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As Long as We Remember...

May 1, 2013

Governor Race Wide Open in Primaries

Patrick W. Allen

In 2014, Maryland Democrats have nothing to worry about. They can put up a pet rock as a candidate and walk away with a win in the Maryland gubernatorial race.


Republican hopefuls are acting like bumper cars in a carnival, bouncing off each other, unable to get their act together and identify a candidate with the chutzpah to exploit the only sliver of electability hope available to their political party.


The 2014 state-wide race will be fought on a very narrow playing field – the economy. Controversial social issues, the ones that get Republicans all fired up, are behind us. The Democratic controlled state legislature has used the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions to get emotionally charged legislation passed through Annapolis, such as Dream Act, same gender marriage and gun control.


Realizing this, and the fact that most voters have short memories, Democrats in Annapolis will use the 2014 General Assembly session to push softball legislation and block Republican voices to ensure that nothing controversial makes it to the floor or the media.


As a Democratic strategist, here’s the correct strategy: take the hot button, emotionally charged issues out of play, hoping to get enough Democratic votes to cross the finish line with a "W," while depressing the Republican voter turnout.


But, Democrats have to be careful when choosing fiscal legislative items to move through the sausage machine. Pick the wrong items and Republicans will gain some election cycle traction on the resurfacing of the Rain Tax and other questionable fiscally-centric bills.


Overall, Maryland Democrats have such an overwhelming registered voter advantage over Republicans that the Democrats can disregard any bad policy allegations and safely run on the status-quo.


The following is a quick glimpse of usual suspects from the major political parties who have announced they will run for Governor, are leaning toward running for governor, or are on a list of potential candidates developed by political party insiders.


Republicans: – The six Republican names being floated range from a literal nobody to several sitting county executives, several wannabe politicos and a forgotten man looking to carpet bag his way back into Maryland.


Charles Lollar: Charles is the nobody. His chances of raising any money are slim-to-none. He showed his cards during the last Fifth Congressional District race when he accused Rep. Steny Hoyer of punching him in the back. Mr. Lollar is someone who cannot be taken seriously.


Larry Hogan: Founder and chairman of ChangeMaryland, a right-leaning enterprise posing as a non-partisan grassroots organization. Mr. Hogan has limited name recognition and cannot leverage his position at ChangeMaryland to infuse enough capital into his campaign to make a dent or a difference.


David Craig: Harford County executive. Mr. Craig has a non-descript resume.  He has a couple of recognizable positions in Maryland politics, but the age demographic he needs for a successful run is not behind him. Voters are looking for someone a bit younger and more energetic.


Dan Bongino:  Former Secret Service agent and current king maker on the Republican side of the aisle for those running or thinking of running for Maryland’s top job. Mr. Bongino lost big time to incumbent Ben Cardin in the 2012 state-wide U.S. Senate race (Incumbent Cardin’s 56.0% to Bongino’s 26.3%). He doesn’t have the chops to threaten Democrats during a general election cycle, but his war chest of money and trial balloons that he may throw his hat into the ring, has frozen both Craig and Blaine Young in their tracks. Don’t be surprised if Mr. Craig and Mr. Young both suspend gubernatorial operations or pull out all together.


Blaine Young: President, Frederick Board of County Commissioners and self-proclaimed good ole boy. Mr. Young is a political lightening rod in Frederick County, with a checkered past and a cyclonic political career. As a former Democrat turned Republican, Mr. Young has demonstrated that he can raise money, but not his name recognition or approval rating. His Fredneck approach to politics appeals to a few local supporters, but does not scale to a state-wide Republican audience.


Michael Steele: Former lieutenant governor to Robert L. Bob Ehrlich. His tumultuous term as Republican National Committee chairman should not be held against him. He’s been out of Maryland politics for over six years, but his tenure as a MSNBC analyst has moved him closer to the political center. Mr. Steele has found his voice and broadly speaking understands that the Republican of today is rapidly going off the rails. If the Republicans have a sliver of a chance to win the Maryland gubernatorial race, and they do, albeit a very tiny sliver, then Michael Steele would be their best hope.


In summary, regarding Republican hopefuls, Mr. Lollar and Mr. Hogan are out and can be crossed off your list. As stated above, Mr. Craig and Mr. Young will disappear into the woodwork. Mr. Steele will see the wisdom in staying at MSNBC, or pursuing other professional projects, staying as far away from the Maryland race as possible. That leaves Mr. Bongino to run against the Democrats and become a two- time state-wide loser.


Democrats: The four Democratic names being floated contain two “no surprises,” one dark horse long shot and one candidate who establishment Democrats seem to be marginalizing.


Anthony Brown: Maryland lieutenant governor. Mr. Brown has spent the last six years in the shadow of Martin O’Malley, serving mostly a ceremonial role in Maryland governance. He has a good life story to tell, which appeals to those who have heard it. He could be Maryland’s first black governor, over 20 years after Doug Wilder became Virginia’s first black governor and the first African-American governor since Reconstruction. In order to win the primary, Mr. Brown has to overcome the O’Malley factor, distancing himself from controversial issues that still smolder in Annapolis and across the state.


Doug Gansler: Maryland attorney general. Mr. Gansler is the money man. He has a war chest to be afraid of, but limited-to-no record to run on.  He’ll need every dollar he can get his hands on in order to carpet bomb mailboxes and airwaves. Generally, state attorney generals are next in line to run and win gubernatorial races (i.e., Virginia has a long history of this), but Mr. Gansler’s vanilla record as Maryland’s top cop may turn out to be the albatross around his neck.


Ken Ulman: Howard County executive. He is the dark horse, long shot candidate in the Democratic primary. He’s the only candidate who does not come with pre-established, state-wide name recognition. However, his resume is at the top of the pile. As Howard executive, his pragmatic style has demonstrated leadership and governance skills which translate easily into the role of Maryland’s next governor. The downside for him is that he is way behind in fundraising and his rolodex is nowhere as deep as the other Democrats.


Heather Mizeur:  Maryland state delegate. Ms. Mizeur is the most energetic and outspoken of the potential candidates. She has a style of her own and a growing momentum. She has worked on difficult issues as a delegate and her work has won her both favorable and unfavorable reviews, depending on which side of the issue constituents have supported or opposed. Maryland has yet to have been served by a female governor.  However, women were the runners-up in four gubernatorial elections (in 1974, 1994, 1998, and 2002). In addition, one woman has served as the lieutenant governor, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, under Gov. Parris Glendening from 1995 to 2003. She is looking history in the face. Not only if she becomes Maryland’s first female governor, but she will also become Maryland’s first openly gay governor.


In summary, regarding Democratic hopefuls, it doesn’t matter. Democrats will win the Maryland gubernatorial general election with ease. The state can save a tremendous amount of money by simply swearing in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary winner.


With that said, and looking closely at records, resumes and expectations, an Ulman-Mizeur ticket may be the best medicine for Maryland.


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