Josh Kurtz: Coda

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By: Josh Kurtz 

I first stopped being completely depressed about the state of Maryland’s gubernatorial election a couple of months ago, when my dad asked me about it. He lives in New Jersey – and we all know who the governor is there.

Subsequent conversations with friends who live in Florida and New Mexico also helped. I even started to feel a little better talking to people I know in places with Democratic governors, like Illinois and my native state of New York. One of those governors is incompetent, the other seems determined to thwart a progressive agenda on a near-daily basis, despite a name associated with one of the archangels of modern liberalism.

During this campaign, I have been highly critical of all three Democratic candidates for governor at one point or another. Perhaps my tone has been unduly harsh or flip sometimes, but I don’t regret it. Taken collectively, I have never seen such a group of egomaniacs with so few accomplishments to back up their swagger and raging ambition.

But maybe it’s just my perspective. I first met Doug Gansler and Heather Mizeur before they even sought or held office. I covered Anthony Brown as soon as he entered the House of Delegates in 1999. Brown and Gansler were in their 30’s. Mizeur was in her 20’s.

Maryland politics back then was dominated by larger-than-life figures like William Donald Schaefer and Louie Goldstein, and wily legislators like Pete Rawlings and Barbara Hoffman. Parris Glendening wasn’t beloved or a charismatic figure, but he had spent decades toiling in the vineyards of local politics. By the time he got to Annapolis, he had a coherent governing vision and he quickly learned what levers of power to pull to achieve it.

Brown, Mizeur and Gansler seem like pretenders by comparison.

Gansler was a very good state’s attorney, and he’s been a pretty good attorney general. He certainly exhibited the right priorities as AG, but in Maryland it’s a position with notable limitations.  And it’s not easy to argue that a person’s performance as a prosecutor or as the head of the state government’s legal operations translates into an ability to be a good governor.

Mizeur has energy and passion and an appealing, gutsy progressive vision, and has thought to a surprising degree about how she’d govern. But she has no true allies in Annapolis and is hardly anyone’s idea of a legislative powerhouse.

And Brown? Well, I defy anyone to show me that they can detect, in a lieutenant governor, any kind of leadership abilities or vision. Brown is smart, and he has, as LG, carried out tasks – some more ably than others. But in this campaign he has been selling a resume, buttressed by military service that hasn’t really been explained and wouldn’t necessarily illuminate his potential to govern even if it was.  The fact is, we’d know more about him if he had stayed in the legislature for the past eight years.

No wonder I’m depressed about the choices. No wonder so many Democratic voters seem to be.

And yet, I go back to that conversation I had with my dad. When we talked, I glossed over the personality flaws and campaign gaffes I’ve spent so much time chronicling. Instead, I mentioned how each of these candidates is sketching out an expansively liberal agenda.

They may differ on the margins on certain issues. But no one’s pulling any punches. No one is pretending to be something that they aren’t. No one can suggest for a minute that Brown or Gansler or Mizeur is going to do anything but govern as a progressive. That’s unique in this country, at a time when the national political discourse is largely being driven by the tea party.

And you know what else? If by some miracle a Republican is elected in November, that wouldn’t be an apocalyptic development, either.

David Craig is one of the nicest guys in Maryland politics today. He has spent his 30 years in politics working with Democrats and has friends in every corner of the state.

Larry Hogan can seem like a blow-hard and a partisan hack sometimes. But he’s been a keen observer of the Maryland political scene for decades. He understands the state better than the last two Republican nominees for governor ever seemed to. Both Hogan and Craig possess a healthy dose of pragmatism.

And if, for some reason, the Democrats lost in November, it might lead to some necessary soul-searching and house cleaning for a party that has been dominated by a seldom-changing establishment for way too long.

So as I head to my polling place this morning, I may despair a little over the choices we voters face. But I think we’re gonna be OK.

NOTE TO READERS: I’ll be part of News Channel 8’s primary coverage tonight, providing analysis beginning at 8 p.m. If you have interesting insights or gossip to share while returns are coming in, please shoot me an email or a text message at 202-419-9119. Good luck to all candidates!

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.