First Click, Maryland -- D.C. suburbs key to 11/2/10
Your morning download of Maryland political news
Tuesday, April 6, 2010:
At first blush, it might seem as improbable as Butler winning the national championship. But as we report this morning in the pages of The Post, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) sees a path back to his old job that runs through Montgomery County.
Ehrlich, who grew up in Arbutus, is set to announce his rematch against Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) in Rockville Wednesday morning, and the choice signals the importance of the Washington region in the 2010 election.
While the former governor will make overtures in Prince George's County, his advisers believe his performance in Montgomery could determine the race's outcome. Despite the county's Democratic tilt, it is second only to Baltimore County in registered Republicans and is also home to more than 110,000 registered independents.
Particularly in the current political environment, Ehrlich sees a chance to perform far better among white males in Montgomery than he did in 2006 Like most other Republicans, white males are the former governor's strongest demographic.
It remains to be seen how much time Ehrlich spends wooing Montgomery residents and what he says to them. But some in his party think his strategy could backfire if he's not careful. They argue he would be better served by seeking to drive up conservative turnout in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore. And they warn if Ehrlich cozies up too much to Montgomery, it will be off-putting to Republicans elsewhere.
Looking at raw numbers, Prince George's is probably the county most important to O'Malley's fate. In 2006, his margin of victory there was more than 120,000 votes. O'Malley's margin of victory statewide was less than 117,000 votes.
So here's one way to look at things: If Prince George's were not part of Maryland, Bob Ehrlich would be finishing up his second term now.
O'Malley advisers say they believe they can build upon his 2006 performance in the Washington region this year. For one thing, the governor is far better known here than in 2006 when he was mayor of Baltimore. But merely maintaining that margin makes it pretty difficult for Ehrlich to make it up elsewhere.
A couple of other things are worth noting in advance of Wednesday's campaign kickoff.
Ehrlich on Monday announced the hiring of Andy Barth, a longtime Baltimore TV reporter, as his campaign press secretary. Among other things, Barth is a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the 3rd District in 2008.
As noted in this space Monday, the drama surrounding Republican National Committee chairman Michael S. Steele, Ehrlich's former lieutenant governor, provide a distraction Ehrlich doesn't need right now. In the meantime, Steele's chief of staff has resigned.
And finally, for our readers who are not sports enthusiasts, we should make clear that Butler did not win the men's NCAA basketball championship last night. The Bulldogs fell to the Duke Blue Devils, 61 to 59. But it was a valiant effort.
News You Should Know
Despite Senate nod, Prince George's seems opposed to cards
"Given the chance, the odds would be long that Prince George's County residents would approve legalized card games at a financially troubled racetrack in the county," writes The Post's Ovetta Wiggins. "Religious leaders don't like it. Civic leaders aren't fond of it. And local civil rights leaders say the games could move Prince George's, the country's most affluent majority-black county, several steps backward. The Maryland Senate recently passed a bill that could bring Las Vegas-style table games, including poker and blackjack, to Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington. Under the legislation, which is now in a House committee, voters statewide would be asked in a referendum to decide whether poker and blackjack should be allowed at the racetrack. ... Rosecroft Raceway, where simulcast racing ended in May because of contract disputes, would be the only venue statewide where card games would be allowed."
Lawmakers weighing increased solar requirement
"Maryland is moving to require utility companies to accelerate their use of solar power -- an idea rankling some lawmakers who are concerned that an impractical quota would needlessly raise the price consumers pay for electricity," writes The Baltimore Sun's Julie Bykowicz. "A plan working through the General Assembly would push energy suppliers such as Baltimore Gas and Electric to rely on a higher percentage of solar power in the next few years than mandated by current law. The bill was approved Friday by the Senate and is moving through the House of Delegates."
Fallout at RNC continues for Maryland's Steele
"The Republican National Committee's chief of staff resigned under pressure Monday, which Chairman Michael S. Steele described as an effort to reassure wavering donors in the wake of a controversy over its most recent expense accounting," writes The Post's Philip Rucker and Chris Cillizza. "The resignation of Ken McKay, Steele's highest-ranking aide, is the most drastic in a series of attempts at damage control by the RNC after it was revealed March 29 that the committee had spent $1,900 to entertain young donors at a risqué West Hollywood nightclub. The staff member who authorized the expenditure was fired last week, and the RNC has implemented new spending accountability procedures. But in a blow to Steele, the political consulting firm that had long aided his political career and was advising him at the RNC said Monday night that it had severed ties with the national party after McKay's ouster.
MoCo lawmakers hope to minimize fallout from frank-talking IG
Montgomery County's nine council members and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who are all seeking reelection this year, are trying to assess the fallout from Inspector General Thomas J. Dagley's claims that unnamed top county officials are getting in his way and holding back critical information he needs to do his job," writes The Post's Miranda Spivack. "Critics say Dagley has needlessly sullied Montgomery, but others find his claims unsurprising, saying they are typical of tensions between an executive branch and those whose job it is to scrutinize its $4.3 billion budget. Montgomery is one of the few localities in the country with an inspector general, whose staff of three, including Dagley, reports to the County Council." Ironically, the inspector general's office was the brainchild of Leggett, who pushed for its creation in 1998 while on the council. Dagley was reappointed last year to a second four-year term.
Post's editorial page: Senate pensions plan better than nothing
"Breaking the bank in Maryland has been a bipartisan, multilateral pursuit for years, backed by both parties at the state and local levels alike. When state lawmakers enacted a big increase in teachers' pensions four years ago -- an increase that freighted Annapolis with huge obligations to cover benefits negotiated by local school systems -- the move was pushed by Democrats, signed by a Republican governor, cheered by localities and hailed by then-Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, now the national GOP party chairman. So what if no one knew how the pensions would be paid. It was an election year, the teachers are a potent constituency, and the economy would keep on booming forever, right? Like drunks waking up after a bender, some officials in Annapolis are now wondering how to repair the damage. ... Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), facing a tough reelection fight, would rather not face the issue this year. But deferring it is just another way of kicking the state's looming fiscal problems down the road. Better to strike an equitable deal now than watch the problem swell and fester another year.
Sun's editorial page: WBAL should cut Ehrlich's signal
"WBAL-AM Radio's decision to let former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. continue hosting his Saturday morning talk show even after he officially announces Wednesday that he is running for governor this year is troubling for any number of reasons, but the most important question is why the station would allow candidate Ehrlich to stay on the air at all. ... Mr. Ehrlich ... is exploiting a loophole that keeps [a Federal Communications equal-time rule] rule from kicking in until he formally files his candidacy with the state elections commission -- sometime in July, he says -- rather than when he publicly announces his candidacy this week."
"I think right now that's a political issue, not an economic development issue."
-- Kwasi Holman, president of the Prince George's County Economic Development Corp., saying his agency has not done any studies on legalized card games at Rosecroft and their possible impact on future development in the county. Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George's), the sponsor of the effort, and a staunch gambling opponent in the past, calls the card cames a "desperation move" to help keep the track afloat.
"I think it was a punch to the gut, again, sort of a reality check .. This is the real beginning of the 2010 campaign."
-- David Schwartz, the Maryland director of Americans For Prosperity, saying he's confident more people will be energized to take part in Maryland tea party events from now until Election Day after the historic vote in Congress to overhaul health care.
"This is a terrible way to deal with the cleanup of the mismanagement ...There's no single gesture or single slaughter or sacrifice that will fix that problem. That problem, for the rest of his tenure, will be managed, not solved."
-- Ed Rogers, a prominent party strategist, saying the resignation of the RNC's chief of staff was "absolutely not" enough to calm donors. Rogers suggests problems with "sloppy management" at the RNC cannot be solved unless Steele leaves.
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Aaron C. Davis
April 6, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner
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