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First Click, Maryland -- Playing up your advantages

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Thursday, April 22, 2010:

The Agenda

WagnerIn Maryland's still-young race for governor, this week has been notable for the way in which both sides have sought to parlay the advantages they bring to the starting line.

In the pages of Thursday's Post, my colleague Aaron C. Davis writes about the Democratic incumbent making good use of the trappings of office to promote himself, a time-honored tradition in American politics.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) plans to kick off his re-election bid next week with a statewide tour. This week, Davis writes, "the governor's state-issued sport-utility vehicle hybrid is on pace to log more than 800 miles for events that have attracted no fewer than 27 television news reports, been talked about for hours on Maryland radio and written about in newspapers statewide, easily outpacing news coverage generated by his Republican challenger, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. But by O'Malley's count, not one mile or minute has been spent on campaigning."

O'Malley mayor portrait.jpgIn the past week, O'Malley has "led a parade of politicians through downtown Capitol Heights, celebrated the unveiling of his mayoral portrait in Baltimore, noshed on pizza with 150 students in College Park and fist-pumped the revival of the blue crab on the Eastern Shore."

More on O'Malley in a moment. The larger controversy this week has been over Ehrlich's continued presence on Baltimore's WBAL radio on Saturday mornings.

As we noted earlier this week, the Maryland Democratic Party has complained to the state elections board that Ehrlich's show amounts to an "infomercial" that violates campaign-finance rules.

Ehrlich and his wife, Kendel, have co-hosted the two-hour show since 2007, shortly after O'Malley took office. Topics generally include both state and national politics. Ehrlich, who announced his rematch with O'Malley two weeks ago, plans to continue the show until July, the deadline for formally filing as a candidate with the State Board of Elections.

Ed Kiernan, WBAL's general manager, said Tuesday that the station is under no obligation to take Ehrlich off the air before he files for office. Once Ehrlich files, the station would be required to offer equal time to other gubernatorial contenders if Ehrlich stays on the air, under Federal Communications Commission rules.

"We are doing the right thing by leaving him on the air -- not a problem," Kiernan said.

The elections board has turned to the State Attorney General's Office for advice. Ehrlich has already taken heat from the editorial board of The Baltimore Sun and others for continuing the show, in which his gubernatorial bid often comes up.

Thumbnail image for ehrlichs.jpgIn fairness to Ehrlich, it's worth noting that the Democratic Party unveiled its complaint one day after O'Malley held court for an hour on a WTOP radio show called "Ask the Governor." O'Malley aides point out that the format is different than "The Kendel and Bob Show." O'Malley fields questions from the station's host and callers and does not get to pick the topics, they say.

Nevertheless, the show provides free exposure for O'Malley in the Washington region and beyond, and there are no plans for the governor to stop appearing on the monthly program after he announces his candidacy next week. O'Malley plans to continue going on the show "in his official capacity" as governor, according to a senior aide.

Meanwhile, O'Malley had discontinued his monthly visits to a call-in show with a similar format on Maryland Public Television. Aides say the governor's live appearance on the final night of the legislative session was his last until the November election. The reason: Besides voluntary contributions from viewers like you and me, MPT also receives funding from the state.

It seems unlikely that many voters will cast their ballots in November based solely on something heard or seen in April. But the back-and-forth is almost enough to make you appreciate the 30-second campaign ads that will start airing before too long. At least you know who's picking up the tab.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

Elections board forwards Currie expenditures to prosecutor
Currie.jpgThe Maryland State Board of Elections has asked the state prosecutor to examine more than $53,000 in campaign expenditures by Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's), according to a report in Thursday's Baltimore Sun. More than $41,000 of that is for legal expenses associated with an ongoing federal investigation into Currie's unreported consulting work for a grocery store chain. The balance, according to the report by The Sun's Annie Linskey, includes what appear to be some personal items charged to the campaign, including $118 for an eye exam and $31 for auto body repair. Neither Currie, chairman of the powerful Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, nor his campaign treasurer returned requests for comment, The Sun said.

Panel holds the line on state property taxes
bpw.jpg"Maryland residents will pay the same state property tax rate in the coming fiscal year as they have for the past four years. The state's three-member Board of Public Works voted unanimously Wednesday to hold the line on state property taxes," the Associated Press reports. "Property owners will pay 11.2 cents in state property taxes per $100 of the full assessed property value. ... Both Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Gov. Martin O'Malley -- who along with Comptroller Peter Franchot hold seats on the board -- made a point of noting the state property tax rate has only been raised once in roughly 30 years. That hike occurred in 2003, the first year of former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich's administration."

Mikulski to kick off 2010 campaign with weekend tour
Mikulski looks left.jpg"Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) will 'officially' kick off her 2010 re-election bid on Friday with a statewide tour that lasts through the weekend, her campaign announced Wednesday," reports The Post's John Wagner. "The tour will take Maryland's senior senator to Baltimore and Allegany, Montgomery, Frederick, Prince George's and Washington counties. Along the way, Mikulski is scheduled to meet up with several of the state's other leading Democrats, including Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Gov. Martin O'Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake."

Berliner targets a major carbon emitter
"Just in time for Earth Day, Montgomery County Council member and longtime energy lawyer Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) is proposing an excise tax on major carbon emitters in the county," writes The Post's Michael Laris. "He said his goal is to spur faster action to address global warming. ..The proposal would put a $5 tax on each ton of carbon dioxide sent skyward by 'major emitters.' In Montgomery, that means one facility: the 843-megawatt Dickerson generating plant that Mirant runs near Poolesville."


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Busch mug.jpg"Contrary to the GOP spin, I am proud to say that this has been the most productive session of the term, working with Governor O'Malley and our colleagues in the Senate."
-- House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), in an e-mail sent to Maryland Democrats on Tuesday afternoon

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Another Ehrlich mug.jpg"If J.R. calls you, he's not calling to check on your kids."
-- former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), introducing John Reith Jr., his 2010 campaign co-chairman and finance director, at a luncheon in Baltimore on Tuesday hosted by the Chartered Financial Analyst Society

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for o'malley.JPG"Held the line on property tax rate again. Tax rate only raised once in 30 years by... Bob Ehrlich."
-- Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) in a posting on his Facebook page on Wednesday, following a vote by the Board on Public Works, on which he sits, to maintain the current state property tax rate


Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each Monday and Thursday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of a top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And other features keep you up to speed with power brokers in Annapolis and beyond. Want First Click on the go? Sign up for our free e-mail edition, and get the news delivered to your inbox or mobile device.

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By John Wagner  |  April 22, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories:  First Click , John Wagner  
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