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First Click, Maryland -- Snapshot in gov's race

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Thursday, May 27, 2010:

The Agenda

Aaron.jpgA blizzard, a flood, or the beginning of a hurricane season all bring out the disaster-manager-in-chief in Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

At a hurricane planning meeting on Wednesday, it was the very remote threat of errant tar balls from the Gulf of Mexico making their way to the Chesapeake Bay that set the stage for an urgent-sounding made-for-TV event.

There were tidbits of news, such as the fact that Maryland grapples with some 400 small oil spills each year, and that experts believe a grounding of one of the roughly 150 or so oil tankers that navigate Maryland's shallow waters each year presents the most likely - but still slim - chance for a catastrophic spill.

oilspill.jpgYet with cameras rolling, O'Malley questioned members of his cabinet, federal wildlife and Coast Guard officials about the state's level of preparedness as if Maryland was behind in preparing for a worst-case spill.

O'Malley wanted to know everything about the defensive booms that could be used to block out oily water. How much does Maryland own? Where is it? When was it last inspected? Could it be used to close off the entire 23-mile opening of the Chesapeake Bay? Would that do any good? And, by the way, how do you spell it? Is it "boon or boom?"

With the exception of the last gaffe, which ended with members of O'Malley's cabinet awkwardly spelling out b-o-o-M, and the governor adding, "so, it's not a 'boon?'" the event brought O'Malley more media attention - and likely attention his staff considered positive - than that afforded Wednesday to his chief rival in this year's election.

At an afternoon meeting in Bowie, only a reporter from The Post and one from The Gazette listened in as former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. (R) continued on his theme that the state needs to do a better job of lowering burdens on small business owners.

Five months before November, Wednesday's events seemed par for the course. Ehrlich's recent appearances - which his campaign describes as "exposure" and not full-on campaign events - have garnered little to no television coverage, while O'Malley has continued to draw crowds and cameras under the banner of events held in his "official" capacity as governor.

On Tuesday, a half-dozen television camera crews followed O'Malley to Cecil County in the state's northeastern corner for the announcement that Maryland's first slots casino could be up and running by the fall.

After Wednesday's display about potential oil spills, O'Malley may again be glimpsed in the public eye on Friday, introducing Vice President Joseph R. Biden at the U.S. Naval Academy graduation.

Through Memorial Day weekend, it will be more of the same. O'Malley will travel to the Chestertown Tea Party, but he has done so every year as governor. And on Monday he'll drop in on flag-waving events not as a candidate, but as governor.

For his part, Ehrlich will be free to comment about all he wants on Saturday during his weekly radio show with no fear that the appearances violate campaign law. The state's Attorney General's Office cleared up that question on Monday, advising elections officials not to treat the WBAL program as an illegal campaign contribution by the station. The Maryland Democratic Party had made that allegation.

The larger issue heading into June is that neither campaign appears to be swinging with full force. After rapid-fire events and a storm of press-releases, blog and Twitter posts surrounding the launch of his re-election bid early this month, O'Malley has been content to return to "official" events at which his criticism of Ehrlich has been more muted. His campaign hasn't made a peep - or a tweet -- in more than two weeks. The last one: "I did an interview with Stan the Fan on Preakness and MD sports."

If the candidates don't kick it up next week, there may at least be some entertaining testimonials to watch from the Ehrlich camp's latest online challenge:

"Do we have your support? Submit a video telling why! The best videos will be posted on our facebook page & website.

--Aaron C. Davis


News You Should Know

Republican senators target State Dept. training site in war-funding bill
coburn.jpgRepublican senators on Tuesday unveiled two $60 billion proposals that cut government salaries and operational costs to help pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and for earthquake relief for Haiti," writes The Post's Ed O'Keefe. "Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and John McCain (Ariz.) said they will not vote for the $59 billion war spending bill unless lawmakers come up with ways to offset its costs." One of the measures would "cancel a $500 million State Department training facility" opposed by hundreds of residents in and around the small community of Ruthsburg on the Eastern Shore.

Maryland governor candidates hope to win big with casinos
"PERRYVILLE, MD. -- Gov. Martin O'Malley strode Tuesday into a shell of a building here in Maryland's northeastern corner that, if all goes according to plan, will be transformed into the state's first slots casino just a few weeks before Election Day," writes The Post's John Wagner. "The governor's visit to the site of Hollywood Casino Perryville, just off Interstate 95 near the Susquehanna River, was a testament to how prominent and contentious the issue of slot-machine gambling has become in Maryland's gubernatorial race. Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who tried unsuccessfully to bring slots to Maryland during his four years in office, said last week that O'Malley had made "a mess" of the program's implementation. The Perryville casino is the only one of five slots sites authorized by voters in 2008 that has not been hindered by legal, procedural or construction delays."


Quotables

"It's like a kick in the face, a kick in the head, a kick in the gut, a kick in the teeth, all at once."
-- Wilhelm Joseph Jr., executive director of Maryland Legal Aid, Inc. in the Daily Record on news that former chief financial officer Benjamin L. "Bennie" King Jr., has been charged with a scheme to steal $1.1 million from the group, which is funded with federal money to represent the poor.

"We're not about to let a few overpaid leadership folks at the University of Maryland insist on a tunnel here and put the project in danger."

-- Del. Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery) in The Gazette responding to UMD officials wanting the Maryland Transit Administration to run its proposed Purple Line through a yet-to-be-built underground tunnel on campus. Planners insist an above-ground route along the campus' main road.

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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 Aaron C. Davis  |  May 27, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
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