Josh Kurtz: The Undercard

Posted by on in Blog
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Hits: 5865
  • Subscribe to this entry
  • Print
  • Report this post
It’s fun to speculate about the 2014 gubernatorial election, three years out.

In fact, I’d argue that the early speculation about who might run and how the election will look is a lot more fun than the campaign itself. Campaigns in this day and age are predictable and ugly, dominated by toxic political ads and whatever trivia we in the media become fixated on.

But fun as this preliminary period is, it’s also limiting.

Four Democrats are lining up to run for governor at this early stage – Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, state Comptroller Peter Franchot, state Attorney General Doug Gansler and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. One of them will probably win. Even if you expand the list of potential gubernatorial candidates to its outer limits, one of maybe eight people will be the next governor of Maryland.

But look a little further down the ballot and you see limitless possibilities. Assuming both Franchot and Gansler run for governor, this will be the first time in generations that Maryland will see open-seat elections for both those offices at the same time.

Now that’s exciting. And with Gansler and Franchot looking to move up, a certain order has been restored. Those jobs are supposed to be stepping stones for higher office; they’re certainly viewed that way in most states. But in Maryland, before Franchot and Gansler won statewide races in 2006, they became sinecures for old men. No longer.

As you think about the elections for comptroller and attorney general in 2014, it’s interesting to note that both have become the subject of some trash talking related to the gubernatorial race. Some partisans of one gubernatorial contender or another are constantly whispering that Brown is too limited in his current role, will never make it to the big dance and will opt to run for AG instead; that Franchot is too comfortable in his present job to put in the hard work for a gubernatorial run; and that Ulman will find the field crowded, realize that he’s got time, and look to become someone’s running mate – or at the AG’s race himself.

That, dear friends, is what’s known as wishful thinking. Anyone who knows these guys knows they are – absent personal misfortune or a very different dynamic in the field of contenders – likely to post for the big race.

Brown’s ego is too big to settle for attorney general – and let Gansler sashay into Government House. Franchot – just as he did when he ran for comptroller – has absolutely nothing to lose. He’ll be 67 in 2014 and he’ll never have an opportunity to run for governor again. If he falls short, he’ll still lead a very nice life.

It’s true that Ulman will have time if he takes a pass at the gubernatorial race. He’s just in his 30’s. But why be lieutenant governor or attorney general? He wants to be governor, and Maryland history shows that you have a lot better chance of being elected governor if you’re the executive of one of the state’s large jurisdictions – not comptroller or LG or AG. So he’s about as well situated now as he’ll ever be.

So given all that, what Democrats might run for comptroller and attorney general in 2014?

Each race already seems to have one person who’s out front and aggressively telling people he wants to run. For the AG’s race, that’s state Sen. Jamie Raskin and for comptroller, it’s state Sen. Jim Rosapepe.

Raskin is a brilliant legal mind – a constitutional scholar and law professor who is personally close to Gansler and may benefit from the association. But face it, the guy is extremely liberal – and little disheveled. He may win – he’d certainly make a great, activist attorney general. But that’s no guarantee of success.

Rosapepe is extremely smart and has great credentials, having served as U.S. ambassador to Romania and as a member of the University of Maryland System Board of Regents. But he’s another guy you can’t imagine greeting the crowd at the Dundalk Fourth of July parade.

Also mentioned for attorney general: former Prince George’s County States Attorney Glenn Ivey, now in private practice with legal powerhouse Venable LLP and Baltimore City States Attorney Gregg Bernstein; and state Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, who for better or worse is going to be mentioned for just about every vacancy there is.

Some admirers would like to see Tom Perez, the former Montgomery County councilman and state labor secretary try again. But is he eligible to run? Remember, he was knocked off the ballot for eligibility reasons back in 2006. And is he up for a campaign? As assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, he’s responsible for upholding the Voting Rights Act at a time when it’s under assault in Republican-controlled statehouses across the country, and during the decennial redistricting madness now under way. Chances are, he has as good a chance of becoming U.S. attorney general as Maryland AG.

For comptroller, former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith remains a possibility to run. He took a close look at running last time, when allies of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) were urging him to get in to knock off Franchot, an O’Malley irritant. But he didn’t pull the trigger. By the time 2014 rolls around, he’ll be four years out of office – though still sitting on a very substantial sum of campaign cash. As a former judge, he may take a look at running for attorney general as well.

Also mentioned as possible candidates for comptroller: state House Majority Leader Kumar Barve and state Dels. Brian Feldman, Galen Claggett and Heather Mizeur.

Already it’s a pretty good list of potential candidates – a harbinger of the fun to come. And this is only just the beginning. Who am I missing?

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

Recent Center Maryland columns by Josh Kurtz:

Talking Union Blues

The Peter Principle

Mapmaker, Mapmaker Make Me a Map

Two More Giants Exit the Maryland Scene

Six Degrees of William Donald Schaefer

The Lion in Winter

O’Malley’s (Coast to Coast) March

This Time It's Personal

Seinfeld in Maryland

The First 107 Days

Team of Rivals?

Rob Garagiola’s Political Highway

Blame the Teachers!

The Nine Lives of the ICC

The Incredible Shrinking City

Paying the Fare
Rate this blog entry:

Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.

But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.

The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.

In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.

Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.