October 29, 2012

State Roundup, October 29, 2012

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STORM SANDY: Gov. Martin O’Malley canceled today’s early voting in Maryland due to Hurricane Sandy’s expected arrival. Government offices and schools around the region also have announced that they are closed today, and some flights out of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport have been canceled, writes Chris Korman for the Sun.

Gov. O’Malley urged people in his state to heed the warnings and finish taking precautions for the massive storm formed by Hurricane Sandy that is barreling toward the Mid-Atlantic, writes Megan Poinski for the Washington Times.

Besides canceling early voting, O’Malley has cautioned Marylanders of impending power outages and damage, reports Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette. “This is a serious, killer storm,” O’Malley said Sunday. “It’s important that everyone is vigilant.”

Natalie McGill of the Gazette writes that U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski looked at a radar on weather forecaster Dan Petersen’s computer screen Sunday as he said he has never seen a hurricane like the impending Hurricane Sandy bring this much snow. “This is amazing,” Petersen said. “It’s actually creepy,” Mikulski replied to sounds of laughter. “It’s like a [Steven] Spielberg movie.”

EARLY VOTING CROWDS: Voters in the District and Maryland overwhelmed election officials at several polling places Saturday when the larger-than-expected crowds took advantage of the first day of early voting to cast ballots, Tim Craig and Mike DeBonis of the Post report.

Pamela Wood of the Capital-Gazette reports that a combination of hot issues on the ballot and an impending storm drove thousands of Anne Arundel County residents to early voting centers on Saturday, causing long lines and significant waits.

What Accokeek resident Yvette Darnaby said she thought would be a quick trip to the Oxon Hill Library to cast an early vote for the 2012 General Election ended up being a two-hour-long wait, writes Natalie McGill in the Gazette. Darnaby added that she’d probably vote in hour three.

GERRYPANDERING: Princeton professor Nolan McCarty, who has studied the effects of gerrymandering on the American public, writes that even if its effects on polarization are as small as he believes them to be, the practice of elected politicians drawing districts for themselves and their political allies is an invitation to overt corruption.

What would a non-gerrymandered state of Maryland look like? College students redraw the districts without regard to politics, but keep the Voting Right Act in mind, and the remapping looks positively normal, writes the Washington Post.

BALLOT QUESTIONS & BLACK CHURCHES: Not since Maryland voters were asked to weigh in on abortion 20 years ago has a ballot so deeply drawn church leaders in to the state’s political fray, write the Post’s Aaron Davis and Hamil Harris. And for the 800 mostly black churches in Prince George’s County, the issues behind several of the ballot questions has resounded forcefully.

ONE LONG BALLOT: Rachel Baye of the Washington Examiner reports that Maryland voters will face an historically long ballot on Nov. 6, and with so many items to vote for, some could be overlooked, experts warn.

GAMBLING JOBS: The executive standing behind the job fair table had plenty to offer: spa receptionist, advertising account manager, cocktail server — 112 jobs in all. But when a 26-year-old student at Prince George’s Community College looked at the list, he realized there was a problem. They are all in Las Vegas. That’s when the executive switched to political mode and urged passage of Question 7, write Miranda Spivack and Victor Zapana in the Post.

ROCKY GAP & REFERENDUM: Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times-News writes that the upcoming vote on legalizing table games may dictate the timing and precise plans for changing the Rocky Gap conference center into a gaming parlor and the timing of rebuilding lost conference space.

BLOOMBERG IN BALTIMORE: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled down to Baltimore’s Harbor East neighborhood Friday to urge passage of same-sex marriage when Marylanders go to the polls this election. Bloomberg joined Gov. O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Sun’s Luke Broadwater reports.

GAY CURRICULUM? The two sides in Maryland’s same-sex marriage debate clashed Friday over a new television ad from opponents that warns that if Question 6 passes, “schools could teach that boys can marry boys,” writes John Wagner in the Post. Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group seeking to uphold the state’s gay nuptials law, called the ad a scare tactic, arguing that curriculum decisions are made by school boards.

SANS MORMONS: Michelle Boorstein of the Post reports that Maryland activists working to overturn same-sex marriage have had to get used to one surprising absence from their religious coalition: Mormons.

POLL TIES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: As the Nov. 6 election nears, likely Maryland voters are evenly divided on whether to make same-sex marriage legal in the state after opposition has grown in recent weeks, while most oppose expanding gambling, write Annie Linskey and Michael Dresser about a new opinion poll conducted for The Baltimore Sun.

MONEY SPENT: Pamela Wood of the Capital Gazette writes that, heading into the final days of the campaign season, groups on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue are pouring their money into advertising. The two leading groups campaigning on the issue are focused on getting their messages out on the airwaves.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE ACCUSATION: Alexander Pyles of the Daily Record writes that a Republican lawmaker’s business venture, which successfully helped to petition three state laws to referendum over the last year, is being accused of campaign finance violations by the Maryland Democratic Party.

David Hill of the Washington Times reports that the Maryland Democratic Party has sent a letter to state prosecutors and elections officials, alleging that MDPetitions.com — a conservative group that has helped lead opposition to the proposal to allow in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants — is functioning illegally as a ballot issue committee.

SOCIAL SECURITY WAIT: In an investigative piece, Yvonne Wenger of the Baltimore Sun reports that many families face long waits for Social Security disability benefits amid denials and lengthy appeals as the agency manages the largest-ever caseload.

KEPT FROM REPUBLICANS: Republican legislators are riled up that data they asked for months ago supporting the proposed expansion of gambling to Prince George’s County has still not been handed over to them by the Department of Legislative Services, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

SENATE RACE: Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail profiles Maryland’s Senate candidates: incumbent Ben Cardin, Dan Bongino, Rob Sobhani and Dean Ahmad.

Despite a multimillion-dollar advertising blitz from one challenger and an aggressive grassroots campaign from another, U.S. Sen. Cardin remains among the safest incumbents in the nation as he runs for a second term, the Sun’s John Fritze writes about a new poll.

SOBHANI PULLS AD: Independent U.S. Senate candidate Sobhani agreed to pull down an advertisement he began airing on black radio stations this week that attacked incumbent Sen. Cardin after state Democrats complained Friday the spot was riddled with inaccuracies, reports John Fritze in the Sun.

WHO’S ON THIRD? The biggest question in the race for U.S. Senate isn’t who will win, but who will finish third, writes Earl Kelly for the Capital-Gazette. And that question speaks volumes about Maryland’s political landscape, some political observers say.

SARBANES’ SEAT: Victor Zapana of the Post reports that in Maryland, the campaigns for three of the state’s high-profile ballot measures — expanded gambling, same-sex marriage and the Dream Act — are fierce. The race for the state’s 3rd Congressional District seat held by John Sarbanes is not.

BARTLETT’S SEAT: After years of representing a comfortably Republican swath of Maryland, U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett is trying to win an 11th term in a district that now leans Democrat, writes Andrew Schotz for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Bartlett is facing Democrat John Delaney, a well-funded financier, and Libertarian Nickolaus Mueller, a research scientist.

Playing to an audience of roughly 100 people, in Frederick on Sunday, Delaney at times sounded like he was trying to make a case for Mitt Romney’s presidency, perhaps trying to appeal to independent and Republican voters. Bartlett probably reminded some of why he is so vulnerable, writes Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter.com.

NECK & NECK IN POLL: John Fritze of the Sun reports that Bartlett and Delaney are running neck and neck in the race to represent Western Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, a new poll shows.

Frederick County residents are close to learning whether a Potomac entrepreneur or a 20-year incumbent will prevail in the area’s most hotly contested congressional race in years, reports Bethany Rodgers in the Frederick News-Post.

DELANEY AHEAD IN BUCKS: But Democratic challenger Delaney outraised longtime Republican Rep. Bartlett by a 6-to-1 margin in the first half of October and had more cash on hand going into the final weeks of the campaign, most likely with the help of former President Bill Clinton, writes Matthew Hay Brown in the Sun.

VAN HOLLEN CAMPAIGNS: Even with registered Democrats holding a 2-to-1 advantage in the 8th Congressional District, their incumbent is not taking anything for granted, reports Pete McCarthy in the Frederick News-Post. Maryland’s redrawn congressional district map moved northern Frederick County’s conservative base into the 8th District, but that did little to disrupt the partisan edge for Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

MO CO PROBE CLOSED: Three days after launching it, the Maryland state prosecutor on Friday closed a criminal investigation into whether Montgomery County improperly used county resources during two ongoing referendum campaigns, Victor Zapana of the Post writes.

CITY ELECTION CYCLE: Baltimore City residents will vote next week on whether to elect city officials at the same time they cast their ballots for president — but their choice could be merely symbolic, reports Alison Knezevich in the Sun. State lawmakers passed a measure this year to align city elections with the presidential cycle, and lawyers for the General Assembly believe that law would override city residents’ vote.