Maryland voters can make history next year by electing either the state’s first black governor (Anthony Brown or Charles Lollar) the first governor from Montgomery County (Doug Gansler) or the first woman/lesbian governor (Heather Mizeur).
But history is already being made not for who’s running, but for who’s not running.
When Gansler this week picked Joline Ivey, a P.G. county delegate, as his running mate, both parties’ major gubernatorial tickets became finalized without a single candidate from Baltimore. So, barring a highly unlikely, last-minute Baltimorean’s entry into the governor’s race, this is the first time in more than a century that no one from Baltimore will appear on the gubernatorial ballot.
Gansler (Montgomery) is running with Ivey (P.G.); Republican David Craig (Harford) is running with Jeannie Haddaway (Talbot); and Anthony Brown (P.G.) is running with Ken Ulman (Howard). Ulman is peddling himself as a Baltimorean but no matter how many Ravens jerseys he dons, he was raised in Columbia and schooled in P.G. and D.C.
The disappearance of Baltimore candidates is a stunning development given that seven of our last eight governors were from either Baltimore city or Baltimore County (Agnew, Mandel, Hughes, Schaefer, Ehrlich and O’Malley). Only Parris Glendening (P.G.) interrupted Baltimore’s 48-year control of the governor’s mansion. And at least he had a Baltimore-area lieutenant governor, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
I had to go back to the 1911 election (they were odd years back then) to find a governor’s race without a Baltimorean. The incumbent, Austin Crothers (Cecil) a progressive-era reformer, couldn’t seek re-election because his liberal policies split the Democratic party.
So, two Democratic state senators battled for the nomination; the machine candidate, Arthur Pue Gorman Jr. (Howard) vs. the reform liberal, Blair Lee (Montgomery). In one of state history’s most bitter elections, Gorman defeated great-granddad, but the resulting acrimony split the party allowing Philip Goldsborough (Dorchester) to become Maryland’s governor, only the second Republican since the Civil War.
In politics, demographics is destiny and Baltimore city’s demographics stink. Since World War II, when it accounted for nearly half the state’s population, the city has lost a third of its residents. More people lived in Baltimore city during World War I than today when Baltimore is merely 11 percent of Maryland’s population and, even worse, cast only 8.5 percent of the statewide vote in the last two gubernatorial elections.
With the loss of population has gone the loss of state and federal legislative seats, bad news for a city that survives on state and federal aid. And now it appears that Baltimore is losing control of the governor’s office, one of the most powerful in the nation. How much money will the city get when a non-Baltimore governor writes the 2015 budget?
Baltimore congressman Dutch Ruppersburger coyly hints that he might fill the vacuum. But it’s unlikely that Dutch wants to go down in history as the man who destroyed Maryland’s Democratic party by defeating Anthony Brown, its first African-American gubernatorial hopeful.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake attempts salvaging some face by warning that, “I don’t think there’s a way to win the governor’s race without the Baltimore vote.” That might be true for the Democratic nomination, but Bob Ehrlich won the 2002 general election without carrying the city. The age-old axiom “the road to the governor’s mansion leads through Baltimore” is becoming increasingly obsolete.
Instead, Maryland’s political center of gravity has shifted to the D.C. suburbs, 30 miles and one media market distant from Baltimore. If Gansler, Brian Frosh (or Bill Frick) and Peter Franchot all win, Maryland’s governor, attorney general and comptroller will all be Montgomery Countians. How weird is that? Hail to the Redskins and please pass the tofu and bean sprouts.
Doug Gansler and Anthony Brown have both spent the last eight years preparing for the 2014 governor’s contest. During that time, Gansler skillfully outmaneuvered Brown by becoming Maryland’s first white politician to back Barack Obama in 2008 (Brown tagged along with O’Malley’s support of Hillary Clinton) and by being the first major elected official to back gay marriage long before it was popular. Gansler, as attorney general, has also compiled a long list of court victories and ran his office, generally, without incident or scandal.
Meanwhile, Brown’s signature accomplishments were BRAC (preparing for the influx of new military personnel), Maryland’s Obamacare roll-out (so far an embarrassing flub), and garnering the support of most Democratic elected officials. Stuck with the Obamacare fiasco and facing Gansler’s bulletproof record, the Brown campaign is exploiting Gansler’s only weakness — his brash intemperance, reckless arrogance, oversized ego and big mouth.
First, it was the tape of Gansler telling supporters that Brown was mainly running on being black. Somehow the secret tape mysteriously fell into the hands of the Washington Post reporter, John Wagner, a notorious O’Malley administration shill, who dutifully ran it on the paper’s front page.
Now, two months later it’s “Troopergate,” allegations that Gansler hectored his state trooper drivers into bypassing traffic jams by driving on the shoulders with emergency lights flashing. Again, it was John Wagner and, again, it was on the Post’s front page.
The “Troopergate” allegations stem from a 2011 internal state police memo that, we are supposed to believe, suddenly appeared in John Wagner’s sleep, causing him to file a freedom of information request. Wagner’s miraculous “investigative journalism” became a damaging front page scandal on the day before Gansler announced his running mate. A coincidence?
I’m no Gansler fan, but I hate political “hit jobs” by so-called journalists and news desks who hold themselves out as objective truth-seekers and reliable fact messengers. Do the voters of Maryland realize that they’re being unscrupulously manipulated? That’s the greater scandal of “Troopergate.”
Blair Lee is chairman of the board of Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in the Business Gazette. His past columns are available at www.gazette.net/blairlee. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.