Recently, I had a chance to sit down with some of my fellow bloggers and political junkies for a conversation with Harford County Executive David Craig over burgers at the Ram’s Head Tavern in
The big news coming out of the gathering: Craig is definitely running for some statewide office in 2014. He’s not an attorney, so that leaves two choices: comptroller or governor.
|David Craig's new campaign logo. Race TBD.|
David Craig is presently the party’s senior executive officeholder, as well as one of the party’s logical go-to guys for 2014. As far as which office he plans to seek, Craig said he has deferred that decision until after next year’s presidential election.
Despite kicking in and around
political circles for a long time, I had never met Craig before. I found him to be relaxed, thoughtful, and – most importantly – open-minded as to the GOP’s prospects for success in 2014. Maryland
Going into this event, I was most interested to see how he would address this final issue. Bob Ehrlich’s 15 point blowout loss in 2010, as well as Democratic gains in voter registration during the past 10 years, has left many Republicans wondering just what the party’s short-term future may be in
But Craig took these ponderings in stride. “A lot of people I talk to tell me they’re willing to vote for good Republican candidates,” he stated.
He noted that the party gained 40 seats at the local level (“We wiped out the Democrats’ farm team” in every jurisdiction but Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City, he noted) and pointed out that Republican candidates achieved a win (in 2002) and an almost win (in 1994) the last two times they competed for an open gubernatorial seat.
He also indicated his belief that a candidate’s geography may trump his/her party affiliation as a deciding factor in state elections. With three of the Democrats most frequently mentioned as gubernatorial candidates hailing from the
Washington region, Craig see real opportunity for a candidate coming from a jurisdiction as decidedly suburban Baltimore as . Harford County
I think this is a valid point. However, I had the same feeling about incumbency trumping party affiliation when it came to Bob Ehrlich’s reelection prospects in 2006, and we know how that turned out.
Setting aside my skepticism about any GOP candidate winning statewide in
, I think Craig has a lot to offer. Maryland
First, he projects an image of a quiet, roll-up-your-sleeves, git ‘er done kind of manager. After eight years of muscle-shirted, guitar-playing Governor Martin O’Malley and publicity friendly Comptroller Peter Franchot, voters may be ready for a governor or comptroller with a reputation for understated competence.
Second, Craig has an asset which neither Bob Ehrlich nor Ellen Sauerbrey did when they ran for statewide office: Previous executive branch experience.
Craig served as mayor of Havre de Grace before he became Harford County Executive, and also headed both the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties. He is also a veteran of both houses of the legislature, giving him prior relationships with the Maryland General Assembly he can leverage as either governor or comptroller.
Third, Craig’s background as an educator – he was assistant principal at three
schools – and history of civic involvement makes him difficult for the left to demonize. He can portray himself as an engaged community activist who entered the political arena, as opposed to yet another high climbing politician looking for the next rung on the ladder. Harford County
Aside from being a Republican, the fact that few people outside of
have ever heard of Craig is his single biggest strategic challenge. His natural, low key style as a candidate and a manager may exacerbate this challenge. But I think that Craig’s relative absence of flash can be turned into an asset with some clever positioning on the part of his handlers. That, in turn, will hinge upon how successful their fundraising efforts will be. Harford County
If history is any guide, 2014 looks like it will be an anti-establishment year.
voters will be restless after eight years of Martin O’Malley, just as they were after eight years of William Donald Schaefer and Parris Glendening. Plus, if President Obama is reelected in 2012 and experiencing the traditional mid-term slump that most presidents do, a Republican like Craig could benefit from these anti-incumbent forces. Maryland
To do so, however, he must be able to articulate a case as to why he is the real change
needs. Otherwise, a wily Democrat like Peter Franchot or Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (who would appeal to many of the same suburbanites David Craig would) may step up and snatch the change mantle out from under him. Maryland
Any Republican who looks to move up in
has an arduous road ahead of them. I am glad County Executive Craig seems undaunted by the challenge. I look forward to seeing what path he ultimately chooses, and where it takes him. Maryland