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First Click, Maryland -- Endorsement season

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Monday, June 14, 2010:

The Agenda

WagnerBetween now and November, a slew of interest groups with varying degrees of influence in Annapolis will generate lists of endorsed candidates for statewide and legislative races.

It's often hard to know what motivates a particular group -- whether it will give its blessing to candidates who are "pure" on their issues or to those who are most likely to win and remember their supporters when it comes time to vote in coming years.

And it's hard to say how much these lists really matter. In some cases -- mostly those in which a candidate is not so well known or a group's blessing in unexpected -- an endorsement can be helpful. In a Democratic primary, for example, a single candidate who racks up the endorsements of all the major constituency groups will stand out.

On the other hand, it's hard to imagine that a labor union giving its nod to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) over former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) is going to be the deciding factor for too many voters. It's what people have come to expect.

If nothing else, though, the past week has proved that legislative leaders are paying close attention to the process.

mike miller.jpgWe heard from multiple sources that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) was less than thrilled with a list of endorsed candidates issued by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, arguably the state's most influential environmental group.

The group's list of 60 early endorsements last week was notable for several reasons, including its inclusion of some challengers to incumbent state senators from Montgomery County.

Among those passed over by the environmental group was Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Montgomery), a 32-year veteran of the legislature. The group instead gave its nod to her Democratic primary rival, former Montgomery delegate Cheryl C. Kagan.

The league similarly sided with Del. Karen S. Montgomery, who is challenging Sen. Rona E. Kramer in a Democratic Senate primary. And the league gave its blessing to the Senate primary bid of Del. Saqib Ali, who is challenging Sen. Nancy J. King in another Montgomery district.

"We're looking for folks, particularly in the Senate, to show real leadership," explained Cindy Schwartz, the group's executive director. "We need people we can count on."

Barve at mike.jpgHouse Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery) hardly hid his pique with some decisions announced in recent days by another group: NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. A copy of Barve's letter to the chairwoman of the group's political action committee -- which arrived in our inbox around midnight Sunday -- is so rich we're tempted to print it in full.

"Thank you for endorsing me for reelection," Barve begins. "However, for the first time in 24 years, I am stunned by many of the endorsement decisions of the PAC."

Barve goes on to note his own involvement with the group -- which included serving as treasurer of Maryland NARAL and its political action committee between 1986 and 1990.

"While you are quite vocal as to your supported candidates, you are less so with respect to those who are merely pro-choice," Barve continues. "I had to search on your website and finally found what can only be described as an error-filled list of candidates." Among his examples: "Janet Greenip is anti-choice, but she is no longer a member of the Maryland Senate. Oops!"

Perhaps most notably, Barve takes exception with the group's endorsement of Kagan over Forehand, asking "has Jennie ever done anything but help the cause during her time in office?"

It's safe to say that NARAL won't be the only group with some explaining to do in coming months.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

Obama urges Congress to shore up state, local budgets
Obama signing.jpg"President Obama urged reluctant lawmakers Saturday to quickly approve nearly $50 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments, saying the money is needed to avoid 'massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters' and to support the still-fragile economic recovery," reports The Post's Lori Montgomery. "In a letter to congressional leaders, Obama defended last year's huge economic stimulus package, saying it helped break the economy's free fall, but argued that more spending is urgent and unavoidable. 'We must take these emergency measures,' he wrote in an appeal aimed primarily at members of his own party."

Possible suspect held in shooting of state trooper
Trooper family.jpg"Detectives think the person of interest taken into custody Saturday night in connection with the killing of a Maryland State Police trooper outside a Forestville restaurant is probably the man who shot the trooper, a law enforcement source said," reports The Post's Mat Zapotsky. "That's based largely on the account of an eyewitness who observed the incident from the parking lot, the source said Sunday. Investigators have questions in the killing of Trooper Wesley Brown, 24, who was off duty and working security at the Applebee's when he was shot early Friday. But they consider the person in custody -- a man in a light-blue shirt whom Brown escorted out of the restaurant about 30 minutes before the shooting -- to be the primary suspect, the source said."

Taxes and spending front and center in governor's race
"Unemployment, a shaky recovery, mounting government debt and a host of other fiscal anxieties have distilled into a single question dominating the Maryland governor's race: Whom do voters trust more to control taxes and spending: Gov. Martin O'Malley or his Republican rival, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.?" writes The Post's Aaron C. Davis and John Wagner. "In a state that has generally fared better in the recession than others -- but has also raised a bevy of taxes over the past eight years -- each is racing to cast his opponent as a tax-happy, out-of-control big spender. In so doing, each has concocted a convenient history of his opponent's time in Annapolis and assigned sinister motives that often only make sense in the candidates' jumbled versions of the past."
Ehrlich spending mug.jpg(Click for larger version)

Smith takes a pass on Senate contest
Thumbnail image for Jim Smith.jpg"Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. declined Friday to enter the race for state Senate, but with more than a million dollars in campaign funds at his disposal, he's expected to play a significant role in the 2010 elections for local and state offices, including governor," writes The Baltimore Sun's Arthur Hirsch and Julie Bykowicz. "Smith, a Democrat who was believed to be planning a run for the General Assembly -- going as far as putting his longtime family home on the market last fall and moving to an apartment in the 7th District -- ruled out a run for the seat held by Republican state Sen. Andrew P. Harris."


"I'm finesse. He's just football."
-- Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele, commenting on the differences in athletic prowess between him and on his former boss, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), at last week's Maryland GOP fundraising dinner

"I had operated under what turns out to be a false assumption: that the planning board is the principal adviser to the County Council on planning matters. It turns out that in many cases, the board is given no more credit . . . than somebody who walks in off the street."
-- Royce Hanson, whose term as Montgomery County's planning chairman ended last week


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  |  June 14, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  First Click , John Wagner  
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