At birthday bash, Curry hints at challenge to O'Malley
Will he? Won't he? Might he? Could he?
Former Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry didn't give an answer Thursday night to the question on the minds of many Marylanders: Will he run for Governor? But with the subtlety of a sledge hammer, he used the lectern before the standing-room-only crowd in an Upper Marlboro ballroom--gathered, officially, for his 59th "birthday celebration"-- to lambaste the state's political leadership and to come perhaps as close as humanly possible to launching a campaign, only to, um, not.
After several introductory speakers, a campaign-style biographical video and a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" from the well-dressed, well-fed, well-connected throng, Curry spoke for about 15 minutes--thanking them, praising them, enticing them.
The "leaders" Curry thrashed were unnamed, but the implicit references to Gov. Martin O'Malley, a fellow Democrat, seemed inescapable.
"Look around and see who isn't here," Curry said, to audible groans.
"Tonight we meet in urgent and formidable times... .People are suffering, homes are foreclosed, hope is flickering... .You know, some of our leaders don't get it. Like the captain of the Titanic, they're sailing smugly, disregarding serious warnings that icebergs are ahead. ...The tribulations of regular people only landed on their ears at the commencement of the election season. ...Taking the votes of Prince Georgians and others and ignoring the debt owed to them is worse than indecent, it's an atrocity."
But after all the fireworks, Curry stopped short of making news, ending with a vague promise to help citizens.
"I don't know by what method, or mode or with what temper I will be called," Curry told the gathering. "Whatever form it takes, it will be done for you."
Many in Maryland's Democratic establishment think Curry's primary interest is getting attention and that he is unlikely to actually mount a primary challenge against O'Malley. And there was some chatter Thursday night that Curry could even switch parties and wind up as former Republican governor Bob Ehrlich's running mate in the fall. (Curry, you'll recall, was a backer of Republican Michael S. Steele's failed 2006 Senate bid.)
Whatever Curry's intentions, the event underscored how much uncertainty hangs over Maryland's late-starting governor's race. A decision by Ehrlich looms large, of course. O'Malley, who will pick up an endorsement Friday from the League of Conservation Voters, already has one Democratic primary challenger: George Owings III, a former veterans affairs secretary from Ehrlich's Cabinet. A second challenger could further weaken O'Malley heading into the general election -- according to a theory advanced primarily by Republicans at this point.
In many way's, Curry's Thursday bash was the perfect way to test the waters and gauge the appetite of his base. Calling it a tribute and a birthday party even gave cover to officials in attendance who have already endorsed O'Malley, like Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D) and County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D).
They weren't supporting his potential bid; they were simply there to honor a "Maryland Legacy Maker," as the event program called him...right?
"People really came out for a birthday party," Johnson said.
Still, the crowd itself was a statement. Winning a gubernatorial race in Maryland without the support of populous Prince George's County is no easy trick. And even one of Curry's potential rivals had to admit, the Thursday gathering--jam-packed with federal, state and local officials and, perhaps as importantly, wealthy donors--was a clear sign of strength.
"From a political standpoint," Owings said, "If this isn't flexing one's muscles, I don't know what is."
--Jonathan Mummolo and John Wagner
January 22, 2010; 10:36 AM ET
Categories: 2010 Elections , John Wagner , Jonathan Mummolo , Prince George's County
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