October 26, 2009

Ehrlich appointees consider getting back in the game

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

Bob Flanagan

Three prominent members of the Ehrlich administration are considering getting back into the political game, this time at the local level in Howard County.

Former Transportation Secretary Bob Flanagan, a vocal critic of Democrats when he was House Minority Leader, is weighing a race for County Council, as is Ehrlich’s Homeland Security Director Dennis Schrader. Trent Kittleman, who led the Maryland Transportation Authority and was Flanagan’s deputy secretary, said she is “exploring” a run for Howard County Executive. All are Republicans.

They join others appointed by Gov. Bob Ehrlich who thinking of running for office. They may be part of a loosely coordinated effort to get well-known Republicans on the ballot in key swing counties such as Howard and Baltimore to support the ex-governor’s reelection plans, according to Republicans familiar with the plans.

Ehrlich Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer, also a former House minority leader, sent out an e-mail Monday announcing a campaign kickoff Nov. 11 in what is expected to be a race for the 7th District Senate seat now held by Republican Andy Harris, who is running for Congress. Term-limited Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, a Democrat, is also reportedly weighing a run for that seat.

All of the Howard County candidates were at Sunday’s annual picnic for Sen. Allan Kittleman, the Senate Republican leader and Trent Kittleman’s stepson. Also at the event was Larry Hogan, Ehrlich’s former appointments secretary, who said he will run for governor if Ehrlich does not.

“We’re all hoping that Bob Ehrlich will run for governor,” said Hogan, now a commercial real estate developer whose father of the same name was a congressman and Prince George’s County executive. “If Bob runs, he has my enthusiastic support. If he doesn’t, I’ve got his enthusiastic support.”

Trent Kittleman

Ehrlich is making political appearances throughout the state. On Tuesday, he’s scheduled at a spaghetti dinner for Baltimore City Republicans and at a town rally in Ellicott City.

Flanagan, an attorney, wouldn’t confirm that he’s running for the Ellicott City seat on the County Council now held by first-term Democrat Courtney Watson. But others at the Kittleman event said Flanagan was already knocking on doors. “He’s actually out campaigning,” said Schrader. “He’s a very attractive candidate. He did a phenomenal job as secretary of transportation.”

Schrader said he was “exploring” a race for the council seat he held for one term. “There are some folks who are trying to get me to commit to run in that race,” Schrader said. He noted that either he or his wife Sandy, the former state senator in district 13, have been on the ballot for every local election in the last 20 years.

Trent Kittleman, a lawyer, said she is “exploring the possibility of running for county executive,” challenging incumbent Democrat Ken Ulman.

“We need a two-party system,” she said. “I’ve got to think this a very unusual time. … [People] are just concerned that government is overwhelming them.”

“I think Trent would make a great county executive,” said Sen. Kittleman, and “Bob Flanagan and Dennis Schrader would be great on the County Council.”

Watson for her part said she had “heard the talk” about Flanagan, but wasn’t aware of any campaigning. “Right now I’m just focused on working for the district,” Watson said. “It’s just very early in the process. I probably won’t focus on the campaign” until next year. She hasn’t formerly announced for re-election, but has been soliciting donations.

“Because I’m in a swing district, we’re always raising money,” she said.

The Kittleman name has been a major vote getter in Howard County since 1982 when Robert Kittleman, Allan’s late father and Trent’s late husband, became the first Republican elected to the legislature from Howard County in over 50 years.

Democrats challenged whether the family name had appeal throughout the county.

While Kittlemans do well in western Howard County, County Democratic Chairman Michael McPherson said, “The brand name isn’t that popular, especially from a county perspective.”

McPherson said he had “heard a recurring rumor” about Flanagan, but he said he was skeptical.

“I don’t think he’s going to run. He’s just trying to stir up a little interest. People in the county just don’t know him.”

“Courtney has done an excellent job representing that council district,” McPherson said. Watson, who previously served on the school board, has a family history of politics. Her father, Ed Cochran, served on the school board, Howard’s first County Council, and as county executive in the 1970s.

Larry Carson at the Sun has on the Kittleman run.