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First Click, Maryland:
Taking credit for Md. slots a political crapshoot

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Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010:

The Agenda
Aaron.jpgThe clear headline out of a new Post poll out today is that Marylanders' opinions about gambling seem to be loosening up quite a bit. In fact, I'll rather playfully distill it down to this: "Maryland: 'come on, big money!'"

Some eight years after Maryland's current slots drama began -- and on the same day that the state's first slots-only casino finally opens -- a majority of registered voters in Maryland say keep on going and legalize blackjack, craps, roulette and just about every other Las Vegas-style game that residents can play online at home anyway.

Perryville2.jpgBut if you read deeper into the breakdown in today's paper by my colleagues John Wagner, Ann Marimow and Kyle Dropp, there's a sub-headline about this year's governor's race. Again, playfully: "Maryland: 'We're not sure who deserves credit.'"

After two administrations full of headaches and delays, voters have a tough time deciding whether Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who on Thursday will attend the grand opening of Hollywood Casino Perryville, or former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr, his Republican opponent in November, deserve more credit for getting the state this far.

"Casino supporters split about evenly in the poll when asked whether O'Malley or Ehrlich deserves more credit for the slots.

O'Malley is given the nod by 35 percent of slots supporters, while 30 percent of them say Ehrlich."

When he was governor from 2003 to 2007, Ehrlich tried unsuccessfully to push slots legislation through the Democratic-led General Assembly. He touted the promise of education funding and benefits to the horse-racing industry, but debates during his four-year term "ended in bitter stalemates...

"Ultimately O'Malley who championed a 2008 ballot measure in which 59 percent of Maryland voters authorized five slots locations around the state."

"Slots have emerged as an issue in the governor's race," Wagner writes, "with former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) accusing O'Malley of having made a mess of the program."

And there's another wrinkle that complicates O'Malley's stance this election season. He's said he'd rather put slots near a race track than at the Arundel Mills mall -- something 56 percent of registered voters statewide say they would also oppose in a mall near them. The mall question goes before voters on Nov. 2, and if it fails it could be years before the state's biggest casino -- and one of the ones planned to be closest to Washington -- could be up and running.

Got it all straight? Does it change your vote in November? Maybe it will be clearer to figure out whom to thank -- or curse -- someday if it's legal in Maryland to roll the dice.

-- Aaron C. Davis

News You Should Know

Mother takes ballot spot of Green Party candidate who died
pettigrew.jpg"The mother of Natasha Pettigrew, a Green Party Senate candidate who died Sept. 20 after her bike was struck by a sport utility vehicle, will replace her daughter as the party's nominee," writes Natalie McGill in the Gazette. "Kenniss Henry of Cheverly will run in Pettigrew's place in the Nov. 2 general election, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections website. 'We're pleased and we think there's no greater tribute to Natasha and to her issues than to allow our supporters to cast a vote for her mother,' said Maryland Green Party co-chair Karen Jennings. 'We're glad Kenniss was willing to do this.' "

Maryland high court revives vote on ambulance fee
The red-robed judges of the Maryland Court of Appeals had tough questions Wednesday for Kevin Karpinski, the lawyer representing Montgomery County's Board of Elections, peppering him with openly skeptical queries and comments about why thousands of residents who sought to challenge a county law imposing ambulance fees saw their signatures scratched by elections officials," writes The Post's Michael Laris. "More than 52,000 people signed a petition to put the ambulance fee before voters Nov. 2, but elections officials, and later a Montgomery Circuit Court judge, blocked the referendum ... In the culmination of an extraordinarily swift challenge that made it from Rockville through the high court in Annapolis in just a month ... Maryland's highest court ruled in favor of the petition signers."

My Maryland, My New York mayor
giuliani.jpg"No surprise here, but former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has the backing of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R) in his comeback bid," writes The Post's John Wagner. New York's current Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will be in Bethesda today lending his endorsement to O'Malley.

McCartney: Voters need to press Ehrlich, O'Malley on D.C.-area issues
"Maryland voters in the Washington suburbs are enjoying that brief period once every four years when they have a chance to ask candidates for governor the vital question: What's in it for me?," writes Post columnist Robert McCartney. "As usual, both candidates -- Democratic incumbent Martin O'Malley and Republican former governor Bob Ehrlich -- have their political roots in the Baltimore area. You hardly ever see candidates from around here (Parris Glendening being a recent exception), because it's so easy to smear them as rich elitists out of touch with the rest of the state. Come campaign season, however, the Baltimore politicians fall over each other wooing voters in populous Montgomery and Prince George's counties and other Washington suburbs. So now's our chance to put them on the spot and press for answers about what they'll do to help our region."


"It's a crucial victory for democracy and common sense,"
--Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), who was irked after some of the signatures he gathered were among the thousands elections officials threw out on the ambulance fee.

It's "so far out of whack ... light years from what both sides I think know to be reality."
--Former Gov. Ehrlich questioning a new Post poll that found O'Malley leading by 11 percentage points.


Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics each weekday. You can also find First Click on Facebook and Twitter.

By Aaron C. Davis  | September 30, 2010; 7:53 AM ET
Categories:  First Click  
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Next: Regional business group reverses trend, backs O'Malley


Great, so when are they going to put up some REAL casinos @ National Harbor, that place was built to let it ride...

Posted by: StikeDC1 | September 30, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

As I've said before- the slots at Laurel racetrack are NOT an option, despite O'Malley's comments. This is the County's last chance for QA funding.

Posted by: Kimparker1971 | September 30, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

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