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September 29, 2010

Marylandís Sound and Fury

Kevin E. Dayhoff

The Maryland gubernatorial general election is a little over a month away and jobs, taxes, business climate, the cost of utilities, and the economy are continuing to take center stage in this election’s signal-to-noise ratio as critical issues.


To address these issues, a cacophony of attack ads and negative campaigning plague Maryland voters as they continue to ponder their choice as to who is the best person to lead us out of the economic morass in which we find ourselves.


Now that the primary election is history, Marylanders are seeing a rematch as to whether former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich or current Gov. Martin O’Malley is best suited to provide a flashlight out of the darkness.


Charges and counter charges rule the airwaves as the average person in the grocery store checkout line is reaching for the extra-strength headache pain reliever.


Pundits continue to shake their heads as to why the O’Malley campaign started with the negative attack ads beginning with its very first ad on May 7, “Bob Ehrlich's Fantasy Land.”


Conspiracy theories range from it was a tacit recognition that the contest was going to be close to thoughts that Governor O’Malley does indeed harbor a deep personal dislike of Governor Ehrlich.


Other considerations include that the ads are intended to shore-up his Democratic base which has had all the air let out of their tires by the high national disapproval number for President Barack Obama, of whom Governor O’Malley is very closely aligned.


Some contend that it is aimed at making sure that very conservative Republican voters continue to remain unhappy with Governor Ehrlich as a result of his tax and fee increases while he was in office.


In 2006, Andy Green of The Baltimore Sun wrote: “Ehrlich raised the property tax and a variety of fees, including a doubling of car registration fees and the so-called ‘flush tax’ to fund Chesapeake Bay cleanup, that have cost Marylanders $2.5 billion,” according to Julie Bykowicz on May 7.


Meanwhile, the Ehrlich campaign just added to the signal-to-noise ratio yesterday with its first attack ad. Characterized by many as an “attack ad,” which it is, some Republicans would rather the ad be understood as a response to the O’Malley campaign’s steady drumbeat about job creation, who raised the most taxes and when, and who was responsible for the 72 percent increase in Baltimore Gas and Electric’s utility rates.


Why the O’Malley campaign would want to focus on taxes, jobs and unemployment, and the BGE rate increase is anyone’s guess as politicians in glass houses should never throw stones.


Many voters, who pulled the lever for Mr. O’Malley in 2006, did so under the belief that he was going to somehow lower the BGE rate increase. He did not.


Then there is the not so small matter that the O’Malley administration raised taxes by $3.6 billion, which included an increase in the sales tax, which poured salt into the collective economic wounds of the lower and middle class wage earners.


Most of the tax increases during the years of the O’Malley administration are attributable to the 2007 special taxing session, according to The Washington Post’s political blog, “First Click Maryland’s” post by John Wagner, on Monday, “A review of two records on revenues.”


We can certainly all agree with Mr. Wagner when he says that “In the final five weeks of the campaign, voters are certain to be treated to cacophony of numerical claims from both sides, some more firmly rooted in reality than others…”


In the cobalt-blue state of Maryland, the question is becoming increasingly straightforward: Are Marylanders so unhappy with the current state of affairs that they will overcome their collective reluctance to vote for a Republican?


One thing is for sure: a thought is continuing to gather steam that the O’Malley campaign attack ads are angering very conservative voters to the point where they will, after all, show up at the polls in droves.


To make matters worse for the Democrats, as the election draws closer, the greater concern for the O’Malley campaign is how many Democrats will sit-out the election. Longtime political observer Gregory Hilton wrote after the primary election: “While the media focuses on the Delaware and New Hampshire U.S. Senate races, one of the most surprising results last night was in the Blue state of Maryland where Democrats disappeared.


“In 2002 and 2006, the primary turnout ratio favored the Democrats by a 2.5 to 1 margin, and the GOP was still able to elect a governor in 2002. Last night the ratio had declined to just 1.5 to 1.”


As far as Democrats in Maryland, who hold overwhelming voter registration hegemony, voting Republican, one need to look no further than the November 2009 governor’s race in the even-bluer state of New Jersey. Yes, there is such a thing as an even more liberal state in the union than Maryland – hard to believe, but true.


In that election, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Chris Christie, a former prosecutor, stunned political observers by besting incumbent Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine.


Just before New Jersey voters took to the polls, President Obama visited the state and extolled: “We will not lose this election if all of you are as committed as you were last year. If you will let your voices shine through, you will not only re-elect Jon Corzine, you will put New Jersey on a path for success for another four years.”


Memo to Democrats: liberal voters are not as committed as they were in 2008.


Meanwhile, in New Jersey last November, President Obama’s wish came true. After the New Jersey voters let their “voices shine through,” they “put New Jersey on a path for success for another four years.”


They chose Mr. Christie, who, one year later, has cut spending and balanced the New Jersey state budget. I’m just saying.


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