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Democrats acknowledge tough climate at luncheon

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), a longtime student of Maryland politics, likened this year's political environment to the 1970s, when angry farmers came to Washington to protest the policies of President Jimmy Carter.

Speaking to an annual Maryland Democratic Party luncheon, Miller recalled one of those farmers diverting to his house to help plow snow with his corn picker -- and a horrified phone call from his wife upon seeking "Jimmy Carter sucks" signs on all sides of the massive machinery.

"This is a 'Jimmy Carter sucks' time to be in state government," Miller said, before pivoting to more upbeat remarks about why Maryland Democrats will more than hold their own this election year.

"We feel encouraged by this O'Malley administration," Miller said, suggesting the party adopt a slogan "not like Bob Ehrlich."

Miller proceeded to tick off several ways in which Maryland, in his view, has been better off under Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) than former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who continues to mull a rematch against O'Malley.

The pre-legislative session luncheon was a who's who of Maryland Democrats -- and those who lobby them.

Both U.S. senators came to Annapolis, as did several of the Democratic House members. Others in attendance included state House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who gave unusually spirited remarks; Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D); Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown; several Democratic county executives; and Baltimore Mayor-in-waiting Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D).

O'Malley's closing remarks offered a preview of themes he will stress as the election year heats up, including "strong leadership in tough times" and "job, jobs, jobs."

He riffed on a list of accomplishments during his administration, which he said showed "the difference between chance and choice." These included a four-year freeze in university tuition for in-state students, a decrease in violent crime and the extension of subsidized health insurance to 100,000 more people.

O'Malley, too, acknowledged the tough climate for Democrats, citing the party's two high-profile losses to Republicans in governor's races last year.

"My friends, they can have Virginia, and they can have New Jersey," O'Malley said, "but they can't have Maryland."

By John Wagner  |  January 12, 2010; 2:32 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , John Wagner  
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