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First Click, Maryland -- Two months to tango

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Thursday, May 6, 2010:

The Agenda

WagnerIn Maryland, 2010 is finally starting to look like an election year. Both major contenders for governor have now announced their candidacies and toured the state, and Maryland's senior senator has made her re-election bid official.

Thumbnail image for Cloudy State House.jpgBut with exactly two months remaining until the state's July 6 filing deadline, many unknowns remain. This morning, we take stock of a few of the still-unresolved questions affecting statewide races.

1) Will Republicans step forward to run for attorney general and comptroller?

Granted, these offices aren't as high profile as governor, but they both come with some punch. In what could be a banner year for Republicans nationally, it has been surprising that the Maryland GOP has been so slow to field contenders.

That started to change this week, as William H. Campbell of Howard County, a former chief financial officer of Amtrak, joined the race for comptroller. Until Tuesday, the only Republican seeking to become the state's chief tax collector had been Brendan Madigan, a high school student from Baltimore County. Campbell is a political newcomer -- and has to be considered a long-shot to topple the Democratic incumbent, Peter Franchot -- but he at least has a resume that makes him appear qualified for the job.

State Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-Queen Anne's) also didn't exactly rule out a run for comptroller in an interview this week.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) remains without a Republican opponent -- which is certainly notable, given his controversial opinion this year that Maryland should recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. Ryan Mahoney, the Maryland GOP's political director, tells us that some potential candidates have expressed interest in the race, though he said it was premature to name them.

2) Will Wayne K. Curry enter the Democratic primary for governor? And will George W. Owings III become a factor?

Curry, the former Prince George's County executive, had suggested he would decide by April whether to challenge Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) for the Democratic nomination. April has come and gone, but Curry still sounded like a contender during his turn at the microphone this week at a roast for former governor Marvin Mandel (D). Among Democratic insiders, the betting remains that Curry won't pull the trigger, however.

Owings, a former veterans affairs secretary, has not been very visible since he announced his candidacy in January -- which he attributes to the media fixation on the rematch between O'Malley and former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). But Owings insists he shouldn't be counted out. He has scheduled a "kickoff fundraiser" on May 22 in Chesapeake Beach.

3) Who are the running mates?

Ehrlich indicated this week that he is still several weeks away from filling out his ticket -- something he must do before the July 6 filing deadline.

There is no shortage of speculation about which direction Ehrlich might go. Larry Hogan, a former Cabinet secretary who ended his own exploratory bid for governor when it became apparent Ehrlich would run, is a leading choice among some Ehrlich advisers. But others argue against a ticket consisting of two white men, both of whom now reside in Annapolis.

Other names that continue to be floated: Mary Kane, the former secretary of state under Ehrlich, who lives in Montgomery County; and Sandra B. Schrader, a former state senator from Howard County. Both come from jurisdictions where Ehrlich is seeking to improve upon his 2006 performance.

Meanwhile, Owings tells us that he has already picked a running mate -- though he wouldn't say who it is.

And Brian Murphy, who is challenging Ehrlich for the GOP nomination, is back in the market for a sidekick, after Carmen M Amedori, a former delegate from Carroll County, departed his ticket after a two-week trial run.

4) Who will take on Barbara Mikulski?

There are at least a half-dozen GOP hopefuls for the Senate seat held by Mikulski (D-Md.), who consistently polls higher statewide than any other Maryland Democrat. Amedori was arguably the best known, prior to dropping out of that race before she joined Murphy.

The GOP candidate generating the most buzz right now is Eric S. Wargotz, president of the Board of County Commissioners in Queen Anne's County. But he is hardly a household name -- less than 1 percent of the state's population resides in Queen Anne's -- and some Republican insiders say they wouldn't be surprised to see a latecomer to the race.

With the filing date two months away, it's probably not too late for a few surprises.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

Elections board seeks advice on when candidacies begin
Ehrlich.jpgSpeaking of filing deadlines, the State Board of Elections has asked the Attorney General's Office for advice on when to consider candidates to be candidates. The move comes as former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has asserted that the filing deadline, and not his staged announcement, is the relevant moment in regards to his WBAL radio show and a Democratic complaint about use of his law office resources. As The Post's John Wagner reported earlier this week, "A lawyer for Ehrlich's campaign is urging the state elections board to terminate a probe of whether the former Republican governor's law firm has improperly aided his comeback bid, arguing that the matter is moot because Ehrlich (R) has not officially filed as a candidate."

Mandel roasted by leading Maryland politicians
Mandel.jpg"Generations of Maryland politicians celebrated Tuesday former Gov. Marvin Mandel's recent 90th birthday at a dinner in College Park that featured countless age jokes and heartfelt tributes, as well as a handful of awkward moments and surprise reunions," The Baltimore Sun's Julie Bykowicz wrote of an event that drew a who's who of Maryland politics this week. "Mandel, a conservative Democrat who has maintained friendships with elected officials on both sides of the aisle, attracted such notable guests as Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the House majority leader. State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, served as emcee."

Legal fight intensifies over Anne Arundel slots casino
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Inside casino.jpg"The proposed casino for Arundel Mills mall is embroiled in yet another lawsuit, as casino backers contend it would be unconstitutional for Anne Arundel County voters to block the project," writes Erin Cox in The Capital. "A taxpayer group bankrolled by the developers of the proposed Arundel Mills casino in Hanover filed a lawsuit yesterday claiming that the planned referendum to stop the casino violates the Maryland Constitution, which voters amended in 2008 to legalize slot machines. The lawsuit follows by one day a ruling by a county judge on pretrial motions in the lawsuit filed last month by the casino developer, The Cordish Cos. That lawsuit is scheduled for a May 24 trial."

McCartney: Maryland should pony up for Metro
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Metro funding.jpg"With all its other woes, Metro hardly needed this one. Maryland has unexpectedly become a deadbeat about paying its share to support the transit system," writes Post columnist Robert McCartney. "Annapolis has blamed a strapped budget for its unilateral decision to shortchange Metro by $28 million in capital funds that it promised this year. But the District and Virginia are also struggling, and they're paying Metro in full on time. Maryland should find the money and cough it up."


"Like a virtual yard sign."
-- Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), describing "twibbons" that Facebook and Twitter users can paste on their profile pictures to advertise his campaign

"It only took Martin O'Malley 72 hours to follow Bob's lead with a 'twibbon' campaign on Facebook. Will he follow Bob's lead and pledge to lower Maryland's tax burden?"
-- A posting on the Facebook page of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R)


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  |  May 6, 2010; 7:15 AM ET
Categories:  First Click , John Wagner  
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Oh brother! We do not need or want another corrupt, scandal-filled Ehrlich governship. Just stay the hell away corrupt and crony Republicans!

Posted by: gr8bigguy | May 6, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Until Metro gets back on track, Maryland should withhold funding, besides, we have more pressing needs for limited tax dollars in Maryland. Metro keeps raising fees so high and providing unreliable service, it's much cheaper and faster to drive to DC from Moco than use Metro. I fear Metro has it's head to high in the sky and has lost touch with daily operations, which is all we lowly taxpayers and straphangers care about.

Posted by: VikingRider | May 6, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

considering the job the republican attorney general is doing in virginia, I'm very happy to see the GOP has failed to field a candidate for that same position in Maryland.

Posted by: MarilynManson | May 6, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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