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1.78 Million Marylanders Ignored

Memo to Candidates for Maryland Governor:

Bob, Martin, you put on a fascinating show in your two debates this past weekend. One of you has an alluring casual manner that makes voters think of you as someone who's not faking it but is really telling it as it is. The other of you has an elegance and control of language that indicates a thoughtful and committed nature. Both of you seem to know your facts, even if those facts do conflict with each other a fair amount of the time. And each of you obviously despises the other.

I gleaned that much from watching the two hours of debates--the only two hours Marylanders will get to see you in action (sorry guys, but TV ads don't count--those are for entertainment value only. Nobody believes a word of them.)

But here's the problem: Neither Gov. Bob Ehrlich nor Mayor Martin O'Malley seems to have much interest in the affairs of the 1.78 million Marylanders who live in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the Washington suburbs that make up a much larger portion of the state population than do Baltimore city and Baltimore County combined (their population adds up to 1.4 million).

In the two debates this weekend, neither of you mentioned Prince George's County even once. Gov. Ehrlich mentioned Montgomery County only once, and only to tout his progress on getting the InterCounty Connector highway built. Neither of you bothered to mention the Purple Line or Metro funding, even when you were asked a question about transportation. Neither of you said a word about economic development in Prince George's, or about putting state jobs in the county. Not a word about suburban schools. O'Malley made a fleeting reference to traffic on I-270 and that was his only nod to the county of his birth.

To be fair, the Baltimore-centric TV news people who did all the questioning in the two debates didn't ask a single question regarding issues important to the lives of the state's largest population bloc. Instead, they led you into ever more arcane and irrelevant debates over schools in Baltimore (all the way down to the level of discussing ad nauseum the test scores of a single middle school in the city), crime in Baltimore, the budget in Baltimore, and energy rates in the Baltimore area. Now obviously since one of you is mayor of Baltimore, your record there is an important campaign issue. But it's not the only place in the state.

And neither of you guys did a thing to steer the conversation toward any topic that might give D.C. area voters a sense of why they might want to support you. The message is clear: residents of Maryland's D.C. suburbs will continue to pay the freight for the rest of the state while receiving far less than other regions in both resources and attention.

Montgomery and Prince George's voters are left to guess where you might stand. O'Malley ripped the idea of charter schools in Baltimore; does that mean he opposes them in Montgomery and Prince George's? Who knows? Ehrlich went on about his commitment to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, which obviously is essential to all Marylanders. Does that mean he will work on the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers as well? Who knows?

Which candidate would be more likely to address east-west traffic concerns inside the Beltway? Which of you has ideas on the growing gang problems in the Washington area? Which is better suited to stem the tide of families with children who are abandoning the Prince George's schools? Which is interested in--or even aware of--the racial tensions in fast-growing Charles County? Which has any intention of working out policing and public health problems along the Prince George's-D.C. border? Which understands that the outcome of the hospital crisis in the District has a direct bearing on health care in Prince George's (and vice versa)?

Sadly, Washington area voters already know the answers: Neither Ehrlich nor O'Malley seems to see much cause to put effort into those issues. Only when Maryland's most populated region starts to generate more of its own candidates will Baltimore's outdated and illogical dominance of state politics and government begin to recede. Until then, we're on our own.

By Marc Fisher |  October 17, 2006; 7:16 AM ET
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Ugh. Actually, MoCo -did- generate two terrific candidates for statewide office-- Duncan and Perez. I guess we're back to "if at first you don't succeed...".

Posted by: MattF | October 17, 2006 8:19 AM

Can you imagine the influence the DC Metro area would have in Maryland State elections if DC was retroceeded into MD? Urban issues and transportation would dominate the campaigns and the State's focus. Plus, all Washingtonians would finally get full voting rights with two Senators, at least one voting and fully empowered Congressperson, and a Governor and State Representatives. The DC Mayor would also be incredibly influential in the State and the City staff wouldn't have to perform State functions with its limited tax revenue. Just a thought.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2006 9:37 AM

What you describe exactly mirrors the situation on the Virginia side of the river, with NoVa carrying the rest of the state on our backs economically and getting bupkis, not even an occasional thank you, in return.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 17, 2006 10:24 AM

That is why Gansler and Franchot are so important.

Posted by: Ignorant Matt F | October 17, 2006 10:26 AM

If Gansler and Franchot are so important, doesn't that make Steele critical? I mean, do we really need ANOTHER Senator from Baltimore City?

Posted by: RL | October 17, 2006 10:36 AM

And those of us in Southern Maryland are obviously chopped liver.

Hey, kurosawaguy. Long time no see.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 17, 2006 10:37 AM

Welcome to my world! I know Washington Co. is small in comparison, but we do have issues. Rarely does any politician think there is life beyond South Mtn.!

Posted by: PCwashco | October 17, 2006 10:41 AM

I think the bigger issue is that since MoCo and PG will vote for the Democrat no matter what; there is no motiviation for Ehrlich care to address them. Also, if O'Malley can take them for granted he doesn't need to either.

Posted by: Dag | October 17, 2006 10:55 AM

At least O'Malley attended a candidates' forum in Montgomery Village 10 days ago while Bobby Hairspray never even responded to the non partisan organizers.
O'Malley was quite articulate and knew a great deal about MoCo and issues important to us. He has a plan and knows what needs to be done. Bobby needs a job search plan. Maybe George W. Shrub will find a place for him

Posted by: jmsbh | October 17, 2006 11:17 AM

I came to the conclusion a long time ago, when I still lived in Maryland, that the race to be governor of Maryland was really the race to be governor of Baltimore.

Posted by: former Md. resident | October 17, 2006 11:19 AM

The Washington media certainly does not focus on local / state issues nearly as much as the Baltimore media. Washington channels, newspapers, and radio are very federal government centric. Metro sections are waife thin and newscasts frequently entirely fail to mention the Governor or the upcoming election.
Contrast this with the Baltimore media which puts the Maryland election on the front page daily, and Baltimore newscasts which run with Maryland politics as a lead story often. Not to mention the local talk radio stations in Baltimore devoted entirely to state political debate.
The Washington media needs to start paying attention to the candidates and to Maryland state government. Their coverage now is pathetic and it is one reason why candidates can continue to ignore the Washington suburbs.

Posted by: PhillyD | October 17, 2006 11:31 AM

Washington County does have issues. The county commissioners are the issues! I'm glad I moved to Frederick County. So, so much better.

Posted by: Fred | October 17, 2006 12:09 PM

Maybe Haircut and Trashcan Man can go into business for themselves. They could start their own refuse service.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2006 12:11 PM

When I was growing up in the north-eastern corner of Maryland, and attending statewide school events, I found that D.C.-area kids knew next to nothing about the rest of the state. Most had never heard of my county, and couldn't seem to conceptualize a Maryland outside the D.C. suburbs. This was very frustrating - we knew who they were - why didn't they know who we were?

When I lived in the D.C. suburbs after college, my earlier experience was confirmed. I rarely heard people talk of themselves as Marylanders, and never heard of them talk of the rest of the state. My neighbors identified much more with D.C. than with Maryland.

This identification with D.C. may make sense, but I think it contributes to suburban-D.C.-Marylanders' social and political separation from the rest of the state.

Until these Marylanders think of themselves as Marylanders - and deem to share that title with people from the Baltimore area, Western Maryland, the Eastern Shore, and Southern Maryland - nothing will change.

The D.C. suburbs may hold $1.8 million Marylanders, but until their candidates (and community leaders, and media) can convince the other $3.2 million Marylanders that they actually care about them too, they won't be accepted statewide.

Posted by: J | October 17, 2006 12:58 PM

With all due respect-- I'm not going to buy the notion that people who live in MoCo and Prince Georges need to change in some way before they can expect to have their concerns dealt with. Most of the people I know in my neighborhood have lived there for decades. They've worked in their chosen professions, raised families, paid taxes, etc. and so on. Political representation comes down to a pretty simple question of fairness.

Posted by: MattF | October 17, 2006 1:41 PM

A few points:

(1) The Baltimore area includes more than just Balt. Co. and City. It also includes Harford, Carroll, Howard, and Anne Arundel counties. Combined, the Baltimore area has 2.6 million residents, close to half of the state's population. Additionally, the Washington area also includes Charles, Calvert, and part of Frederick counties, pushing the DC area's total (in MD) to over 2 million people.

(2) Maryland did quite recently have a governor from the Washington area: Parris Glendenning.

(3) The District's return to MD would tremendously boost the Washington area's clout in Annapolis, and such a move will likely happen if the District's residents push for it.

(4) All citizens of Maryland should take to heart the words spoken by O'Malley at last night's debate as he explained the election as a contest between: "One [Ehrlich] who sees the whole world as us versus them and one [O'Malley] who believes we're all in this together and we have a responsibility to advance the common good."

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2006 3:00 PM

I recently moved from Southern Maryland to Anne Arundel County where I am forced to listen to Baltimore News. I am amazed how totally focused it is on "only" Baltimore and close surrounding areas. With Washington News you get an overview of the entire area we live in. Many people commute to Washington and No. Va. and would like to know traffic updates and events taking place. There is life outside of Baltimore, infact, most of Marylanders just don't relate to the idea of Baltimore being the "center" of our state. This seems to transfer over to the way Politics are run.

Posted by: M. | October 17, 2006 3:00 PM

some new publication,, just did a story that touched on this with regard to local voters. look at where the money is coming from, are they really being ignored?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2006 4:33 PM

May be Montgomery, P.G county and Wash DC should be merged and made into a 53rd state. People in these counties often forget that they live in MD and not d.c. That's all we need in MD is to have wash be part of md.

Posted by: mc | October 17, 2006 4:51 PM

What are the 51st and 52nd states - did I miss something?

Posted by: how many stars on the flag? | October 17, 2006 7:19 PM

This may be the dumbest blog post I've ever read from you Fisher after last week when the Post was chastizing Ehrlich for his supposed third 'groundbreaking' of the ICC. The WaPo can't have their cake and eat it too!

Ehrlich's spent a lot of time focused on Montgomery and even has a whole advertisement focused on the county. For you to waltz out here saying he's ignoring those residents is beyond ignorant.

I should never have renewed my subscription to the paper when it accidentally lapsed.

Posted by: Bryan | October 18, 2006 6:09 PM

Did anyone notice how much more substantive the Senate debate was? Perhaps it was so because Green Party candidate Kevin Zeese was discussing issues and the two biggies couldn't hide behind sound bites and sniping as happened in this "debate".

Maybe if Green and Populist party candidates Boyd and Driscoll has been part of the mix, we could have enjoyed a more informative presentation of views.

How important is it to hear from only the "viable" candidates if they just play cat and mouse all night with their exhaustingly rehearsed packaged answers?

I am NOT a third party member. I'm just sick of the bull the major candidates feel free to throw around when there's an enforced lack of competition for votes.

Posted by: bill | October 20, 2006 8:44 AM

Speaking of ignoring voters, is Israeli security a high priority issue for most Marylanders? Because it seems to me Mr. Cardin is a whole lot more concerned with Israel than PG or MoCo, and that would be ignoring the voters of this state as well.

Posted by: RT | October 24, 2006 9:11 AM

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