Lining Up To Run

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The early 2018 lineup of Democratic candidates for governor is emerging, and although there’s nothing in the Ovetta Wiggins/Josh Hicks article that us supremely wired in folks don’t already know, it’s still a good primer on the state of the conventional wisdom as the race begins.

This week, three Democrats widely considered to be the most likely candidates to challenge Gov. Larry Hogan in 2018 will head to the Eastern Shore for a statewide conference of county officials, and each will make an unofficial pitch for himself as the one to take on the popular Republican.

The four-day meeting of the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO) in Ocean City offers the potential gubernatorial candidates a chance to network with scores of elected leaders from across the state.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and U.S. Rep. John Delaney — the most-talked-about potential Hogan challengers — have been making the rounds and pleading their cases for months by attacking Hogan on issues from school and transportation funding to Donald Trump, his party’s presidential candidate.

I am confident that other candidates will eventually emerge, but this strikes me as a fair assessment of the candidates who have emerged thus far.

Each potential challenger offers something different for Democrats, who are looking for the best option to win back the governor’s office.

Kamenetz, who is serving his second term as Baltimore County executive, has a record that includes a mix of fiscal discipline and big investments in school construction. He has strong roots in Baltimore County, a jurisdiction that was pivotal in the election two years ago. He has tangled with Hogan over installing portable air conditioners in county schools and has a plan to install central air. Hogan has criticized the proposal because it would not be completed until 2019, at the earliest.

Matthew Crenson, a political science professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University, said Kamenetz is known in Baltimore City, where many residents are less supportive of Hogan.

Baker, who has made major investments in public safety and education, has improved the image of Prince George’s, which experienced a major corruption scandal under then-County Executive Jack B. Johnson in 2010. Crime rates have dropped, and economic development has grown substantially, including the soon-to-open MGM National Harbor casino.

Baker is also a former state delegate who has strong ties to the General Assembly and its leaders.

Delaney, who represents a congressional district that includes parts of Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, is a moderate Democrat. A former businessman, he has backed tougher regulations on brokers who offer financial advice to retirees, and he crossed party lines to support tax cuts and legislation that would have required the Obama administration to certify that refugees are properly vetted before allowing them to enter the United States.

The journalists relied heavily on their Rolodex of deep thinkers on Maryland politics, leaning hard on Todd Eberly , who after opining sagely and originally that “it’s never too early to start jockeying,” went on to do a masterful job of covering the ground so expansively that whatever the outcome of the race, he will have mentioned it at some point.

Democrats are too liberal? Eberly, as always, is right there.

Eberly said that Democrats need to challenge Hogan from the center and that Delaney seems to offer that position.

Hogan is popular? Sure, throw that in.

Political observers say whoever becomes the Democratic gubernatorial nominee will face a huge challenge in trying to unseat Hogan, who had an approval rating of more than 60 percent in polls earlier this year.

Weirdly, this weak assed “sources say” line is wedged between two Eberly quotes, so they want you to think it’s him, but is it? You’ve quoted three “expert” sources by now, surely one of them would be willing to say this for attribution, right? Or maybe not. This whole journalism thing is confusing.

Eberly, as always, is careful to hedge his bets, though. Did you know there’s a lot of Democrats in Maryland. Gosh, tell me more.

However, the Democratic nominee “starts with some degree of an advantage,” Eberly said, noting that Democrats outnumber Republicans in Maryland by 2 to 1.

Oh, yes, and Hogan has made some missteps recently, so let’s get that out there too.

If the economy slips and Hogan continues to make what Eberly called “unforced errors,” such as referring to teachers union leaders as “thugs” and refusing to spend school dollars that the General Assembly appropriated in counties like Baltimore County, which was crucial to his win, the governor could become slightly vulnerable.

Possibly, maybe, conceivably . . . slightly. More deep thinking.

But just in case you think he’s switching sides, rest assured that Eberly’s got one more head fake opinion left in the tank.

But if Hogan goes into the election with a 60 percent to 70 percent approval rating, Eberly said, “it’s difficult to see how voters throw you out.”

Like I said at the outset, not a lot of value added here, but it’s early. I’m sure by the time 2017 rolls around, Todd Eberly will have at least a half dozen more opinions that will cover all the bases.

2 thoughts on “Lining Up To Run

  1. Ben Ross

    I wouldn’t read too much into Hogan’s current approval rating. Ehrlich lost in 2008 with a 55% approval rating in October right before the election. Plenty could happen in two years to move the approval rating up or down, and then in the final months of a partisan election campaign any high approval rating is likely to get trimmed somewhat.

    1. Jonathan Shurberg Post author

      Overall, agreed. I wouldn’t put too much stock in Ehrlich/Hogan comparisons though. Hogan is a much shrewder guy than the always pugnacious Ehrlich. And 2006, a wave Democratic year (in fact the last one and not likely to be repeated anytime soon), is hardly a good basis for predicting 2018, which is shaping up to be a revenge year of epic proportions for Republicans.


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