By Len Lazarick
Last week was chock full of hearings and events as politicos and legislators tried to cram things in before Thanksgiving/Hannukah and a short run-up to Christmas.
Hogan hijacks a convention
Annapolis businessman Larry Hogan clearly hijacked the first night of the Maryland Republican Party twice-a-year convention Friday night as he announced he was going to announce a run for governor in January.
You couldn’t even park near the Annapolis Doubletree, as Hogan’s Change Maryland volunteers directed attendees to the next door parking lot of an empty office building. Pity the poor hotel guests staying over for an early morning swim meet or lacrosse match.
The band was loud and the overflow crowd of 800 was raucous, even as Hogan shouted above the din on the perimeter of what he called the largest venue in Annapolis. Here are the accounts from AP’s Brian Witte and The Washington Post’s John Wagner which did not make Monday’s State Roundup.
“We’re completely fed up with politics as usual in Washington and Annapolis,” said Hogan. “Sadly our state is way off track and heading in the wrong direction.”
“This might be the last chance to turn things around before it’s too late,” Hogan said. His Change Maryland organization has been hammering the O’Malley-Brown administration for two years. It was the group that first added up the number of times taxes and fees had gone up — totaling 40 times in the O’Malley years.
Grousing about the hijacking
Hogan pulled off the unofficial announcement of the official announcement fairly well, but there was grousing by some, including former state party chairman Jim Pelura, who posted this comment on Facebook:
“It is confusing to me that ‘Change Maryland,’ that prides itself in being nonpartisan (having Democrat’s and Unaffiliated’s support) would have its party on the opening night of the Maryland Republican Party’s convention since these voters cannot vote in the Republican primary.”
“I can only assume that the point was to keep Republicans guessing and all other Announced Republican Candidates from getting any press or room to breathe,” Pelura said.
There were probably registered Democrats in the room, but most of the people I recognized were Republicans. I did spot Daniel Medinger, Democratic candidate for state Senate in District 9, the Howard-Carroll district. His possible opponent, Republican Del. Gail Bates, was also there.
Two GOP candidates for governor, Harford County Executive David Craig and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar, actually skipped Friday to attend the Republican Governors Association meeting, where Lollar had his picture taken with the new RGA chairman, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (Lollar spoke at Saturday’s GOP breakfast.)
Hogan was introduced by attorney Boyd Rutherford, who most people in the room didn’t recognize. Rutherford would make an interesting choice as a running mate for Hogan. The Howard County attorney is African American and former secretary of General Services in the Ehrlich administration, as well as an assistant U.S. secretary of agriculture under President Bush.
CORRECTED 11/26 10:40 a.m.: It was Republican Bob Ehrlich who helped break the color barrier in statewide office, making Michael Steele his lieutenant governor and the first African American official elected statewide. (Colleague Mike Dresser of the Sun pointed out that GOP gubernatorial nominee J. Glenn Beall ran with Annapolis physician Aris Allen in 1978, the first African American on a major party statewide ticket.)
The gov candidates and their Harry Hughes problem
Most of the candidates for governor have what I would call their “Harry Hughes” problem. In 1978, Harry Hughes, a former state senator and transportation secretary, was considered unlikely to win the race for governor.
“A lost ball in high grass,” quipped the late Sen. Harry McGuirk describing Hughes’ candidacy.
Maryland law forces the candidates for governor to file for the office with their choice for lieutenant governor at the same time. Hughes had an even harder time than the three others in finding a credible candidate willing to run with him. He eventually got Prince George’s County Council member Sam Bogley to run, the Baltimore Sun endorsed Hughes on the front page back when those things made a difference, and Hughes and Bogley beat Lt. Gov. Blair Lee III with his well regarded running mate, Senate President Steny Hoyer. Bogley later had a falling out with Hughes over abortion, and was replaced by Lt. Gov. Joe Curran in the second term.
This scenario is how Del. Heather Mizeur wound up with Rev. Delman Coates on her ticket, a black Prince George’s County pastor of a megachurch with no political experience. Who will run with Hogan or Lollar or Ron George?
The party nominees would be better off choosing their lieutenant governors after the primary, and for instance, allow members of the legislature to run both for reelection and LG at the same time.
Neuman wades in for Kittleman
Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman was back among old friends in Howard County last Friday to boost the candidacy of Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman for county executive. Neuman headed the Howard County Economic Development Authority for two years before her appointment as county executive to replace John Leopold after his February conviction of misuse of his office.
At a luncheon in the Rams Head Tavern Rathskeller in Savage Mill, she first had to explain why was she dressed down in a heavy sweater, skirt and not quite fashionable boots. She had been wading in an Anne Arundel County stream. “If we’re going to implement [the rain tax,] I want to see how it’s working,” she said.
Neuman had vetoed her own county’s stormwater runoff fees, but the County Council overrode her veto. Both she and Kittleman want it repealed by the legislature.
Neuman said she and Kittleman support jobs and opportunity. “Equal opportunity, not equal outcomes,” Kittleman broke in.
“He’s willing to be a rule breaker,” Neuman said, identifying with that stance.
In a brief interview, Neuman freely admitted she’s having a great time being county executive, even though she had to take a $100,000 pay cut.
“I believe everything in my life prepared me for this opportunity,” she said. “I just generally enjoy the work.”
“I wasn’t looking for a job,” she said. “I was looking to make a difference.”
She’s quietly raising money to win the Republican primary, but is unlikely to match her GOP opponent, Del. Steve Schuh, who has raised over $1 million so far, he has said.
Rep. Andy Harris, who served with Kittleman in the state senate, also spoke at the event. “I wish he weren’t leaving the Maryland Senate,” Harris said. “He sticks to his principles but works across the aisle.”
Harris is the lone Republican remaining in Maryland’s congressional delegation.
Fundraising pace heightens; Gisriel analyzes the race
The fundraisers are coming fast and furious as the holidays approach. Lobbyist Bruce Bereano’s unofficial calendar listed nine political fundraisers last Thursday night, Nov. 21 alone.
One of them was for lobbyist and former Del. Mike Gisriel, hoping to resurrect his political career after 24 years out of office. He formerly represented the Towson area, but after recently moving to Catonsville, he is now running in District 12, which stretches from liberal West Columbia through Elkridge into more conservative Catonsville and Arbutus.
The district is the only one in the state where all three incumbents are retiring — Dels. Liz Bobo, Steve DeBoy and Jimmy Malone.
“There are nine strong candidates,” Gisriel told a small crowd at the Greystone Grill in Columbia. “I think at least six are working hard.”
Gisriel is pitching himself as “the experienced and effective choice,” since he’s served in the legislature. He claimed House Speaker Michael Busch “wants me to win because he says I know how to count votes.” (Busch generally supports only Democratic incumbents, which is where he was scheduled to be last Thursday at a fundraiser for Prince George’s County Del. Alonzo Washington. UPDATED 11/26 11:30 a.m.: Busch spokesperson Alexandra Hughes confirmed that “the Speaker has not endorsed anyone in District 12, nor will he before the primary.”)
While none of the other candidates have actually served in the General Assembly, one is a longtime Department of Education lobbyist and daughter of a state senator (Renee McGuirk-Spence), another has been a legislative aide (Clarence Lam), and a third wrote speeches for Gov. O’Malley (Nick Stewart). Two others ran for Baltimore County Council last time (Brian Bailey and Rebecca Dongarra) and another has been endorsed by all the retiring incumbents (Terri Hill).
Gisriel said he’s raised $60,000 so far and “I think by January we’ll have $100,000.”
All nine Democratic candidates are new to at least a majority of voters in the district. How do you win in a recently redrawn three-member district with that many candidates?
In an interview, Gisriel analyzed it this way. There are 45,000 registered Democratic voters in the district, but perhaps only 15,000 will show up in the primary. He figures he can win that with 5,000 votes.
He’s been door-knocking in Columbia, he has a media plan that includes cable TV, and has hired the new consulting firm CampaignOn to help him win.