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Monday, February 3, 2014

Maryland Race for Governor Remains Fluid

George Wenschhof
In the solid blue state of Maryland, there is no clear leader in the race to succeed term limited Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley. With the candidate filing deadline of February 25 rapidly approaching, there remains talk of more candidates who may file for Governor.
Maryland 6th district Democratic freshman congressman John Delaney is the latest to consider running in a race where no clear leader has emerged.
Five Democrats, two Republicans and one Libertarian have filed for Governor with Republican Larry Hogan announcing recently he is running for the office.
Among the Democrats running; Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, state Attorney General Doug Gansler and state delegate Heather Mizeur are the main contenders battling for the party nomination resulting from the June 24 primary.
Adding intrigue in the race is the possibility of voters electing the first African American governor or woman and openly gay governor with Anthony Brown and Heather Mizeur on the ballot.
Larry Hogan, a former cabinet member of the last Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich and leader of the political organization Change Maryland, has quickly risen to the top among the Republican candidates and is the favorite to win the Republican primary.
The traditional early jockeying for statewide support by the leading Democratic candidates has included the naming of Lt. Governor Candidates, political endorsements and the boasting of fundraising prowess.
The Brown campaign moved quickly to announce Howard County executive as his running mate, removing a potential rival from the race and adding to his campaign coffers.  The Gansler campaign, hampered by three changes in campaign manager, countered with naming Jolene Ivey, an African American from Prince Georges County, one of the top four counties a candidate must win in a statewide election.  The Mizeur campaign followed by announcing Prince Georges pastor Delman Coates as her running mate.
So far, Democratic candidate campaign sniping at each other has dominated the news. Leading some Democrats to worry this could result in a similar outcome as the 2002 election when Republican Robert Ehrlich upset Democrat and Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
The Gansler campaign came under fire early on from presumably the Brown campaign or ones sympathetic, with leaks surrounding statements from Gansler about the Brown campaign using the race card, state trooper gate and photos of Gansler at a party where underage youth were consuming alcohol.
The less than stellar rollout of the state health care exchange for the Affordable Care Act has brought criticism to Lt. Governor Anthony Brown who was tasked by Governor Martin O’Malley to implement the program in the state.
This criticism, that questions his management ability, has severely impacted the Brown campaign that came out of the gate strong as the heir apparent to O’Malley. The Brown campaign focused on announcing the elected official endorsements they had received from O’Malley and many other elected officials in the state, including powerful state senate president Thomas “Mike” Miller and Representative Steny Hoyer.
Meanwhile, state delegate Heather Mizeur, who was considered a long shot to win the Democratic nomination, has mounted a strong grassroots effort appealing to progressives across the state.  Mizeur, who supports legalizing marijuana, recently announced the endorsement from the NORML political action committee. She also has received the endorsement from women's group Emily's List.  
January 8 campaign fundraising reports show the all important cash on hand to be: Brown - $7.1 Million, Gansler - $6.3 Million and Mizeur - $750,000.  The Brown campaign was aided by the $2.1 Million Ken Ulman, who had also considered a run for governor, had on hand.
Democratic representative John Delaney is a multi millionaire who spent millions of his own money in winning the 6th district race in 2012, where he upset the anointed Democratic candidate state senator Rob Garagiola. Delaney went on to dislodge Republican Roscoe Bartlett who had served for twenty years.  His victory was aided by gerrymandering of the district by the strong Democratic leaning state legislature.
Interestingly, the campaign manager of the Brown campaign is Justin Schall, who managed Delaney’s successful 2012 congressional campaign.   
Republican Larry Hogan, who just announced his candidacy, is expected to be aided by funds from his political organization Change Maryland.  The real estate broker has said his campaign will focus on the economy.
During an interview with Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) last week, I asked him if he had second thoughts about not entering the race for Governor. Franchot, who has not endorsed a candidate for governor, told me “I love my job as Comptroller and look forward to serving another term”.
The recent news Larry Hogan will be running and Delaney is considering a run, clearly shows the fluidity of the race for Governor of Maryland.
Lost in the jockeying and sniping to date by some candidate campaigns has been a solid debate on the issues. 
Let’s hope from this point on, all of the candidates for Governor of Maryland focus on their position on the issues important to voters.
Stay tuned. 

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