By Len Lazarick
Senate President Mike Miller traveled over an hour to Ellicott City from his Chesapeake Beach home for breakfast Monday to introduce a Democratic candidate for Senate in District 9, Dan Medinger.
“Didn’t you draw this to be a Republican district?” asked MarylandReporter.com afterward.
With a straight face, Miller said, “We don’t draw districts for Democrats or Republicans.” But District 9, which includes all of western Howard County, most of Ellicott City, a sliver of Carroll County and a slice of Columbia, is about as reliably Republican as they come, home to Sen. Allan Kittleman, now running for Howard County executive, and Republican Del. Gail Bates who hopes to succeed him.
“It’s a winnable race for a Democrat,” Miller said, always looking to expand his Senate supermajority of 35 seats out of 47. Asked if he was going to put campaign money into the race, Miller said it was not the day to be talking about that and Medinger needed to put together a solid campaign.
Former editor of Catholic Review cites ‘open seat’
For 24 years, Medinger was editor and associate publisher of the Catholic Review, the official paper of the Archdioceses of Baltimore, and also head of the Cathedral Foundation.
“It’s nice to have a journalist on this side,” Miller said.
“With no incumbent, this is an open seat, so the time is right,” Medinger said. “People are looking for new and positive leadership in the state Senate.”
“The people of this district deserve to have a representative that is included in the important decisions that are made in Annapolis that affect them,” said Medinger.
It was an oblique reference to the way Republicans are shut out in Annapolis, with only 12 of 47 seats in the Senate.
Medinger, 61, was one of eight children growing up on a farm in western Wisconsin near La Crosse, an experience he says helps him connect with rural western Howard. “We didn’t have a telephone,” Medinger.
His experience collecting eggs from the hen house before the crack of dawn left a clear impression. “I don’t eat chicken.”
Family involved in politics
“My family’s been involved in politics all my life,” Medinger said. “We’ve been lifelong Democrats,” His elder brother John served 16 years in the Wisconsin legislature and two terms as mayor of La Crosse.
Medinger’s speech was fairly vague about issues. In an interview afterward, Medinger was asked about his position on abortion, given his Catholic publishing background, including publishing the official Vatican newspaper in the U.S. “I’m a pro-life Democrat,” Medinger said.
Medinger currently owns Advertising Media Plus in Howard County, a full service communication firm.
He said he supports greater openness and transparency for government. “I don’t think government has thought about what it means to be in an age of information.” He’d like to see a QR code (a square matrix barcode) on every state project allowing you to access how much it costs and other details.
On taxes and spending, Medinger said, “I describe myself as a fiscal conservative.”
“I want to see outcomes. How are we measuring outcomes? Government needs to show that we’re getting our money’s worth.”
Contacted about the first potential opponent to enter the race, Bates said she knew little about Medinger and had never met him. Reading some of his comments, Bates said she wondered exactly how he differed from her own conservative positions.
Stark contrast in a challenging run
Business consultant Jon Weinstein, a candidate for County Council who ran for delegate against Bates in 2010, said, Medinger “is in stark contrast in attitude and experience to his opponent.” But given the voting pattern, “It’s going to be a challenging run.”
“Dan is the best candidate we have,” Weinstein said.
Jim Adams, the Democratic nominee against Sen. Kittleman in 2010, said “Dan is the best candidate that we have fielded.”
But “the odds are extremely small” for a Democratic victory, especially given Bates’s high visibility in a community she’s represented for three terms.
“Gail will show up for an envelope opening,” Adams said.
“It’s doable,” said Howard County Democratic Chairman Michael McPherson, “It’s worth the effort.”