Attorney General Doug Gansler

Attorney General Doug Gansler sent me a letter the other day. Real snail-mail with a stamp and all, and it wasn’t a “cease and desist” order.

It was a “Dear Friend” campaign solicitation, thanking me “so very much for your continued trust” and noting in the very first sentence that in November he got “the most votes ever cast for a Maryland statewide candidate,” 1.3 million.

Gansler was the rare case of a statewide incumbent with no opposition in the general election or the primary.

He got about 250,000 more votes than Gov. Martin O’Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot, but they both had Republican opponents who picked up about 700,000 a piece, so there were 400,000 more voters casting ballots in those races than for attorney general.

No matter. This is not about the last election, but the one in 2014. Democrats Gansler and Franchot are clearly in the running for governor.

Two weeks ago, Franchot hired experienced political aide Amie Kershner “to oversee campaign fundraising and event-planning operations in order to maximize outreach and communications capability.” That’s a little early in the next election cycle for someone who got 61% of the vote last year, but not for someone who is $1 million behind Gansler in money left in the bank.

A few days before that announcement, the Franchot campaign sent out a fawning editorial from the Frederick News-Post headlined “Governor Franchot?” as a “validation of the good job Comptroller Franchot is doing.” There was the disclaimer, “As he has said many times, Comptroller Franchot loves his job, and enjoys working every day on behalf of Maryland’s taxpayers. While he is flattered by the suggestion that he consider other offices, he continues to be focused on and truly grateful for the opportunity to continue serving our state by providing responsive taxpayer services, ensuring that everybody pays their fair share, and safeguarding taxpayer dollars on the Board of Public Works.”

Peter Franchot

Comptroller Peter Franchot

Franchot has already nailed down the “fiscal watchdog” theme, as any comptroller might, but he has recently kicked off his “Better with Less” tour. He’s celebrating the private sector by honoring businesses in every county that have “achieved economic success while using fewer resources, identified new market opportunities in the current economic climate, used innovation to operate more efficiently.”

This clearly sets him apart from O’Malley and his Invest Maryland tax credits for start-ups. Franchot has also continued to oppose tax hikes in the current recession, including the new alcohol tax he will be collecting.

In contrast, Gansler makes no mention of the fiscal issues that have dominated Annapolis debate. He continues to embrace environmental issues, including in his mailing an article from the Maryland Bar Journal, “Maryland Attorney General Targets Polluters.” Last week, he issued his annual environmental audit.

Gansler is also heading out of state for fundraising events: Philadelphia in June, Boston in July, Denver in the fall. And in sharp contrast to those candidates who maintain they don’t know who contributes to them, Gansler says he picks up the mailed contributions himself: “I’m the only one with a key to the mailbox so I check it myself, and I am always humbled by the report received,” his letter says.

Gansler and Franchot are not the only possible candidates in the race. Howard County Executive Ken Ulman continues to raise money, even though he is term limited. He has about the same amount as Franchot. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown has little left as of Dec. 31, but can tap into the O’Malley-Brown network.

O’Malley has yet to set up a federal committee for any future run for federal office, despite all the speculation.

They all have one thing in common, by the way, besides being Democrats. They’re all lawyers.

—Len Lazarick