Now the race for Maryland governor starts for real. The two main contenders are in the ring for what promises to be an aggressive contest race that has no precedent in Maryland history.
What makes the 2014 gubernatorial election so unusual is the timing.
Rather than holding the primary in September as is traditional, this one takes place June 24. That early date will cut down substantially on turnout, play havoc with fundraising and compress the full fury of the campaign into about 80 days once the General Assembly ends its session on April 7.
Its also unusual in that the leading contenders hold two jinxed state offices.
No lieutenant governor has ever been elected to succeed his boss in Maryland.No lieutenant governor has ever been elected to succeed his boss in Maryland. Blair Lee III, Sam Bogley, Joe Curran, Mickey Steinberg, Kathleen Kennedy Towson and Michael Steele all had dreams of sitting in the governors chair but never did.
No attorney general has won election to the states top office in 75 years, either.No attorney general has won election to the states top office in 75 years, either. Most settled for prestigious judgeships but a few considered running or failed trying Tom Finan (1966), Bill Burch (1978) and Steve Sachs (1986). None made it past the primary.
(The last attorney general elected governor was Herbert OConor in 1938. Ironically, he was succeeded eight years later by William Preston Lane, who had been attorney general just before OConor.) Attorney General Doug Gansler on his announcement tour.
So Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler not only are battling against each other but also battling against history.
They are far and away the ones to watch.
Delegate Heather Mizeur. (Photo source: MarylandReporter.com)
Del. Heather Mizeur of Montgomery County is a peripheral issues candidate who is making this high-visibility campaign her political swan song. Republican candidates cant come close to winning in Democratic Maryland unless theres a inside-the-party revolt against the Democratic primary winner.
Thats not likely to happen.
Even worse, Republican candidates are taking extreme positions to appease Tea Party voters, thus eliminating their already slim chances. (More in a future column.)
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown announces run for governor. To his left are his parents: father Roy Brown in hat and mother Lily Brown with Congresswoman Donna Edwards to the far left. (Photo source: MarylandReporter.com)
Brown prematurely kicked off the campaign by declaring in May a stunningly early announcement.
He followed by making an early choice for a running mate and announcing a slew of endorsements meant to show his bona fides. Yet few voters pay attention so far from Election Day.
Now, though, the media has turned its sights on the gubernatorial race because a second heavyweight, Gansler, has announced. Hes running as the outsider against the entrenched political establishment.
Its an apt description given that Brown had been running a coronation campaign stressing the inevitability of his elevation.
Attorney General Doug Gansler on his announcement tour. (Photo source: MarylandReporter.com)
Gansler wasted little time debunking that campaign myth. Its now a two-person race with Mizeur providing intriguing side-commentary.
Brown is Gov. Martin OMalleys anointed choice. The governor will work hard to get his No. 2 elected. Why not? Brown claims credit for all of OMalleys achievements and then promises voters hell do more.
In fact, Brown was not a major contributor to most of OMalleys legislative successes and only played a role on a few issues late in the administrations second term.
But OMalley is joined at the hip with Brown and will push hard to make his No. 2 look good in the next legislative session. Its the best way for the governor to ensure his legacy is embellished and extended.
Gansler the outsider
Gansler had even less to do with OMalleys achievements so he can rightly claim the title of outsider. Indeed, the more endorsements Brown announces, the more Gansler can rail about the political establishments cabal to keep control of the states highest office.
Browns approach is to lock in all the top Democratic endorsements and ride to victory on the strength of OMalleys liberal record, the political establishments clout with voters and the unified support of Marylands large African American community, especially in Prince Georges County.
That leaves Gansler room to appeal to moderate and conservative Democrats who have been largely abandoned by OMalley and Brown and to his strong base in Montgomery County.
The attorney general has staked out positions slightly to the right of OMalley opposing the gas tax increase, criticizing the governors embrace of a zero tolerance arrest policy, proposing a corporate tax cut, urging steps to bolster manufacturing and criticizing OMalleys prison policies.
At the same time, Gansler isnt abandoning his long-standing liberalism. (He was, for example, one of the first state officials in Maryland to endorse Barack Obamas candidacy and to endorse gay marriage). He spoke out before others on raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 an hour. He proposes legislation to protect women from domestic violence and implement transparent policies for state government.
Two big tests
The next General Assembly session will test both candidates. Gansler will pick and choose where he wants to attack the OMalley-Brown administration. Conversely, Brown has to show success in getting administration bills enacted. Much of what transpires for those 90 days will be colored by the campaign for governor.
Gansler has the clear edge in fundraising at the moment. If thats still true come May, he will have the upper hand in advertising his name and face on local television. At a time when neither candidate is a well-known commodity, thats a big advantage.
What may settle the race are the campaign debates. Gansler is quick on his feet and a fierce advocate; Brown can be an impressive speaker when reading from a script. How they match up on issues voters care about and how they come across to a large debate audience could determine the outcome.
Rascovar has been reporting and commenting on Maryland and national politics and government since 1971, first for the Baltimore Sun, then the Gazette of Politics and Business and The Community Times. You can read more of Barry Rascovars columns at www.politicalmaryland.com.