless family. Lawless faces a Republican challenger in September.

Meese, an attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, is going to help raise money for incumbent Republican Del. Ron George, who wants to hold onto his Anne Arundel County seat.

“There aren’t many people who will do events for Republicans in this state,” said Ron George. “It is hard.” George said that he has met Meese at conferences, and the two clicked.

George does not have a primary fight, but may face a challenge from Republican Herb McMillian, who is fairly well known is the district.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:26 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, People

August 2, 2010

Competing claims complicate comparisons

In the first television advertisement of his reelection campaign, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley invited viewers back to his first year in office. Faced with a deficit left by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the spot said, O'Malley was forced to cut spending.

Ehrlich, now running to win his job back, remembers the transition differently. He says he handed his successor a billion-dollar surplus — money Ehrlich says O'Malley then frittered away, before passing a historic tax increase.

So who is telling the truth?

Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports that both are — up to a point. Ehrlich did set aside extra funds. But he also left the new governor with spending and revenue forecasts that were out of balance. In the end, O'Malley used the surplus to plug the hole.

The competing claims illustrate the difficulty confronting voters hoping to compare the candidates' records. But the electorate has good reason to examine past decisions: Whoever wins in November will face a $1.6 billion budget gap.

In fact, O'Malley, a Democrat, and Ehrlich, a Republican, have used many of the same tools. Both increased spending. Both covered shortfalls by shuffling money from one account to another. When recessions caused fortunes to ebb, both went to the Board of Public Works to cut spending, and both relied on federal funds and increased taxes and fees.

Read more about Ehrlich's and O'Malley's budget records at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (0)

July 31, 2010

Ehrlich criticizes jail project that began on his watch

At a campaign appearance this week to talk up services to at-risk youth, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich criticized the $100 million jail for juveniles to be built in Baltimore as a "warehouse."

It was "certainly not our model," Ehrlich said of the facility designed to house as many as 230 young offenders awaiting trial as adults

"It's the antithesis of what we like to do. Large institutions typically do not work."

In fact, Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Bykowicz reports in Sunday's newspaper, the project got its start under Ehrlich. In 2005, Ehrlich approved planning money for the facility and his administration conducted the first population projection survey. The survey arrived at an estimate similar to the one produced two years later under Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Stephen T. Moyer, deputy secretary for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services under Ehrlich and his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said the need for a juvenile detention center in Baltimore dates to an October 2000 Justice Department report.

"Governor Ehrlich began planning this because that's what the Justice Department told us to do," Moyer said.

State officials have agreed to review the planned capacity for the facility — a concession to groups who say the project is too big.

Continue reading "Ehrlich criticizes jail project that began on his watch" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:00 PM | | Comments (6)

July 29, 2010

Md. Dems get $100K from national party

The Democratic National Committee wired $100,000 to the Maryland Democratic Party Wednesday, a cash infusion the party says will help statewide campaign efforts for the fall.

“We have a variety of things we are going to be doing,” a Maryland Democratic spokesman said. Spokesman Isaac Salazar listed efforts to take advantage of new early-voting rules and a get-out-the-vote drive on election day.

“We are going to have a lot of folks we need to hire across the state,” he said. “It will support a lot of ongoing efforts we have in place.”

The cash transfer appears to be part of a national Democratic effort to funnel $50 million into states with competitive races. The party also moved money Wednesday to Florida and Pennsylvania, according to a Democratic source.

A pair of Maryland rematches are attracting national attention this cycle: the race between Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley; and the contest between freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil and Republican state Sen. Andrew Harris in the 1st Congressional District.

O’Malley had $4.8 million in his campaign war chest in January, has access to other funds, and is widely expected to outraise Ehrlich, who has not had to report any campaign finance figures. Kratovil has $1.3 million for his re-election effort, compared to Harris’s $890,000 as of June 30.

The Maryland GOP apparently has not seen the same kind of support from the Republican National Committee, which is chaired by former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

An RNC spokesman said the DNC transfer “is a clear sign of just how vulnerable Governor O’Malley has become.” Spokesman Parish Braden said the RNC is making “an unprecedented investment this cycle to support the Maryland Republican Party and Republican campaign efforts across the state."

Continue reading "Md. Dems get $100K from national party" »

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

O'Malley praises Jessamy, no endorsement

During an appearance in West Baltimore Thursday to announce $7 million in public safety funding grants, Gov. Martin O'Malley was asked whether he would be endorsing anyone in the city's upcoming state's attorney's race.

O'Malley stopped short of endorsing incumbent Patricia Jessamy, Baltimore Sun colleague Justin Fenton reports, but offered what sounded like high praise for her, saying their "partnership has never been stronger," that they talk every day, and that her "leadership and performance" has been a big part of crime declines in Baltimore. Specifically pressed if he would endorse her, he replied: "I anticipate - yeah, stayed tuned." Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown also appeared at her birthday fundraiser over the weekend, according to reports.

That's particular notable, as friction between O'Malley and Jessamy is well-documented, and in one his last acts as mayor he increased her salary dramatically -- 60 percent, or $83,000, to $225,000 -- in what many believed was an attempt to make the position more attractive to potential challengers. When defense attorney Gregg Bernstein announced he would challenge Jessamy in the Democratic primary, Jessamy even accused of O'Malley of putting Bernstein up to it.

Following is a transcript of O'Malley's remarks, which came right after he agreed that Judge John Addison Howard had "dropped the ball" in his handling of suspect John Alexander Wagner:

The Sun: Will you be endorsing anyone in the city state's attorney's race?

O'Malley: We've done a lot of positive things together. I know you all focus on the one case where we disagreed 10 or 11 years ago. but the fact of the matter is, the partnerships between the state and the state’s attorneys office have never been stronger. I have endorsed every Democrat in our state who has endorsed me. That's been our policy, and there’s been a lot of progress made in the city of Baltimore in the last 10 years. Notwithstanding some occasional disagreements, the fact of the matter is Baltimore has achieved the third largest reduction of violent crime of any major city in America. That headline has never made a headline, but its a fact. And the partnerships with the state’s attorney, the higher level of functioning especially with the war room, and the cooperation and collaboration with the Violence Prevention Initiative, you know, underscores all of those things.

We continue to talk, and I believe the state's attorney's office led by Mrs. Jessamy has had a significant part in saving lives over these past years. It would fly in the face of the facts to say it hasn't.

The Sun: So are you endorsing Jessamy?

Continue reading "O'Malley praises Jessamy, no endorsement" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:30 PM | | Comments (2)

July 28, 2010

Ehrlich trumpets Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. made a campaign stop on the shores of Back River in Essex today to champion his administration's Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act -- and to criticize Gov. Martin O'Malley for using money from the act's bay fund to help balance the state budget.

It marked the first time the two candidates have sparred over the environment, a diversion from a gubernatorial race that has largely been focused on the economy, jobs and how government taxes and spends.

But the "tax and spend" issue loomed over the event because the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act is more commonly known as the "flush tax." Ever since Ehrlich, a Republican, signed the act into law in 2004, homeowners have paid a $30 annual fee into a fund used for sewage treatment upgrades that reduce bay nitrogen levels.

The campaign event, Ehrlich said, was not tied to any specific time element. Rather, he said, it was "to remind everybody of this historic achievement."

He noted that once all of the bay restoration act's sewage treatment plant upgrades have been made, they are expected to reduce pollution in waterways by 7.5 million pounds per year.   

Continue reading "Ehrlich trumpets Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:30 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Pain in the neck: Ehrlich had minor surgery

Ehrlich aide Greg Massoni has a new duty: Intercept admirers who want to give his boss a pat on the back. At a campaign event today in Essex, Massoni literally had to pluck people off the sensitive gubernatorial candidate.

That's because former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had surgery Friday to address back and neck pain. "Revenge of college football," Ehrlich said, explaining the source of the injury. He played ball at Princeton University in the 1970s.

Spokesman Andy Barth had few details about the surgery, saying only that it was "minor" and put Ehrlich out of commission for just a few days. The Republican candidate for governor did not appear to be wearing a brace today in Essex -- his first public appearance of the week.

Ehrlich had complained of back pain several times earlier on the campaign trail, including in April when he first announced his rematch with Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley. Ehrlich said then that he had aggravated old injuries while working out.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

July 27, 2010

O'Malley touts progress on State Center project

Gov. Martin O’Malley heralded progress in the mammoth State Center project, saying construction crews will break ground at the long delayed office complex by the fall, Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports.

In Baltimore Tuesday afternoon, the governor called the giant collection of parking lots and office buildings on the western edge of Mount Vernon a “concrete wasteland” that will be soon revamped with retail shopping area and housing anchored by a new grocery store.

“Neighborhoods have been separated by a giant dead zone,” said O’Malley. Hewing to a theme of his reelection campaign, O’Malley stressed that the project will create work: He promised 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 “ongoing permanent jobs.”

The State Center project, which was first conceived in 2004, when Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was governor, is intended to revitalize a 26-acre area of the city that goes dark after 5 p.m. and on weekends, when state employees who work there leave for the day.

The project has been stalled in part because of its complexity — on Wednesday, the Board of Public Works will vote on only the first of five phases — but also because lead developer Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse dropped out as the economy soured.

The board is expected to approve a complex land deal Wednesday that will extend a 75-year lease for two parcels of land to the private development team State Center LLC. In return, the state will receive a 7 percent share of profits in addition to the lease payments, said Christopher Patusky, director of the Maryland Department of Transporation Office of Real Estate.

Continue reading "O'Malley touts progress on State Center project" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 6:50 PM | | Comments (1)

July 26, 2010

O'Malley picks up guitar, hopes to pick up cash

Call it "play to pay."

Gov. Martin O'Malley will strum tomorrow night at an Irish bar in Washington to raise money for his re-election bid.

The campaign event, billed as "O'Malley Live!" will include a few, but not all, members of the governor's longtime Celtic rock band, O'Malley's March. Ticket prices range from $40 to $500.

O'Malley's musical tendencies have long generated controversy -- with detractors saying he should have quit the band to focus on executive duties and supporters saying it provides a great way to connect with Marylanders.

O'Malley's March largely disbanded around the time its frontman transitioned from Baltimore mayor to Maryland governor. But they reunite for special events and put out an album last year.

(Vintage Baltimore Sun photo, circa 2001.)

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:00 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

July 22, 2010

Gansler wins reelection, by default

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is Maryland's first winner of the 2010 elections.

The first-term Democrat won four more years in office Wednesday when the the deadline for parties to name challengers passed without Republicans finding an opponent to take him on.

"I'm flattered that people in the state of Maryland think we're doing a good job," Gansler told Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey.

The failure of the GOP to field a candidate was striking, given Gansler's vocal support for gay marriage, a position which has put him to the left of many Maryland Democrats.

Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Audrey Scott told Linskey Gansler is "one lucky guy." Scott said she'd hoped to put up a challenger. One candidate changed his mind, she said. Another appeared at the last minute, but party paperwork prevented her from being able to put his name forward, she said.

She would not give names. "We ran out of time," she said. She predicted that there would be more interest in four years.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Law and Courts, People

July 21, 2010

O’Malley releases four new TV ads

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s campaign dropped four new television ads into the gubernatorial race this afternoon. Yes, that is right. Four.

These will be the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth O’Malley ads this season – compared with zero paid TV or radio ads from his likely opponent former Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Questioned last week – when the ad tally was merely four to zip -- Ehrlich said he was content to use the Internet and free press to spread his message. (The Sun’s Julie Bykowicz is waiting in Crisfield to get Ehrlich’s response … he is expected there shortly.) Pressed again this afternoon about when his campaign would put up ads, Ehrlich said: "We'll do our own thing."

The new O’Malley ads are all positive and focus on jobs, featuring different sectors of the economy in which the governor says progress has been made. Ehrlich took aim at the premise, saying "Gov. O'Malley talking about small businesses is counterintuitive for most people."

One stars Port of Baltimore CEO Christopher Lee – he credits O’Malley for “expansion” at the port. The ad features the same apparent blue collar workers whose photos are displayed prominently on O’Malley’s newly designed campaign website.

In another O'Malley focuses on a new ecnomy business: Biomarker Strategies CEO Karen Olson says an O’Malley-backed tax credit helped make her company one of “the top startups” in the country.

A third spot features Arrow Bicycle Shop, a small repair shop in Hyattsville that recently opened.

And the last focuses on recent expansion at a GM plant, a point Vice President Joe Biden mentioned at an O’Malley fundraiser on Monday.

The four new ads will go up in some type of rotation starting later this week, according to O’Malley Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Abbruzzese.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:41 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

July 20, 2010

Candidates must adhere to new social media rules

A committee of state lawmakers today approved regulations that will change how much information candidates must include on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The new rules take effect in two weeks.

Candidates must begin including an authority line -- a declaration of approval that lists their campaign treasurer -- on their official campaign pages on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites that have exploded in popularity this election season.

The rules do not mean that each 140-character "tweet" has to contain that detailed infomation. Rather, it has to be on the "landing page" that corrals all of the tweets for a specific candidate.

Both major gubernatorial contenders, Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., are already including authority lines. Check out the bio section and of their Twitter pages to see what all candidates must now begin doing.

"This is very new," said Jared DeMarinis, director of the division of candidacy and campaign finance for the State Board of Elections, which crafted the regulations. "We're taking the rules as they are today and applying them to Internet."

Social networking companies have lauded the state for being at the forefront of the issue. Company representatives for Google, AOL, Yahoo and Facebook were in Annapolis this morning to testify in favor of the regulations.

Continue reading "Candidates must adhere to new social media rules" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:15 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Elections, Political ads

July 19, 2010

Biden in Baltimore to boost O'Malley

Vice President Joe Biden heaped praise on Gov. Martin O’Malley at a Baltimore fundraiser Monday evening, Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports, telling a room of 200 supporters that the governor can be trusted to lead in part because he “feels” the pain of ordinary Marylanders “in the gut.”

Speaking for half an hour at the private event at the Baltimore Hilton Convention Center, Biden highlighted some of the themes O’Malley regularly hits while on the stump: keeping jobs in Maryland and pushing a tax credit for small businesses.

Tickets to the event, intended to raise money for O’Malley’s reelection campaign, ranged from $250 to hear the Biden’s remarks to $1,000 for a brief private reception with the vice president. Members of the host committee paid $4,000.

Biden is the first big-name Democrat to stump for O’Malley, who is locked in a tight re-election race with his predecessor, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. O’Malley has already spent more than his opponent, airing two radio commercials and a TV spot. Fundraising reports will not be public until August.

Biden said that he’s known the governor since O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore. “This is a man whose passion for Maryland starts in the gut and moves to the heart,” the vice president told the audience.

The economy and fiscal management was the theme of the day Monday. Hours before Biden arrived in Baltimore, The state Republican party issued a statement calling him “the Administration’s chiefspokesman for the failed stimulus bill” and saying that the legislation had failed to create as many positions as promised – a subject of continuing debate.

Continue reading "Biden in Baltimore to boost O'Malley" »

Poll feud has Maryland ties

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley pans the onslaught of automated survey in the Maryland governor's race as "Republican robo-polls." Republicans have a skeptical view of a Democratic automated pollster. And political analysts have only haltingly begun using such pollsters in their reports, calling the work dubious at best.

In short, there's not a lot of love for automated polls, although as The Sun reported this morning, we'll be seeing lots of them this year.

But it's worth noting that the most explosive polling controversy of the moment does not involve a fly-by-night "robo-poll" operation. Or any automated pollster. Rather, at the center is a traditional live-interview firm with a 10-year history, an experienced pollster and, until recently, a solid reputatation.

Continue reading "Poll feud has Maryland ties" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Horserace

Schmoke campaign manager defending Jessamy

Over the Baltimore Crime Beat blog, Baltimore Sun colleague Justin Fenton tracks down the sender of an unsigned e-mail written in support of Baltimore City State's Attorney Paticia C. Jessamy:

The first line read, "Jessamy: Tough and Smart on Crime," (her campaign slogan) and it proceeded to explain that since Jessamy took office in 1995, crime had declined substantially. It didn't say whether Jessamy was taking credit for this decline, nor did it draw any parallels between prosecutions and crime rate. There was no contact information.

In an attempt to discern the sender's identity, I wrote back. It turned out it was from none other than Larry S. Gibson, an old hand in politics once described as the "man behind [former mayor] Kurt Schmoke" and a political "kingmaker" in the city. Though the statistics and exact wording of the email appear on the front page of Jessamy's election web site, Gibson said he had prepared the email as a private citizen because it was important that the "public know the truth," calling Democratic primary challenger Gregg Bernstein "dishonest."

Gibson said he has had almost no involvement in local politics since 1999 (he ran former state's attorney Stuart Simms' failed bid for Attorney General in 2006), but wants to get involved with the Jessamy campaign. "I intend to do what I can to re-elect Patricia Jessamy," he wrote in a reply email.

Continue reading "Schmoke campaign manager defending Jessamy" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 10:35 AM | | Comments (7)

July 15, 2010

O’Malley: Anti-Ehrlich claim a 'tactical' error

Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley backed away Thursday from an effort in one of his radio advertisements to link former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The spot, which began airing on local radio last month, features a narrator reading key facts about the gusher, and then names oil companies represented by Ehrlich’s law firm. It also included a clip of Ehrlich saying “Drill, Baby, Drill,” without providing the context: He was quoting former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, not necessarily endorsing the position himself.

The Erhlich campaign responded with indignation, accusing O’Malley of taking advantage of a tragedy with dishonest claims.

O’Malley, appearing Thursday on WTOP radio, expressed ambivalence about the advertisement.

“What we should not have mentioned was the fact that the oil spill is going on in that ad, and that was a tactical mistake that my campaign made,” he said.

After the appearance, O’Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said the governor “stands by the facts in the ad.” He added, “It is an ad that used a current event to highlight Ehrlich’s record on the issue.”

Democrats and Republicans around the country are using the spill in campaigns. The O’Malley radio spot was criticized on the editorial pages of The Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post.

In a statement Thursday, the Ehrlich campaign said “dishonest attack ads” are the “least important” of O’Malley’s errors.

Continue reading "O’Malley: Anti-Ehrlich claim a 'tactical' error" »

Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:51 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Don't count on Palin campaigning for Ehrlich

Sarah PalinThough tight races frequently draw political stars, gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said it is unlikely that a cast of national characters like Sarah Palin will parade through Maryland stumping for him.

“We don’t need big names to come in,” Ehrlich said Wednesday, noting that as a former governor most voters already know who he is. “We really haven’t used that as a model.”

In general, he said the long speeches and crowded rallies designed to showcase the stars can be unpleasant.  “You can’t hear. People get bored and they leave,” he said. The typical star-laden fundraiser will include an hour or more of speeches by lesser pols before the main event.

Also a large personality like Palin can eclipse the campaign. "Our message is jobs and jobs and jobs and taxes and fiscal realities and jobs. And education and jobs."

Ehrlich said he prefers more intimate fundraising events known as house parties – small gatherings at a donor’s private residence. Also he said he’s expecting a check from the Republican Governor’s Association – but it hasn’t arrived.

One exception, he said, could be for former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whom Ehrlich counts as a personal friend.

The Maryland state Republicans have already attracted potential 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the Democrats are promising Vice President Joe Biden will stump for Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 7:17 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

July 14, 2010

Kratovil edges Harris in Q2 funding, pads cash lead

Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil raised $390,413 and boosted his money advantage over his likely Republican opponent during the three-month period ending June 30, his campaign announced Wednesday afternoon.

Kratovil's haul slightly exceeded that of Republican state Sen. Andy Harris, who said a day earlier that he collected $371,323 in the same period. But cash-on-hand figures released by both camps showed the Democrat pulling away from the challenger he narrowly defeated in 2008.

Kratovil and Harris are expected to face each other in Maryland's most competitive congressional election this fall.

Some analysts regard Kratovil, a freshman, as the underdog in the conservative First District, which takes in portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties, plus the entire Eastern Shore.

Both campaigns are required to file their quarterly reports with the Federal Election Commission by Thursday.

Continue reading "Kratovil edges Harris in Q2 funding, pads cash lead" »

Posted by Andy Green at 12:38 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

July 13, 2010

Mikulski has 25-point lead over next challenger

Speaking of polls, a new survey by Rasmussen Reports indicates Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski appears to have little to worry about at this stage of her bid for a fifth term.

The telephone poll of 500 likely voters in Maryland conducted July 8 showed Mikulski with a 25 point lead over Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Eric Wargotz, perhaps her best-known Republican challenger. Fifty-eight percent planned to vote for Mikulski, 33 percent for Wargotz and 2 percent for some other candidate. Seven percent were undecided.

The margin is similar to that in February, Rasmussen’s only previous report on the Maryland Senate race, when Mikulski had a 54-33 advantage over a generic Republican candidate.

To go with the solid support of the state’s Democratic majority, Mikulski enjoys a 53-28 edge among voters not affiliated with either major party, according to the July survey.

Continue reading "Mikulski has 25-point lead over next challenger" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:14 PM | | Comments (14)

Poll du jour: O'Malley, Ehrlich in statistical tie

Out today is the first Public Policy Polling survey on the Maryland governor's race -- a matchup that seems to be attracting attention from pollsters right and left. The survey of 569 Maryland voters shows Gov. Martin O'Malley leading former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich 45 percent to 42.

With a 4 percentage-point margin of error, they're statistically tied, as other recent polls have shown. Public Policy says the poll shows that Ehrlich is more strongly supported by his Republican party than O'Malley is by his Democrats. From the company's press release:

In the horse race 87% of Republicans support the former Governor while only 66% of Democrats support the current Governor. Republicans are united for Ehrlich and against O’Malley, while the Democrats are more fractured in their support.

In such a close race the undecided voters will play an important role. 12% of Maryland voters have yet to choose sides.

“The race is close. But with the clear support of his Republican base Ehrlich is off to a strong start,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “Most of the undecided voters are Democrats, gaining their support will be key to O’Malley’s success.”

Continue reading "Poll du jour: O'Malley, Ehrlich in statistical tie" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:20 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Horserace

One last gubernatorial candidate

Libertarian candidate for governor Susan Gaztañaga was busy campaigning last week and couldn’t respond in time for Sun story over the weekend about gubernatorial underdogs.

But she did get back to us. Gaztañaga has a concise three point plan: eliminating the state sales tax; order the Maryland National Guard back to Maryland; and allow anyone without a criminal record to carry a handgun.

Applicants who have a job related reason to carry a gun can get a permit. Otherwise, citizens must show a “good and substantial” fear for their safety to obtain a permit, according to Elena Russo, a Maryland state police spokeswoman. Typically the state police would require documentation of a threat in order to grant such a permit, Russo said.

Like other candidates, Gaztañaga says she’s running to win. Though, with 8,400 registered Libertarians in Maryland, she will need to stay very busy.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:03 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

July 12, 2010

Labor cheerleads for O'Malley, vows to deliver votes

Union members gathered in front of the State House in Annapolis today to reiterate their support for Gov. Martin O'Malley, saying the Democratic governor has always paid attention to them, unlike his Republican predecessor.

At times forcefully calling out former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the half-dozen labor leaders who spoke vowed to deliver votes for O'Malley this fall. Some unions endorsed O'Malley months ago, so the event served mostly as a rally.   

Joslyn "Josh" Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council of AFL-CIO, called Ehrlich an "interloper who had no right to be there" in the State House.

"Are we going to let our piece of property be taken over?" he asked. "No!" enthusiastic O'Malley supporters replied.

Michael Smith of the National Association of Letter Carriers reminded the crowd that letter carriers grace every doorstep in Maryland and would "deliver for Governor O'Malley."

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said that under Ehrlich, "working families did not have a seat at the table. They didn't even know the table existed." O'Malley touted his jobs creation, saying the state had outpaced the national rate in each of the past three months.

The labor delivery theme was reinforced by the music played before and after the event. Song choice: "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours." (Michael McDonald version.)

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:40 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Could Ariz. immigration law affect Md. election?

Neither Gov. Martin O'Malley nor former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has stumped about immigration issues on the campaign trail this summer. But it's possible that Arizona's decision to seek out and arrest illegal immigrants -- and the Justice Department's lawsuit to stop the state -- will play a role in the fall election here.

O'Malley was among the Democratic governors who expressed concern about the federal lawsuit this weekend at a National Governors Association meeting in Boston, according to the New York Times.

Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland — a Democrat who voiced apprehension about the lawsuit in the private meeting, according to the two governors who requested anonymity — said in an interview that he supported it.

“The president doesn’t have control over some of the timing of things that happen,” Mr. O’Malley said. “When those things arise, you can’t be too precious about what’s in it for your own personal political timing or even your party’s timing. When matters like this arise, I think the president has to take a principled stand.”

Continue reading "Could Ariz. immigration law affect Md. election?" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 7:45 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

July 9, 2010

O'Malley goes up on TV

Gov. Martin O'Malley released on Friday the first TV advertisement of the gubernatorial election cycle — buying time to show an ad that promotes his handling of the state's $32 billion budget.

The ad says O'Malley started in office with a $1.7 billion budget deficit and cut $5 billion in “waste and government spending” over four years.

“While other states are still struggling, Martin O'Malley is making the tough choices,” the O’Malley ad says. It will be aired in Baltimore markets starting Monday, but the campaign did not buy time in the more expensive Washington media market.

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign says the ad is false, and sorting out the truth requires a deep dive into budgetary nuance. Ehrlich’s camp contends he left office with a $1 billion surplus, and arrives at that figure by counting a $247 million cash balance — plus funds Ehrlich deposited in the state’s rainy-day fund over and above the amount required by law.

But the same documents Ehrlich’s camp sent also show that O’Malley took office facing a $1.4 billion imbalance. Within six months, deficit projections grew to $1.7 billion, prompting O’Malley to call a special legislative session to raise the sales tax and other revenues. That special session also spawned the referendum that legalized Maryland’s slots program.

O’Malley’s ad correctly notes that Maryland is in far better financial shape than some other states. Feckless fiscal management led to widespread layoffs and cuts to core services like health and education in places like New York, Illinois and California. O'Malley frequently points out that Wall Street analysts have given Maryland the highest bond rating.

And the governor has made some painful reductions. The most significant was a furlough program for state workers that has lasted several years and effectively delivered employees a pay cut.

But the budget is sure to be one issue that Ehrlich will embrace. He and other Republicans say O’Malley missed an opportunity to reshape government and instead used one-time sources of funds, such as federal stimulus money, to keep state government humming. Democrats, they say, will push through a tax increase to cover costs after November's election.

The ad does not mention that the next governor will inherit an estimated $1.5 billion structural deficit. The stimulus funds O'Malley used for operating costs are gone, as is the surplus from the income tax reserve fund — an obscure account from which O'Malley has borrowed hundreds of millions in the last two years. Continuing the furlough program, however, would take a chunk out of the shortfall.

There are short-term problems, too. Nearly $400 million in expected federal Medicaid money is now in doubt, though the state Senate installed a safety valve in this year’s budget that mandates more borrowing from a reserve fund if those federal dollars do not arrive.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:47 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010

Obama weighs in on guv race

Tens of thousands of Maryland Obama supporters received email messages ye