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First Click, Maryland -- O'Malley school plan reveals themes in Md. governor's race

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Thursday, July 8, 2010:

The Agenda
Aaron.jpgGov. Martin O'Malley (D) on Wednesday made his first policy announcement as a candidate. He promised to continue spending money (albeit slightly less money each year) to continue building schools if reelected to a second term.

After O'Malley's news conference, a spokesman for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) knocked O'Malley's pledge as one more promise to "spend money he doesn't have," but didn't have an answer when asked how much Ehrlich would spend if voters returned him to office.

O'Malley's announcement, and the Ehrlich campaign's response, crystallized a couple of themes likely to play out again and again between now and November.

O'Malley school construction.jpgO'Malley's school construction message boiled down to "stay the course." After backing $1.3 billion in school construction spending during his first term, O'Malley pledged an additional $1 billion over the next four years, writes The Post's John Wagner. At a breakdown of $250 million a year, that amounts to pennies on the dollar compared with the $5.7 billion the state is now spending annually on education. Yet it remains in line with a six-year-old report by a Democratic-led task force that found that it made sense to spend a quarter billion annually for new school construction.

Ehrlich's response, via spokesman Andy Barth, highlighted two more mainstays so far in the race: The Republican challenger is intent on dinging O'Malley for spending more than the state takes in. That could be a powerful argument this year as the economy continues to flounder. But in not making a counter offer (even when the topic of O'Malley's press conference had been telegraphed for almost 24 hours), the Ehrlich campaign again did not take O'Malley head-on.

Even though the two candidates have spent a lot of time talking about education over the past few weeks -- Ehrlich saying he would expand the state's charter schools, and O'Malley touting his award from the national teachers' union -- the two continue to shoot past one another and make it tough for voters to compare the candidates back-to-back.

On education, where O'Malley can also say he's outspent Ehrlich on school construction, that's a status quo that appears to favor the incumbent:

"O'Malley's proposal represented his latest attempt to capitalize on education, an issue on which more voters trust him than Ehrlich, according to a Washington Post poll," Wagner writes. "In the May survey, 49 percent of voters said they trust O'Malley to do a better job with public education, while 29 percent favored Ehrlich.

-- Aaron C. Davis

News You Should Know (mid-week roundup)

State senator has history of financial reporting lapses
"Maryland State Sen. David C. Harrington has repeatedly provided false or incomplete information on government financial disclosure forms dating from his time on the Prince George's County Council in 2005, including failing to disclose that his wife was a lobbyist for a firm that did business with the government, a review of state and county records shows," writes The Post's Jonathan Mummolo. "The forms, signed under oath and penalty of perjury, are mandated to provide transparency about the financial interests of lawmakers and guard against improper influence. According to a review by The Washington Post, Harrington has not gone a year without omitting information or submitting an inaccuracy on a disclosure form since 2005. ... Harrington is being challenged for his seat in Annapolis by Del. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George's) in the September Democratic primary."

Some Marylanders remain uncounted in census
Residents in the 300-unit Westchester Park apartment complex in College Park say they have not received census forms or visits from census workers even as the count begins to wind down, writes The Post's Carol Morello. "It could not be determined immediately whether the apartments and condominiums were among a group of about 12,000 Prince George's County addresses whose questionnaire labels were not printed initially. When the lapse was discovered in mid-June, workers were dispatched to count the residents in person, said Regional Census Director Fernando Armstrong.

A death and dozens ill from heat wave
"Evidence of the heat's effects abounded across the region Wednesday," writes The Post's Michael E. Ruane. "Authorities in Prince George's County said they had taken 28 people to area hospitals over the past five days for heat-related illnesses. Maryland health officials said a Baltimore resident died this week because of the heat. Hot weather has contributed to eight Maryland deaths this season, including three in the past two weeks, authorities said. The District has had one heat death this season, and Virginia had three late last month, officials said.

State's high court to review slots ruling
Thumbnail image for aaslots.jpg"Maryland's highest court agreed Tuesday to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that rejected a ballot referendum on slot machines at an Anne Arundel County mall," reports the Baltimore Sun's Andrea F. Siegel and Jessica Anderson. "If upheld, the lower court decision would pave the way for construction of the state's largest slots casino by the Cordish Cos. at Arundel Mills mall. The Baltimore-based company wants to build a 4,750-machine slots parlor, but the plan is being challenged by nearby residents and by the Maryland Jockey Club, which wants to build a casino at its Laurel Park racetrack. ... The Court of Appeals expedited the case, scheduling arguments July 20. Written legal arguments are due on a staggered schedule that starts Friday."

Gansler unopposed; few Republicans surface for statewide offices
"The governor's race in Maryland may be competitive, but no well-known Republicans stepped forward for other statewide offices, as filing closed at 9 p.m. Tuesday," writes The Post's John Wagner. "In fact, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) drew not a single opponent and could well be running unopposed in November. Under state law, the Republican Party could still field a candidate, given that no one filed for the office. But party officials said Wednesday they weren't sure whether they will take advantage of that provision. Meanwhile, 11 Republicans (and seven Democrats) have stepped forward to challenge the seemingly well-entrenched Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.). Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) has drawn three Republican challengers, none of whom have held public office before.


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  |  July 8, 2010; 9:07 AM ET
Categories:  First Click  
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