Pick a Winner
City Paper's endorsements for the 2010 primary election
Published: September 8, 2010
Let’s not waste time. In a cash-strapped city with ongoing endemic problems, there isn’t any to spare. The state primary on Tuesday, Sept. 14, will go a long way toward determining the content and character of some of our state’s highest elected positions, the city’s legislative delegation to Annapolis, and city offices from the obscure (judge of the Orphans’ Court) to the critical (state’s attorney). When you go into your local polling station and push the buttons for the candidates on your ballot, you are setting the course for our state and city for the next four years. And the question, which is well worth asking, right down to the level of the individual candidate in each and every slate, is, More of the same, or something new?
We here at City Paper can’t presume to answer that question for you, but here’s what we think.
To be sure we’re clear: We offer no endorsement in races where an incumbent is unopposed in the primary; if no Republican is mentioned in an endorsement, it means there isn’t one running; and delegate endorsements are presented in alphabetical order. Any third-party candidates (Greens, Libertarians, etc.) do not face competitive primaries, and therefore will not be part of our endorsement process until it’s time to make picks for the Nov. 2 general election. Remember, if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.
Democrats: Incumbent Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown face two challengers: high-school poli-sci teacher Ralph Jaffe and running mate/wife Freda Jaffe, and the team of retired civil servant J.P. Cusick and Michael W. Lang Jr. Neither offers the experience or broad platform to merit serious consideration.
Republicans: Former governor Robert Ehrlich and running mate Mary Kane face a primary challenge in Brian Murphy and running mate Mike Ryman. The previously obscure, right-leaning Murphy received a gigantic profile boost when former Alaska governor/vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed him against the more moderate Ehrlich. But Maryland’s balance of urban liberals and exurban conservatives is likely best governed by a moderate, and Ehrlich didn’t burn the place down when he ran it for four years.
Democrat: Incumbent Peter Franchot is unopposed.
Republicans: William H. Campbell’s experience as the chief financial officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Amtrak, among other large, unwieldy organizations, makes him eminently more qualified than perennial candidate Armand Girard or youthful upstart Brendan Madigan.
Democratic incumbent Doug Gansler is unopposed.
Democrats: Senior Sen. Barbara Mikulski has occupied her seat since 1987, and currently chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Retiring and Aging and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science. Over her four terms she boasts a laudable progressive voting record on national issues, but has also supported legislation specific to Maryland, such as a measure to continue funding an act supporting the creation of parks, historic sites, and trails throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and, more recently, securing $1.1 million in federal funds to support the Baltimore Police Department’s effort to curb community violence through the Gun and Gang Violence Impact program. Her votes in favor of the FISA Amendment Act, reauthorizing the Patriot Act, and 2003’s $86 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, remain extremely questionable.
Mikulski’s challengers just don’t pack the same sort of documented muscle. Anne Arundel County engineer Christopher J. Garner is running on a platform of Maryland reindustrialization, health care cost optimization, and ending illegal immigration, which he argues is the cause for the country’s economic woes. Kensington scrap-metal worker A. Billy Bob Jaworski ran for U.S. Senate in 2006 as “Anthony Jaworski.” According to projectvotesmart.org and the Carroll County Times, Avondale’s Theresa C. Scaldaferri has yet to respond to any questionnaire information to determine where she stands on any issues. Towson’s Blaine Taylor, a former City Paper contributor and a published military historian, is running on an anti-war platform, specifically confronting Mikulski’s Senate votes in favor of the current military activities in the Middle East. Owings Mills criminal intelligence analyst Sanquetta Taylor campaigns on what she calls quality of life issues (public safety, health care, education). And Rockville economist Lih Young has unsuccessfully run for various public offices since 1994.
Republicans: Eleven Republicans are making a run for Maryland’s open senate chair, which hasn’t had a Republican sit in it since Charles “Mac” Mathias left in 1987. Of that crowded field, only Harford County native and lawyer Jim Rutledge III and Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Eric Wargotz, a physician-businessman, appear to have any legs. They agree on big-picture GOP concerns—that job creation and economy stabilization comes from lowering taxes and cutting government spending—and both target Mikulski as a career politician who has lost touch with her constituents. Wargotz, perhaps because of his medical background, has stronger opinions about health care, advocating for the repeal of Obama’s package and promoting insurance provider competition as a way to bring costs down, while Rutledge views the current political climate as a threat to individual liberties and what made America great in the first place.
Which is not to imply the other candidates—Silver Spring attorney Joseph Alexander, Parkville’s Barry Steve Asbury, Potomac dentist Neil Cohen, Monrovia’s Stephens Dempsey, retired Bowie ironworker Samuel R. Graham Sr., Beltsville behavioral scientist and certified pistol instructor John B. Kimble, Towson’s Gregory L. Kump, Forest Hill engineer Daniel McAndrew, and Olney’s Eddie Vendetti—don’t have opinions, but the best source for their views on issues stems from an August MPT program in which candidates were individually interviewed.
U.S. Representative, 2nd District
Democrats: Incumbent Charles A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger III faces three challengers in his fourth congressional re-election campaign, but he’s not going to be unseated easily. The senior whip and sitting member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and the Appropriations Committee, Ruppersberger is a hardline middle-of-the-roader: A fiscal conservative who advocates for tighter port security and better intelligence, he’s also an advocate for Chesapeake Bay preservation, education as a public right, and affordable and accessible health care.
That’s the sort of covering-every-base record that doesn’t make him too vulnerable to attack, and all three of his challengers come at him from economic angles. Towson lawyer Raymond Atkins is a former Baltimore City prosecutor who feels Ruppersberger’s voting record supports measures that take money from his constituents, which is hard to endure during this recession. Anti-war candidate Christopher Boardman’s idea is to redirect the billions of dollars in American military spending into domestic job creation. And Pasadena accountant Jeff Morris wants to see the federal government take a more responsible economic track by reducing deficit spending and eliminating debt.
Republicans: Of the five Republican challengers, none stands out as a frontrunner, and they almost all come at the race from an economic standpoint. Only Marcelo Cardarelli, a surgeon at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children, appears to have raised any real money, according to the Federal Election Committee ($2,000 from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons Political Action Committee, $9,550 from individuals, and about $25,000 of his own money), and he’s running on a platform of job creation and market-based health care reform. Baltimore County’s Jimmy Mathis unsuccessfully ran for this seat in 2006. Troy Stouffer, a former Navy submariner who works for a medical device manufacturer, wants to cut taxes, particularly the corporate tax rate, cut government spending, and repeal the current health care package. Baltimore County electronic technician Francis Treadwell (an executive board member of Local 921 AFSCME) previously worked on campaigns for Ellen Sauerbrey and Helen Delich Bentley, and wants to curtail government spending. Only 31-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Reserves veteran Josh Dowlut—a mortgage broker campaigning on a pro-small business, anti-big government/business platform to balance the budget—offers anything resembling a comprehensive economic plan on his web site (joshdowlut.com), one that makes him sound more like a pragmatic economics independent than anything else.
U.S. Representative, 7th District
Democrats: The Baltimore-born-and-raised Elijah Cummings may be the incumbent with the biggest lock on his race, despite having a challenger. An accessible, active, and engaged representative, Cummings has missed only three percent of all congressional roll call votes since April 1996, has overwhelmingly supported Democratic Party measures during his seven terms, and boasts a formidable campaign war chest. That he vocally opposed both further military actions in Iraq and the 2008 financial bailout (though he did end up voting for it) endeared him to his 7th District constituents and independents alike. Challenger Charles U. Smith, a Vietnam veteran, hasn’t raised any money (according to the FEC) and unsuccessfully ran against Cummings in 2008—in addition to not winning races in seven previous runs for city, state, or federal office.
Republicans: Of the three Republicans, only Frank Mirabile Jr. has raised any kind of campaign funds ($600 from two individuals), and the tepid amount succinctly sums up the GOP quality of opposition in this race. Vietnam vet Ray Bly campaigned in 2008 and lost in the primary; his web site (mysite.verizon.net/raybly/candidacy.html) announces that his motto is now “leave me alone unless I hurt you.” Ellicott City’s Michael Vallerie, an Air Force veteran, wants to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, cut taxes, repeal the current health care package, and support small businesses. And Mirabile, during an interview on a local ABC affiliate, cites the lack of jobs as the biggest issue facing the district, and proposes tax cuts, eliminating the capital gains tax, and any other economic factor that prevents private sector growth.
Senate: Democratic incumbent Catherine Pugh is unopposed.
Delgates: The incumbents in this district, all Democrats, include Frank Conaway Jr., Barbara Robinson, and Shawn Tarrant. They face lone Democratic challenger Will Hanna (“One-Man Stand,” Feature, Aug. 18).
Conaway comes from a significant local political family (his father and mother, Clerk of the Circuit Court Frank Conaway Sr. and Register of Wills Mary Conaway, are running for re-election to their respective offices this year), which might help explain his winning his seat in the first place. Even putting aside his personal problems (including allegations of domestic violence), he has distinguished himself in his freshman term only by introducing a blizzard of go-nowhere legislation, much of it ridiculous (a bill officially honoring the shillelagh), some of it downright alarming (a proposal to collect DNA samples from undocumented aliens when they are arrested). There are harmless, do-nothing legislators, and then there are embarrassments. Conaway Jr. is the latter, and should he be returned to Annapolis by disinterested voters simply flipping the lever beside a familiar name, Baltimoreans deserve to be embarrassed.
Robinson has her own personal problems; her family nursing home business (which she left shortly after her election to delegate in 2006; it’s now run by her son) has been in trouble with federal authorities for years, including for violations cited while she was in charge. Her legislative record to date doesn’t make up for such lapses either, most especially since many of the bills she proposed pertain directly to the health care industry in which her family still has an active stake.
Tarrant is also running his first re-election campaign, and some modest legislative victories (anti-dirt-bike legislation, some health-related bills) speak to his potential to get useful laws passed. Hanna is a community activist and military veteran with only modest political experience who has run a minimal campaign. Would that there were more options.
Endorsement: Hanna, Tarrant
Senate: Incumbent Democrat Lisa Gladden is unopposed.
Delegates: Democratic incumbents Jill Carter, Nathaniel Oaks, and Sandy Rosenberg are unopposed, as is lone Republican Mark Ehrlichmann.
Senate: Democratic incumbent Joan Carter Conway faces a challenge from former Baltimore Fire Department spokesman Hector Torres. While we have had occasional concerns about Conway’s judgment, she is an active legislator. Meanwhile, Torres’ campaign has offered little of substance to weigh in against Conway’s hard work to date.
Delegates: Democratic incumbents Curt Anderson and Maggie McIntosh have added Mary Washington, who in 2006 came in fourth in a campaign against their slate with the now-resigned Ann Marie Doory, to their 2010 ticket (“A Bit of a Fight,” Feature, Aug. 18). McIntosh has become one of the most powerful members of the Baltimore delegation in Annapolis and reliably uses her power for slightly wonky good, particularly on environmental matters. Anderson is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Criminal Justice Subcommittee and has proven an active voice for Baltimoreans in the capital. Activist Washington is inexperienced at the legislative side of things, though her very nearly successful 2006 campaign speaks to her savvy and support in the district, as does the incumbents bringing her aboard.
The ticket’s Democratic challengers include two as-yet unproven political comers in Kelly Fox, a former appointee to the Baltimore Police Department’s Civilian Review Board, and education activist Rodney C. Burris. Leon Hector Sr. is also on the Democratic side of the ballot.
Endorsement: Anderson, McIntosh, Washington
Senate: Democratic incumbent Verna Jones is unopposed in the primary, as is Republican challenger Bernard Joseph Reiter.
Delegates: Even Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, head of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has expressed his frustration with the 44th’s incumbent Democratic delegates (“New Blood, Old Blood,” Feature, Aug. 18). Ruth Kirk has been in office for nearly 30 years, though there’s little evidence of any notable use of the kind of legislative power that such a long tenure might accrue. First-term Del. Melvin Stukes presumably went to Annapolis with some savvy and connections, thanks to his long stint as a city councilman, but he has made relatively little impact in four years. Two-term incumbent Keith Haynes, on the other hand, has risen to take on a deputy whip role and pushed through some worthwhile measures.
They face a mixed bag of Democratic challengers. Keiffer Mitchell brings serious name recognition to the race from his membership in the Mitchell family civil-rights dynasty and his tenure as a city councilman, while Chris Blake has worked with the legislature for some time as a liaison from the Maryland Transit Administration. City Department of Public Works employee Gary English and Lafayette Square community organizer Arlene Fisher approach the race from the grassroots end, as does, we suppose, minister, music promoter, and Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems board member Billy Taylor.
Haynes’ modest gains seem worth supporting, though his relative lack of name-recognition compared to his fellow incumbents may mean he’s the most likely to be deposed by a strong challenger. Mitchell is an affable and experienced representative, and while he’s no political virtuoso, his experience and relationships in Annapolis make him worth serious consideration. Likewise, Blake’s experience with the House and Senate give him an edge, and Baltimore could use a rep focused on the transportation issues that affect city dwellers every bit as much as suburban commuters.
Endorsement: Blake, Haynes, Mitchell
Senate: Democratic incumbent Nathaniel McFadden is unopposed.
Delegates: Democratic incumbents Talmadge Branch, Cheryl Glenn, and Hattie Harrison face two challengers in the Democratic primary: Kevin Parson and Jamaal Simpson (“Long Shots,” Feature, Aug. 18). Parson appears to be campaigning minimally. Simpson is young (26), but has already worked on a number of local political campaigns, including the 2007 City Council re-election campaign of the late Ken Harris. That’s a pretty thin resumé to stack up against the incumbents’ name recognition and, in some cases, estimable work ethic.
Branch’s record reveals an effective if somewhat all-over-the-map legislator, and his position as deputy House whip speaks to his potential as a force for Baltimoreans’ needs in Annapolis. Harrison, on the other hand, is a veteran delegate (since 1979) whose evident legislative activity belies that seniority. Glenn’s slate of lead-sponsored bills is fairly modest, too, but then she’s a first-termer running for re-election for the first time. Frankly, her day job as the political director for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters labor union seems like a borderline conflict of interest, but she has reportedly thrown herself into the scrum in the State House, and so perhaps merits a chance to further prove herself.
Endorsement: Branch, Glenn, Simpson
Republican voters in the 45th can choose to vote (or not) for Rick Saffery and/or Larry O. Wardlow Jr. for the three delegate spots.
Senate: Democratic incumbent George Della Jr. has represented the neighborhoods around Baltimore’s waterline in various capacities for decades, as his father did before him. His long career and gold-standard name-recognition make him nearly unassailable (“Fighting Words,” Feature, Aug. 18). But Democratic challenger Bill Ferguson has worked hard to make headway by focusing on education as an issue. He talks a good game, and he has a well-thought out platform that offers some concrete ideas and plans rather than ear-pleasing campaign boilerplate. Della is an estimable figure, in both Baltimore and Annapolis, but this time around we say a vote for Ferguson is a vote for next-generation Baltimore politics in the most literal sense.
Delegates: The Democratic incumbents, Brian McHale and Peter Hammen, also boast long political legacies, but they can point to a record of practical, progressive politics and environmental concern in their waterfront precincts—and not just on behalf of the tonier harbor-view neighborhoods. They have added Anne Arundel County assistant state’s attorney and Democratic campaign aide Luke Clippinger to their ticket; he’s making his first run for delegate.
Also new to the delegate race are Democratic challengers Jason Filippou, a Highlandtown community activist; Bill Romani, a professor at the University of Maryland Medical School who’s running on a health care-oriented platform; and Melissa Techentin, a community activist who heads up the Southeastern District Police Community Relations Council. Each brings some interesting skills and emphases to the table, though none individually appears formidable enough to rival the incumbents’ slate.
Endorsement: Clippinger, Hammen, McHale
This is the most contentious—and in many ways the most critical—race on the entire ballot. Democratic incumbent Patricia Jessamy has presided over the city’s prosecutors for 15 years, years that have seen crime statistics rise and fall even as the nature of crime (e.g. the rise of gang activity) mutates. Throughout that time, Jessamy’s strategy appears to have changed little. She advocates a holistic approach, emphasizing prevention, intervention, and community outreach as much as clinching cases in the courtroom. (And ostensible improvements, such as Operation Safe Neighborhoods or the War Room, have failed, seemingly due to benign neglect.) (“The Jury Is Out,” Mobtown Beat, Sept. 1) We, too, prefer the idea of addressing underlying social issues rather than trying to incarcerate our way out of the resulting problems. But the reality is that the State’s Attorney’s Office exists primarily to help keep Baltimoreans safe by making sure that people who break the law face appropriate consequences for doing so. When she told Marc Steiner and his radio audience on Aug. 30 that “conviction rates are smoke and mirrors,” it confirmed for us that Jessamy may have lost touch with what it is she and her office are supposed to be doing amid the community appeals and dust-ups with the Police Department.
Democratic challenger Sheryl Lansey has run a minimal campaign at best. Fellow Democratic challenger Gregg Bernstein, on the other hand, has been everywhere, and outstripped Jessamy in fundraising. He has practiced mostly as a defense attorney, though he has served as a federal prosecutor and run his own small firm—the former many years ago, the latter many years ago and with only limited success. He appears to be a smart, passionate attorney, and he is running on the need to get serious about making good cases against violent offenders and making them stick, increasingly urgent and challenging tasks in Baltimore City. He has acknowledged that he’ll need good administrative support to run the 400-person SA’s office; one can only pray that he would pick his office staff more wisely than he’s picked his campaign staff, if that’s who’s responsible for a series of maladroit ads that have only added more ugly undertones to a race that doesn’t need any help in that respect. Still, Baltimore needs a change on the city’s side of its courtrooms, and he is the change we have on offer.
Clerk of the Circuit Court
Democratic incumbent Frank Conaway faces two challengers, long-time courts worker William Allen and Sarah L. Matthews, a Bolton Hill activist who has run unsuccessfully for City Council and a 44th District delegate seat in the past. Matthews’ challenge is notable not only because she briefly worked for Conaway’s office in 2008, but because she subsequently accused him of sexual harassment and groping. (Conaway denies her accusations, and a hearing found no basis for Matthews’ allegations.)
Register of Wills
Stalwart Democratic incumbent Mary Conaway faces Neil R. Bernstein in the primary. Bernstein ran an unsuccessful campaign for a City Council seat in 2007. He makes no blazing accusations of impropriety or incompetence against the incumbent, characteristic of a not very active campaign.
Judge of the Orphans’ Court
This is perhaps the most bizarre race in the primary. Democratic incumbents Joyce Baylor-Thompson, Karen Friedman, and Lewyn Scott Garrett are running for re-election. Ramona Moore Baker, a Circuit Court mediator who ran for the same office in 2007, is not an attorney, nor is Deanna Lee Hiltz, her fellow Democratic challenger, who is running at least in part due to a legal setback she suffered thanks to a decision by Friedman. Further complicating matters, Friedman was appointed to District Court in August, after the ballot was finalized, so if elected she will not serve; most likely someone would be appointed to fill her spot. While the law does not specifically require that Orphans’ Court judges be attorneys (a state constitutional amendment has been proposed to close the loophole and may make her unable to be seated even if elected), a judge who isn’t an attorney is underqualified at best, a millstone around the neck of the court at worst. In this case, the city is best served by voting for the incumbents across the board, even the one who won’t serve.
Endorsement: Baylor-Thompson, Friedman, Garrett
Twenty-one-year Democratic incumbent John Anderson finds his usual fairly pro forma re-election threatened by a relative host of challengers (“See John Run,” Mobtown Beat, Aug. 25), including erstwhile Sheriff’s Office employees Deborah Claridy and Frances Hamilton, landlord and perennial candidate for office Mike Schaefer, Carlos Torres, and teacher/activist Alfred Wainwright. Of all the challengers, Claridy’s 21 years under Anderson and her no-nonsense assessment of her boss’s performance make her the most qualified and the most serious threat. As in many of the courthouse races, few voters understand much about the position, much less have a sense of the job being done by an incumbent, but Claridy makes a convincing case that it’s time for a change.
For our coverage of the U.S. Senate, U.S. Representative, and comptroller’s races, plus legislative-candidate questionnaires, visit citypaper.com/news/campaignbeat.