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Friday, January 22, 2010:
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).
There 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.
News You Should Know
O'Malley talks down but won't rule out future tax increase
In 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
"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
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Aaron C. Davis
January 22, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner
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