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First Click, Maryland -- Jobs, other stuff, other stuff

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Monday, August 9, 2010:

The Agenda

WagnerFor an election that was supposed to be about jobs, jobs, jobs, the two major candidates for Maryland governor sure have spent a lot of time lately squabbling over other issues.

On Thursday, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) surrounded himself with veterans and took aim at Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) for Maryland's efforts to get a waiver from a new federal law that requires mailing absentee ballots to overseas military personnel at least 45 days before an election. Ehrlich said the decision was an insult to Maryland soldiers "crawling through caves in Afghanistan."

Ehrlich veterans.jpgO'Malley's campaign attributed the decision to the timing of Maryland's September primary and countered by reminding the media of fliers distributed on Election Day 2006 in predominantly black precincts that implied Ehrlich was part of the Democratic ticket. Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), an Army reservist who served in Iraq, later weighed in, accusing Ehrlich of playing political games and being a politician who "doesn't understand what it means to wear the uniform."

O'Malley DNA.jpgOn Friday, O'Malley surrounded himself with law-enforcement officials and lab technicians and touted arrests that have resulted from clearing a backlog in unanalyzed DNA samples that his administration inherited from Ehrlich. Ehrlich's campaign countered by saying O'Malley was claiming too much credit for a program that made great strides under Ehrlich's watch.

The back and forth on second-tier issues will continue today.

In a statement scheduled for release this morning, the O'Malley campaign plans to accuse Ehrlich of putting "partisan politics ahead of public safety," citing doubts expressed by Ehrlich's spokesman about the state's use of so-called License Plate Reader technology.

Here's the backstory:

On Wednesday, O'Malley announced plans to double the state's investment in the technology, which has been credited with helping crack down on car thefts.

Surrounded by law-enforcement officials in Greenbelt, O'Malley said the state would spend another $2 million in grant funding on the high-tech system in the coming year. With the system, which the state began procuring in 2007, police can scan license plates of passing cars. The picture is converted into data that can be checked against lists of vehicles reported missing.

A Washington Times editorial over the weekend -- headlined "O'Malley's spy cameras" -- raised questions about whether the strategy is a little too Big Brother for comfort. In the piece, Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth said: "Bob Ehrlich would need to see compelling arguments that these 'readers' have real benefit to remove concerns about government surveillance."

O'Malley deputy campaign manager Rick Abbruzzese is planning to counter today in a news release in which he charges: "Bob Ehrlich is opposed to this critical crime fighting and homeland security tool either because he doesn't get it, or because he can't support anything proposed by Governor O'Malley because he thinks it would hurt him
in this campaign. ... He should be embarrassed that trying to win an election so clearly comes before the safety of Maryland families."

Abbruzzese says the same technology has been used recently to help snare the attempted car bomber in New York and a murderer in California.

We'll of course be watching to see if Ehrlich takes the bait.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

O'Malley, Ehrlich talk jobs in Washington Post pieces
In dueling commentaries in today's Post, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) were asked to focus on their plans for economic recovery and job growth. Both pieces employ familiar lines used on the campaign trail in recent weeks. Here are some sample grabs.
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Ehrlich.jpgEhrlich: "November's election is about who is better prepared to lead a lasting economic recovery in our state. Marylanders need only ask themselves whether fewer jobs, higher taxes and bigger deficits these past four years fit their definition of 'progress.' I have higher expectations for Maryland. With three big goals -- more jobs, lower taxes, less spending -- we'll get Maryland working again."
Thumbnail image for o'malley-serious.JPGO'Malley: "While we still have a ways to go, Maryland is better positioned than other states to recover from the national recession stronger and sooner. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranks Maryland one of the two best states in America for innovation and entrepreneurship, and since January we have created 40,000 jobs -- at a rate that is more than double the national growth rate."

Palin endorsement lifts Murphy -- at least for now
Murphy on street.jpg"Just a few months ago, friends of Brian Murphy would roam the halls of the Maryland State House, practically begging reporters stationed there to come outside for news conferences by an unknown Republican candidate for governor," writes The Post's John Wagner. "Last week, a parade of those same scribes lined up to see him. What changed things was a single unexpected moment: Sarah Palin's endorsement of the like-minded 33-year-old business investor from Montgomery County, who is making his first bid for public office against former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the GOP primary."

Cecil slots parlor nears opening
Hollywood casino drawing.jpg"Technicians in hardhats peered intently into the bellies of the devices banked before them: Maryland's first batch of slot machines, ready to be turned on and tied into the state lottery's central computer network," writes The Baltimore Sun's Scott Calvert. "By midday Friday, some of the 900 newly delivered devices at the Hollywood Casino Perryville had been summoned to life, blinking seductively. Managers gave the news media a glimpse of the state's first slot machine parlor, a preview intended to create buzz eight weeks ahead of its scheduled opening."

Metro fare increase falls harder on some
Metro.jpg"Metro's historic fare increase is hitting some riders far harder than others -- with some paying entirely out of their own pockets while a large percentage, including 170,000 federal employees, enjoys a commuter benefit of up to $230 a month that offsets the cost," writes The Post's Ann Scott Tyson. "That disparity has generated complaints of unfairness from some commuters, but it could shrink by the end of this year, when the size of the federal commuter benefit will fall by almost half -- to $120 a month -- unless Congress passes legislation to extend it."


Kendel.jpg"Five days left to help my husband."
-- Former Maryland first lady Kendel Ehrlich, in a fundraising solicitation sent by email five days ahead of the Aug. 10 close of Maryland's fundraising period, asking for donations to former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R)

"Overt actions ... to influence the outcome of an election."
-- Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy (D) in response to a yard sign supporting her opponent on the lawn of the city's police commissioner


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  |  August 9, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories:  First Click , John Wagner  
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