State Roundup, October 15, 2018

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WIDENED HIGHWAYS OPPOSED: Robert McCartney and Emily Guskin of the Post report that Maryland voters narrowly oppose adding express toll lanes to widen three of the state’s most congested highways, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds, highlighting public skepticism about one of Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature transportation plans. The centerpiece of the Republican governor’s proposal — a $9 billion project to add four lanes apiece to the Capital Beltway, Interstate 270 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway — is even opposed by voters in the Washington suburbs, whom the plan is supposed to help.

MORE REGISTER AS INDEPENDENT VOTERS: The number of voters registered as independents in Maryland has grown faster since the previous gubernatorial election than the tally for either major party Christine Zhang and Michael Dresser of the Sun report. As of the end of September, the latest period for which the state Board of Elections provides numbers, 18% of voters were registered as independent — officially termed “unaffiliated.” That’s an 8% increase over September 2014. Democrats and Republicans each recorded 6% increases over the four-year period.

OPIOID DEATHS RISE: Opioid-related deaths in Maryland continued to rise during the first half of the year, fueled by an increase in deaths related to fentanyl, Tim Curtis reports for the Daily Record. About 1,325 deaths occurred from January to June related to drugs or alcohol, according to preliminary numbers from the state of Maryland. Over the same period in 2017, there were 1,179 drug- or alcohol-related deaths

HOGAN, JEALOUS SPEAK: Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic challenger Ben Jealous made separate and far different appeals to Maryland’s city and town officials Friday as they briefly occupied the same room without interacting. The Republican governor and his rival were each given 15 minutes to make a case for their candidacies in the Nov. 6 election at the fall conference of the Maryland Municipal League in Annapolis, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

  • The candidates offered pointed critiques in their respective speeches during the luncheon, and their campaigns sparred over an incident in which a Jealous bodyguard pushed a Hogan staffer away from Jealous. In his speech Friday, Jealous criticized Hogan as a “governor who does not have a plan,” saying the Republican lacks concrete proposals to fully fund public schools, stop rising health care premiums or improve job growth, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

JEALOUS, HOGAN STAFF SCUFFLE: The campaigns of Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic challenger Ben Jealous traded accusations Friday after a scuffle between a Jealous security aide and videographer for the governor. Hogan’s campaign said the Jealous aide assaulted its video tracker as Jealous headed into a gubernatorial campaign forum with the Maryland Municipal League in Annapolis, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun. The Jealous campaign said its private security aide acted to protect the candidate, blocking the tracker “aggressively rushing up to Ben.”

  • A Hogan spokesman called the incident “an assault.” Hours after the Maryland Municipal League’s candidates’ forum, the Hogan campaign released two videos. One video, which appears to be shot from the same vantage point as one tweeted earlier by a reporter, the driver and bodyguard can clearly be seen wrapping his right arm briefly around the Hogan worker’s chest, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.

ON SUSAN TURNBULL: Susan Turnbull has been active for decades in state and national politics, including one stint as head of the Maryland Democratic Party and another as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee. But her bid for lieutenant governor, on a ticket with Ben Jealous, marks the first time she’s been a candidate herself. Maryland Matters reporter Bruce DePuyt sits down with Turnbull to talk about her candidacy and the election.

SIMILAR BUT NOT THE SAME: On Friday, a reporter asked Democratic nominee for governor Ben Jealous about polls showing him far behind Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Jealous shrugged it off, saying he was about in the same position as Hogan was four years ago before his upset victory. Some polls in October 2014 showed Hogan getting as little as 38% of the vote, as Jealous did in three recent polls showing him getting 36%, 37% and 38% in head-to- head match-ups against Hogan. But a key difference with 2014 was that the polls all showed Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown with less than 50% of the vote and only single-digit leads of 9%, 7% and 2% over Hogan, reports Len Lazarick in MarylandReporter.

OPINION: JEALOUS’s BAD WEEK: In a column for his political blog, Barry Rascovar writes that two new polls came out last week, each showing Jealous way, way behind incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan — one by 18%, the other by 20%. The next day, the Washington Post endorsed Hogan in a strong and early editorial. Jealous was left to push back with a weak attack on the Hogan campaign for posting a web ad he claimed mocked his tendency to stutter. If that’s the best he can do to persuade people he should lead Maryland, Jealous is in even more trouble than polls suggest.

POLLS AS SELF-FULFILLING PROPHESIES: Political columnist Frank DeFilippo, writing in Maryland Matters, opines that Ben Jealous is a sitting duck for this gilded age and a trio of telltale polls. The economy is roaring, jobs are plentiful and people are content. And, unfortunately for Jealous, polls can be self-fulfilling prophesies. … They tend to either lull voters into following the results to side with an apparent winner or to assume a foregone conclusion or redundancy and stay home because their vote is not needed, the results are already decided.

LEGGETT ENDORSES JEALOUS, WITH CAVEAT: After hesitating for months, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett (D) has endorsed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous. But Leggett says he will not campaign “against” Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, whom he counts as a personal friend and as a supporter of Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction, Jennifer Barrios of the Post reports.

SEGAL DENIED BALLOT SPOT: Progressive activist Jerry Segal’s request to appear on Maryland’s U.S. Senate ballot has been denied by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Jeff Barker reports in the Sun. “We knew that it was a big lift for them to change the ballot at this point, but it was something that was doable,” Segal said Friday.

SIMON GAINS, BUT STILL TRAILS CARDIN: Independent candidate for U.S. Senate Neal Simon has gained support among likely voters — though the Potomac businessman substantially trails Democratic incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin, according to polling figures released last week, reports Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters.

TRONE BANNER RAISES EYEBROWS: Wine and beer mogul David Trone, the Democratic candidate running for the 6th Congressional District seat held by John Delaney, raised a few eyebrows in both major parties on Saturday with a large banner bearing the word’s “America’s Congressman: DAVID TRONE” that was part of his rig in Garrett County’s annual Autumn Glory parade. Trone has never been elected to office. Ryan Miner writes about the situation for his A Miner Detail blog.

CANDIDATES FORUM DISTRICT 32 WEDNESDAY: The League of Women Voters of Anne Arundel County and cosponsor American Association of University Women will hold a candidates forum for Legislative District 32 from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church, 8424 Piney Orchard Pkwy. Odenton, MD 21113. All candidates for Senate and House of Delegates have confirmed attendance.

FLOREEN SPEAKS: In the last of a three-part series of interviews with Montgomery County executive candidates, Bethesda Beat political writer Louis Peck speaks with independent candidate Nancy Floreen. She says, “I spent years working on planning issues, and envisioning how we can grow, taking into account community concerns and the like. And I did it on the Planning Board [and] certainly on the council, where I’ve chaired [the Planning, Housing and Economic Development] Committee for the past eight years.”

WATSON’s BIPARTSAN MAILING: In a column for his ScottE blog, Scott Ewart writes that a recent mailer bears an image of Courtney Watson (Democrat candidate for Maryland state delegate in District 9B) with Gov. Larry Hogan and Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman – both Republicans and Jon Weinstein, a Democrat who has formally endorsed Allan Kittleman for re-election. Are there recent mailers out there with Courtney Watson and Ben Jealous? Are there recent mailers out there with Courtney Watson and Calvin Ball? Watson responded, ““This is my story of our community working together to assist people in the aftermath of the 2016 flood. … I support Dr. Calvin Ball 100% as our next County Executive.”

CALL FOR NEW BALTIMORE MAYOR: Colin Campbell of the Sun reports that citing a need for new leadership, former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called for T.J. Smith, the department’s plainspoken chief spokesman who resigned last week, to run for mayor in 2020.

WHO IS STEUART PITTMAN? Steuart Pittman, who is running to unseat Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, jokes that as the election gets closer, his campaign office gets messier. But in the midst of the chaos, Pittman seems cool and collected, Lauren Lumpkin reports in the Annapolis Capital. Pittman’s campaign emphasizes affordable housing, poverty reduction and farmers’ rights. He says the issues that have plagued the light rail — drug use, homelessness and crime — are law enforcement issues, not transportation ones.

WHO IS STEVE SCHUH? Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, 58, has lived in Anne Arundel County for 51 years. His political philosophy is simple: Slow government growth and try to cut taxes and fees where it can be done. It’s a pragmatic, conservative approach that doesn’t come with the promise of sweeping tax cuts. But he argues that approach can achieve his vision: making Anne Arundel County the greatest economic engine in the state and one of the top in the country. Chase Cook profiles the candidate for the Annapolis Capital.

REFORMING ARUNDEL’s CAMPAIGN SYSTEM:The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that Anne Arundel County has joined a wider discussion in Maryland about the reform of money in political campaigns. Democrat Steuart Pittman suggested Thursday that if elected county executive, he would bar development companies with projects in the county’s approval process — and their agents — from contributing to county election campaigns. Any true reform of campaign finance, however, would have to go much further to be fair.