First Click, Maryland -- O'Malley in spotlight
Your morning download of Maryland political news
Monday, April 19, 2010:
It's only Monday morning (and still April, so how much does it matter?) but this is already shaping up to be a week full of headlines for Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), and one with a bunch of question marks for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. (R).
Coming off a Sunday night release that his campaign will soon kick into high gear, a flattering front-page article in The Baltimore Sun, and a Friday jobs report that will be easy to spin into good news, the governor has scheduled at least five events this week under the banner of his "Jobs Across Maryland Tour." He'll be in College Park at the University of Maryland on Tuesday afternoon; on the Eastern Shore six hours later talking up green jobs in Salisbury; and in Howard, Glen Burnie and at least one other to-be determined location on Thursday and Friday.
Before all that, he'll be in Baltimore on Monday for the made-for-TV unveiling of his mayoral portrait, and then in northern Virginia on Tuesday for a meeting with Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and District Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), which is sure to attract a cadre of reporters and media exposure.
Meanwhile, what's Ehrlich up to for the week? Anybody's guess as of early Monday. His campaign has not yet announced a single event.
To be fair, that's been Ehrlich's M.O. to date. Last week, he announced an event in Annapolis with less than 24 hours notice. And the day after the General Assembly adjourned, he gave bleary-eyed reporters only a couple of hours to scramble from the State House to Baltimore for his reaction to the end of the legislative session.
The late notice has yet to hurt Ehrlich, it would seem. But with only a handful of news organizations remaining in Maryland with the ability to simultaneously cover two candidates in far-flung corners of the state, it may be only a matter of time.
If Ehrlich, for example, were to challenge O'Malley this week on his jobs message at the exact same time the governor was holding one of his "jobs' events, it remains to be seen how much press the challenger would receive. The two have yet to schedule conflicting campaign events.
And the messaging from both O'Malley and Ehrlich on jobs this week is one we'll be eager to see.
By one measure, Maryland's 35,800 new jobs in March amounted to its best showing for any month since 1970. By another, the gain was nullified as more Marylanders resumed their searches for work, leaving the state's unemployment rate stagnate at 7.7 percent - it's highest in 26 years.
By any measure, however, those numbers reveal one interesting tidbit: Whatever benefit came of Gov. O'Malley's much touted $5,000 hiring tax credit for employers has come and gone.
If last month's job gains were spread evenly over each day of the month, the $20 million set aside for the tax credit was used up in 5 days and 5 hours following O'Malley's March 25 signing of the bill into law.
The credit was designed to go to employers who hired the first 4,000 workers. While some savvy employers may have timed their hiring to capitalize, if jobs are really returning to Maryland at the rate last month's figures suggest, it may have simply been the luck of the draw. Those who happened to be hiring in the last five days of March may have walked away with $20 million in taxpayer money.
News You Should Know (Weekend Roundup)
Businessman Brian Murphy enters GOP primary race
"Brian Murphy, a political newcomer from Montgomery County, filed papers Friday for a long-shot bid for Maryland governor, casting himself as a Republican with more business acumen than Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. , who is seeking to win his old job back. Murphy, a business investor, also unveiled his selection of a running mate: the better-known Carmen M. Amedori, a former state delegate from Carroll County who had been seeking the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. While governor, Ehrlich plucked Amedori from the legislature to serve on the Parole Commission," writes The Post's John Wagner. "The ticket is expected to run to the right of Ehrlich and has won the support of James Pelura, the former chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. He resigned last year under heavy pressure from other GOP leaders after a tenure tarnished by anemic fundraising and party infighting."
State could benefit from skipping first round of Race to the Top
"The state released a draft proposal last week for Race to the Top in an effort to obtain local endorsements," writes The Post's Nick Anderson. "In addition, the legislature approved a bill backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to extend probation for new teachers to three years from the current two. The Maryland plan does not appear to go as far on performance pay as proposals in the District, Florida, Louisiana and other states. But the plan indicates that the State Board of Education is expected next month to approve a rubric that would link teacher evaluations to gains in test scores. The rubric would be tried in four to eight school systems in 2011 and launched statewide the next year. State Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick wants half of the evaluations to be based on growth in student learning and half on teacher skills and knowledge."
O'Malley announces "official" campaign kick off
He has stockpiled nearly $6 million in the bank, won the endorsements of environmentalists, teachers and firefighters, and already challenged Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) to a debate, but if it wasn't obvious already, Gov. Martin O'Malley is running for re-election," writes The Post's Aaron C. Davis. "O'Malley's campaign manager on Sunday night released the schedule for the governor's "official" re-election campaign kickoff. O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown will begin campaigning next Tuesday, April 27, with a three-day, 11-stop tour beginning with events in Baltimore, Prince George's County and Montgomery County. Over the following two days, they'll crisscross the state with events in Hagerstown, Frederick, Columbia, Catonsville, Annapolis, Cambridge, Aberdeen and Waldorf. Tom Russell, the governor's campaign manager, said the kick-off date was chosen a few weeks ago.
U-MD System makes tuition hike official
"Regents of the University System of Maryland on Friday morning approved a tuition hike for the first time in four years, signaling the end of the state's semi-historic freeze," writes The Post's Daniel de Vise. "Tuition will rise 3 percent in the state university system, the first increase since 2005. In-state tuition and fees at the University of Maryland at College Park rise from $8,053 to $8,416 -- actually a 4.5 percent increase, when fees are factored in. They are apparently rising at a faster clip."
"We deserve a governor who's been in the private sector and knows how to run a businesss ... the policies of the past eight years are a fraud and a disgrace. People deserve something new."
-- Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy on Friday in a slap not only at the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Martin O'Malley but also at former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, whose term ended in early 2007.
"Martin O'Malley has the good luck to be caught in a revolution of falling expectations. Given the horrific economic climate, he's just, well, not that bad -- and that can be a strong position in politics. Tax increases are unpopular, but school cuts are more so, and he can claim to have avoided the worst.
But Robert Ehrlich is a flawed messenger. He has to play Hillary Clinton to his own Bill Clinton and convince angry voters that what they need is not change but more of an earlier same. It's the toughest sell in politics: Most voters who remember you don't like you, and, worse, many don't remember you at all.
If Ehrlich's "back to the future" campaign gains traction in a state as blue as Maryland, we'll know it's going to be a GOP blowout across the country."
--Garrett Epps, a University of Baltimore law professor weighing in on the governor's race in a Post editorial titled "Questions for the candidates."
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Aaron C. Davis
April 19, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click
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