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First Click, Maryland -- Gov's race to hit new gear

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Monday, April 26, 2010:

The Agenda
Aaron.jpgFor nearly three weeks, Maryland's nascent governor's race has begun with a slow roll.

Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly came together to pass new laws against sex offenders and gangs, muting other partisan differences as lawmakers packed up and left Annapolis.

After making an initial splash with his campaign announcement, declaring that he was writing "history, part two," my colleague, John Wagner, also writes in today's Post that former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. (R) has returned to his quirky ways, "bouncing freely from pro-business talking points to sports references to perhaps too-candid comments about his strong-willed wife and two sons."

DSC_0081.JPGAs Wagner writes, some are questioning if Ehrlich needs to begin doing a better job of selling himself and making his case against Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). For his part, aside from occasional digs at Ehrlich over spending, O'Malley has yet to take Ehrlich head on, spending the last two weeks touting a hiring tax credit, the return of the Blue Crab, and restarting his summertime Capital for a Day program.

Campaign messages, however, are likely to get a lot sharper this week. O'Malley hits the road Tuesday for a three-day, 11-stop campaign tour that will give us the first look at his stump speech. Having a more aggressive opponent could also bring focus to Ehrlich's camp.

DSC_0087.JPGIt remains to be seen, however, if O'Malley will take the fight directly to Ehrlich in his opening tour. So far, aides say only that his message will focus on "moving Maryland forward." Layered in to the list of education and other state achievements he'll likely tout may simply be the more subtle message of recent weeks that without O'Malley, Maryland will move backward.

If that's the case, a faster gear may not yet bring that much clarity about which candidate has the upper hand on momentum.

-- Aaron C. Davis

News You Should Know

Tax relief bill could reopen Prince George's budget gap
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Jack B. Johnson.jpg"At the close of the Maryland General Assembly session this month, the fiscal prospects for Prince George's County were looking up," writes The Post's Jonathan Mummolo. "County Executive Jack B. Johnson said that schools would be better funded and that there would be no need to furlough or layoff county employees, thanks in part to a hard-won increase in state aid of $18 million. But a bill awaiting Gov. Martin O'Malley's signature complicates that scenario, and also puts the governor in a political bind, because it would mean a loss of tax revenue in the county -- to the tune of about $18 million. The bill would place a cap on taxes that county residents pay to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission ... If O'Malley (D) signs the bill, he could reduce the revenue available to the county in a tough budget cycle. If he vetoes it, he takes a tax break away from a populous county in an election year." O'Malley aides say the governor is weighing the decision.

Ehrlichs and WBAL address Dems' "infomercial" complaint
Thumbnail image for ehrlichs.jpgRobert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and his wife, Kendel Ehrlich, devoted the entire first segment of their Saturday radio show on WBAL to a complaint filed by the Maryland Democratic Party. "The Democrats contend the weekly show amounts to an "infomercial" that violates state campaign-finance laws, now that former Maryland governor has announced he is challenging Martin O'Malley (D), the incumbent," reports The Post's John Wagner. "At the invitation of the Ehrlichs, WBAL news director Mark Miller explained the station's position that candidates are not subject to federal equal-time rules until they file their papers with the elections board. Ehrlich has not done so and indicated he doesn't plan to do so much before the July 6 deadline. Miller cited a string of sitting officeholders dating back to William Donald Schaefer, during his days as mayor of Baltimore, who had shows on WBAL. O'Malley also appeared on a regular program as mayor but declined an offer to do a show as governor, Miller said."

O'Malley appoints Kansas gaming chief to head lotto
"O'Malley announced Friday that Stephen L. Martino will take the helm of the state's lottery agency Monday," reports The AP. "Martino served as the executive director of the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission from May 2005 through this month. A news release from O'Malley's office notes that Martino developed regulatory framework for casino gaming in Kansas, including the opening of the first state-owned casino in the country.Martino has also been a Kansas special assistant attorney general, where he enforced criminal gambling provisions. He replaces former Maryland lottery director Buddy Roogow, who left the position last year and is now head of the D.C. Lottery.

Out-of-state funds fueling Kratovil-Harris contest
kratovil-outsidecapital.JPG"The amount of out-of-state funding pouring into the campaigns of Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil and GOP state Sen. Andy Harris shows that the First District rematch is getting national attention," writes Graham Moomaw of Capital News Service. "Roughly half of the two rivals' campaign contributions this quarter have come from outside Maryland ... Kratovil, D-Stevensville, got almost half of his $248,000 tally this quarter from special-interest PACs and other political committees. Harris, an anesthesiologist who has taught at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, raised $324,000, with help from his anesthesiologist colleagues around the country and a handful of Republicans already in Congress."

Rasmussen: Governor's race tightening
Rasmussen Reports, which has criticized by liberal pundits in recent weeks for "leaning right," published a poll late last week that put Republican gubernatorial hopeful Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. just three percentage points behind his Democratic contender, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley," writes The Washington Examiner's Hayley Peterson. "O'Malley earned 47 percent of voter support and Ehrlich earned 44 percent in the most recent telephone survey of "likely" voters by Rasmussen Reports. Two percent of voters preferred other candidates, and 7 percent were undecided. In a Rasmussen poll three months ago, O'Malley led Ehrlich by six percentage points -- 49 percent to 43 percent."

No word from Northrop Grumman -- at least not yet
"As April draws to a close, economic development officials are still awaiting word in the Northrop Grumman sweepstakes," writes The Gazette's Kevin James Shay. "Northrop northrop.jpgofficials have said they will decide among Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., by the end of April. ... David Ress writes in The Richmond Dispatch, that by sheer numbers Virginia might have the advantage: "More than 91 percent of Northrop Grumman's $35 billion a year in revenue comes from the U.S. government, and much of that is with the Pentagon, in Virginia's Arlington County, according to the company's financial filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The Defense Department is the main customer of its $6 billion-a-year shipyard in Newport News, as well as a major customer of its $10 billion aerospace business and its nearly $8 billion Maryland-based electronic-systems business.... Northrop Grumman employs 31,000 people at 22 main locations in Virginia, including 20,000 at Newport News Shipbuilding and more than 400 in Chesterfield County, one of the facilities it operates to provide IT services to state government operations across Virginia. The company employs 11,525 in Maryland, where it is the largest industrial employer."


"Apparently our little old show here has created quite the controversy."
-- Kendel Ehrlich at the outset of Saturday morning's "Kendel and Bob Show" on Baltimore's WBAL radio.

"You would have thought he would have come out with both guns blazing."
-- Keith Haller, president of Potomac Inc., an independent Bethesda-based research and consulting firm., saying he's been surprised with slow pace of Ehrlich's campaign so foar.

"I talked about Iraq more than tax policy last time, which was pretty strange for a governor's race ... This time, I don't have to do that. . . . The war and the president are not there."
-- Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. responding to a question about what's changed since last time he ran for governor.


Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of the day's top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And Look Ahead, Unspun, News Makers, and Week in Review 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 Aaron C. Davis  |  April 26, 2010; 7:36 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
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