With just one month left for candidates to reach Maryland’s primary voters, the June 24 election is still anyone’s race.
Last month’s Maryland Poll showed the majority of voters still undecided in both the Republican and Democratic primaries, with as many as almost seven in 10 registered Republicans unsure of who they will vote for next month.
Donald Norris, chairman of the department of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said he wouldn’t be surprised if turnout in the primary is less than 20 percent.
“Timing is one big item, but none of the candidates seem to have generated any great interest among the public,” he said, noting that this year’s gubernatorial primary is the first to be held in June rather than September since the state legislature approved the move in 2011.
Although Norris thinks Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown will win the primary, he doesn’t see a huge difference between him and fellow Democrat, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler.
“They’re both mainstream Democrats,” Norris said. “Gansler has tried to sort of set himself apart by saying, ‘I’m going to do some stuff on business climate.’”
While there have been no attack ads, this month’s gubernatorial debate saw Brown and Gansler trade jabs over a photo that surfaced last year of Gansler at a party where teens were allegedly drinking and Brown’s role in the troubled rollout of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. While Brown has drawn praise from the likes of Bill Clinton for his work in fixing the glitches that plagued the site in the fall, Gansler has made repeated calls for an investigation into Maryland’s launch.
Neither Norris nor American politics professor and University of Maryland department of government and politics chair Irwin Morris expect the rollout of the MHBE to be a major factor in determining the winner of the Democratic primary.
“I think that sort of issue is likely to play better to a more Republican audience because if you’re critical of how things turned out in Maryland, then you have to think, ‘OK, what is my perspective on how the rollout went more broadly, the health care act at the federal level?’” said Morris.
While Brown appears to be the frontrunner, said Morris, “it’s certainly not a done deal.” Though gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur (D-District 20) trails both Brown and Gansler in polls, her progressive campaign has the potential to draw votes away from the other Democratic candidates, Gansler’s in particular, said Norris, noting that both candidates hail from Montgomery County.
In a state where the latest Gallup poll shows a 20 percent Democratic advantage, neither expect a Republican to win the general election, but Norris thinks Larry Hogan might have the best shot in the primary as a middle-of-the-road candidate with experience at the executive level. David Craig may have had a shot, he added, but he has pushed himself far to the right on taxes and the environment, which may help him in the primary but won’t help in the general election.
Two of the four registered Republican candidates, Charles Lollar and Hogan, have never been elected to public office, something both say works to their advantage, as both have concentrated experience in the private sector. All four of the candidates are emphasizing their economic plans, citing high unemployment statistics around the state and pointing to Maryland’s taxes and regulatory standards as the culprits in pushing businesses out of the state.
Background: As lieutenant governor for both of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s terms, Brown chaired the Base Realignment and Closure Subcabinet to prepare Maryland for the arrival of more than 60,000 new jobs and residents, was the state’s point person on the Affordable Care Act, a position he’s faced much scrutiny over, and helped pass legislation that has extended protections and programsfor domestic violence victims. He served two terms in the Maryland General Assembly as a delegate representing the 25th District in Prince George’s County, from 1999 to 2007. A colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, Brown served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, for which he earned a bronze star.
Key Issues: Brown and Ulman’s policy proposals focus on improving the economy and education through infrastructure investment, career and technology training and universal access to pre-kindergarten. Other proposals include combating domestic violence and sexual assault, improving support for veterans, improving child welfare in the foster system, promoting minority- and women-owned businesses, providing low-interest college loans to high school graduates who are children of undocumented immigrants, closing the academic achievement gap in Maryland, curbing the increase in public higher education costs, reducing recidivism, ensuring gender equality and increasing affordable housing.
Background: Gansler has been Maryland’s attorney general since 2007. During his time in office, he focused on environmental issues such as the health of the Chesapeake Bay, consumer and public safety issues such as gangs and Internet predators and was president of the National Association of Attorneys General, where he also chaired committees on underage drinking, energy and the environment. He established the office’s first gang prosecution unit and its first director of civil rights position, was the first high-profile public official in Maryland to support same-sex marriage. He was the Maryland co-chair of President Barack Obama’s campaign with Rep. Elijah Cummings and served as the state’s attorney for Montgomery County. As state’s attorney, he was reprimanded for public statements he made about three pending cases.
Key Issues: Proposals include increasing jobs and career advancement through higher education discounts, job training for the unemployed, training for small businesses, apprenticeship programs, paid sick and safe leave and expanded career center hours. Gansler plans to continue to focus on public safety by empowering communities, victims and law enforcement, renewable energy, protecting the Bay, preventing excessive increases in health insurance premiums, narrowing the education achievement gap through increased
access to pre-kindergarten and increasing government transparency.
Background: Mizeur has represented Maryland’s 20th District in Montgomery County in the House of Delegates since 2007. As a delegate, Mizeur has helped expand health coverage to minors, young adults and low-income women, sponsored legislation to invest in nanobiotechnology research, sponsored a bill that led to a comprehensive study of drilling in Maryland, sponsored legislation that increased government transparency, advocated for same-sex marriage and advocated for decriminalization of marijuana. She was elected to the Democratic National Committee in 2005 and was appointed to its executive committee in 2009 by President Obama. She was a member of the Takoma Park City Council from 2003 to 2005. She has also worked as a legislative assistant and director for many federal officials, including John Kerry, for whom she was director of domestic policy from 2003 to 2006, and was state director of the Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004.
Key Issues: Mizeur has a 10-point economic plan which involves tax relief for the middle class, instituting a living wage, job training, school renovations and clean energy jobs. To narrow the achievement gap, Mizeur wants to expand access to pre-kindergarten, after-school and summer programs, among other initiatives. Her plans also call for holistic crime fighting, re-entry programs for inmates, taxing, legalizing and regulating marijuana, ensuring equal pay for women, improving care and benefits for seniors, reforming campaign finance, increasing need-based financial aid and access to low-interest student loans, protecting families from foreclosure and establishing a nonpartisan commission to address redistricting.
Background: Jaffe, a Pikesville- area teacher, with his sister, ran for governor in 2010, earning 19,517 votes in the primary election and 319 votes as a write-in candidate during the general election, according the Maryland State Board of Elections. He also ran for U.S. Senate in 2012 and received 3,313 votes in the general election, according to the Board of Elections.
Key Issues: Jaffe thinks elected officials should refuse campaign contributions and would serve one term without pay. Jaffe would oppose increasing taxes and would abolish several state boards and commissions including the Public Service Commission, the Maryland Department of Education, deferring to county departments, the Maryland Stadium Authority and the state’s Vehicle Emissions Inspection program. He would also aim to protect seniors from lackluster nursing home care and strengthen pet owner protections.
Background: Walsh is an independent university researcher who specializes in public policy.
Key Issues: While Walsh said one of her primary objectives is to serve as a “heads-up” to the people of Maryland that they need to get involved in their state’s politics, her platform includes aligning the minimum wage with the living wage, using policy to influence global corporations that she said have “over-corporatized” Maryland to leave the state and audit all of the tax breaks given to corporations to ensure that the companies benefiting are invested in the local community. She operates a blog on her website she promised to continue updating if elected.
CHARLES U. SMITH
Residence: Baltimore City
Running Mate: Clarence Tucker
Background: Smith ran for U.S. Congress in 2012, getting 2,438 votes in the primary election, losing to Elijah Cummings. He received 28 votes in the general election as a write-in candidate.
Key Issues: Smith does not appear to have a working website or phone number. Emails were not answered.
Residence: Anne Arundel County
Running Mate: Shelley Aloi, former alderman for the City of Frederick and outgoing vice-chair of the Chesapeake Bay and Water Resources and Policy Committee for the Greater Washington Area Council
Background: George has served two terms as delegate in the state legislature and is a ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee. He owns and operates two jewelry stores, in Annapolis and
Key Issues: If elected, George said one of his key objectives would be to grow the tax base in Baltimore City. As part of his economic plan, George proposes to gradually lower the
Corporate Income Tax rate from 8.25 percent to 5.75 percent by 2017, reduce the personal income tax in the state by 10 percent, repeal the gas and rain taxes and move forward with drilling and natural gas exporting in parts of the state. He also supports the BOAST (Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers in Maryland) tax credit, which would give companies a bigger tax incentive to donate to private schools, and promises to reassess the Common Core standards in addition to loosening some of the restrictions placed on gun ownership in the state over the past year.
Residence: Harford County
Running Mate: Jeannie Haddaway, state delegate for District 37B
Background: Craig has worked as Harford County executive since 2005. Before that, he spent time as a Havre de Grace city councilmember, mayor, Maryland state delegate and state senator. He has also been involved in the Harford County public school system for more than three decades as a teacher and vice principal.
Key Issues:The Craig-Haddaway campaign has promised to reduce or eliminate any tax or fee it sees as inhibiting jobs in Maryland and re-evaluate the regulations placed on businesses in the state. The campaign also promises to cut the state budget. Critical of the current state of the criminal justice system, Craig said he plans to keep a closer eye on cellphone activity in prisons and assess the decision factors used to determine whether a prisoner is released early from jail. Additionally, he promises to reduce the education department’s administrative budget, end Common Core in Maryland and evaluate tuition in the university system and support charter and private schools.
Background: Hogan is the former secretary of appointments under the Ehrlich-Steele Administration. He is also the founder, president and CEO of The Hogan Companies and founder of Change Maryland, a nonprofit organization that monitors government spending.
Key Issues: Though Hogan is adamant that citizens of Maryland face excessive state taxes, he has to be realistic, he said. His experience as appointments secretary, he said, makes him the most bipartisan candidate. If elected, Hogan said his first task will be looking to reduce state spending and waste to ensure the state government is run as efficitley as possible so that cuts in services are not needed.. Next, he will evaluate the taxes placed on state residents and their businesses that he says make the state unfriendly to businesses and private-sector jobs. He also promises to increase government transparency by establishing a system of checks and balances within the government to ensure that there is oversight. He would also work to improve transparency within the state government.
Background: Lollar is a former Marine Corps member and a current major in the Marine Corps Reserves. He has served on the executive board of directors for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, as chairman of the Charles County Republican Central Committee and is on the advisory board of the Conservative Victory PAC.
Key Issues: Over the next five years, Lollar has promised to eliminate the personal income tax in the state of Maryland. If elected, he also plans to eliminate the rain tax, reduce sales tax from 6 percent to 5 percent, repeal the 24-cent-per-gallon gas tax and the inheritance tax and utilize public-private partnerships to increase construction jobs,. Additionally, he would introduce a yearly audit of every tax, regulation and law that collects fees in the state. He also plans to repeal the state’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013 and make Maryland a “shall carry” state, where issuing agencies cannot deny concealed-carry applicants for nonspecific criteria. Lollar also proposes a moratorium on the adoption of the Common Core standards and creating state-sponsored vocational training for high school students through public-private partnerships. He is also supportive of utilizing Maryland’s Marcellus Shale National Gas Reserves to create what he says will be a more energy-independent country.