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Political Animal

Here Are Your Candidates

I can see why political reporters are checking the shadows for a savior. They want some sexy, or it’s gonna be a long boring campaign season.

Photo: Brown: governor.maryland.gov, Gansler: Wikipedia, Mizeur: heathermizeur.com, License: N/A

Brown: governor.maryland.gov, Gansler: Wikipedia, Mizeur: heathermizeur.com


Do the math. There are about 21 weeks before the Maryland gubernatorial primary election in June. Say you want to jump into the race now, thinking that so far, it’s a pretty unimpressive field. Right now, the front runner, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, has 7 million bucks cash in hand. So to play in the game, you want to have at least that to go toe-to-toe with him (this doesn’t even count the 6.2 million Attorney General Doug Gansler’s got).

Twenty-one weeks means that you’ve got to raise more than $300,000 a week to play with the big-money boys. Do you know what fundraising at that level means? It means you sit down in a little windowless room with a staffer who hands you a list of names and phone numbers, and you start calling. And calling. And calling. And then you throw lots of rubber-chicken dinners and “mixers” and you go from expensively appointed living room to expensively appointed living room all across the state, hat in hand, trying to explain why you’ll be better than those two, plus State Del. Heather Mizeur (and by the way—Montgomery County, where all the money is, is Mizeur and Gansler’s backyard, so they’ve already been hitting those living rooms long before you even thought it would be a good idea to run). Oh, and if you’re already an elected official in Annapolis, you pretty much can’t raise any cash until the legislative session is over, so that wipes out all those weeks between now and the start of April.

Three hundred grand a week. Now you know why people like Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger stayed out of the race. No, hon—if you start hearing anyone on the electrical teevee or hear anyone on the red-yo or see anyone in the noosepaper sayin’ that so-and-so’s gonna jump into the race and win at this point, remind them of those 300,000 weekly reasons why they probably won’t. They only way to play in this poker game is to be independently wealthy—and the number of Michael Bloombergs in this state ready to leap out from behind the curtain and say “Here I am!” is somewhere between zero and none—or to be completely in the pocket of guys like Bruce Bereano and all the other people shilling for big corporate weasels like the Koch Brothers (coughcough Americans for Prosperity coughcough).

You see, this is the time of year where a number of people, especially some editors over at the Other Paper, like to start flinging around names of dark-horse candidates. There’s a fine tradition of it. If they seem unenchanted with the candidates they have, they start imagining ones to fill in and make it a more interesting race. Right now, it’s freshly minted Rep. John Delaney, the candidate who won the 6th District slot after Roscoe Bartlett got redistricted out of it. In a Sun story from Jan. 22, the same day the story ran on Ruppersberger’s non-entry, multiple unnamed “observers” are cited as “fueling speculation” Delaney might run. Back when Parris Glendening ran in 1994, you started seeing all this talk over there about how Montgomery County multimillionaire Stewart Bainum Jr. was going to jump into the race any day now and give that PG government professor a run for his money. Never happened. It happened at the city level back in the late 1990s when Kurt Schmoke declined to run again and Carl Stokes versus Lawrence Bell versus Martin O’Malley (who?) wasn’t deemed to be sexy enough. Suddenly, without ever even expressing a desire for the job, former Congressman Kweisi Mfume was deemed a front runner. He never ran. So if you hear “some people say that” and a name, ask them how that dark horse is going to make up 300 grand a week in the next 21 weeks.

I get the desire for better candidates, really, I do. Brown’s flubbed his one and only campaign issue—the health care website rollout; Gansler’s turned out to be a traffic hothead who bosses state troopers around like Chris Christie in a room full of elementary school teachers; and Mizeur has no name recognition, no statewide profile, and has picked a suburban church preacher with no political experience as her running mate. And it goes without saying in cobalt-blue Democratic Maryland, the Republicans don’t have anyone with any name recognition at all. I can see why political reporters are checking the shadows for a savior. They want some sexy, or it’s gonna be a long, boring campaign season.

So unfortunately, to paraphrase our less-than-satisfactory former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, you don’t go into elections with the candidates you want—sometimes you have to go into elections with the candidates you have.

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