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Friday, January 22, 2010:

The Agenda

As February draws near, not even the candidates are clear

Set aside, for a moment, the still-unresolved question of whether former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) seeks a rematch this year with Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

Curry.jpgThere was another display Thursday night of the volatility surrounding Maryland's race for governor. Speaking to a crowd of more than 1,000 people in an Upper Marlboro ballroom, former Prince George's County executive Wayne K. Curry (D) sure sounded liked a candidate.

The stated reason for the gathering was a tribute to Curry and a celebration of his recent 59th birthday. But our colleague Jonathan Mummolo reports that the standing-room-only crowd was treated to a campaign-style autobiographical video and a speech that criticized unnamed state leaders for taking Prince George's for granted. (A more complete report on the evening will be available later Friday on the Maryland Politics blog.)

"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 chatter in the crowd Thursday night that Curry could switch parties and wind up as 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.

More fundamentally, it remains to be seen to what extent the sour national mood will affect Maryland. This week, the state seemed oddly insulated. On the same day Republicans were celebrating an upset Senate victory in Massachusetts, a new poll showed O'Malley up 9 points in a hypothetical rematch against Ehrlich -- and the O'Malley campaign reported more than $5.7 million in the bank, compared to Ehrlich's $141,000. (O'Malley's number includes money raised separately by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), to clarify earlier reports.)

Maybe 2010 could turn out to be more interesting than many of us thought. We'll see.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

O'Malley talks down but won't rule out future tax increase

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for O'Malley closeup.jpgIn a meeting with reporters and editors at The Washington Post on Thursday, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) offered his most direct response yet to an election-year attack accelerated this week by Republicans who charge that the final spending plan of his term is setting up Marylanders for a broad tax increase in 2011.
The governor said "Maryland should not consider tax increases or other drastic measures to correct a long-term budget imbalance until the state reaches 'a point of economic recovery' -- a condition that economic analysts say won't be reached until at least 2012," writes The Post's Aaron C. Davis. "When pressed on whether he was leaving open the possibility of raising taxes should he be reelected, O'Malley did not rule them out ... 'I think I've demonstrated my ability to make the tough decisions necessary to keep our state strong and protect the best interests of our people,' O'Malley said."
O'Malley also offered his opinions on health care and other topics to The Post's Opinions Web Editor Sarah Lovenheim:

Supreme Court rejects limits on corporate contributions
"A divided Supreme Court on Thursday swept aside decades of legislative restrictions on the role of corporations in political campaigns, ruling that companies can dip into their treasuries to spend as much as they want to support or oppose individual candidates," writes The Post's Robert Barnes and Dan Eggen in a development that could reshape election-year campaigning in Maryland just like every where else -- potentially in favor of Republicans. "The decision shakes the foundation of corporate limitations on federal and state elections that stretch back a century, and prompted sharp partisan reaction. Republican leaders, still celebrating Tuesday's Senate upset in Massachusetts, cheered the ruling as a victory for free speech and predicted a surge in corporate support for GOP candidates in November's midterm elections."

Senators cool to Grasmick's tenure, compensation plans
Grasmick.jpg"Several Maryland senators are balking at the state schools superintendent's proposals to alter teacher tenure and compensation as a way to win millions of dollars in federal funding -- a signal that education reforms could become a major topic of debate in the legislative session," writes The Baltimore Sun's Julie Bykowicz.

Md. can't avoid borrowing money to pay unemployment claims
Fixes made, and more proposed, to the state's unemployment insurance system won't be enough to keep Maryland from bankrupting its unemployment fund, writes Heather Harlan Warnack of the Baltimore Business Journal. "The state will borrow $250 million to prop up its nearly depleted unemployment insurance fund, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation said Thursday.

Week in Review

  • Monday: Details of O'Malley's budget leaked Monday suggested he would rely heavily on one-time fixes, such as shuffling some $900 million from special funds to the general fund, to keep from imposing cuts that may be felt deeply by residents (and voters).
  • Tuesday: The leaks turned out to be true and O'Malley acknowledged he also would rely on nearly $400 million in as yet-unapproved federal stimulus funding to balance the budget. The General Assembly's Republican minority denounced the spending plan as a fiscally irresponsible package of election-year gimmicks and said it will be followed by a major tax increase next year.
  • Wednesday: A Republican victory Tuesday night in the Massachusetts race to fill the open seat left by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy sent shock waves through the Democratic party, and left in doubt whether Maryland and other states could count on any new stimulus, which was included in the House version of health-care reform.
  • Thursday: O'Malley responded to Republicans, saying the state should not consider tax increases or other drastic measures to correct a long-term budget imbalance until the state reaches 'a point of economic recovery' -- a condition that economic analysts say won't be reached until at least 2012. But he wouldn't rule out future tax increases if re-elected.
  • -----

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    By Aaron C. Davis  |  January 22, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
    Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner  
    Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Environmental group to endorse O'Malley
    Next: At birthday bash, Curry hints at challenge to O'Malley


    I'm from Prince Georges and there's no way I would back Wayne Curry against the current governor. In a prior election, Curry endorsed Michael Steele, that Republican sleazeball, who assisted in hiring homeless Philadelphia men, busing them to Maryland where they got the personal blessing and send off from Steele and Ehrlich's wife Kendal, and then sent them to hand out lying election brochures implying that the Ehrlich-Steele ticket was Democratic! Such poor--and Republican--judgment is not what Prince Georges' citizens want in their state house. And if his own county doesn't support him, what can you say?

    Posted by: commonsense101 | January 22, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

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