Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Now I Know What Art Linkletter Meant…

So, I wanted to take a brief break from political blogging to discuss a topic that continues to mystify me: Children.

Not having any of my own, I confess to not having an understanding of who they are and how they operate. My own memories from childhood are my only real reference points. So, whenever I am exposed to them for any length of time, it usually turns out to be an enlightening experience, as well as a rare chance for me to see how the smaller half truly lives.

As I blogged last week, I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Oklahoma at the invitation of my friend Felicite. She and her husband, Sean, have three kids: two daughters (Soleil, 9, and Lili, 2) and a son (Finn, 6). For some strange and unimaginable reason, these kids decided quickly after I met them several years ago that they like me. Maybe they recognized in me a kindred immature spirit.

Anyway, they always engage me whenever I visit, and these interactions usually produce a few memorable quotes. Here are the top three (in no particular order) from my most recent trip.

1) “Richard, would you buy me a machete for Christmas?”

Rest assured I am not in the habit of buying swords for kindergarteners. But this comment came about when a gardener produced such an implement, and Finn reacted with the wild, boyish, “Dennis the Menace”- like enthusiasm he demonstrates on a regular basis. I found this enthusiasm so amusing that, when Finn asked me this question, being a wiseass I said I would.

Me: “Why do you want a machete?”

Finn: “I want to go to the North Pole and fight Santa.”

Well, at least he only wants to fight Santa.

As you can imagine, neither parent is enthused about the idea of my buying a deadly weapon for their child. So, I googled “plastic machetes” as soon as I got back to Baltimore, and found a few possible substitutes. Still, even plastic machetes look a little precarious from a safety standpoint. This might wind up being a hard promise to keep.

2) “He can sleep on the floor.”

The family was kind enough to let me stay at their house. For this to work, however, the two-year-old had to relinquish her bed to me. Displacing toddlers from their normal sleeping arrangements is not something I make a habit of. But, given that she had just started sleeping in it not too long ago, I figured that she would be fine with the temporary inconvenience.

And, she was, up until a point.

I overheard Lili ask her dad: “Daddy, can I sleep in my bed tonight?”

He responded: “But, where will Richard sleep?”

“On the floor,” she responded, without missing a beat.

Later, as we all watched a movie, the child helpfully pointed out for our collective benefit that one of the characters was sleeping “on the floor” via a futon.

She eventually got past her sense of displacement. But it isn’t one of my prouder moments.

3) “Troublemaker.”

Soleil, the oldest child, projects a scholarly nature beyond her years while retaining a child’s happy outlook on life. She has many interests, but seems to be going through an artistic period at the moment. So, I was flattered when she presented me with the following signage in celebration of my visit. I will let the picture speak for itself.



“Kids say the darndest things,” Art Linkletter used to say. Too bad he never had the chance to meet these three.

BREAKING NEWS: Senator Jacobs OUT As Minority Whip

While I am still endeavoring to learn more details, I wanted to get up a piece of breaking news I just heard from a former GOP legislator.

It seems that Senator Nancy Jacobs, who has been minority whip of the Maryland State Senate since 2008, has been replaced by Senator David Brinkley. He is no stranger to the GOP leadership, and served as Minority Leader in the Senate for 2006 and 2007.

That's all I know, and am trying to track down more details.

Running With The Renegades

In 2008, the buzzword in GOP politics: “Maverick.” Now, in Maryland in 2010, the new buzzword of choice is “Renegade.”

What’s the difference, you ask?

Well, in the 2008 political sense, “maverick” implies a willingness to buck party positions on issues with which one disagrees. I suppose “renegade” could imply that, too, in certain instances.

But, in the wake of the 2010 election in Maryland, “renegade” most directly refers to two phenomena:

1) A hard-headed willingness to speak the truth in the face of pressure to repeat sanctioned party or candidate-specific orthodoxy or messaging one knows to be wrong; and

2) Challenging flawed, tired, or moribund establishment candidates at the ballot box, regardless of the consequences.

I suppose this blog qualifies under the first definition. I was very critical of some of the strategic missteps taken by my fellow Republicans – especially those in Team Ehrlich – during the recent election. This certainly earned me no friends among them. But, it did attract many private expressions of support and agreement by independent-minded politicos on both sides of the aisle. And, as most of my prognostications proved more accurate than those who blindly regurgitated the pro-party or pro-candidate position, I feel vindicated.

As for the second definition, many candidates across the state challenged entrenched GOP candidates in primaries, winning both the GOP nomination and ultimately the office itself.

For these reasons, a bunch of us will be celebrating the rising renegade movement in Maryland GOP politics by hosting a “Renegades Room” at the state Republican convention on the evening of December 10, 2010 at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis. Libations and light fare will be served.

I do not want to get into who will necessarily be visiting the Renegade Room, as we are still in the process of planning logistics. But, it will definitely be people who fit either or both of the above definitions.

We have reserved a suite, although we don’t have a room number yet. But, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find us. And, I will post the room number on this blog the day of the event. On the day of the event, I will also  post regular Facebook and Twitter updates.

Also, please keep in mind that the organizers of the event reserve the right to control access to the room. In other words, legitimate renegades are welcome, but those who foment trouble simply for self-serving reasons are not.

Advocating for and celebrating the need to do things differently isn’t a sign of disloyalty. It is the necessary first step in restoring the state GOP to electoral viability. So, if you are frustrated with the status quo, want to unshackle from the past, and are eager to move in a new direction, please visit us.

To paraphrase Karl Marx (not something I do very often): Free-thinking Republicans of Maryland, unite. You having nothing to lose but your permanent minority status.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Campaign Money Matters...

OK, one more blog before I hit the road.

As The Baltimore Sun reported, the final campaign finance numbers for the 2010 governor's race are in. Not too many real surprises here, as O'Malley outraised Ehrlich by about $3 million. This underscores the point I made in the op-ed I had in The Sun on November 3rd: Had Team Ehrlich started raising money in January - while O'Malley was prohibited by law from doing so - it could have leveled the fundraising landscape.

Team Ehrlich raised more than $7 million in a little over six months. That's an extraordinary accomplishment. But, starting earlier could have brought in enough money to fund one additional month of saturation TV advertising in both media markets. Or, it could have given the campaign the resources to run a radio ad campaign - perhaps in Western Maryland - the absense of which was quite noticeable in 2010.

The biggest surprise is the disparity in money each campaign still has on hand: Nearly $450,000 for Ehrlich, and nearly $176,000 for O'Malley.

Why would Team Ehrlich hold nearly half a million dollars back? I can think of three reasons, each involving an early realization among senior Ehrlich aides that their reelection bid probably would not succeed:

1) They decided to hold back funds to keep the campaign operating past Election Day. That would give some staffers a chance to keep drawing paychecks until they landed elsewhere.

2) They held money back in case Governor Ehrlich wants to maintain his state account as a vehicle to support future GOP candidates. Ehrlich has stated he won't run for office again, but this would allow him to play an elder statesman-type role in the party should he choose to. Retiring congressmen and senators with still flush federal campaign accounts often use them in a similar capacity.

3) They held money back so it could be used to finance a future bid for office by Kendel Ehrlich - perhaps for Anne Arundel County Executive in 2014.

I tend to believe the third scenario. People have speculated for years as to Mrs. Ehrlich's own political aspirations. At different times, I heard scenarios involving a judgeship, a state senate seat, and maybe the Anne Arundel County Council. But a candidacy for Anne Arundel County Executive is what I have heard most frequently.

Kendel Ehrlich is a smart, charismatic, outspoken woman. She should be taken seriously for whatever office she runs for. Should she decide to throw her own hat into the ring, I hope she will build a campaign founded on new ideas, energy, and personalities.

Change is frequently a good thing. But for Republicans in Maryland, it is a bare necessity.

Blogger's Blackout

So, I am headed to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving to visit my dear friend Felicite and her wonderful family, who were kind enough to take a straggler like me in for the long holiday weekend. For those of you who've heard me talk about Felicite, here is a picture. The mother of three great kids, Felicite is my second favorite "mom" of all time. High praise, indeed.



Sean, her husband, is a good guy too. After all, not too many people would let me kidnap their wife for an evening for the purpose of taking her to see Lady GaGa.

The trip's a good thing, of course. But, it will mean that I won't be as diligent in updating my blog for the next several days. Hopefully Julius Henson or certain former coworkers of mine won't get indicted during that period of time. But if it happens, I promise to find a Kinko's in Edmond, OK, get on a computer, and speak my peace.

Assuming that doesn't happen, I hope you all have a great holiday weekend. And, thanks for supporting this blog. I feel pretty good at where things stand with it after just three months of blogging. I'm grateful for the support you've shown.

Monday, November 22, 2010

An Oldie But A Goodie

So, when I first learned about this whole name change nonsense about which I just blogged, it inspired me to do a bit of snooping of my own.

And after about 15 minutes, I came across this tidbit from the March 4, 2004 edition of the Washington Post (Page T.11, Section 3):

“As Ehrlich's communications director, Paul Schurick speaks for a Republican. But he's still a registered Democrat and, as such, voted in Tuesday's presidential primary.

“And his choice was . . . New York civil rights activist Al Sharpton.

“Why? ‘I like him,’ Schurick said. ‘He mixes things up. I like people who mix things up.’”

A controversial figure in American politics, Reverend Al's critics accuse him of having practiced an incendiary, divisive brand of racial politics at certain times during his activist career.

“I like people who mix things up.” Hmmmmmm….

Like Julius Henson?

That certainly explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Flintstone's Folly

So, while the 2010 elections are over, the political silly season continues.

In the weeks since the gubernatorial campaign ended, I have had conversations with people who worked to varying degrees on Team Ehrlich’s effort. They shared their insights on how the campaign functioned – or failed to function. And, they shared various comments and criticisms they heard some of the campaign’s senior leaders make about my blogging activities as well as me personally.

Among my favorite morsels: That I had “changed my name,” implying some sinister attempt at deception or concealment of my past on my part.

For the record, this is absolutely false. I have never made any attempt to change my name. What I did do, however, is change the suffix of my name, for reasons I will now explain.

My grandfather was named Richard Joseph Cross (1893 – 1961).

His son, my father, was named Richard Joseph Cross, Jr. (1922 –1996).

When I was born, my parents named me Richard Joseph Cross, Jr. Because my grandfather had passed away, my father assumed the “senior” and “junior” titles unofficially passed to him and me, respectively. But, as far as our birth certificates were concerned, we were both named “Richard Joseph Cross, Jr.”

When I graduated from high school, I decided I wanted to use “Richard Joseph Cross, III” on my diploma and in my daily life. It was, after all, my correct name. And, using it preserved the possibility of a “Richard Joseph Cross, IV” one day.

But, my driver’s license still said “Jr.” because that's what my birth certificate said when I obtained my license. This became a source of irritation to me. For example, as my bank account was under “III,” on at least two occasions bank tellers would not give me access to my own bank funds because of the Jr./III disparity.

So, I decided to have the suffix of my name legally changed from “Jr.” to “III” once and for all.

I was unable to do this administratively, so my parents hired a lawyer - ironically, Norman Stone III, son of state Senator Norman Stone, Jr. - who filed the proper paperwork with the Circuit Court of Baltimore County. On July 5th, 1995, the court approved the change. I presented the court order to the proper authorities, and they went into my original birth certificate and literally crossed out “Jr.” and typed in “III” next to it. I then used the amended birth certificate to have all my records – including my bank account, my driver’s license, and my passport – brought current.

Further, I should mention that, while all this was going on, I was serving as press secretary to then-Congressman Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. I explained it to Steve Kreseski, Ehrlich’s Chief of Staff, who recognized it as the non-issue it was.

So, sorry to bore you with so many details about my family tree. I just felt like I needed to get the facts out there, as it appears that this has been the focus of a whispering campaign intended to portray this as something it was not.

Chalk it up to faulty Flintstone forensics, I guess.

Now that the campaign is over, I hope certain people will cease researching their critics and focus on more constructive activities. Like brushing up their resumes.

By the way…guys, I’m good at that kind of thing. I do it for people all the time. Let me know if you need my help.

Tony Campbell: The Latest Missive

Baltimore County GOP Chairman Tony Campbell asked me to post a copy of the latest email he sent to the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, which I do below.

Bryan Sears has already written about its substance, so my purpose here is merely to reprint it without any edits or editorial comment, and to let readers judge for themselves...
____________________________________

All,

I will make this short and sweet.  The meetings will remain as they are scheduled for next Monday, November 29th and the following Monday, December 6th.

On November 29th, the Committee will vote of their nominations for the Board of Elections position in Baltimore County, approving the Special Committees and discussing the events of last week in an open forum.

As you all know, there is a group of members in the Committee who do not want me as Chairman.  According to the by-laws, the Chairman can not be removed from office except “as otherwise provided by Maryland Law.” (Article 1, Section 1.H.3)  According to several sources, this group is going to try to impeach me from office.

My message to them: let’s save ourselves a lot of wasted time and energy fighting over scraps of power and bring your charges now!  Here is information on Impeachment from the Constitution of the State of Maryland:

3.26 - Impeachments.
The House of Delegates shall have the sole power of impeachment in all cases; but a majority of all the members elected must concur in the impeachment. All impeachments shall be tried by the Senate, and when sitting for that purpose, the Senators shall be on oath, or affirmation, to do justice according to the law and evidence; but no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of all the Senators elected.

I was elected Chairman by the Republican voters of Baltimore County for the purpose of helping our Republican candidates to win elective office.  Under Maryland Law, this is the only way that you can remove me from office.  I will continue to serve as Chairman, with the powers and duties of that office, until the General Assembly of the State of Maryland decides otherwise.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and see you on Monday, the 29th

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tony Campbell: In His Own Words

In the wake of yesterday's Ken Oliver leaked email controversy, Baltimore County GOP Chairman Tony Campbell sent out this email rant to members of the Baltimore County GOP Central Committee. He asked for it to be widely disseminated, and I oblige him here by printing it verbatim (To save space, I substituted a link to my blog in which I reprinted the Oliver email verbatim for the textual reprint Campbell originally included in the email below).

I have two observations:

1) Campbell sees Judases all around him, ascribing to them motives of disloyalty and personal animus towards him. I think the email leaked because at least one person found the idea of throwing GOP support behind a Democratic councilman with criminal convictions for misusing campaign funds on his record - and Campbell's promise to support him "as a private citizen" if the Central Committee refused to follow - shockingly bad ideas.

2) It looks like a fractious tenure awaits Chairman Campbell in Baltimore County.

___________________

From: acacspark@gmail.com
To: bcrepublican2010@gmail.com
CC: bpsears.ppc@gmail.com, sschuster@tribune.com
Sent: 11/18/2010 5:19:02 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: Personal Axes to grind (Oliver situation)

All,

The games have begun!  As you all know, there are several members of the Committee that do not want me to be Chairman.  In fact, I am sure that if they could have removed me via a by-law change, I would not be Chairman today (who cares about the will of the voters - sounds like Democrats).  These people (including several members that were elected as Officers of BCRCC) have started a campaign to smear me in the press.

Yesterday, I was contacted by former Republican elected official about an idea to increase the influence of the Republican Party on the County Council by supporting Ken Oliver for Council President.  The e-mail I sent to the Executive Committee is shared with you (click here to read it in its entirety).

This e-mail was sent to the other six people on the Executive Committee as a private conversation to ask their opinions.  Ken Anderson, Tom Henry, and Chris DeFeo responded back that they did not think it would be a good idea to pursue this option.  At 4:07 p.m., I responded to those three e-mails by stating:

The main point was to see if we could build a four member coalition on the county council through supporting Oliver for chair.  Our two members, him and another new person on the council could have put together a working coalition to push forward parts of our Republican agenda.

There will be discussions like this of a sensitive nature that will occur from time to time.  As the Executive Committee, it is imperative that we have these discussions frankly so we can come to a consensus through utilizing everyone's opinion and their knowledge.

Someone on the Executive Committee, with a personal ax to grind because I had the audacity to become Chairman, decided to leak my e-mail (not the other six in the attached e-mail stream) to the press, members of the BCRCC who are also against my chairmanship, and even distributed to bloggers who have no business in knowing about private communications of the Executive Committee in order to damage me as Chairman.  This information was supposed to be confidential and that trust was violated.

My initial e-mail was sent to get the opinion of the Executive Committee on this issue.  As Chairman of the Central Committee, it is my responsibility to get the advice and counsel of the Executive Committee before attempting to contact our two County Council members (or anyone outside the committee).  As you read above, and in the attached document, I had considered the issue a closed one over 24 hours ago.  If I did not seek advice, I guarantee you that the rumor would have been that I overstepped my authority as Chair by contacting Huff and Marks without consulting the Executive Committee.

I am glad this betrayal is out in the open.  Over the past few months, there have been a group of members who have dedicated themselves to be obstacles.  Before today, this behavior existed in the shadows and in whispers.  Today, it is in the press for every Republican voter in Baltimore County to see in the light of day.

These members do not care about the will of the Republican voters of Baltimore County who elected me their Chairman.  They do not care that there actions make the Republican Party look undisciplined and unfocused.  They are like children; they want to hurt me because I took their friend away from the game. 

Bob Ehrlich dealt with a hostile crowd in Annapolis that did not care about the people of Maryland but only wanted Bob to fail.  The difference is that Ehrlich had Democrats that attacked him; I have fellow Republicans.

I believe I did what was right by all involved.  I am comforted in knowing that although this road is full of trials - God is protecting me.  This is the truth of the matter.  I leave it to you to make your own decision.

Tony Campbell
Chairman, BCRCC

P.S. I am cc-ing this to Bryan Sears and Steve Schuster - feel free to post this anywhere you want.

Bob Ehrlich and WBAL: What's The Point?

Since the election, I have made a concerted effort to blog about topics other than the 2010 gubernatorial election. I mean, what's the point? But, upon seeing David Zurawik's blog piece about Bob Ehrlich's surprise appearance on the WBAL radio show now hosted by his wife, I felt compelled to comment.

Governor Ehrlich appeared on the program as a "mystery guest," refusing to answer questions posed by WBAL's Robert Lang about the only election-related topic anyone still wants to talk about: Julius Henson's infamous "Relax" campaign robocalls. After brushing off the question, a frustrated Ehrlich engaged in an emotional exchange with a caller named "Hannah" who tried to explain the reasons why she didn't vote for him.

The Henson robocall matter is now the subject of both federal and state investigations, so I can understand why Ehrlich - a lawyer - wouldn't want to comment on it. That said, why put yourself in a situation where the media is going to ask you a question you cannot or will not answer? Did he not think that he would get the question because he has favorite son status at WBAL? And, why bother even appearing on his wife's show under these circumstances?

Again, I ask: What's the point?

Bob Ehrlich is a proud, competitive man who believes he earned reelection in 2006, and victory in 2010. There is a side of him that wants to show the public he is unbowed by the defeat. That's a very understandable, and human, response to disappointment. So, I don't question his desire to emerge in some capacity. But I do not get his insistence that it happen now, while a question he doesn't want to answer is dangling in his face.

Do I think Ehrlich knew about the robocalls? Knowing how Ehrlich world operated, I can say with authority that he absolutely did not. Whether or not his senior campaign aides participated in the decision-making process which culminated in the robocall is a question which federal or state investigators will likely answer. Ehrlich should step back until that process plays itself out. Speaking out now but ignoring the only question people want answered seems a pointless and uncomfortable exercise for all concerned.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Four People Who Should Be Running For GOP Chairman

With so much of the news coverage of the unfolding race for state GOP chairman focusing on the “Who has climbed into the race today” aspect of it, I decided to indulge myself by looking at the four candidates I wish were running.

I picked each one in part because they have prior political experience under their belts. But, the main reason is that none is confined by that experience. Each retains the potential to be a strong, forward-looking leader. And, none is inexorably tied to any former candidate’s camp or faction within the party:

1)      Ken Holt: The former Baltimore County legislator and 2010 nominee for County Executive ran a decent race in an adverse year for county Republicans. He comes from a financial background, which means he has access to a new potential donor pool for the party. He speaks with authority on budget and taxation matters, which means he could serve as the party’s most able spokesman during some of the fiscal battles looming on the horizon. And, he kind of looks like Ronald Reagan – not a bad quality in a GOP chairman.

2)      Marty Madden: Few people in state GOP circles have a better feel for the tactics and strategies needed to win elections than this former state senator. He long represented a district in increasingly liberal Howard County, which means that he has a feel for issues that appeal to swing suburban voters. He is universally respected across the political landscape. And, based on my own dealings with him, I expect he would be the kind of chairman not averse to innovation and applying out of the box thinking, rather than relying on the same old tactics and personalities.

3)      Bob Flanagan: This former legislator and MDOT Secretary came up short in his bid for the Howard County Council, but I think he still has a lot to offer.  He is one of the smarter players in the party. He represents a proper balance of intellect and partisanship. He has the substance to engage the Democrats on policy, and the energy to fire up the GOP base.

4)      Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio: Just elected to her third term in the Maryland House of Delegates, Delegate Haddaway-Riccio personifies the future of the GOP in Maryland. Young, energetic, smart, and accomplished, she is a citizen legislator with an impressive record as a civic activist and an entrepreneur. Hardly a creature of Annapolis, she is a legislator whose feet are planted squarely in the real world. As chairman, she could easily connect with, inspire, and motivate young people to give the GOP a chance.

Those are my four “dream picks.” Of course, I would want to see each candidate’s plan before deciding which one should get the job. But, so far, I like my fantasy picks better than any of the actual candidates.

Councilman-Elect Marks On "Republicans for Oliver" Flap

From: Antonio Campbell <acacspark@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 2010 13:37:03 -0500
To: <bcrepublican2010@gmail.com>
Subject: Fwd: Please forward

All - see below.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <davidsmarks@verizon.net>
Date: Fri, Nov 19, 2010 at 1:00 PM
Subject: Please forward
To: Tony Campbell
Cc: Todd Huff

Tony,

Todd and I appreciate any new ideas you may have to advance the Republican Party.  Do not hesitate to contact either of us privately if you have a county-related issue that you will bring before the committee.

We think it's in the best interest of all to move beyond this situation, and hope you share this with the committee.  Best regards for a productive tenure.

David Marks
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

"Republicans For Oliver" Redux

It seems that my blog posting yesterday about Baltimore County Republican Chairman Tony Campbell's harebrained idea to get the County GOP to endorse Ken Oliver as chairman of the Baltimore County Council caused a few waves.

As Patuxent Newspaper's Steve Schuster reported, Campbell and others are quite angry that the email leaked. Indeed, some would even like to identify and punish the Central Committee Executive Board member who shared it with me.

Rest assured, folks...none of the Central Committee Executive Board members who actually received the email from Campbell sent it to me. I received it from a third-party source who, in turn, had gotten it from one of the original recipients.

Campbell insisted that the idea was effectively "dead" by the time I blogged about it. Still, I feel it provided useful insight into the decision-making process of the County's new chairman, the former national spokesman for "Republicans for Obama." For a Republican county chairman to even consider endorsing a convicted campaign fund thief, let alone a Democrat, for high county office raises legitimate questions about Campbell's judgment.

Further, it should be noted that, in his email, Campbell stated he would speak out "as a private citizen" in favor of Oliver's candidacy for chairman even if the Central Committee refused to support him. Well, the Central Committee has said no. Is private citizen Campbell still going to endorse him? And, how will that sit with Central Committee members? Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Amedori Enters Chairman's Race - For Now

A fellow blogger just reported that former Delegate and Maryland Parole Commissioner Carmen Amedori has entered the race for State GOP Chairman.

You may recall that the flip-flopping Amedori jumped into the U. S. Senate race last year, only to abandon it to sign on as Brian Murphy's LG pick, only to abandon that race abruptly in favor of self-imposed exile to the Eastern Shore. So, should Amedori abandon her chairman's bid, that would mean three false start candidacies in one year - sort of a political hat trick, I guess.

Shortly after Amedori left Murphy twisting in the wind, my friend and fellow blogger Joe Steffen engaged her in an email conversation in which she outlines her tortured reasoning for her serial candidacies. Anyone considering voting for Amedori for chairman should read her comments to Steffen.

Yabba Dabba Delightful

A reader of this blog sent me the photo below, which he snapped during a recent road trip.

I can think of one former Ehrlich campaign staffer who would be a natural fit for this establishment. That is, unless Mr. Slate is holding his former job at the rock quarry for him.


"Republicans for....Oliver?"

Well, it looks like Tony "Republicans for Obama" Campbell has reverted to bipartisan form.

Campbell, who scored an upset victory in the race for chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, has asked the members of that body's executive board to consider endorsing Baltimore County Councilman Ken Oliver to succeed John "Johnny O" Olszewski as Council chairman. As you might remember, Campbell served as national spokesman of "Republicans for Obama" in 2008.

Candidates for local office in Baltimore County in 2010 emphasized themes of good governance, transparency, and accountability in their campaigns. It therefore makes little sense that the party's new chairman would push an ethically tainted councilman for chairman. Republicans in Baltimore County are supposed to offer an alternative to, rather than endorse, the excesses of the status quo.

What's next for Chairman Campbell? "Republicans for Rangle?"

The text of Campbell's email to the central committee members appears below...

From: Antonio Campbell
Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 1:29 PM
To: Al Mendelsohn; Tom Henry; Ken Anderson; Steve Chan; Herman Wood; Chris Defeo
Subject: county council chair
Gentlemen,

An opportunity to change the political game and our future fortunes in Baltimore County has presented itself to me.  As you know, five members of the County Council are new to the office including two of our own, David Marks and Todd Huff.  Johnny O has been chair of the body and expects to be re-elected to the position.

I think it would be a good move politically for the Republican Party to support Ken Oliver to become the first African-American chair of the County Council.  Historically, Democrats have taken the black vote for granted while not allowing them to hold high office.  In fact, the only reason Tony Brown is Lt. Governor today is because we Republicans nominated Michael Steele as our nominee in 2002.

The Chair will be a Democrat - the question is: can we put ourselves in a position to become a player in county government?

I am asking your opinion as members of the Executive Board.  As a private citizen, I will speak out about this issue.  I think it will begin a serious attempt at reaching the African-American community in Baltimore County if we take this step.

Tony

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More Gavel Grumblings

More names have surfaced as announced or potential candidates for State GOP Chairman.

First, Mike Estève, chairman of the Maryland College Republicans, has declared his candidacy. I met Estève at a GOP event last spring. He has a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I regard him as a future leader for the GOP. But, making someone so young chairman of the party is going to be a tough sell for most central committee members. Will potential donors be ready to open their wallets for a minority party with a twenty-year-old in charge? Perhaps Estève should look towards winning a delegate seat or running for local office as his first campaign.

Unsuccessful Senate candidate Dr. Eric Wargotz has expressed some interest as well. The dialin’ doc certainly has the energy, intellect, and passion the job requires. Still, I can’t get past the irony of a pathologist serving as chairman of a Republican Party some regard as moribund.

The Baltimore Sun reported that Brian Murphy has been making rumblings about running. This scenario interests me most of all – although, he told the Washington Post he’s not doing it. Were Murphy to triumph over Mary Kane, the latest Team Ehrlich-sanctioned candidate, that would be a definitive sign that the party is ready to leave the past behind and move forward into the future.

Lastly, outgoing State Senator Alex Mooney has expressed interest in the office as well – though, I have heard other rumors that he wants to be Andy Harris’s chief of staff in Washington.

Still, as I stated in a recent posting about the chairman’s race, personalities should not determine this election. Each candidate should offer proposals to the central committee, and be ready to stand upon them. The party has reached a critical juncture, so this race should be more than a popularity contest. Ideas should matter most. 

Let's hope this doesn't devolve into something akin to the California recall election of 2003.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Things Politicians Say...And Do

So, a lot of people have given me feedback about Andy Harris's now infamous comments about not having healthcare coverage for his first 28 days as a congressman. Others asked me if I planned to write about it.

Other than "Wow," I really can't think of anything else to say that hasn't been pointed out by other bloggers already. Me piling on would seem gratuitious. So all I will say is that he, and whoever his press secretary is or will be, learned a valuable lesson as to how the D. C. press corps operates.

And he thought the State House press corps was bad.

However, I was amused by this item from the Baltimore Sun's political blog about the final Baltimore County Council meeting for five of its outgoing members. Specifically, I liked this quote from Democratic Councilman S. G. Samuel Moxley.

"Moxley included Council Secretary Thomas J. Peddicord, Jr. in his thank yous. 'The guidance that you provide, I believe, keeps at least this one councilman out of so much trouble,' Moxley said."

Ummmm...ironic much, Mr. Moxley?

I don't doubt that Mr. Peddicord is good at his job and kept meetings running efficiently for all the council members. But his professionalism just wasn't enough to keep Moxley out of trouble.

For that to have happened, the keeper of the county's motor pool would have had to confiscate his keys.

Councilman Moxley had two very well-publicized drunk driving incidents during his tenure - one in 2005 and one in 2009. In the first one, he hit a car parked on the side of the highway, narrowly missing its driver who was changing a tire. In the 2009 incident, he caused a multi-car accident that sent someone to the hospital. At least one of those incidents occured when Moxley was driving a county-owned vehicle.

Given the seriousness of these incidents, it seems to me that someone who has lived in the public eye for 16 years would have chosen his words a little more carefully.

Hopefully Mr. Moxley has conquered his demons and put the past behind him. He seemed remorseful after both incidents occured, and he deserves the right to move on with his life - assuming he has adjusted his behavior.

But, looking back on it, the thought of an inebriated local official wantonly cruising the local highways in a county-owned "Chevy Trailblazer of Doom" is still a little unsettling.

Early on, Moxley had expressed an interest in running for Baltimore County Clerk of the Court. His decision to forgo that race reflects tacit acceptance of the consequences of his actions. Hopefully the five ambitious new members of the Council who take office next month will regard Moxley's story as a cautionary tale as they begin their own service.

Calling yourself "The Honorable" does not shelter you from reaping the consequences of your mistakes. Just ask Sam Moxley. Or, better yet, ask Jack Johnson.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who's Going To Get The Gavel?

Speculation has already begun over who will be the next chair of the Maryland Republican Party. Today, one potential candidate threw her hat in the ring, and another took his out.

Recently there was chatter all over Facebook about a potential bid by former Ehrlich Appointments Secretary and short-lived gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan. Hogan quashed such musings by posting the following statement on Facebook:
"Many people were pushing me to run for State Party Chairman, and are dissapointed (sic) that I declined the position. I believe in the party, I'm very excited about our potential in Maryland and I do plan to stay very involved. I appreciate all the support, however, as a potential candidate in 2014, I think that it's better for someone else to focus their energies on the state party HQ."
By contrast, Ehrlich's 2010 running mate Mary Kane has declared her candidacy. I think Mrs. Kane has the potential to be a strong chair. She has the charisma, energy, and sensibilities needed to bring people together. As this chairman’s race unfolds, I hope personalities are only part of the equation. I am anxious to hear about candidates' plans as well.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Maryland's Red Underbelly

With political observers like me preoccupied with handicapping and then dissecting the outcome of the governor's race, one susprising element of the 2010 elections in Maryland was largely overlooked. Republicans now control 15 out of 24 local legislative bodies.

In most jurisdictions, Republicans retained, expanded, and - in some cases - captured control of county councils and boards of county commissioners. Here are a few highlights:

  • Allegany County: The GOP now holds every local office. It swept all three seats on the Board of County Commissioners (a one-seat gain) and picked up the office of Sheriff and all three Orphans’ Court judges.
  • Baltimore County: The party doubled its representation on the County Council by picking up a seat Democrats have held for five decades.
  • Cecil County: The GOP swept the Board of County Commissioners, and picked up the State’s Attorney and Circuit Court Clerk positions.
  • Frederick County: Republicans swept the County Commission, picking up two seats previously held by Democrats.
  • Queen Anne’s County: The GOP now controls every seat on the Board of County Commissioners (Democrats previously held four seats).
  • St. Mary’s County: The GOP picked up at least two Commissioner seats.
  • Talbot County: Republicans went from 3-2 minority on the Commission to a 4-1 majority.
  • Washington County: GOP now holds all five seats on the Commission (a one-seat pickup).
  • Worcester County: Republicans went from holding four to five seats on the seven member Commission.
These victories are significant because they help to give Republicans something they have long lacked - a political "farm team" of experienced candidates and elected officeholders with potential for upward mobility.

So, the GOP wave that swept through Congress, governor's mansions, and state legislatures across the nation did in fact reach Maryland. It was just evident at courthouses rather than at the State House.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Complain Less, Get Involved"

Former Ehrlich Field Director Chris Cavey published an op-ed piece, “Complain Less, Get Involved,” in the online Tentacle newspaper.

At first blush, this op-ed seems to be a direct rebuttal of the one I had in the Baltimore Sun on November 3rd analyzing the reasons for the loss. The Patch's Bryan Sears in fact asked Chris Cavey if that was the case. Cavey, for whom I have great respect as a party builder, said it was not.

Still, given the fact that Cavey makes points contrary to my own arguments, I felt obligated to respond.  

For example, Cavey writes: “Prior to the 2008 Presidential Election, Maryland Democrats increased their registration numbers by 256,000 new voters. The GOP didn’t even come close with less than 79,000. Democrats out register Republicans in urban centers at a rate of 10 to 1; Bob Ehrlich lost these urban centers at the same rate. Urban centers have more total voters, voting at higher overall percentages for statewide Democrats.”

For Team Ehrlich to declare the race to have been fundamentally unwinnable from the beginning only after losing it strikes me as being somewhat self-serving.

The daunting (and growing) advantage in voter registration Democrats have in Maryland is something that I have written about on this blog. It is also something that Team Ehrlich was well aware of when it climbed back into the arena. Still, Team Ehrlich was not deterred from running, so it must have believed that the numerical disparity did not preclude a victory. Otherwise, why run? And, how else would you explain the polls at the outset of the race which showed the race as a dead heat?

The campaign’s penchant for wasting time and resources by courting unwinnable constituencies is another criticism I made in my op-ed. Cavey addresses it when he states: "The campaign message sent through the air by TV and radio was also the same, there for all who would look or listen. Nothing special was targeted toward or away from an ethnic group, income group or gender.”

How about some of the controversial, Henson-crafted ads which ran on black radio (e. g. “Tyrone,” which one black Democratic friend of me likened to “Amos n’ Andy”), or even the “message” employed in a certain infamous campaign robocall? What about the campaign’s decision to host a rally in the predominantly Jewish community of Pikesville in Baltimore County – an area unwinnable for Ehrlich?

Cavey writes: “I wouldn’t redo a single day. Every decision was made correctly at the time and with the information at hand.”

I don’t think any objective person can look back at the campaign Team Ehrlich waged and say that no mistakes were made. In fact, Cavey himself recently posted 16 campaign critiques of his own on his Facebook page.

Cavey concludes by writing: “It is easy for the Monday morning quarterbacks to proffer criticism now that the election is final. I was there – inside – and none sent or called into the campaign their pearls of wisdom in the heat of battle – thus I pay no heed to their whining or ponderings now. They need to get a life and move on in a positive direction if they want to make changes in Maryland’s one party system of political dominance.

“They need to complain less and get into the real game.”

Speaking out publicly and offering a rival viewpoint, which I did before, during, and after the campaign, IS getting in the game. Articulating the reasons behind a loss in order to promote growth and healing is a constructive activity. Blaming the loss solely on some unstoppable external force – in Team Ehrlich’s case, that would be George W. Bush in 2006, and Barack Obama’s relatively popularity in Maryland as well as the numerical disparity favoring Democrats in 2010 – in order to spare a few reputations or mask bad decisions is not constructive.

I’m ready to step up, leave the past and the same old players behind, and start working to rebuild the party based on new ideas, faces, energy, and expectations. I hope conscientious party builders like Cavey will join me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

O'Malley Beats Ehrlich in Baltimore County

The latest vote totals in Baltimore County now have Governor O'Malley achieving what many people - myself included - thought impossible: Winning Bob Ehrlich's home county by a sizable margin.

As the Baltimore Sun reports, the counting of provisional and absentee ballots has given O'Malley a 1,300 vote lead, with only about 100 absentee ballots remaining to be counted.

Team Ehrlich had sprinked the county with its signature blue and white signs during the campaign. This sign strategy had been a hallmark of Team Ehrlich's strategy going back to his legislative races. It is perhaps the most poignant example of how the campaign recycled old campaign tactics when it should have went in search of new ones.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

With Apologies To Rankin/Bass Productions

With the holidays approaching, I have been thinking about those Rankin/Bass Christmas specials I grew up with. You know the ones: “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “A Year Without a Santa Claus.” They used those retro-looking stop-motion puppets. Today’s current crop of youngsters still watch and enjoy them every year.

The other night, a friend of mine challenged me to design a Rankin/Bass version of the unfolding “Relax” robocall scandal. Here’s what I came up with. Enjoy:

Name: “Rudolf’s Robocall Christmas”

Plot Summary: Newly minted lawyer Rudolf must save Christmas by protecting the elves from Orange Julius, a villain who wants to trick them into thinking all the work has been done for Christmas by using robocalls telling them not to show up at Santa’s Toyshop.

Puppet characters (most of whom first appeared in prior Rankin/Bass productions) would resemble and be voiced by the following:

Narrator:                          Joe Steffen (a la Burl Ives in the original "Rudolf" special)
Rudolf:                              Doug Gansler
Orange Julius:                  Julius Henson (Puppet clad in an orange jumpsuit).
Santa Claus:                     Greg Massoni
Hermie the Elf:                 Andy Barth
Heat Miser:                      Mike Miller
Cold Miser:                       Mike Busch
Mother Nature:                 Rhonda Russell
Father Time:                      Jervis Finney
Yukon Cornelius:               Paul Schurick
Mayor of Southtown:        Ben Cardin
New Year Baby:                Henry Fawell
Abominabumble:               Craig Chesek
Fred Flintstone:                 Bernie Marczyk (Through special permission of Hanna-Barbera)


Songs would include:

“A stocking full of subpoenas”
“Dial dial do, dial dial don’t”
“Ribbons, bows, and depositions”
“That’s suppression, I’m guessin.”
“A trip under the sleigh”
“Telephone” (performed by special guest puppet Lady Gaga).

"Lesser of Two Evils" Politics

I came across this item in the Financial Times blog which I decided to share here.

There are few politicians of more disparate philosophies than Barack Obama and George W. Bush. So, I'm intrigued by the fact that Bush reportedly said he would have endorsed Obama instead of 2008 GOP nominee John McCain had he been asked, and that he "probably won't even vote" for McCain. I'm guessing McCain's underwhelming candidacy, as well as past bitterness stemming from the 2000 GOP South Carolina primary, was the genesis of Bush's cross-party musings.

Now, I'm sure Obama would not have especially welcomed a Bush endorsement, but that's beside the point.

These "lesser of two evils" situations that occasionally arise in politics are quite interesting. The recent Delaware senate race pitting a self-described "Marxist" against Christine "I'm Not A Witch" O'Donnell is the most recent example. The infamous Louisiana governor's race between Edwin "The Crook" Edwards and David "The Klansman" Duke is the most famous one.

Speaking of 2008, I experienced my own "lesser of two evils" moment that year.

By way of background, I have voted in every general and most primary elections since 1984. Never once have I voted for a Democrat for any federal office. That includes 2008, when - despite the pleadings of my many thoughtful liberal friends - I held my nose and voted for John McCain.

But, I must confess...during the protracted Democratic presidential primary battle, I did donate a small amount of money to Barack Obama.

I know...this will seem like heresy to my fellow GOPers. Indeed, I noticed that an anonymous poster on the Baltimore Sun web site critiquing my op-ed analyzing the mistakes made by Team Ehrlich cited this as apparent proof that I am not a "real" Republican. This is a frequent tactic in politics, not to mention a hallmark of the Clinton White House: When you can't rebut someone's arguments, attack them personally. 

When I saw the Bush-Obama blog posting, it occurred to me that it presented an opportunity for me to  respond. So, I made the decision to donate to Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary season for two reasons:

1) It was obvious that 2008 was going to be a Democratic year, and I judged Obama - who seems like an affable, well-meaning, liberal ideologue - to be better than his opponent on a personal if not a political basis; and

2) His opponent was Hillary Clinton.

I have a strong aversion to Mrs. Clinton, who played the role of Lady Macbeth in her husband's administration to great effect. She is every bit as much a Darth Vader figure to Republicans like me as Richard Nixon was to Democrats. The thought of her and her husband's scandal-plagued handlers riding back into town - this time with a Democratic Congress ready to look the other way - disturbed me.

It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that, had Lucifer been Mrs. Clinton's challenger, I might have opened my checkbook for him, too.

I am sure I am not the only Republican who made that calculation in 2008. And, looking at how things have turned out, Republicans are - politically speaking, at least - probably in a better situation than they would have been if the dirty crew from Arkansas was back in the White House.

A President Hillary would have done the same misguided things - such as ramming a healthcare law for which there was no national consensus down citizen's throats - that Obama has done. But she would have done it with greater guile and political skill.

By contrast, President Obama's absense of executive experience has contributed to a growing sense that his is an in-over-his head presidency. Two years are a lifetime in politics, but I think there is a high probability that Obama will be a one-term president absent some major course correcting. Minimally, there are states Obama won last time (IN, NV, NC, OH, VA) that he can't win again, as well as those (NH, PA, FL) he probably won't win again. Do the electoral math and that makes for a very tight election.

By contrast, the Clintons - masters of triangulation, scandal deflection, parsing words, and other political dark arts - know how to win at any cost.

So, I can't sit here and say that the "lesser of two evils" calculations I made two years ago were necessarily wrong. I'm just looking ahead to the time that I have a candidate at the presidential level I'm enthusiastic about voting for, instead of someone I'm chomping at the bit to help defeat. For me, it's been a very long time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Quotables From The 2010 Campaign...

“We cannot let a flawed poll deter Marylanders from voting for strong leadership on November 2nd… After six months of dishonest attack ads from Martin O'Malley, Bob Ehrlich has consistently closed the gap with a concrete plan to get Maryland working again.  Bob takes clear momentum in to the final days of this campaign."
Ehrlich Communications Director Henry Fawell rebutting a late Baltimore Sun poll that had O’Malley leading by 14 points. The final result of the election: O’Malley 56 percent, Ehrlich 42 percent.

“I’m new at this and I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Ehrlich campaign spokesman Andy Barth. Several people reported hearing him say variants of this remark on different occasions

“They say he flies into a rage whenever (Joe Steffen’s) name is mentioned.”
Former Ehrlich aide Craig Chesek. The “he” in question: Ehrlich Political Director Bernie Marczyk, who took issue with this blog posting by Steffen.

“If someone breaks into my house, do they become a new member of the family for the night?”
Bob Ehrlich. This zinger from the Washington Post debate was Ehrlich’s high-water mark of the campaign.

“Trust you? Trust you?”
Governor Martin O’Malley, responding to something Ehrlich said during the WJZ debate.

“Why give the exact same job back to someone who failed at it last time?”
Ehrlich fundraiser Elaine Pevenstein critiquing another Ehrlich campaign staffer

“I'm not going to throw Bob Ehrlich or Bob Ehrlich's team under the bus. It was a decision that was made in the heat of the campaign."
Ehrlich political operative Julius Henson, who, through this statement, effectively DID throw Ehrlich team members “under the bus” by implicating them in the decision-making process for the infamous “Relax” robocall.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lessons Learned...

Chris Cavey, Team Ehrlich's able Field Director, published these sixteen observations gleaned from his recent campaign experience on his Facebook page. I reprint them here with his permission:
  1. Rally signs don’t vote.
  2. Poll workers are not needed if there is no GOTV.
  3. You can never have enough money for an air game.
  4. Lit drops just make you the mailman – not a candidate.
  5. Big 4X8 signs don’t vote.
  6. Sign waiving is a useless activity – contact a voter instead.
  7. You can never make enough GOTV phone calls.
  8. Poll watchers are important eyes for any candidate.
  9. Air game beats a ground game.
  10. Literature is like a safety blanket – something to hold.
  11. Lawn signs don’t vote.
  12. Trust the science not your eyes.
  13. Never trust your “gut.”
  14. Organization is important.
  15. It’s all about numbers and money.
  16. Signs don’t vote.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mobbies Madness...

If you haven't had an opportunity to participate in voting for the Baltimore Sun's "Mobbie" Awards, here is the link.

If you like what you've read here, please consider showing me some love.

Let's just hope certain old friends of mine don't send out a shadowy, last minute email advising people that voting is not necessarily and that they should simply "relax."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Henson Speaks Out

Julius Henson, the man at the center of the unfolding robocall scandal, apparently likes to talk to the media - even when he probably would do himself more of a service by remaining quiet.

He gave an impromptu press conference yesterday afternoon as he awaited the arrival of state investigators probing the "Relax" call scandal. WJZ filed a report last night.

Here are a few excerpts:

"'I'm on the Bob Ehrlich team,' Henson said. 'We thought a call like that would help, and we made the call.'"

"Henson would not say what key members of the Ehrlich camp knew of the call and its wording. 'I'm not going to throw Bob Ehrlich or Bob Ehrlich's team under the bus,' he said. 'It was a decision that was made in the heat of the campaign.'"

So reading between the lines of Henson's remarks, the call was the result of a "decision" involving Ehrlich's aides. If he acted unilaterally, there would be no risk of throwing anyone else "under the bus."

Henson states that Bob Ehrlich "probably" did not know about the call, but does not exempt from responsibility the campaign's two principal decision-makers.

This is going to be an interesting situation to watch unfold.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Robocall Recriminations

I think I overdosed on the O’Malley-Ehrlich race on this blog in October, so I resolved not to blog about it again once the campaign ended last Tuesday. But, I wanted to comment on the robocalling scandal reported by the Baltimore Sun.

Julius Henson, a controversial political consultant retained by the Ehrlich campaign, has now admitted what everyone with half a brain already knew: He was responsible for the infamous call. Some have characterized the purpose of the call, which went to about 50,000 homes, as tricking Democratic voters into not voting.

Henson explains the call thusly: “‘I'm on the Bob Ehrlich team, and we thought a call like that would help, and we made the [decision],’" he said, adding that Ehrlich ‘probably’ didn't know about it.”

I have a few comments on his comment.

First, knowing the dynamics of Team Ehrlich, I’m confident Bob Ehrlich knew nothing about that call. 
Second, even if other members of Team Ehrlich did not know about the call, I’m not sure that matters. Henson has a long history of these kinds of shenanigans. If you install a cannon on the deck of a ship and it breaks loose and starts firing, who’s to blame: The cannon or the people who put it there?

I’m quite interested to see how this all unfolds. As I have blogged before, Bob Ehrlich is a decent man. It’s sad that his career ended amid such a lopsided defeat. It is even sadder now that scandal is becoming a part of the mix. He deserved better.

Five Republicans To Watch...

OK, here are my picks for Republicans to watch in the months and years ahead. I know two of them – Marks and Jennings – rather well because I worked with both of them in Ehrlich world at various times. But I have observed the others fairly closely. Each has a lot of potential for upward mobility, which is why I included them here.

Andy Harris: The brightest bright spot for Maryland Republicans on election night, Andy Harris’s victory over Rep. Frank Kratovil effectively doubled the GOP’s ranks in the state congressional delegation. With Bob Ehrlich leaving the political scene, conservative Harris may seek to position himself as the new “It Guy” for Maryland’s GOP. Equally interesting will be the extent to which Harris is targeted during redistricting by some of his former colleagues in Annapolis.

David Craig: The Harford County Executive is now the GOP’s senior local elected official. A good government Republican, Craig may not be known for his charisma, but his reputation as an effective manager and problem-solver is well-established. A veteran of the state legislature, Craig is the party’s sleeper candidate for governor in 2014.

David Marks: The GOP wave that some people – including myself – thought was coming to Baltimore County never materialized. But one bright spot for county Republicans was the election of Marks, a former state and federal transportation official with a long history of community involvement, to the Baltimore County Council. A thoughtful moderate who emphasized bipartisanship and reform in his campaign, Marks captured a council seat Democrats held for decades. He will be a breath of fresh air in a county accustomed to one-party rule.

J. B. Jennings: Early on, it appeared that Jennings’ primary opponent, former House Minority Leader Al Redmer, might be outworking him. But Jennings hit the ground running after the legislative session ended, defeating Redmer in the 7th District State Senate primary by more than 20 points. Jennings is a solid conservative whose genial nature makes him a good fit for a collegial legislative body. And, he is well-positioned to incorporate some of the remnants of Ehrlich’s grassroots organization into his own

Allan Kittleman: The scion of a Howard County political dynasty, Kittleman’s reelection to the State Senate leaves him as one of the last Republicans standing in a county increasingly more Democratic. Youthful and moderate, he is exactly what a suburban Republican in Maryland should be. Frequently he was mentioned as a possible lieutenant governor candidate for Bob Ehrlich. If 2014 turns out to be a favorable year for Republicans, he may be a strong candidate for the open Howard County Executive’s seat.

Five Democrats To Watch...

Now that the elections are over, it’s time to look forward. I decided to do that by looking at both political parties and identifying some stars to watch.

Because I have spent so much time blogging about GOP politics, I decided to start with the Democrats, though I plan to follow this up with a look at Republican stars this weekend. This list contains both new and old names. The one thing they all have in common is that they emerge from the 2010 election cycle empowered as well as poised to make a difference.

Bill Ferguson: The 27-year-old school administrator knocked off Democratic baron George Della in the 46th District State Senate primary this year. He won by waging an energetic, progressive campaign focusing on education reform. Now he heads to a legislature where his vanquished primary opponent had been a fixture for decades. It will be interesting to see if he takes his insurgency approach to Annapolis. Will he hit the ground running in terms of legislative output, or will he allow some of the more senior senators to mentor him and show him the ropes?

Jim Smith: The outgoing Baltimore County Executive leaves office with his popularity intact, and with the gratitude of Governor Martin O’Malley. Smith is getting much of the credit for the governor’s surprisingly strong performance in Baltimore County. Now there is talk that Smith will serve as the state’s next Secretary of Transportation or in some other capacity. If gubernatorial politics in 2014 plays out as some people expect, perhaps Smith will emerge as a candidate for Attorney General.

Jim Mathias: The popular former mayor of Ocean City captured the seat held by retiring GOP Senator Lowell Stoltzfus. But the race looming down the road is what makes Mathias a Democrat to watch. If, as expected, the state legislature tries to gerrymander Congressman-elect Andy Harris out of office, Mathias could emerge as his principal challenger if outgoing Congressman Frank Kratovil does not go for it himself.

Keiffer Mitchell: The former Baltimore City Councilman and mayoral candidate returns to public office as a freshman member of the House of Delegates. Smart and charismatic, Mitchell strikes me as having much more to offer as a public servant than the quality of his unsuccessful mayoral campaign implied. Now he will have a chance to prove it.  Will he try to re-enter City politics, or will he stick with Annapolis for a while? Stay tuned.

Ken Ulman:  The Howard County Executive cruised to reelection, and his coattails probably contributed to Governor O’Malley’s solid victory there. Most politicos cite Doug Gansler, Peter Franchot, or Anthony Brown as future gubernatorial candidates. But Ulman is a moderate suburban Democrat who has effectively managed a local government during very challenging economic times. None of the other candidates I mentioned can make that claim.