The quest to be Maryland’s next governor is predicted to set off a domino effect across state politics.
The first domino to fall came Monday in Columbia, as Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown — a Democrat already entered in the race for the statehouse — officially tabbed Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as his running mate.
That announcement took Ulman, 39, and barred by law from seeking a third team as county executive, out of the ranks of potential gubernatorial candidates. It also offers Brown, 51, who represented Prince George’s County in the House of Delegates, support from a Baltimore-metro suburb and a huge influx of campaign funds. Ulman reported that he had $2.1 million in his campaign war chest compared with Brown’s $1.6 million.
Brown’s toughest competition in the June 24, 2014 Democratic primary likely will come from Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is expected
to make his bid official in the fall. Gansler, from Montgomery County, has $5.1 million available for his campaign.
Others contemplating a run on the Democratic side are Del. Heather Mizeur, also of Montgomery County, and U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County. A Brown victory would be historic on many levels, as he would be the state’s first African-American governor and the first Maryland lieutenant governor ever to be elected governor.
“Anthony Brown has helped make Maryland a great state, and his dedication to serving the people of Maryland is unmatched,” Ulman said. “I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with the lieutenant governor for the past decade, and I’ve been inspired by his work ethic, his energy and his unyielding commitment to the families of this state. … So when Anthony Brown asked me to be a part of his team, the decision was simple: I said, ‘yes.’”
Brown said adding Ulman to the ticket will only help him build on the record he and Gov. Martin O’Malley began six years ago, which includes being on the forefront of implementing President Barack Obama’s health-care reforms and passing the most stringent gun control laws in the country.
“Ken Ulman has a tremendous record of leadership and results, and I’m excited to have him joining our campaign to build a better Maryland,” Brown said. ”On Ken’s watch, Howard County has become an engine for job creation and education, and there is no doubt that he is the right leader to serve as our next lieutenant governor.”
Gansler, 50, released a statement announcing his intention not to seek re-election for attorney general, but he offered little insight into when he will officially file.
“Protecting children and families as attorney general has been a mission of mine, and while I will not seek a third term, I will continue to work for the people of Maryland during the remainder of my term and in the future,” Gansler said in a statement.
Gansler strategists Bill Knapp and Doug Thornell said they won’t let other candidates dictate how they will run their campaign.
“We feel very good about where we are at right now,” Thornell said. “We have a plan in place that we believe will put us in the strongest possible position. The attorney general’s campaign will be based on ideas and a strong record he has built over his last 61/2 years in office.”
The expectation that Gansler will eventually throw his hat into the gubernatorial ring has led multiple other candidates to explore the possibilities of succeeding him as the state’s top lawyer. Among those who have expressed interest in the job include Democrats Del. Jon Cardin (D-11), Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-25), Del. William Frick (D-16) and Sen. Brian Frosh (D-16).
Cardin said he has been unofficially been campaigning for more than a year and plans on officially entering the race in the next few months. He added that he won’t let other candidates or races make him deviate from his campaign strategy.
“We have a plan in place, and we are following it through,” said Cardin, 43, an attorney from Baltimore County. “We don’t want to do anything that would put Doug Gansler in an uncomfortable position. At the same time, we will make decisions that are in the best interest of our campaign.”
Cardin continued: “I’ve spent the last year crisscrossing the state, learning about running in a statewide race and understanding the issues facing everyone from the mountains of Western Maryland to the ocean on the Eastern Shore. I believe there is one person who is most qualified to be the state’s attorney general, and that is me.”
With at least Cardin and Frosh likely running for attorney general, other would-be candidates are also lining up with hopes of replacing them. This includes Don Engel, who is running for the House of Delegates in Cardin’s district.
Engel, 34, is a Pikesville native who is assistant vice president for research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He believes his science background — he has a Ph.D. in physics, a master’s in computer science and is a certified project management professional — allows him to bring a fresh perspective to Annapolis.
“There’s a lack of professional diversity in Annapolis,” said Engel, who is also a member of the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee. “I believe my knowledge in scientific fields will provide an objective view on certain complex issues rather than relying on outside interest groups.
“With [Cardin] likely running for attorney general, the timing just seemed perfect for me to make a run for office, especially since it’s in the
district I grew up in and whose issues and constituency I greatly understand.”
No Clear-Cut Favorites
Herb Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College, called Brown’s selection of Ulman a “net positive” for his campaign but admits it’s still too early to pick a clear-cut favorite this early for the Nov. 4 2014 general election.
“It will be hard to spin the Ulman selection as a negative,” Smith said. “It’s unusual for a lieutenant governor pick to come out this soon. But the early primaries have changed the game. A formally compressed campaign has now been stretched out, and candidates are forced to show their cards earlier.”
Smith said the depth of Gansler’s campaign coffers allows him to take his time in officially entering the race, but that could change if Brown is able to pick up financial steam following the addition of Ulman to his ticket.
“Right now, the game is about polls, endorsements and funding,” Smith said. “The fall is when the average voter will start paying attention. Should the big-ticket donors start to back Brown, it may force Gansler to speed up his campaign.”
“In politics, it’s not just about desire and funding, it’s also about opportunity,” Smith said. “The opportunities for newcomers are always better when there is not an incumbent.”
It’s that opening, Smith said, which he believes will give a Republican in heavily Democratic Maryland a fighting chance to win the governorship back. The GOP last won the governor’s race in 2002 when Bob Ehrlich defeated Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Smith pointed out that Republican Ellen Sauerbrey nearly defeated Parris Glendening in 1994, and Spiro Agnew also won in an open race in 1968.
Another rallying point for Republicans, Smith said, is voters’ potential anger over higher taxes under O’Malley’s watch. According to ChangeMaryland.org, the state has raised more than $3.1 billion in taxes and fees since O’Malley took office in 2007.
“If voters vote with their wallets, there could be an opening for a Republican candidate in the governor’s race,” Smith said.
That history is partly what motivated Republicans seeking the state’s top office. Harford County Executive David Craig kicked off his bid for the nomination on Monday, too, at a rally outside his home in Havre de Grace. Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County formally announced his bid on Wednesday in Annapolis.
Craig also made his case in front of supporters Monday morning at a rally at the American Legion Post in Dundalk. He believes his track record, which includes time as a city councilman and mayor in Havre de Grace as well as serving as a delegate and state senator, offers voters a fiscally conservative option. Among the achievements he touted was his ability to balance a budget and create jobs while cutting property taxes during his seven years as county executive.
“There are many people who register as Democrats but will vote for Republicans in an open-seat race,” Craig said. “When there is an incumbent running — unless they have done something criminal — it can be difficult [for a Republican] to win.
Baltimore Jewish Council Executive Director Dr. Arthur C. Abramson said all of the major candidates for governor should be a benefit to the Jewish community.
“There are several candidates who happen to be Jewish, but we are just hoping to see candidates get elected who are good representatives for the Jewish community,” said Abramson, who added that his organization’s nonprofit status forbids them from endorsing any candidate.
“Anthony Brown and Doug Gansler have a proven track record of supporting Jewish causes. We’ve also spoken with David Craig, who presented himself well,” said Abramson. “Ron George was among the first in the General Assembly to back tighter sanctions against those who do business with Iran.”
Ron Snyder is a JT staff reporter — email@example.com