Maryland Political Picture for 2014 Already Beginning to Sort Out

Posted on December 11, 2012

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The 2012 Presidential Election is over and the “fiscal cliff” looms, but the chatter on Maryland political blogs has turned to the 2014 midterm gubernatorial elections.

I received an email from Peter Franchot today, announcing that he’s decided to forgo a campaign for governor and run instead for re-election as comptroller. Many politicians play it coy and keep other potential candidates twisting in the wind with indecision. But Peter Franchot has never been your typical politician. My hat’s off to Mr. Franchot for making his decision known early.

Mr. Franchot’s decision narrows the field of potential Democratic candidates for governor  to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Douglas Gansler. A few others are reported hankering for the governor’s mansion, but I don’t know who else would be qualified to compete in the same league with the lieutenant governor and the attorney general, other than Franchot. Gov. Martin O’Malley is completing his second term in office and cannot run for a third term. Speculation about his political future is a growth industry for journalists and bloggers.

On the Republican side in Maryland, I can’t think of any obvious potential candidates for governor, except Michael Steele. Right now, I’m inclined to think Mr. Steele, who’s already lost a statewide election for U.S. Senate, would be better off to stick with his job as a Republican voice on cable TV.

In addition to clarifying the outlook for the governor’s race, Comptroller Franchot’s intention to run for re-election simplifies the decision-making for a number of other ambitious Democrats who’ve been eying the comptroller’s office. It’s possible that a competitive candidate may emerge to challenge Franchot in the Democratic primary, but I think it’s unlikely. Franchot is well-known and respected, and may run without serious opposition in either the 2014 primary or the General Election.

Other potential candidates will now turn their attention to the attorney general’s office or to State Senate contests. This will be the first Maryland election since legislative districts were redrawn following the 2010 Census, and a number of senators are past retirement age. Let the jostling for political musical chairs begin.

I expect to see open State Senate seats due to retirements, and more than a few incumbent senators will face primary challenges. It’s entirely possible that one two state senators may leave the Senate to run for attorney general or county executive.

With some delegates trying to move up to the Senate, and with the new district boundaries, we can expect long lists of candidates lining up to run in the primary elections for House of Delegates, especially on the Democratic side. The first election after redistricting often presents a once-in-a-decade opportunity for aspiring pols.

County executives, county councils and county commissioners will also be up for election throughout Maryland in 2014. The race for county executive in Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest jurisdiction, is already generating interest from numerous candidates and fueling chatter on the blogosphere.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski was re-elected to a six-year term in 2010 and Sen. Ben Cardin was re-elected this year (2012), so there is no U.S. Senate election scheduled in Maryland until 2016.

– John Hayden

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