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.
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