First Click, Maryland -- Betting on slots
Your morning download of Maryland political news
Monday, May 24, 2010:
When Maryland voters approved a slots ballot measure less than two years ago, it seemed like a clear cut victory for Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).
A year earlier, O'Malley had pushed the idea of a referendum through the General Assembly, breaking a long stalemate on an issue that dominated the term of his predecessor and want-to-be successor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). With voter approval of five slots sites in November 2008, O'Malley was well on his way to accomplishing something Ehrlich could not -- or so it seemed at the time.
This week should provide plenty of fodder for reopening that debate.
This morning, Cordish Cos., the Baltimore-based developer that has been awarded a license to operate Maryland's largest casino, will be fighting in an Anne Arundel County courtroom to win a case central to the fate of its plans. A coalition of horse-racing industry interests and homeowners near the site of the planned 4,750-machine casino, at Arundel Mills mall, mounted a successful petition drive to halt zoning for the project, pending a separate ballot measure put to Anne Arundel voters this fall. Cordish contends the petition-gathering process was riddled with fraud and is prepared to spend a couple of weeks in court trying to prove that.
On Tuesday, 70 miles from the courtroom, O'Malley is planning to appear at the site of the one planned casino in Maryland that has not been hampered by any significant legal, procedural or construction delays.
Hollywood Casino Perryville is rising in Cecil County off Interstate 95 near the Susquehanna River and is expected to open this fall. "With 1,500 Las Vegas-style slot machines, an extensive buffet and more, Hollywood is the place for you," says a Web page advertising the facility being built by Penn National Gaming.
Aides say O'Malley's trip to the casino site is evidence he is not going to run away from his record on slots or anything else. O'Malley has blamed the slow start of Maryland's slots program on the recession, which he and others argue limited the number of gaming companies with access to capital that were in a position to bid on the sites. O'Malley and other slots boosters argue the machines will eventually generate the more than $600 million for education programs that was trumpeted during the campaign on the 2008 ballot measure.
Ehrlich, meanwhile, is trying to portray slots as a liability for O'Malley.
"It's a mess," the former governor told a group of small business people last week in Rockville.
After championing slots during his term, Ehrlich opposed the referendum, which -- as he put it last week -- he considered a "very sloppy" way to resolve the issue. His law firm subsequently did some public relations work for Cordish as the company's zoning legislation languished before the Anne Arundel County Council.
While in Rockville, Ehrlich also lamented the "billions of dollars" that could have already been generated for the state if lawmakers had passed slots early in his term.
Given the days ahead, it seems fitting that Ehrlich spent this past weekend in Vegas. According to his campaign, he was attending an economic development conference sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers -- one that he used to go to as governor.
News You Should Know
O'Malley embraces Obama with an eye toward re-election
"Whatever qualms other Democrats might have about associating with [President] Obama and his policies this election year, [Gov. Martin] O'Malley, who is running for reelection, is doing all he can to embrace him," writes The Post's John Wagner. "In the 16 months since Obama took office, O'Malley has sought to parlay his shared policy priorities and proximity to Washington into an alliance with a man who was not his first choice for president. O'Malley says his overtures have been about strengthening his ability to govern -- the Obama administration makes funding and other decisions that greatly affect Maryland. But in coming months, with Obama and several of his Cabinet members expected to make campaign appearances alongside O'Malley, the benefits will turn to the political."
Ehrlich, O'Malley peddle different realities on jobs
"Listening to Maryland's two major candidates for governor talk about jobs, you would think they're living in two different states -- if not on different planets," writes The Post's Wagner. "Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has spent much of the six weeks he's been in the race dropping in on small businesses and convening panels of company owners. From what they're telling him, it's pretty bleak out there -- and what Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is doing hasn't helped. ... O'Malley, meanwhile, acknowledges that it's still tough out there, but the Democratic incumbent is markedly more upbeat than his Republican challenger."
O'Malley details plans for oyster 'sanctuaries'
"Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said Friday that he would create large 'sanctuaries' for the Chesapeake Bay's oysters, hoping to reverse the bivalves' decline by strictly limiting where watermen can catch them," writes The Post's Aaron C. Davis and David Fahrenthold. "O'Malley (D) announced the plan -- first floated months ago -- on a deck overlooking the water in Annapolis. He said that if a legislative committee approves, Maryland would ban watermen from 25 percent of Maryland's productive 'oyster grounds.' Now, 9 percent are set aside."
Congress poised to follow Maryland on disabilities language
"Senators are preparing to eliminate all references in federal law to the terms 'mental retardation' and 'mentally retarded individual,'" writes Julian Pecquet in The Hill. "Rosa's Law, which will be marked up on Wednesday, would replace those terms with 'intellectual disability' and 'individual with an intellectual disability.' Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) introduced the bill last November after promising a constituent she would act if the Maryland legislature passed a similar law. The Maryland law passed unanimously, and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed it into law last year. The bill is named after Rosa Marcellino, who has an intellectual disability and whose family was instrumental in passing the Maryland law."
"I would be remiss if I did not say they're missing a beat here. ... Bob Ehrlich is being defined by Martin O'Malley. ... There's no like response from the Ehrlich campaign. I don't know why."
-- WBAL talk radio personality Bruce Elliott, lamenting Ehrlich's decision not to counter an O'Malley ad running on his station and others that mocks Ehrlich's claims of leaving O'Malley a budget surplus
"Now, the former governor is challenging incumbent O'Malley, and with Ehrlich's statewide name recognition, political skill, and popularity, it's likely to be a close race."
-- the assessment of Emily Esfahani Smith, in a piece in The Weekly Standard, which Ehrlich is highlighting on his Facebook page and was featured on Elliott's show
"Thank you to everyone who came and made tonight special. 200 supporters told Martin O'Malley and Susan Turnbull just 'who George Owings' is."
-- a posting on the Facebook page for the campaign of George W. Owings III, who is challenging O'Malley in the Democratic primary for governor and apparently is not happy with the Democratic Party chairwoman, following Owings's "kickoff fundraiser" Saturday night in Chesapeake Beach
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May 24, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: First Click , John Wagner
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