Thursday, June 28, 2012

Obamacare and The Supremes

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that the U. S. Supreme Court, in a decision some regard as shocking, upheld most of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act – known to some as “Obamacare.”

At the request of the Baltimore Sun, I prepared this op-ed piece exploring some of the adverse consequences the court’s action may have for Obama and his reelection bid.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gambling: A Meeting of the Mikes

So I just heard from a well-placed source in Annapolis that the Mikes – that would be Senate President Miller and House Speaker Busch – are going all in, so to speak.

They're planning to meet Thursday to take a stab at resolving their differences on expanded gambling in order to pave the way for a special session of the legislature.

If the special session is going to happen, it has to occur no later than the first week in August according to my tipster, who also gives it a 35 percent probability of actually happening.

Not being a gambler myself, I tend to regard the issue of expanded gambling in Maryland with personal indifference. It does not directly affect me, although in the end I support it because of its revenue possibilities. I also think that, if Maryland is going to have gambling, it should be in a position to compete with other states with more mature programs by offering table games as well as slots.

So, in the end I’d like to see the special session happen, though I’m far from convinced it’s going to. But with so many other major issues awaiting the voters on the November ballot, there is no reason why they shouldn’t have a chance to weigh in on expanded gambling, too. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Michael Steele Speaks

This afternoon I had a substantive and positive conversation with former Lieutenant Governor and RNC Chairman Michael Steele.
The conversation came about in a roundabout way. After I posted my most recent blog piece about his future plans, two Steele supporters started complaining about what I wrote, leaving or attempting to leave aggressive and sometimes antagonistic comments on my blog. One of them even sent me an email telling me I was “demanded” to contact Steele so he could set the record straight.

Anyway, I had no idea if either of these individuals was acting on Steele’s behalf. And, while I will always respond to appeals to my reason, I’m not inclined to take orders from badgering strangers.

Later, one of these critics inadvertently forwarded to me an email in which, farther down in the email chain, Steele made some less than favorable comments about me.

As someone once told me, the first rule of political emailing is, “Never send an email you wouldn’t mind seeing on the front page of The New York Times.” Well, the second rule of political emailing has to be, “Make sure you know everything that’s in an email before you forward it to someone else.”

Anyway, after I saw his comments I reached out to Steele, with whom I served in the Ehrlich Administration. Following a candid email exchange, we set up some time to talk directly as opposed to communicating through go-betweens.

During the conversation, Steele explained his reasons for supporting Audrey Scott in the National Committeewoman’s race, and defended the convention activities of his aide Belinda Cook.

But mainly we talked about the future of his state campaign account.

He dismisses as “completely not true” that he was planning to close his state campaign account, calling it “wishful thinking” on the part of the individual who told me that.

In fact, Steele says he plans to hold a fundraiser in the fall to replenish it. He explains that, since 2008, he has paid out a total of about $100,000 to GOP legislative candidates in Maryland. Those payments consisted of $2,000 payments to incumbent delegates and senators, and $1,000 to candidates (he said this number is occasionally bumped up to $2,000 for strong candidates running in opportunity races).

In addition to these payments to candidates, Steele said he’s used the account to pay out about $40,000 to cover various legal expenses. All of this contradicts what I was told from the other (usually credible) source, who stated that much if not all of the account was being used for legal expenses.

Steele downplayed the continuation of the account as being tied to a 2014 bid for governor, expressing a desire to continue supporting legislative candidates. But, the inference is clear: Even as Steele begins his new consulting partnership with Lanny Davis, he’s keeping his toe in the water as far as Maryland politics is concerned.

So, it appears I was given bad information as to Steele’s plans. I have communicated my unhappiness to the person who told me that. And, I hope this blog entry sets the record straight.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Plank for Governor Push: Aris Speaks

So, yesterday I talked to former DBED Secretary Aris Melissaratos about the whole Kevin Plank for governor rumor I reported on a few days ago.

Secretary Melissaratos said he met Kevin Plank when they both participated in a CNN “Town Square” meeting back during the Ehrlich Administration. Melissaratos says he was “so impressed” with Plank’s charisma and leadership skills. Since then, he has gently, perhaps even playfully, urged Plank to leave the business world behind and take the political plunge on a few occasions.

Still, he characterized his musings as “wishful thinking” on his part, and does not believe Plank would actually leave Under Armour behind to embark on a political career. He also does not believe there is any organized Plank push underway, though he admitted the genesis of the idea started with him.

Ultimately, I don’t believe a Plank candidacy will happen, either.

Why would he leave a job he clearly loves, and a company which made him a billionaire, to immerse himself in the internecine warfare of Annapolis politics? I cannot imagine that going from being a powerful CEO to a Republican governor forced to work with a recalcitrant Democratic legislature would be a pleasant transition for a man used to getting his own way.

Still, the rumor is percolating out there, something I now attribute to people deliberately seeding it across the political landscape. Why? Perhaps it is wishful thinking among members of the business community, or mischief-making on the part of activists unhappy with one or more of the GOP candidates frequently mentioned.

Or, perhaps it is simply ego flexing by Plank himself.

Anyway, I’m not sure there is anything further to report on the Plank front. But I will continue to keep my eyes and ears open. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Michael Steele Gets It...Right???

It’s become something of a rite of American politics for Michael Steele to make bad decisions which beget adverse consequences.

As RNC Chairman, Steele installed his crony Belinda Cook in a $15,000 a month make-work job (on top of a $25,000 “signing bonus” for a job most people would kill for without it) on the staff planning the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Complaints about nepotism and high living on the part of Ms. Cook and her aides/relatives played a role in Steele’s ouster after just a single term at the head of the party, despite presiding over historic wins in the 2010 elections.

Then, Steele waded into the contentious National Committeewoman’s race between Nicolee Ambrose and Audrey Scott. He wrote an obsequious letter praising Mrs. Scott and also paid for an ad in the convention program touting her candidacy. As Steele interjected himself into the race, alienating Ambrose’s supporters in the process, other senior politicos – Bob Ehrlich among them – wisely chose to stay out of it.  

Well, we all know how that turned out.

Now, there are news reports that Michael Steele and Bill Clinton’s house apologist, Lanny Davis, have partnered to form a consulting business called “Purple Nation Solutions.” This announcement has drawn a flurry of criticism in the media. Indeed, one observer quipped, ““Launching a consulting firm is something people with great connections and zero skills do all the time.”

I have no idea whether the Steele-Davis venture will succeed. Time will tell. But, it seems that the launch of Purple Nation Solutions has indirectly resulted in at least one positive outcome.

Sources tell me that Michael Steele has communicated to MD GOP officials his intention to close his state elections account and focus on the new business.

In other words, he’s out of Maryland politics – for now, at least.

Before these developments, Steele’s name had been touted as a possible candidate for governor in 2014. As I blogged previously, this would have been a mistake if not an outright disaster for Maryland Republicans. While Steele’s name recognition might have given him an edge in the primary, his baggage would have made him especially easy pickings for state Democrats, who could be expected to attack his skills as a manager in light of his rocky RNC tenure.

It’s time for the MD GOP to stop recycling figures from the past like Steele – a two-time loser in statewide elections – and to focus on developing the new generation of leaders.

Michael Steele is a decent guy. I wish him the best. But right now he’s where he needs to be: Far removed from Maryland’s political landscape. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Maryland 2014: Will Kevin Walk the Gubernatorial Plank?

Rumors...I hear rumors...

Indeed, one of the hazards of bloggings is that, very often, you catch people trying to feed you half-baked rumors in the hopes that you will write about them.

Occasionally, these rumors are nasty and spiteful, as was the case with some of the chatter surrounding both recent primaries in the 6th Congressional District.

Other times, the rumors aren’t nasty or salacious, but brush up against the edges of credibility.

In any event, rumor leakers often approach bloggers first in order to punt something into the public domain in the hopes that someone in the so-called mainstream press will pick up the ball and run with it.

I try to proceed with caution in this area. Generally, if I hear the same rumor from two disparate sources, I will report what I heard as a rumor making the rounds of the gossip mill. 

It is in that vein that I report the following…

Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour – a local business success stories and one of the few remaining marquee companies to be headquartered in Baltimore – is said to be considering a run for the GOP nomination for governor of Maryland.

According to my source, he is being actively courted by business community stalwarts who are not necessarily tied in to state GOP politics. Further, I was told that “polling” has been done in support of a possible Plank candidacy (although, this far out from 2014, I’m not sure what polling could accomplish, other than to demonstrate that most people familiar with Under Armour don’t know the name of its CEO).

When I first heard this item from someone with ties to MD GOP circles, I dismissed it. But later I heard it from someone not tied into GOP politics at all, validating for me the fact that, minimally, there are efforts underway to plant it across the political landscape. 

Based on what I have heard from sources, different scenarios may explain the recent Plank talk.

First, there is the Cincinnatus scenario. 

Kevin Plank is a bona fide local success story. And like many successful businessmen, he is said to believe that his experience in the business community makes him uniquely qualified to a step up, handle the mess in Annapolis, and return to his company when the job is done.

What’s more, his mother, Jayne Plank, was active in national GOP politics for a long time, so he is not entirely disconnected with the political world. And, of course, he has an ability to self-finance. 

Second, there is the organic groundswell of support scenario. 

There has always been a divide between Maryland’s business community, predominately Republican or GOP-leaning in terms of ideology, and the GOP political establishment. Bob Ehrlich temporarily bridged that gap, but for the most part, business leaders like to deal with reality. And, the reality in Maryland is that Democrats dominate everything.

Therefore, for some members of the state’s business community, the argument goes, supporting a businessman who can self-finance, and who is known more for his ties to a product identified closely with a popular sports franchise than his party label might be the best chance to effect change in Maryland.

The success of wealthy financier John Delaney, who beat the establishment-sanctioned Senator Rob Garagiola for the Democratic congressional nomination in the 6th District, may be fueling the Plank push.

But, virtually all of the state's senior political leaders come from the political class, so I am not sure I believe a local version of Rick Snyder (the businessman turned Governor of Michigan) is in the cards here.

Then, there is the Aris scenario.

In other words, there are indications that the Plank push may be originating from a coterie of former  DBED aides led by former Secretary Aris Melissaratos.

Now a senior adviser to the president of Johns Hopkins University, the former secretary has kept his hand in the political mix. Melissaratos is a Democrat, and his party's 2014 gubernatorial field is already pretty crowded by candidates and influencers. If Melissaratos is looking to play a kingmaker's role in the next gubernatorial election, his only credible chance would be through the candidacy of someone like Plank, with whom he has historically had a strong relationship.

Of these three scenarios, I give the last the most credibility. Anyway, I have reached out to Secretary Melissaratos and asked him to elaborate on this matter. When we have a chance to speak, I will do a follow-up blog post.

Meanwhile, Plank is said to be waiting for the results of the November elections before deciding on the feasibility of a run, which would require the sign-off of Under Armour’s board, but may test the political waters by attending the GOP convention in Tampa in 2012.  

Still, I have a hard time believing that it will actually happen. 

Regardless, if it does, just remember you heard it here first, folks. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WTF, Waterfront Hotel?!

So, I have some sad news to report: “The Waterfront Caucus” is no more. Well, not by that name, anyway.

By way of background, a bunch of us have convened at the Waterfront Hotel in Fells Point (known as the “WTF” to some) on Monday nights in recent years – initially to hear our favorite local singer, and later to talk politics.    

While the singer left the WTF in January 2011, some of us decided to keep these gatherings going.  We felt that the local political scene would benefit from an organization in which people with significant substantive experience working in politics and government could choose to participate. Moreover, we wanted the group to consist of people still active on the local political stage, and to not necessarily be limited to Republicans. 

Another political roundtable in which I sometimes participate consists mainly of people whose activism dates to the 1980s and 1990s. So, when we discussed forming the “WTF Caucus” last summer – ironically, while dining outdoors at the Waterfront Hotel – I pushed for it to be less formalized and much edgier than these staid gathering, and more a MacLaughlin Group meets Playboy After Dark experience. (No, not THAT kind of experience, BTW. Click the link to get the historical context and, hopefully, the point I’m trying to make).

Among the people who have attended past gatherings:  Joe “The Prince of Darkness” Steffen, National Committeewoman-Elect Nicolee Ambrose, former Delegate Don Murphy, former Baltimore County Chairman Chris Cavey, Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, Senator J. B. Jennings, veteran party activist and Sauerbrey/Harris campaign aide Chevy Weiss, Andy Harris staffer Craig "Leatherface" Chesek, Patch reporter Bryan Sears, rising stars Timb Mantegna and Jessica Fugate, and, of course, your humble narrator: Richard “The Destroyer” Cross.

When we formally launched the WTF Caucus, we relocated to Ropewalk in Federal Hill, but decided to keep the name “Waterfront” as a nod to our origins. We even scheduled some of our meetings at the original venue to maintain ties to our roots.

After last night’s experience, we won’t be doing that anymore.

Yesterday evening, we convened at the Waterfront for our monthly gathering at around 8:30. As the musical act started around 10 PM and additional members of our group arrived, we moved our conversation outside so we could, well, hear our conversation.

All of a sudden, for the first time ever, we were told by a member of the door staff we could not carry our drinks outside. One of the servers subsequently explained that the rules allowed for restaurant staff to carry them for us, but that we could not do it ourselves. Anyway, we complied and the mini-crisis abated.

Then, it quickly returned.

We ordered a salad for one of our guests, who went into the restaurant to order a soft drink. When she tried bringing it to the outside table, she was blocked by the same security staffer. She then approached the bar staff and explained her dilemma – food outside, drink inside – and was told it would be OK if the bouncer carried it outside for her.

Well, clearly no one had told him that, because he refused to do it anyway.

We never ran afoul of this arbitrary rule at the Waterfront before. This time, the friend in question had to power-eat her salad inside so we could go to another establishment – nearby John Stevens Pub which, conveniently, had both outdoor dining and service – and continue our conversation.

If I sound like I’m venting...well, maybe I am.

Over the years my friends and I have directed a lot of business to the Waterfront. Never before have we experienced such oblivious treatment, or witnessed such dysfunctional behavior.

In all fairness, the bouncer in question apologized to my friend when he saw her on the street later, explaining that he was just following WTF rules.   

I can forgive an employee who follows his employer’s rules – questionable and arbitrary those rules may be.  As for not looking out for the reasonable requests of loyal customers – two of whom were elected officials, including a candidate for governor – that’s a bitter pill to swallow.  Ultimately I blame the management for being out of touch and inflexible, not necessarily employees for doing what they thought is doing their job. Of course, in the service industry, serving customers successfully is the only job that matters.

So, the Waterfront Caucus is now the Ropewalk Caucus, and we’re moving these gatherings back to the establishment of that name.  The show will go on…but in a different venue.

Anyway, I hope some of you will join us for our future, non-WTF gatherings. We’re edgy. We’re fun. We're controversial. Maybe we’re even a little fractious at times. But we’re never boring. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

"Romney's Game Changer"

Here is my latest column for the Frederick News Post. My topic this month: Charting out Mitt Romney's potential course to victory in November.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Red White and Blue: Dissecting a Dinner

Last night was the Maryland Republican Party’s annual “Red White and Blue Dinner," which I attended as the guest of Baltimore County Councilman David Marks. 

I stopped going to those things a number of years ago, but attended my first one in about a decade last year at the request of incoming National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose. You see, I’m not much of a schmoozer or a glad-hander, but I digress.

Anyway, last year’s dinner – held at the BWI Marriott, the same place as this year’s dinner – was something of a bust. Despite having a nationally known speaker, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the room was about half empty, and I heard that the party only netted a small amount.

What a difference a year makes.

Last night, the room was filled to capacity, as about 500 people showed up to hear Karl Rove – famously (or perhaps infamously) known as “The Architect” or “Bush’s Brain” – give his thoughts on the GOP’s prospects here in Maryland and nationally. The party claims to have netted $100,000 through the event.

Here are some of the highlights of the evening from my perspective.

The event got off to a rocky start thanks to former Baltimore County GOP Chairman Tony Campbell, who was called upon to give the benediction, and promptly embarrassed himself. He began by reminding guests of “the pain” he was experiencing in his life a year ago, and crediting his recovery to his “faith in God.” Clearly he was referring to his ouster as Baltimore County Chairman after a short and controversial tenure. After delivering his uncomfortable catharsis, Campbell launched into his prayer, and then a rambling discussion of his work as chairman of “Marylanders for Coherent and Fair Representation,” the group working to get the state’s congressional redistricting plan back on the ballot.

One can argue that Campbell’s work with that group has helped rehabilitate his image. But, one can also argue that, by invoking the chairmanship controversy so publicly and portraying himself as a Job-like figure in the process, he did himself more harm than good.

Frederick County Commissioner and gubernatorial hopeful Blaine Young read a list of all GOP elected officials in attendance. When he got to the name of Delegate Pat McDonough, the applause was decidedly underwhelming.  

As for Rove, he spoke for about 20 minutes. His remarks were of the “rally the troops” variety, rather than the discussion of 2012 Electoral College math I was hoping for. But, it was still a fine speech. He pointed out that the GOP has recently gained 11,000 new voters in Maryland, while the Democrats have added only 7,000. He offered hope to Maryland Republicans by reminding them how Texas, once hopelessly Democratic, is now solidly red. That’s a fair point, I suppose, but Texas was always more Democratic than ideologically progressive before it flipped, whereas Maryland is both.

The most interesting point of the speech was when Karl Rove recognized young activist Jessica Fugate from the dais. Fugate, once an active Goucher College Republican, arranged for Rove to speak at the school. Rove remembered her and cited her as an example of one of the party’s budding leaders. I hope the efforts of someone like Fugate, along with Nicolee Ambrose and Hillary Foster Pennington, are indicative of a trend of younger GOP activist women stepping into leadership roles in the party.

All in all, I thought it was a fine event. My only two pet peeves: 1) At $200 a ticket, the fact that it operated on a cash bar basis seems disappointing, although I’m sure it was economically necessary; 2) the book signing component of the evening was a bit chaotic, and would have benefitted by establishing a designated signing table/area.

As for the heightened attendance at this year’s versus last year’s event, certainly interest in Rove was a big factor. But, I think you can argue that dissatisfaction with Governor O’Malley and the Democrats’ activities in Annapolis, and an influx of new energy and leaders into the party, were contributing factors as well.

Consider these facts (which were included on a handout distributed by the MD GOP at the dinner):

  • Republicans control 15 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions.
  • There are 158 locally elected Republicans compared to 157 Democrats.
  • 17 of Maryland’s jurisdictions consistently vote Republican in statewide elections.
  • Every GOP presidential and gubernatorial nominee has carried a majority of the state’s counties.
  • The GOP is now the majority party in 11 of the state’s 24’s jurisdictions. Four of these counties flipped in just the past two years.
Are Democrats in danger of losing their majority status in Maryland anytime soon? No. But the MD GOP continues to demonstrate growing local and regional strength. Anytime you see a sign of life in the state’s beleaguered minority party, it is a good thing.

And, last night, I left the dinner with the clear sense that the MD GOP definitely has a growing pulse. 

Friday, June 8, 2012


And now, for something completely different …

When I was growing up, my parents subscribed to Time Magazine, and my favorite part was the “Milestones” sections in which newsmaker comings and goings were summarized. Being a people watcher and pop culture junkie, I suppose it was natural that I gravitated to that part of the magazine even before I dove into the articles themselves.

Over the past few weeks, I have gotten similar nuggets of news about several of my former coworkers spanning different aspects of my career. This influx of information compelled me to do my own “Milestones” blog in order to process all of it.

First, I got word that one of my coworkers from Congresswoman Helen Bentley’s office, Sandy Dawson, passed away in May. Sandy was the congresswoman’s office manager when I was an intern and later a full-time junior staffer after graduating college. She also worked on immigration issues for constituents.  For a time, I worked more closely with her than anyone else in that office, though our work closeness never materialized into a lasting friendship, as it has with other people I have worked for or with. I don’t know I’d ever consider her a mentor, but she was a good early supervisor to have.

Indeed, most of the people I worked with in Bentley’s Towson and Washington offices have since passed away, though HDB herself is still going strong at 88. I can personally attest to her formidability, so I suspect she’ll be around for a while.

I also checked in with June Smith, a fellow Ehrlich Administration veteran and widow to the late, great Talk Show Man Ron Smith, who passed away last December. 

Grief has not slowed Mrs. Reason down one bit. She continues to raise money for the pancreatic cancer research fund ($155,000 raised to date, including a $50,000 donation by Hearst Broadcasting), started the “Friends of Ron Smith” Internet site, writes a column for Red Maryland, and is “learning to like the Orioles again.” She is also preparing to accept the Emmy award bestowed posthumously to Ron, who was also honored with a “Best Talk Show, Baltimore Metro Region” award from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association.  
Of Ron, June says proudly, “He’s still the talk of the town.” Indeed, he is, and still more relevant than other lingering voices clamoring for attention. Anyway, to learn more about June’s activities, visit the “events” section of the “Friends of Ron Smith” site.

Someone recently forwarded to me this article regarding a new assignment for Lisa Raimundo Riggs, my former colleague at Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. It seems that Riggs, who served as president of a business improvement district in bustling Lancaster, Pennsylvania for the past nine years, is now running a minor league baseball team.

Riggs was Downtown Partnership’s resident economic development guru for much of the time I worked there. A fellow Hopkins Blue Jay, she was intelligent, hard-working, and played a major personal role in helping Downtown Baltimore City tackle its chronic parking shortage. Stylistically, we had our differences as managers. Whereas I tend to be more creative and laissez faire, she was more of an interjector when it came to others' areas of responsibility. Through her passion for chairing meetings, she contrasted with my own desire to be left alone. This resulted in some interesting dynamics at times.

Still, I wish her the best as she assumes responsibility for management of the Lancaster Barnstormers. Lancaster’s mayor says of Riggs, “She's the perfect cleanup hitter. If people are on base, she is the person that can get them home." 

Indeed, it’s fair to say she has a unique knack for getting people to sprint off the field.

Well, that’s all I have. If you’re reading this and I’ve worked with you but not spoken with you in a while, shoot me an email to let me know what you’re up to. I’m always looking to reconnect, especially if I liked you.

And, if anyone bumps into that other colleague of mine from HDB world – the one I stopped communicating with after she committed to seeing U2 with me last summer but cancelled at the last moment, weeks of contrary assurances notwithstanding – please tell her she missed a great show. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

The 2014 Governor's Race: David Craig's PR Push

Pivoting from the Democratic side of the 2014 governor’s race, it’s time to focus on Harford County Executive and GOP gubernatorial hopeful David Craig.

As I blogged previously, I attended a bloggers session with the easygoing Craig, who asserted that he was running for “something” in 2014 but played coy about his eventual ambitions. 

Since then, that question has largely been answered: He’s running for governor in 2014.

Previously, Craig’s pre-campaign was a fairly low-key affair, consisting of the aforementioned bloggers’ event, quiet stops at various political and campaign events, and a push to train and recruit GOP candidates across the state.

But over the last 10 days, it seems that Craig’s nascent PR operation has made a deliberate attempt to ramp up operations after months of relative silence.

Earlier today, I listened to WBAL Radio as Craig called upon the governor to allow each county, rather than just Prince George’s County, to determine its own fate with respect to gambling.

Then, over the weekend, Craig put out this statement criticizing the governor as he visited Maine to participate in Democratic Party events:

Governor O'Malley Visits Maine
County Executive Craig Clears Through
the Smoke and Mirrors of the O'Malley Administration

(Bel Air, MD) - - As Mainers meet Governor O'Malley, they will undoubtedly be impressed by his charm, his wit, and his seemingly impassioned speeches about helping the middle class. Marylanders have fallen victim to that trap too. But voter beware, because as our experience in Maryland has shown there is little substance behind that campaign persona.

Despite criticizing his predecessor for not looking out for the middle class, Governor O'Malley has become a champion of extremist liberal policies that have crippled the progress of Maryland's working families. I dare say that for the past six years of the O'Malley administration,Maryland's middle class has been under attack.

It is clear that Governor O'Malley is out of touch with reality when he tries to claim that his tax policies only impact the wealthy.

Like coastal MaineMaryland's Chesapeake Bay is home to many watermen, who make their living by waking up early and working hard all day. These aren't the so-called wealthy that Martin O'Malley claims he is targeting. They are honest, salt of the earth people struggling to get by and make an honest living. Yet Governor O'Malley proposed tripling the registration fee they pay on their workboat.

No one has been impacted more by high gas prices than middle class Americans in rural and suburban communities, who have to commute every day to make a living. And, while the amount that a worker clears in his weekly check continues to decline, Martin O'Malley proposed increasing the cost of getting to work by adding a 6% sales tax on gas on top of the normal gas tax that is currently levied.

In 2008, he increased our sales tax by 20%. Increasing the sales tax is regressive; its impact is felt hardest by the middle class and low-income earners. Any parent who is responsible for the household shopping knows how that their job gets harder when prices go up, but O'Malley didn't care.

 He proposed adding a tax on adult care when more and more families are struggling to take care of their aging parents.

The trend is clear. Time after time, the O'Malley administration has resorted to solving its financial problems by making them the problems of our working families. And the impact of these actions are hurting Maryland. People are leaving Maryland to get away from its unbearable tax burdens. And it's not just millionaires that are leaving, middle class families are opting to move just across the state line to Virginia or Pennsylvania to save money.

According to a recent column in the Wall Street Journal, "a family of four earning $250,000 a year can save $6,000 a year by relocating across the Potomac River to Virginia." In my County, families often choose to move north the Pennsylvania, where homes are more affordable due to a lower property tax.

Maryland's tax burden is so unbearable that leaving Maryland is considered a smart move to preserve income in retirement. It is a sad state of affairs when a retirement coordinator, from the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System (a state government agency), starts his retirement planning seminar by advising you to leave the state when you retire to save on taxes.

But it is prudent advice that many people are forced to heed.

Martin O'Malley paints himself as a progressive champion of the middle class; reality is that he will stop at nothing to fund the pet projects of his liberal special interest friends. Just ask a Maryland waterman, a commuter at a gas pump, a mom shopping for children, or a retiree looking to move away from the place they've called home, who Martin O'Malley's tax policies have been hurting. The answer will be clear: the middle class.

As a political writer, I have very definite opinions as to the effectiveness of this statement. But I’m more intrigued about two other aspects of it.

First, according to the Baltimore Sun’s coverage of the release, it came out of the Craig campaign “Saturday afternoon.” The version I quoted above was emailed to Craig supporters on Sunday – kind of a repurposed version of the original presser, I’m guessing.

But, the details of the governor’s campaign trip – which eventually included four states, including Maine – were reported as early as May 21st by the Washington Post.

Everyone who has ever worked on a campaign knows you don’t put out a press release on a Saturday afternoon. Therefore, I wonder why the Craig team waited so long before they decided to seize the opportunity presented by O’Malley’s political travels.

To me, this has afterthought followed by last minute scramble written all over it.

Second, I’m wondering why the release played up where O’Malley was headed as opposed to where he was coming from: A quaint little place called New Hampshire.

Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It has great skiing, a picturesque fall season, and hosts a little event called the New Hampshire Presidential Primary every four years.

I see a missed opportunity here.

The message here should have been that Governor O’Malley rammed higher taxes through the legislature and went on the road to campaign, including a visit to the state presumably hosting the first presidential primary in 2016

Using newspaper parlance, they didn’t bury the lead…they forgot it altogether.

This nuance apparently was not lost on Annie Linskey, the Sun reporter who blogged about the release, who wrote:

Craig's statement went out Saturday afternoon, as O'Malley wrapped up schmoozing with the New Hampshire Democratic party at their Manchester convention. The governor was set to head up to Maine this afternoon to keynote their fundraiser.
Am I making too big a deal about this? Perhaps. But Republicans get so few opportunities to score political points in Maryland that I hate to see them squandered.

Anyway, Craig’s is a young campaign, both organizationally and staff-wise. For example, Josh Wolf, the campaign’s Political Director, is in his early 20s. I remember how not ready for prime time I was when I was that young.

So, while some mistakes are inevitable, Republicans in Maryland do not have the luxury of making too many of them. Moving forward, I’m interested to see what Team Craig does next.

At least I learned one thing from the release: People in Maine are called Mainers. I’d have gone with Mainees myself, but I digress.