As expected, two topics dominated the hallway conversations: Alex Mooney’s resignation as chairman, and the emerging free-for-all to replace disgraced Anne Arundel County Executive John “Ol’ Pissbags” Leopold.
I will have something to say about the former when it becomes clearer who Mooney’s possible replacements are. In the meantime, I’ll address the latter.
The Anne Arundel County Council is accepting applications from citizens interested in filling Leopold’s old job until February 15th. On the 21st, the Council will interview candidates, and then engage in a round robin selection process which could take multiple ballots, and rival the rite of succession for pope in terms of complexity and drama.
The successful candidate must be 25 years old, a county resident for at least four years, and of the same party as the person he/she will be succeeding (a Republican in this instance).
At the MDGOP event Saturday evening, Dan Bongino seemed to me a nominal preference among the people I talked to. However, most handicappers think that the universe of likely candidates will be limited to current elected officials, such as council members (Jerry Walker and John Grasso) or the state legislators (Delegates Steve Schuh and Cathy Vitale and Senator Ed Reilly) who had previously expressed interest in running or been mentioned as possible candidates in 2014.
Of course, divisions on the council stemming from rival ambitions may result in appointment of a compromise caretaker figure, one who will agree to serve only two years.
Kendel Ehrlich is chomping (sic) at the bit to be that caretaker. This past weekend, she told the Baltimore Sun that she is "uniquely qualified for a unique situation." Further, The Sun reports that Mrs. Ehrlich is whipping the Anne Arundel County Council’s GOP four members in a bid to secure votes (something which Councilman Jerry Walker also indicated she was doing during his appearance on Hillary Foster Pennington’s Purple Elephant Politics Internet radio broadcast last Thursday).
As I blogged last week, Kendel Ehrlich does have a few political assets as a candidate. However, her characterization as being “uniquely qualified” for the position is curious for two reasons.
First, she has little management experience, having overseen an office consisting of only three and a half positions occupied by six people at different times during her four year tenure as Maryland’s first lady.
Second, like John Leopold, Mrs. Ehrlich’s own use of government employees for personal benefit has been questioned in the past.
In December 2006, a month after Governor Bob Ehrlich’s defeat by Martin O’Malley, The Sun’s Laura Vozzella reported that Mrs. Ehrlich’s office had acknowledged that members of her State House staff babysat the Ehrlichs’ children during working hours. But with Christmas approaching, the election over, and the Ehrlich Administration winding down, no one paid the disclosure much attention.
My office adjoined the space occupied by Mrs. Ehrlich’s staff, so I got to know them, and their comings and goings, very well. I remember at least two of them telling me on numerous occasions that they were “running across the street” (to Government House, the governor’s residence) to babysit. Mrs. Ehrlich went through babysitters with the same frequency that Murphy Brown tore through receptionists, so the frequency of these trips usually depended upon whether there was a full-time babysitter on duty at the mansion.
As political transgressions go, I suppose there are worse things than asking your staff to pinch hit in a babysitting crunch. Still, it complicates Mrs. Ehrlich’s attempts to portray herself as a change agent in the aftermath of Leopold’s serial misdeeds and tawdry antics.
In other words, does replacing Mr. Change My Catheter with Mrs. Babysit My Kids constitute the kind of change most county residents want in the wake of the Leopold scandal?
Perhaps it does. But if she enters the process, it will be her responsibility to articulate how she’s different, and why she is the best person to lead Anne Arundel County.
When asked what she missed most about being first lady, Kendel Ehrlich didn’t couch her answer in terms of the opportunity to serve others. Instead, she said, “OK, I miss the chefs.”
Hopefully, this nascent bid for office is about serving people and not the latest uncomfortable chapter of a desperate, interminable comeback story.