Josh Kurtz: Alternate Reality

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By: Josh Kurtz 

The primary is just a week away and early voting ends in two days.

So it seems like a good time to recap some of the most significant political events of the past several weeks and speculate how they’ll impact the election outcome.

In the hard-fought Democratic primary for governor, Anthony Brown blew away his competitors at the Maryland Association of Counties summer convention. To remind voters one last time that he’s a military veteran, Brown parachuted onto the beach at Ocean City in full paratrooper regalia, stormed Thrasher’s, and delivered fries to amazed children on the boardwalk, emphasizing once again what a great father he is.

Most MACo attendees agreed it was the highlight of the long weekend – with the possible exception of the standard bacchanalia at Seacrets. To counter Brown’s stunt, Jolene Ivey cut another ad reminding voters that her dad was a Buffalo Soldier and that she and Doug Gansler are great parents, too, but most analysts considered it too little, too late.

Even with Brown’s performance, polls continue to show him running just about even with John Delaney, who shook up the race when he entered on June 17, about three weeks before the filing deadline. Delaney and his running mate Heather Mizeur have brought a potent combination of Mizeur’s grass-roots energy and Delaney’s real-world business savvy to the contest, and supporters are responding with a healthy dose of anti-establishment fervor.

Delaney’s ads have wowed political professionals, and The Washington Post endorsed him seven different times, despite Mizeur’s stated fondness for picket lines. Bill Clinton remained on the sidelines in the primary, as he has reason to be loyal to both Delaney and Brown.

The Republican primary for governor was temporarily jolted when the Maryland State Board of Elections, after investigating for about three months, determined just before Labor Day that the group Change Maryland was in fact a front for Larry Hogan’s gubernatorial ambitions all along, operating in violation of election law. But the board, to the surprise of no one, also said that it was powerless to do anything about it. Still, the GOP race saw a surprising leader emerge when Ron George started hocking all his jewelry to fund TV ads, and voters concluded they’d kinda like to have a governor who looks like Edward G. Robinson.

In an ancillary development, Bob Ehrlich took advantage of the September primary to pitch his book at 387 Republican fundraisers over the summer. He even trekked to Charleston, W.Va., to sign books at a people-raiser for Alex Mooney – though Ehrlich took umbrage when he discovered that West Virginians were too broke to buy his tome, let along contribute to a congressional candidate’s campaign. Mooney has prepared for that eventuality by raising 100 percent of his funds from out of state.

In the attorney general’s race, Ben Cardin stunned the political world by rescinding his endorsement of his sputtering nephew and backing Aisha Braveboy – a development generally acknowledged as another sign that Cardin doesn’t really understand Prince George’s County and needs to shore up his support there. Polls showed Brian Frosh gaining on Jon Cardin all summer – but Ben Cardin still winning.

In the Anne Arundel County executive’s race, word leaked that Democratic leaders told Laura Neuman that they would figure out a way to give George Johnson another nice sinecure and make her their nominee if she wound up losing the GOP primary to Steve Schuh – simultaneously confirming suspicions of some Republicans that Neuman ought to be subject to a loyalty oath and reminding the broader political world how easily the GOP could wind up rejecting its only potential statewide political star. The Democrats’ plans were complicated somewhat when Joanna Conti said she sensed a groundswell of support and had decided to run again.

In Prince George’s County, Joe Vallario’s main challengers, Ron Watson and Thea Wilson, found that they had sufficient time to introduce themselves to the voters, imperiling the old codger’s career. Additionally, Clerk of Courts Marilynn Bland’s political career appeared to be in jeopardy when she fired every one of her employees and spent the entire summer greeting prospective jurors – and doing nothing else.

In Baltimore City, Marilyn Mosby’s campaign for state’s attorney began to gain some traction when voters started to realize that she was black. And while nobody could really tell who was winning the 45th District Senate race, Julius Henson was contacted by Ringling Brothers and offered a job as a circus ringmaster in the event that his bid to topple Nathaniel McFadden didn’t work out.

In Montgomery County, the summer saw 12 more announcements that the opening of the Silver Spring Transit Center would be delayed. Ike Leggett countered by running bio spots featuring each of his dozen siblings. And in the race to replace Jennie Forehand, Luiz Simmons was cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the spectacular volume of toxic attack mailers he sent out against his opponent, Cheryl Kagan. Simmons shrugged it off and refused to pay the fines, explaining, “I don’t have a Silk Stocking law practice.” Finally, the acrimonious race in the 1st County Council district evaporated when President Obama, enduring the failure of two prior nominees, tapped Roger Berliner to be chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

And in 2016 news, Martin O’Malley continued his summer busking tour, taking his banjo and flip-flops to Marion Square in Charleston, S.C., stopping by nighttime campfires at Big Hollow Recreation Area outside Des Moines, and stationing himself in front of the Blue Mermaid Island Grill in Portsmouth, N.H, on busy Saturdays. “I’ll show Hillary Clinton what it means to be broke – respectfully, of course,” the troubadour crooned.

Oh, wait a minute.

Bobby Ewing just stepped out of the shower.

YOU MEAN THIS HAS ALL BEEN A DREAM? It isn’t the usual September primary, and none of these pivotal pre-election summer developments took place?

Oh man, that’s depressing. Who knows how many of these delicious scenarios might have materialized if the primary were scheduled for three months later, as it customarily has been?

Ah well, it was fun to think about. Now it’s time to vote – I gotta cut out the jalapenos before bed time.

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

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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.