June 23, 2014

State Roundup, June 23, 2014

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JOBS LOST, UNEMPLOYMENT UP: Maryland’s unemployment rate ticked upward in May as employers shed 1,300 jobs, the U.S. Department of Labor said Friday. The Associated Press reports at length in the Frederick News-Post. Most states added jobs that month. Maryland was one of 14 that lost ground, its job reductions split about equally between the private and public sectors.

LIBERAL DOUBTS: Beneath its one-party uniformity, there are signs that Maryland voters may not be quite as liberal as their state government according to recent polls, Marc Fisher and Jenna Johnson report in the Washington Post.

GET OUT THE VOTE: Maryland’s Democratic and Republican contenders for governor are sparing no effort to pull every last supporter to the polls Tuesday in a primary for which many voters aren’t ready, report Michael Dresser and Erin Cox in the Sun. Likely voters can expect a barrage of phone calls and a flood of election-eve mail on behalf of the three Democrats and four Republicans seeking Maryland’s top office.

VOTING MACHINES ON THE GO: Nayanna Davis in the Sun reports on the Kane Co., an Elkridge-based firm that’s transporting some 16,000 voting machines to nearly 1,800 voting centers throughout Maryland. Security is a top priority, and part of Kane’s job involves making sure machines don’t get tampered with. The company has been moving voting machines for 20 years.

EARLY VOTING MYTH: Columnist Barry Rascovar in Maryland Reporter says early voting doesn’t increase turnout, despite all the hype surrounding this much-ballyhooed reform.

AG RACE SPENDING:Out-of-state groups are pumping last-minute cash into the Maryland attorney general’s race, fueling a barrage of campaign ads, including $240,000 in TV commercials backing Del. Jon Cardin purchased by a Florida-based fund that won’t reveal its donors, Luke Broadwater reports in the Sun. State Sen. Brian E. Frosh is also benefiting from outside spending.

CONRESSIONAL CHALLENGERS: Though Maryland’s political apparatus has focused on statewide primaries for governor and attorney general, six of eight incumbents in the House of Representatives face primary opponents. Besides Harris, five Democratic lawmakers face challenges: Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes of Baltimore County, Donna F. Edwards of Prince George’s County, Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore and Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, John Fritze reports in the Sun. The challengers are inspired by the upset victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

EXTREMISTS LABELED: Michael Anthony Peroutka and David Whitney, who are vying for the same seat on the Anne Arundel County Council, are members of the League of the South, an organization whose stated goal is the secession of Southern states. They have landed on a list of “extremist candidates” compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. Peroutka also believes elected officials should return to a “Biblical worldview” of the founding fathers, and Whitney preaches at his Pasadena church that God is essential in government and that current political leaders are “wicked and corrupt.”

HEALTH CARE EXCHANGE: Meredith Cohn in the Sun writes about the continuing problems with the health care exchange website that must continue to be used until its replacement is ready. In an earlier weekend story, she assesses the cost of a move to the federal site versus the proposed shift to Connecticut’s technology.

SUBMINIMUM WAGE: Following up on a Sun story about subminimum wages for workers with developmental disabilities, the editorial page proposes a look at dismantling the system of special workshops and putting these workers into the regular workforce.

PROGRESSIVE PLANS: A non-descript College Park office with a view of a parking lot and the faint smell of ammonia hardly seems like the place to plot the political transformation of Maryland. But here, and in equally unexceptional office space on North Charles Street in Baltimore, the group Maryland Working Families is implementing its multi-pronged plan to make a blue state a truly progressive one as well, writes Josh Kurtz for Center Maryland.

HARRIS AIMS FOR LEADERSHIP: Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland’s sole Republican in Congress, said Friday he is seeking the chairmanship of an influential conservative caucus of lawmakers in the House of Representatives, John Fritze reports in the Sun. The Cockeysville lawmaker wants to lead the Republican Study Committee, a group that has grown with the wave of conservatives — including Harris — who swept the party to power in the chamber in 2010.

KAGAN, SIMMONS BATTLE: One day away from the primary election, contenders statewide are gearing up for the final stand against their opponents, but few battled as fiercely as the Democratic candidates for the Senate seat in District 17, writes Jeremy Bauer-Wolf for Marylandreporter.com. For months, Cheryl Kagan, a former member of the House of Delegates, and Del. Luiz Simmons have traded blows and sent flurries of discrediting mailers against each other in a district covering the Rockville and Gaithersburg areas of Montgomery County.

ANNE ARUNDEL PREVIEW: In the Capital, Rema Rahman previews the key Anne Arundel County races.

DISTRICT 31B: Republican Paul Drgos, candidate for delegate in District 31B, attacked his opponent Meagan Simonaire in his social media campaign, Zoe Read reports in the Capital. The Pasadena native and computer programmer said Simonaire is not qualified for the state delegate position, and that she uses the name of her father state, Sen. Bryan Simonaire, to get ahead in the election.

DISTRICT 33: Del. Tony McConkey fired back at House Speaker Michael E. Busch in a campaign mailer sent out this week, Alex Jackson reports in the Capital. Busch, D-Annapolis, told The Capital last week that he believes Democrats can win seats in Republican-controlled Districts 33 and 31B, especially if two incumbents — McConkey, R-Severna Park, and Del. Don Dwyer, R-Pasadena — advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

O’DONNELL ENDORSES NEUMAN: Former House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell endorsed Laura Neuman in the race for Anne Arundel County Executive, Tim Prudente in the Capital reports. O’Donnell questioned Del. Steve Schuh’s reliability on votes against taxes, such as the “rain tax.”

CARROLL CAMPAIGN FINANCES: Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times examines the campaign contributions to local candidates in Carroll County, particularly those run for county commissioner.

CARROLL COUNTY DELEGATION: A few years ago, Carroll County’s joint delegation to the Maryland General Assembly split into separate House and Senate delegations, which has led to several impasses. Rachel Roubein of the Carroll County Times discusses unifying the delegation again with the candidates for House and Senate representing the county.

MAKING EMAILS PUBLIC: The paper’s editorial board says: “Last week’s ruling in which the Carroll County Times and other media organizations were awarded more than $92,000 in attorney fees after successfully challenging the Carroll County Board of Commissioners’ decision to withhold public records sends a message to public bodies that they can’t use the court system or the threat of high legal costs to try and keep the public from obtaining public information.

  •  The paper’s Christian Alexandersen reports the story:  Retired Howard County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Sweeney’s order indicated that the money will cover some of the attorney fees and expenses incurred by the Carroll County Times, The Washington Post, The  Baltimore Sun and WMAR-TV. The news organizations challenged the board’s policy in February 2013 when they asked for copies of the commissioners’ email distribution lists it uses to communicate with people.

SPENDING STUDY: Says the Frederick News-Post editorial: “Only in Annapolis would state officials authorize $1 million to study whether Maryland schools are properly funded. And only in Maryland, where an all-powerful three-member Board of Public Works is empowered to ensure the state’s finances are wisely spent, would two of the state’s most influential leaders not see the irony in paying that cool million to a company in Colorado.” The News-Post quotes a MarylandReporter.com story from last week.

FREDERICK PRIMARY PREVIEW: Bethany Rodgers previews key races in the Frederick County primary in the News-Post.

TAX PER MILE: After feeling the heat from last year’s gas tax hike, some Marylanders fear another tax increase — one based on how many miles they drive, Kelsey Sutton reports in the Sentinel.

RACIAL POLITICS: Jeff Newman in the Maryland Independent has a report on racial politics and a school board controversy roiling the Charles County election.

HOWARD TEACHER CONTRACT IMPASSE: Friday was the last day of school for Howard County students and staff, but protracted contract talks between the school system and the teachers union are headed for summer session, Joe Burris reports in the Sun/Howard County Times. The one-year agreement between the system and the Howard County Education Association expires June 30, and on Friday the union filed a declaration of impasse with the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board.

O’MALLEY IN IOWA: John Wagner of the Washington Post reports on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s positive reception in Iowa.

MoCo SCHOOL BOARD: Donna St. George in the Post writes about the four candidates for Montgomery County school board, overseeing the largest school system in Maryland and one of the largest in the country. They highlight the achievement gap in county schools.

BAKER ENDORSES FOR PG SCHOOL BOARD: With primary elections for the county school board coming on Tuesday and four elected seats up for grabs, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is making a major push for an even greater say over how the school system functions, publicly backing four people who support his vision for the school system, Ovetta Wiggins reports in the Post.

PG FRAUD CONVICTION: A Prince George’s County jury on Thursday found a former county executive candidate guilty of stealing thousands of dollars designed to support community organizations and local nonprofits, state prosecutors announced, Lyhn Bui reports in the Post. Randy McRae, 55, faces up to 65 years in prison after being convicted of theft and other charges related to a scheme that took place between 2006 and 2008.

HARFORD CANDIDATES: The Dagger blog in Harford County has a full run down of all the candidates for state and local office there.

CAMPAIGN HASHTAGS: Sara Blumberg of WMAR digital reports on the favorite hashtags used by candidates for governor.

MONUMENT MAN: Far from our usual beat, but Susan Sullam, a longtime aide to Ben Cardin in the House and Senate, has the cover story in The Washington Post magazine about her father Joel Fisher and her discovery that this lawyer was one of the real monuments men that tracked down Nazi stolen gold and art in World War II.

COVE POINT: After a 30-day opportunity to comment on the environmental assessment for the proposed liquefied natural gas export project at Dominion Cove Point, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s comment period ended Monday, reports Sarah Fleischman in The Enterprise. The American Petroleum Institute estimated that more than 103,000 comments were submitted to the commission in favor of the project, and 150,000 comments were submitted against it.

LAWSUIT: The Charles County unit of Fraternal Order of Police announced that it intends to take legal action against the county, Lindsay Renner reports in the Maryland Independent, after the county budget was criticized by community members for its lack of pay increases for police and inadequate funding for the the opening of St. Charles High School.

EARLY VOTING: Officials in Cecil County are encouraged by record-breaking results from eight days of early voting and hope that bodes well for turnout during Tuesday’s primary election, writes Jacob Owens in the Cecil Whig.

DORCHESTER, TALBOT COUNTY RACES: The Star Democrat has summaries of some of the local primary election races in Dorchester and Talbot county including: