Earlier this week, Sen. Barbara Mikulski assembled a rather exclusive Democratic leadership meeting in Annapolis. Democratic leaders remaining in office in 2015 only. It was billed as looking ahead to 2016 and beyond; but the day-after reports suggested more time spent pondering what went wrong in 2014. The leaders seemed to be looking for some secret, hidden answer. Or maybe, for a scapegoat. Continue reading
More Democrats in Maryland turned out in early voting than Republicans. I believe the early vote proves the superiority of the Democratic “ground game” in Maryland. Especially in close contests, Democratic candidates make a real effort to identify supporters and urge them to vote early or vote absentee. Think of it as “vote banking.” Continue reading
Governor-elect Larry Hogan begins a statewide victory tour on Tuesday with a Veterans’ Day parade appearance in St. Mary’s County, one of many counties that contributed to his somewhat surprising victory over Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown last week. Brown, who was supposed to be the next Maryland governor, won’t be having any parades in the near future. Continue reading
What can we expect to learn by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning?
We might find out if Maryland is truly a one-party state.
Or we might at least discover if Maryland is as Blue as both Democrats and Republicans pretend. Maybe the state is actually more like Purple.
We could confirm that voters are totally disconnected from politics this year. Continue reading
The Maryland election is Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s to lose. I think he’s leading by at least as much as Gov. Martin O’Malley’s winning margin over Bob Ehrlich four years ago.
If Brown turns out his voters in early voting and on Nov. 4, he wins. Period. Checkmate, Larry Hogan. Game over. Turnout also will be crucial for Democrats in some down-ballot contests.
The election is three weeks from today. Why does my Democratic gut feel like it needs an Alka-Seltzer?
This is the saddest year for Maryland Democrats since Spiro Agnew won the governor’s mansion. At least Bob Ehrlich was a seasoned Maryland politician with years of service in Congress and the General Assembly. Who is this year’s Republican candidate? He’s the son of someone by the same name who was a congressman when I was a teenager, in the last century.
This year, we have two candidates who look sort of gubernatorial, no election for the U.S. Senate, and no contest in any of the state’s eight congressional districts. In Montgomery County, my home county and the largest jurisdiction in Maryland, there’s no visible sign of an impending election. I mean “no sign” literally. You see a few lonely lawns sprouting signs for Republicans. But Democratic signs, nada. And why should there be? Ike Leggett has a lock on the county executive’s office and nine Democratic council candidates are cruising to Election Day on automatic pilot. It’s no wonder the voters are disconnected. This is no way to run a democracy.
Not a single political message in my mailbox since the primary. (Email is a different story. Messages every day from Democrats begging for contributions.) The only candidate to be seen or heard from in Montgomery is Robin Ficker. Seriously, Ficker is the only candidate I’ve seen since the June primary. I attended three Saturday-night outdoor concerts at Black Rock Theater in Germantown during the summer, and Ficker was working the crowd all three times. I seriously doubt, BTW, that Ficker can win, but stranger things have happened. If any Republican has a snowball’s chance in MoCo in 2014, it would have to be Ficker.
I chalk up the political disinterest to two factors.
First, there’s not a single exciting contest to stir the voters’ blood, not in MoCo, and not in Prince George’s County or Baltimore City, the state’s two other Democratic redoubts. If anyone knows of a General Assembly cliffhanger in Central Maryland, please let me know.
The second reason is related to the first. The Democratic Party in MoCo, P.G., and The City is the victim of its own success. Democrats so dominate politics in the big three that all suspense, energy and conflict has been drained from the system. Could you write a good novel or screenplay without CONFLICT?
Without conflict, there is no story. If there is any conflict left in the Big Three, it would be in the primaries, not the General Election. Alas, the entrenchment and almost certain re-election of Democratic incumbents in the local and legislative races has drained excitement even from the primaries. The turnout in June’s Maryland primary is Exhibit A.
With the days ticking down to the start of Early Voting, and the electorate snoozing, a Republican has been creeping slowly up behind the Democrat in the only statewide race that matters, the governor’s race. The candidates are Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the Democrat who should be the runaway favorite; and Republican Larry Hogan, who unlike Agnew, Ellen Sauerbrey and Bob Ehrlich, the other serious Republicans to run for governor in modern history, has never held elective office.
That’s right. Agnew was county executive of Baltimore County, at that time one of the three most populous jurisdictions. Sauerbrey was minority leader in the House of Delegates, and Ehrlich was a congressman. What are Larry Hogan’s credentials? I can think of two: Hogan looks old enough to be governor, and he promises to cut taxes. Now, even Brown, the Democrat, is promising no new taxes.
Taxes is the only issue on the voter’s minds this election season. I’ve been making some phone calls to voters — a lot of phone calls, actually. When I ask about issues, the answer is taxes. It’s the next thing to unanimous. I’m calling on behalf of a Democratic candidate on the Eastern Shore, where Red Republicans are thick as mosquitoes, but Democrats and unaffiliated voters in the Blue counties have nearly as much antipathy to taxes this year. Just ask Brown.
So there you have it. Democrats in Central Maryland are in a self-induced coma. Republicans in the provinces are hopping mad, as always. I don’t think it will happen, but we could wake up with a Republican governor on Nov. 5.
— John Hayden
For an excellent and concise report on the recent history of gubernatorial politics in Maryland, see “Looks Like We Have A Governor’s Race” over at David Lublin’s blog.
Last weekend, The Washington Post reported poll results showing Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the Democratic candidate, with a relatively slim lead over Republican Larry Hogan.
Slim, but hardly surprising. The Brown candidacy has seemed eerily reminiscent of KKT from the beginning. The one encouraging difference is that Brown chose a much stronger candidate as his running mate than did KKT.
The political view from Montgomery County and Prince George’s County exaggerates Democratic invincibility in the state as a whole. Baltimore County remains the critical swing county.
Martin O’Malley, Peter O’Malley and County Executive Jim Smith worked to strengthen the Democratic position in Baltimore County, producing a safe margin of victory for O’Malley in 2010. It will be interesting to see how many of those Democratic votes show up in Baltimore County returns in 2014.
— John Hayden
ONE. The debate was way too short. One hour is not enough. The candidates sometimes had to cut their answers short, and concluding statements were cut to less than 60 seconds. When a baseball game or football game is televised, we don’t set an arbitrary time limit. We cover the whole game, even if it goes into extra innings or overtime.
TWO. Was it a coincidence that both Anthony Brown and Douglas Gansler tried to associate themselves with Heather Mizeur’s response in at least one or two cases each? (Note: All three are Democrats. A separate debate was held for Republicans.)
THREE. Mizeur is the only candidate supporting immediate legalization and regulation of marijuana. She said Maryland could raise money by taxing marijuana to pay for early childhood education. The other two aren’t ready yet. They want to wait and see how legalization works in Washington State and Colorado.
FOUR. A clear separation on tax policy. Gansler repeatedly advocates reducing the corporate income tax to make Maryland more competitive with other states in attracting business. Mizeur wants to cut taxes for 90 percent of ordinary people, keep the corporate income tax and close the loopholes, reinstate the millionaire’s tax and retain the estate tax. Brown prefers to hold out for “comprehensive tax reform,” not try to do it piecemeal. He promised to appoint a commission to propose tax reform in time for the 2016 General Assembly. And he indicated that small businesses need tax relief more than major corporations. Mizeur promised no estate tax “giveaway,” Brown promised no corporate “giveaway.”
FIVE. Gansler attacked a culture of special interests and lobbyists in Annapolis. He called Mizeur a former lobbyist, and he charged that the Brown campaign is funded by special interests. Mizeur pointed out that her campaign is the only one that opted for public funding.
SIX. Mizeur is the strongest proponent of universal early childhood education. Brown said he was closer to Mizeur’s position than Gansler’s, and Gansler tried to associate himself with Mizeur’s position on early childhood education, as well.
I can’t pick a winner here. These are professional politicians who have answered questions and repeated their positions many times before. They’re pretty good at it. And I doubt that any one debate is likely to change the outcome of an election. Unfortunately, I think TV advertising is more likely to turn the outcome of an election.
For what it’s worth, I thought Heather Mizeur had a calmer stage presence and smoother delivery than the other two. Both Brown and Gansler looked tense and tried to talk too fast to squeeze words into the limited time. Gansler stumbled on his words several times, but no big deal.
Brown continues to appear to be the clear frontrunner.
— John Hayden
The three Democratic candidates for governor in Maryland will debate tonight on television. The debate will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. Monday on WBAL-TV Channel 11 in Baltimore, and on Maryland Public Television stations. The debate will be streaming live on the WBAL website, wbaltv.com, and the Maryland Public Television website, www.mpt.org
The Democratic candidates to replace Gov. Martin O’Malley are Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney Gen. Douglas Gansler, and Del. Heather Mizeur. The debate moderator will be MPT’s David Salkin. The debate is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Maryland Public Television, and WBAL-TV. It will be held at the MPT studio in Owings Mills.
Tonight’s Democratic debate represents the last, best hope for Mizeur and Ganzler to catch up with and pass Brown before the June 24 primary. Political observers believe Brown is running well ahead of Mizeur and Gansler, but the contest may be tightening.
For voters just tuning in to Maryland’s 2014 elections — which is most voters — this one-hour debate may be the only chance to compare the candidates side-by-side. And it’s probably the last opportunity, other than television advertising, for the candidates to make a favorable impression on voters. In the precious few minutes each candidate will have tonight, expect Mizeur and Ganzler to make their strongest case to distinguish themselves from Brown.
O’Malley cannot run again after serving two terms because of Maryland’s term limit for Governor. The term limit is even stricter in Virginia, which allows only one four-year term for governor.
You’ll be seeing a lot of Brown and Gansler on TV between now and the June 24 primary election. Both Gansler and Brown have ample war chests to fund television advertising. Mizeur also plans to advertise on TV, although her budget is smaller.
Mizeur hopes to score a breakthrough in tonight’s debate by focusing on issues such as the widening income divide between rich and poor.
“Heather will make Annapolis work for middle class families,” said Joanna Belanger, Mizeur’s campaign manager. “It’s prioritized the wealthy and big corporations for far too long.”
Meanwhile, four Republicans vying for the Republican nomination for governor debated today. The Republican debate will be aired on WBAL-TV and Maryland Public Television at 7 p.m. Friday night.
Today’s gubernatorial debates are expected to be the final joint debates between the candidates before the primary on June 24. Early voting begins June 12. The deadline for registering to vote in the primary is tomorrow, Tuesday, June 3, at 9 p.m.
— John Hayden