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Thursday, August 31, 2006

MD-6: Duck getting momentum

The North County News endorsed Iraq War veteran Andrew Duck for the Democratic primary in the 6th Congressional race. Not that he has much competition; but it's also worth noting that they're also endorsing Roscoe Bartlett's opponent, so at least in some parts of northern Maryland, people are looking for a change to the status quo in Congress.

Also check out Duck's brilliant riposte to Bartlett's lame defense of his vote against the Voting Rights Act.

Tags: MD-06, Andrew Duck, Roscoe Bartlett

Who owns "Smart Growth"?

An interesting battle is taking place in Allegany County:
What's in a name? Plenty, it seems, when it comes to invoking Smart Growth in an increasingly bitter debate over a major housing development proposed in the wooded mountains of Western Maryland.

The Columbia-based development firm seeking to build Terrapin Run, a 4,300-home planned community in eastern Allegany County, has applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to obtain exclusive use of the name "Citizens for Smart Growth in Allegany County."

That happens to be the handle used by a group of residents fighting the project, who have succeeded for the time being in tying the development up in court. They allege the firm's trademark filing represents "dirty tricks" aimed at squelching or at least confusing debate.
One of the cliches to emerge from the "Smart Growth" heyday of the Glendening administration was that while everyone was for it, no one could define what it meant. This is especially true when it comes developing rural land: sprawl will kill the country lifestyle, but then, so will dense developments. Of course, fewer people could move to the country; we might then have fewer traffic problems to worry about.

Tags: Maryland, development, Smart Growth

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

MD-4: WaPo Endorses Edwards

The Washington Post endorsed Donna Edwards over Al Wynn, saying that the latter has fallen out of step with his mostly liberal constituents, and "has often seemed more involved in playing the role of a kingmaker in Prince George's than in his duties in Congress." Considering that half of the Maryland 4th now lies in Montgomery County, with citizens who remember having Connie Morella, perhaps the last liberal Republican, as their representative, this only underscores how much Wynn has failed to be the Congressman his constituents deserve. This being the Post, of course, they can't help but lament that Edwards and, at least now, Wynn both support withdrawing troops from Iraq, "a scenario that we believe would leave chaos in its wake." They said similar things of both Kweisi Mfume and Ben Cardin when they endorsed Cardin last week, marring an otherwise reasonable editorial, though obviously I disagreed with their choice.

Meanwhile, Matt Stoller has an excellent analysis of the Al Wynn/Donna Edwards primary battle, saying it is "tough but winnable" for Edwards. I would add that part of the reason it will be tough is that, paradoxically, Maryland is a deep blue state. So blue, in fact, that the kind of feisty political challenge to incumbents from the left that Edwards is providing is actually rather odd. Indeed, the number of open and contested primaries in Maryland has exposed a number of rifts within the state Democratic Party. The obvious one, of course, is the divide between Baltimore and the D.C. suburbs, but I think a less noticed one (albeit mirrored throughout the country) lies between the party leadership, many of whom have been in office for decades, and the rank and file, who, like me, want a more active and responsive party. Ask Maryland Democrats about, say, Senate President Mike Miller, and you're likely to get a few grumbles about his hand in the state's deregulation of electric utilities that came back to (almost) bite us in the ass this year. This discontent with the status quo also manifests itself in the lack of enthusiasm among liberals for de facto incumbent Ben Cardin, and the corresponding excitement for Kweisi Mfume.

Tags: MD-04, Al Wynn, Donna Edwards, Democrats

Tell your brother and your sister, tell your auntie and your uncle too

If I may engage in a little cheerleading of family efforts: my brother, Paul Smith, has a new product for all you democracy nerds out there, and even ordinary people who want elections to be about more than attack ads and campaign contributions: The Election Day Advent Calendar. Like the one you get at Christmas time, it's series of panels that you open each day leading up to the big day (in this case Election Day), but with this calendar, the panels reveal fascinating tidbits about the history and traditions of democracy in America.

Why should you buy it? As my brother and his colleague, Ben Helphand, note:
Gerrymander [their company] believes that our great nation deserves great civic rituals, as well as rituals to support and celebrate the other rituals, like voting. Voting has had a bit of a cough of late, so we thought it could use a little TLC, in the form of, you guessed it, an appropriated Christmas custom. Democracy has to be something more than punditry. We wanted to create an experience that would build excitement for Election Day, something to celebrate the right to vote while at the same time making something fun for the whole family.
I would say any civic-minded person or organization should buy one of these, from political campaigns (of all parties), to teachers, to parents, and just about anyone who wants to brighten up their workplace or home with a reminder of what makes this country great: its people get to choose what direction it goes in.

And it's only 10 bucks, too; so if you can afford two of those ginormous frappucinos at Starbucks, or two extra value meals at McDonald's, you can afford this calendar. Go buy one!

Tags: Election day, advent calendar, democracy, ritual

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Beaucoup Mess

As everybody knows, this time a year ago today, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, initiating one of the two biggest failures of the U.S. government in a generation -- guess what the other one is. I don't have very much to add to the slew of commentary already on the web, though Christy Hardin Smith's rundown of the situation is pretty good, and Steve Gilliard's photo montage cuts like a dagger through all the Bush administration's official cant about helping the victims and rebuilding New Orleans. He's done anything but.

UPDATE: MDPoliticsNow chastises Ben Cardin for talking about Hurricane Katrina in the context of a fundraising email. Because, as you know, Republicans never use tragedy for political gain. Seriously, though, the tragedy of Katrina was not some mysterious event beyond human understanding; it was a result of political leaders not doing what they were supposed to be doing. Why shouldn't Cardin make the point that, in situations like responding to natural disasters, electing the right people is essential?

Tags: Katrina, reconstruction, Bush

Monday, August 28, 2006

District 21: Shenanigans?

Driving down Route 1 today to the University, I noticed that almost all of the large signs for Jim Rosapepe's slate of candidates either had gaping holes punched through them, or else were knocked down entirely. Nearly all the signs for John Giannetti's slate, on the other hand, were intact. Sign defacement, I grant, is as old a tradition in politics as kissing babies, but this was ridiculous -- and counterproductive: When the defacement is so obvious, it just makes the other side look unsavory.

Tags: Maryland politics, Jim Rosapepe, John Giannetti

Sunday, August 27, 2006

MD-4: Buzz for Donna

Donna Edwards takes aim at Al Wynn at the NAACP debate in Largo (the one where Wynn's supporters beat up the opposition outside):

And today in the Post, Edwards is profiled along with a Democratic candidate in Virginia as part of the anti-incumbent wave already taking hold this year.

Tags: Maryland politics, MD-4, Donna Edwards, Al Wynn, Democrats

Watch Your Language

Having praised Bob Ehrlich, now let us go back to slamming him:
The Ehrlich administration has revised the General Assembly's suggested wording of a high-profile ballot question restricting state land sales in a way legislative leaders and environmentalists say appears designed to confuse and mislead voters.
The ballot question is, of course, in response to the Ehrlich administration's attempt to sell off some 3,000 acres of public land to politically friendly developers, including land in Carroll, Frederick, and St. Mary's Counties. Secretary of State Mary Kane, wife of Maryland Republican Party chair John Kane and the drafter of the new language, claims she's only following precedent and trying to make the ballot more comprehensible to voters. Is that true? Let's have a look. Here's the original language that the General Assembly approved:
The Board of Public Works may not approve the sale, lease, transfer, exchange, grant, or other permanent disposition of any state-owned or state-designated outdoor recreation, open space, conservation, preservation, forest or park land without the express approval of the General Assembly or a committee that the General Assembly designates by statute, resolution, or rule.
Fairly straightforward, in my opinion. Now here's the language that Secretary Kane wants to replace it with:
Requires the General Assembly or a committee the General Assembly designates to approve any permanent disposition of state-owned outdoor park land before the Board of Public Works approves the disposition.

(Amending Article XII-Public Works)

This constitutional amendment will require the Board of Public Works to delay the sale, transfer, exchange, grant or any permanent disposition of any state-owned outdoor recreation, open space, conservation, preservation, forest, or park land until the General Assembly or a committee the General Assembly designates approves the disposition.

Currently, state agencies initiate the review process by notifying the Maryland Department of Planning of excess property under its control. After the review is over and the property is deemed excess, the Maryland Department of General Services or the Maryland Department of Transportation can request the item be placed on the Board of Public Works agenda.

Following the Board of Public Works determination, either the Department of General Services or the Department of Transportation disposes of the property subject to the conditions imposed by the Board of Public Works.
This is, by ballot question standards at least, much longer. Moreover, it sounds like it was written by an executive branch official interpreting the measure as favorably as possible, despite the fact it's taking power away from the Governor, and, maybe more importantly, bringing up an old embarassing issue for Ehrlich just in time for Election Day. Unfortunately, it looks like the Secretary's language will go on the ballot in November, unless it gets challenged in court.

Tags: Maryland politics, Bob Ehrlich, public land, environment

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Quality of Mercy

Here's another post on issues affecting Maryland prisons: This WaPo piece on Bob Ehrlich's penchant for granting clemency to prisoners and ex-cons is rather illuminating. Bucking the trends of most governors, Democratic and Republican, Ehrlich has granted 190 pardons and commutations over the past four years. Compare this to past governors: Parris Glendening only issued 38 over two terms and William Donald Schaefer issued 91 over the same amount of time.

Nationwide, the trend is not much better. According to a report by Margaret Colgate Love, who is quoted in the Post article, only a dozen other states offer pardons to the convicted as frequently as Maryland has under Ehrlich, and most of them have some form of independent board that recommends pardons, thus insulating governors from Lee Atwater-style attacks on them for being "soft on crime." Even so, the infamous Willie Horton ads have cast a long shadow over most politicians: In 1994, Pennsylvania's Lt. Gov. Mark Singel only pardoned eight people in as many years in his capacity as chief of the Board of Pardons, but he lost the race for Governor to future DHS secretary Tom Ridge after one of them was arrested for kidnapping, rape, and robbery a month before the election.

Indeed, the whole fear shared by many people that pardoned convicts or prisoners with commuted sentences will return to a life of crime obscures a more wide-ranging concern; namely, reintegrating people in civil society once they have served their term. Currently, most states place a number of barriers in front of ex-felons with respect to employment and licensing: Some are reasonable, such as restrictions on owning a firearm, but others, like prohibitions on the right to vote, are incredibly unjust. (I don't think I need to bring up Florida in 2000, do I?) Moreover, pardons are often the only means of achieving full reintegration, and, given the political pressures facing governors mentioned above, it means ex-felons trying to reenter normal life may not achieve that goal.

(Edited for clarity.)

UPDATE: Mike Raia cautions against giving Ehrlich more credit than is due on this matter, which I second.

UPDATE 2: The Post editorial board applauds Bob Ehrlich's prolific use of the pardon power.

Tags: Maryland, prisons, pardon, Bob Ehrlich, clemency

Friday, August 25, 2006

Perez out as AG candidate; early voting out too

The Maryland Court of Appeals delivered a one-two punch to Marylanders today. First, (via MoCo Progressive), they ordered (PDF) that Attorney General candidate Tom Perez be removed from the Democratic primary ballot:
ORDERED, by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, a majority of the Court concurring, that the judgment of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County be, and it is hereby, reversed, and the case is remanded to that court with instructions to enter (1) a declaratory judgment that Thomas Perez does not possess the Constitutional qualifications for the office of Attorney General by reason of not having practiced law in Maryland for a period of ten years as required by Article V, Section 4 of the Maryland Constitution, and (2) an order directing that the name of Thomas Perez be removed from the ballot at the September, 2006 primary election. [Emphasis added.]
Then, they upheld a lower court's decision throwing out the state's early voting law, which found (PDF) that it violated the state constitution's provisions on both the timing of elections and where citizens are allowed to vote. Both decisions were, as the Post notes, brief and without comment.

Needless to say, I'm rather shocked by these decisions. Perez would have made a great AG: He had very definite ideas of what he wanted to do with the office, and a record to back it up. He was certainly the most web-savvy of all the statewide candidates, which was one reason (not the only) that I supported him. I'm half-tempted, actually, to write him in, as a MoCo Progressive commenter suggests. More likely, though, I'll go with Doug Gansler. He is overly ambitious, as his critics claim, but I like that he at least appreciates that Maryland needs an vigorous Attorney General in the mold of Eliot Spitzer to go after, for example, violators of enivronmental statutes. Stu Simms, by contrast, while having a great amount of legal experience, it seems that's all he brings to the table.

As for early voting, I disagree with the court's ruling, though I recognize that the lower court's decision had a reasonable basis. I choose my words carefully, because Bob Ehrlich and the Republicans are already crowing over this setback for expanding the franchise in Maryland, and I don't care to give them any ammunition. What I hope is that the Democrats in the General Assembly will go back and start the long, hard process of amending the state constitution to allow early voting in every precinct, though even the half-baked measure that was passed was better than nothing at all. That said, Russ Louch's question is still valid: why are absentee ballots allowed, but early voting banned?

In the meantime, if you can't make it to the polls Sept. 12 (or Nov. 7), request an absentee ballot as soon as you can.

UPDATE: And I hope that Maryland Democrats avoid casting the Court of Appeals' decisions as one made in bad faith, as MoCo Politics seems to be doing. Broad accusations of judicial activism is something Republicans do -- not Democrats.

Tags: Maryland politics, early voting, Tom Perez, Doug Gansler, Bob Ehrlich, Democrats, absentee ballot

Maryland's new prisons chief

John Rowley, a warden for a medium-security prison in Jessup, has been named the new head of Maryland's prisons, according to the Baltimore Sun. He has pledged to help figure out how to improve security in the prison system, though some, including an official with a major prison guards' union, are skeptical that the Ehrlich administration is committed to real reform.

While jail may be dangerous for the guards, it's a nightmare for the inmates. Not only is sexual assault a real possibility for many of them, but they're likely to get AIDS as a result. Somehow I don't think dealing with this problem is on Ehrlich's -- or even O'Malley's -- agenda.

Tags: Maryland, prisons, AIDS, sexual assault

Thursday, August 24, 2006

State prisons chief quits

In the wake of the murder of two prison guards this year, Frank Sizer, the commissioner of the Maryland division of correction, has resigned. Nicole Fuller of the Sun suggests that the abruptness of the resignation may be tied to Gov. Bob Ehrlich's reelection hopes:

Sizer had come to be regarded as a political liability for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Republican legislators from Western Maryland, where several state prisons are located, called publicly for Sizer's ouster after a correctional officer was killed in January while guarding an inmate at a hospital in Hagerstown. The clamor for Sizer's removal grew after a second correction officer was stabbed to death in July.

Some correctional officers from Ehrlich political strongholds in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore had said that they would not vote to re-elect him unless he makes top-level changes in prison administration.

Later in the article, the head of a prison guards' union is quoted as saying that Public Safety Secretary Mary Ann Saar was looking for a fall guy, not just for the two guards' deaths, but also increasing violence among inmates, and Sizer fit the bill.

The problems facing Maryland prisons, however, are more fundamental. Simply put, there are too many inmates, not enough guards, and outdated facilities -- the House of Correction in Jessup, where the second guard was killed, dates back to 1878! Jordan Barab has more.

UPDATE: The current incentives for becoming a prison guard are also inadequate, as the Sun points out (Obselete link: Google maryland+prison+staffing for the cache). And this doesn't even get into the problems of filling prisons with minor drug offenders and the lack of a coherent policy on the very purpose of imprisonment. Are we punishing people, or trying to reform them? If the latter, we're surely not doing a very good job.

Tags: Maryland, prisons, guards, Bob Ehrlich

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Frederick: Hagen rings the register

Good Joe Volz column on Kai Hagen's fundraising prowess. Not only has he outraised every other candidate in the county commissioners' race, even those backed by developers, he also has the most cash-on-hand. He's clearly touched a nerve among people in Frederick County alarmed by the rate of growth there, and I'd be very surprised if he doesn't win a seat in November.

Tags: Maryland politics, Frederick County, Kai Hagen

I'm on TV!

Apparently this ran last Friday:
In the last two years the "blogosphere" has only grown in influence and number and in this election cycle, even local races are being blogged about intensely. Here are a few sites tracking our big races here in Maryland and offering widely varied opinions. If one blog leaves you infuriated, just click on another and there's a good chance you'll find something appealing.
This blog is definitely from a Democratic perspective. Run by a grad student at the University of Maryland, it has lately taken on Lt. Governor and candidate for Senate Michael Steele. It's even gone so far as to issue endorsements of candidates in many local Maryland races.
Covering and commenting on Maryland politics from the conservative side, it probably won't surprise you that this blog has been taking on Baltimore mayor and gubernatorial candidate Martin O'Malley lately.

Both mdpolitics and theoldline are updated every day or two, so there's always something new to read about the upcoming elections.
I'm flattered. But for something representative of Maryland's left blogosphere, I would have gone with Free State Politics, which always has a good range of content. I also like Maryland Politics Watch by American University professor David Lublin.

(Thanks to Paul to the link.)

New Franchot Ad

A great one, actually. Hits all the high points, and explains what Franchot's all about fairly concisely:

Tags: Maryland politics, comptroller, Peter Franchot, William Donald Schaefer, Janet Owens

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New Steele Ad, Same Old Steele

Via Rachel Weiner, the Michael Steele campaign has just released its first TV ad, which you can see here. I have to admit that I'm rather impressed: Steele comes off as smart and affable -- the kind of guy who's just giving you the straight dope. He actually reminds me, for some reason, of Jared from the Subway ads; and indeed, there is a definite Madison Avenue feel to the piece, which in political ads is refreshing. Most of them, especially for Democrats, look like those "inspiring" movies of personal triumph (e.g., Annapolis) that everyone is supposed to regard as important but no one actually sees.

But to return to Steele: As Weiner notes, Steele's party affiliation -- that scarlet letter -- is conspicuously absent. That, however, tends to be par for the course, as the Darcy Burner ad above attests. More exasperating is Steele's claim that "instead of the spin, I'll talk straight about what's wrong in both parties." (Emphasis added.) As I've said before, it may be shrewd for Steele to pivot away from the Republicans in order to win in Maryland, but for anyone who knows his actual beliefs, it's a con game. I also doubt that Steele, with all the support he receives from the national GOP, isn't doing this without their tacit approval. Which brings up another thing I've said with regards to Steele: in the current environment, bipartisanship benefits Republicans, as it deflects responsibility for the countless failures of leadership in Washington from the ruling party. The MyDD strategy memo is instructive in this regard.

Having said all that, I fear that this ad will be effective in persuading the average voter to look on Steele the man in a positive light, even if he doesn't know what he stands for. Coming across as likable will be crucial for Steele to win in November, especially if he goes up against Kweisi Mfume. Let's hope he doesn't succeed.

Tags: MD-Sen, Michael Steele, ads, Republicans, TV, Kweisi Mfume

Last day to register to vote in the primary

If you haven't yet, get cracking.

MD-4: Ivey may file charges

At the behest of Donna Edwards, Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn Ivey is reviewing whether the attack of Larry Batie, an Edwards supporter, by men belonging to Al Wynn's campaign, merits legal action, according to the Gazette.

Tags: MD-4, Donna Edwards, Al Wynn

Monday, August 21, 2006

MD-4: Donna Edwards on YouTube

Donna Edwards explains why she's running against Al Wynn:

Best quote:

In districts like ours, we need stand-up leadership -- we need leadership that's going to be supportive of the Democratic caucus, of Nancy Pelosi's leadership; and if we can't hold a district like ours as a progressive district, then we can't hold the rest of the country.

Tags: MD-4, Donna Edwards, Al Wynn

How big an SOB is Peter Angelos?

So big that, despite being a longtime Democratic fundraiser, he's going to be hosting a dinner for Bob Ehrlich out of spite for Martin O'Malley, who, among other things, supported bringing the Nationals to Washington. Mike Raia explains.

Tags: Baseball, MD-Gov, Peter Angelos, Martin O'Malley, Bob Ehrlich

Sunday, August 20, 2006

WaPo profile of Franchot on the campaign trail

The article is a good survey of the Comptroller's race, focusing on the political drama surrounding William Donald Schaefer and Franchot's privileged background. But almost nothing is said about Franchot's policy differences between himself, Schaefer, and Janet Owens; which, as Brian Morton has noted, is one of the more frustrating aspects of this race. Granted, a horse-race mentality is present in a lot of political coverage -- I indulge in it myself -- but it would be helpful if someone showed how each candidates' campaign pledges would translate into public policy, and consequently, people's lives.

Tags: Maryland politics, Comptroller, Peter Franchot, William Donald Schaefer, Janet Owens

Free wine for bloggers?

Not if you live in Maryland, alas. If you don't, live in the U.S, are over 21 (of course), and have been blogging for over three months, then sign yourself up for some free wine!

(Via Lindsay Beyerstein.)

Tags: Wine, blogger, Maryland

MD-4: Bloodied Edwards supporter on videotape

Via Art Brodsky, we have videotape of the Donna Edwards volunteer who was attacked by Al Wynn's supporters, and, if I'm not mistaken, one of the Wynn supporters being led away by police.

Brodsky's posts on Edwards, Wynn, and Net Neutrality (which Wynn had a major hand in trying to overturn) are also worth reading.

UPDATE: In the interest of not libelling anyone, I've taken down my earlier update naming the Wynn supporter being handcuffed until I get confirmation.

Tags: MD-4, Donna Edwards, Al Wynn, net neutrality

MD-4: A changed race

Last Wednesday's debate at Prince George's Community College in Largo between Rep. Al Wynn and primary challenger Donna Edwards, especially the alleged attack of Edwards supporters by Wynn supporters, has attracted a fair amount of buzz in the blogosphere, both locally and nationally. It certainly marked a turning point: Wynn had already developed a reputation for being an absentee incumbent, more interested in defending corporate interests over the people's; now he looks so desperate to hold on to his seat that he'll tolerate violence against his opposition. And Edwards, who already was a credible candidate, now has media attention from both online and traditional sources; which, if she keeps going after Wynn the way she did at the debate, can only help her campaign. So this is becoming a hot race.

The fact that this is all taking place in the aftermath of Ned Lamont's watershed victory over Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Senate primary enhances the profile of this race even further. Lamont proved that progressives fed up with the current political leadership could take on the Democratic establishment and win. Lieberman, to be sure, had a hand in his own demise -- besides routinely attacking his own party to boost his own image, he responded to Lamont's challenge in the most amateurish of ways -- but the upshot is that the Democratic enablers of the Bush and the Republican agenda are now being called to account for themselves. Small wonder that many "centrist" Beltway insiders have reacted to the Lamont victory with utter horror.

But for the vast majority of Democrats, Lamont's win has been fantastic news. Moreover, the model for his win -- a combination of netroots and grassroots support -- has great potential for other progressive candidates looking to throw out entrenched incumbents. In this light, Edwards was very astute to saddle Wynn with the title, "Maryland's Joe Lieberman." We don't know yet whether the Edwards campaign can overcome Wynn's machine, but right now, it looks strong, and is getting stronger.

UPDATE: Over the next few days, I'm going to try to assemble information on this race, particularly Wynn's votes on the estate tax, the Iraq War, the Bush/Cheney energy bill, and Net Neutrality; the demographics of the 4th District; and how Edwards can pull off a win.

Tags: MD-4, Al Wynn, Donna Edwards, Ned Lamont, Joe Lieberman, Democrats

Saturday, August 19, 2006

New Endorsements

I've added two new names to my list of endorsements:
  • Since moving to the College Park area, I've been trying to learn as much about the local political scene as I can. And with regards to the 21st District Senate race, I've come to this conclusion: The incumbent, John Giannetti, is something of a joke. He's taken a number of non-progressive stands on things like assault weapons and college tuition rates, and he's become known for having a rather unprofessional demeanor to boot. While he's got a number of endorsements in his favor, I've got to throw my support behind Jim Rosapepe, who's a proud progressive Democrat, and doesn't have any of Giannetti's baggage.
  • Kudos to Candy Greenway for daring to take on the man Maryland Democrats love to hate, Alex Mooney. The state Senator from southern Frederick County is probably best known for his raging homophobia, but he also has links to the Tom DeLay/Jack Abramoff axis of corruption. The GOP is clearly interested is raising this guy through the ranks -- I'm surprised he didn't run for higher office this time around, though perhaps he's waiting for Roscoe Bartlett to retire (or be defeated). In any event, if you live in Frederick County, consider helping out Ms. Greenway, who would make a much better Senator.
(Edited for clarity.)

UPDATE: The Gazette also ranked Giannetti the 6th least effective state Senator, with this remark: "Sex, booze, guns and babes. This isn't a Senate career -- it's an R. Kelly video."

Tags: Maryland politics, Jim Rosapepe, John Giannetti, Candy Greenway, Alex Mooney

New Rasmussen Poll

Via dKos, a new poll for the gubernatorial and Senate races:

MD-Gov: 8/19 (7/10); MoE +/- 3%
Ehrlich (R): 43% (42%)
O'Malley (D): 50% (49%)
MD-Sen: 8/19 (no trendlines); MoE +/- 4.5%
Cardin (D): 47%
Steele (R): 42%

Mfume (D): 46%
Steele (R): 44%
The findings line up with most of the other polls, though strangely there was no survey of the Cardin/Mfume primary.

As we get closer to election season, the number of undecideds will continue to drop, as we can see already in the O'Malley/Ehrlich race. It's an open question now whether O'Malley will get solid support from Baltimoreans unhappy with his record as Mayor; likewise, Ehrlich's support among suburbanites in Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties appears to be shaky, as his selection of Kristen Cox as his running mate attests. We might see some unusual crossovers this November.

Meanwhile, Cardin's lead over Steele is starting to flag, at least when compared to previous polls. It's still bigger than Mfume's lead, but it may be that Cardin's advantages in money and organization aren't translating into as much popular enthusiasm. In the wake of Ned Lamont's victory in Connecticut, the political climate is changing, as we are seeing already in the MD-4 congressional primary, and it might well upset Cardin's projection of inevitability.

Tags: MD-Gov, MD-Sen, Martin O'Malley, Bob Ehrlich, Ben Cardin, Kweisi Mfume, Michael Steele

What Republicans see when they read the NY Times

Damn, this is funny. And really well-designed, too.

Tags: Republicans, New York Times

Friday, August 18, 2006

Snakes on a Senate!

Truly, the DSCC is after my own heart.

(via Lee Fang -- no pun intended.)

Tags: Snakes on a Plane, Senate, Republicans

Thursday, August 17, 2006

MD-4: Debate brawl

What is up with Al Wynn's campaign? Well known for his corporatist tendencies, he's finally facing a serious challenge from Donna Edwards, who has a long record of progressive advocacy, and now apparently the knives are coming out. Edwards has already called Wynn "Maryland's Joe Lieberman," and based on last night's performance, it's an eerily accurate charge -- see this MyDD post on Lieberman's thug-like tactics towards the end of the primary campaign.

Tags: MD-4, Al Wynn, Donna Edwards

Fun with YouTube

The newest attack ad by Ida Ruben?

(Backstory at Maryland Moment.)

Tags: Maryland politics, Ida Ruben, Jamie Raskin

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hail to the ___!

With the NFL preseason underway, it's a good time to consider the age-old question: Is "Washington Redskins" a racist name? Michael Tomasky says, you bet. I agree, but before you hold your breath, it's instructive to remember the last time a Washington sports team changed its name. You had a socially conscious owner, Abe Pollin, who finally decided that it was inappropriate for a city repeatedly named the murder capital of the country to have a basketball team called Bullets. Dan Snyder, by contrast, isn't quite as sensitive, and there aren't enough American Indians and others willing to agitate for a name change in the Washington area to make enough of a difference.

And what would you call the team? A political theme isn't required, as the Wizards and Mystics show, but what else is sports-team-name-worthy about Washington, DC?

Tags: NFL, Washington Redskins, Dan Snyder, racism, American Indians

Brevity is the soul of partisanship

This new YouTube attack piece on Michael Steele is in serious need of editing. A jazzed up version of the same thing would be much more effective -- like, say, the Maryland Democratic Party's ad (no permalink, sorry).

Tags: MD-Sen, Michael Steele, Democrats

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fallujah no longer has a police force

It turns out Michael Steele is really clueless about Fallujah (via Gilliard):
Fallouja Police Lt. Mohammed Alwan said that the [local police] force, which he estimated had increased to more than 2,000, had now shrunk to 100. He said insurgents had killed dozens of policemen in their homes and also attacked relatives in a weeks-long intimidation campaign.

A Fallouja police major who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said that at least 1,400 policemen had left their jobs since Friday, 400 of them above the rank of officer.
The danger of relying on single examples as proof of your argument is, of course, that they can fall out from under you. And while it may be a cheap shot to attack Steele on the basis of shifting events on the ground (the Fallujah police, after all, could have, in theory, stood their ground), taken together with his head-in-the-sand approach for ending the American presence in Iraq, it's hard not to conclude his understanding of the issue, and how serious it is, is extremely weak.

Tags: MD-Sen, Michael Steele, Republicans, Iraq, Fallujah

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Order has been restored on the Hindenberg

Michael Steele proves he's just as clueless about Iraq as the average Republican.
"Largely unwritten is the story of what's happening in three-quarters of the rest of that country," Steele said. "Remember Fallujah, ladies and gentlemen? I don't hear anyone talking about Fallujah anymore. It's not on the front page anymore of the papers. Why? Because order has been restored, and the terrorists have largely been routed."
Meanwhile, Fallujah may be clear of insurgents (never mind the far more serious problem of sectarian militias and death squads), but violence continues to engulf Iraq, and not just in Baghdad, either.

Tags: MD-Sen, Michael Steele, Republicans, Iraq, Baghdad, Najaf

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Graphic bleg

I want to stick a graphic or photo in the upper left-hand corner of the blog, underneath the subtitle. For my old design, I used to have a banner I made from an image of an old map of the mid-Atlantic, but now I want something that's representative of Maryland, but more up-to-date -- perhaps a still from a John Waters movie :-) Any suggestions?

Republican polls and early voting

According to Public Opinion Strategies, Martin O'Malley and Bob Ehrlich each get 41%, with 15% undecided. Also, Ben Cardin leads Kweisi Mfume by 6 points, and while Cardin would beat Michael Steele by 8 points, and Mfume and Steele are statistically tied. Since it's a partisan poll, I doubt it will change things much.

Also, as I'm sure most readers have heard, the early voting law was struck down in court, though the decision has been stayed until the state's highest court can weigh in. This is definitely a blow, not just for Democrats, but for the always worthy cause of making voting a more accessible process. It might have helped, though, if the General Assembly had made early voting available at every precinct, rather than just a few; that may not be financially possible, however. And how difficult would it be to amend the Constitution to allow early voting?

Tags: MD-Gov, MD-Sen, Martin O'Malley, Bob Ehrlich, Ben Cardin, Kweisi Mfume, Michael Steele, early voting

Friday, August 11, 2006

Not just a curmudgeon

Barry Rascovar's defense of William Donald Schaefer is incredibly off the mark. Treating the Governor's young female aide as a sexual plaything isn't colorful or curmudgeonly -- it's wrong, even if it would have been winked at in an earlier era. Likewise with the Comptroller's remarks about Korean and Latino immigrants.

I also don't think the outrage over Schaefer's behavior has much, if anything, to do with political correctness or prudery, as Rascovar alleges. Speaking on behalf of the younger generation, I would say that we still like off-color humor, but what constitutes it has changed considerably since Schaefer's day. Sexism and racism may be out, but profanity is still au courant, as would be obvious to anyone who's watched an episode of South Park recently. Imagine a politican who spoke like Atrios or the Poor Man, and you might have an idea of someone the younger set might chuckle at in the same way Rascovar does at Schaefer.

Having said that, Rascovar's take on Schaefer's actual work as Comptroller and the current three-way contest is fairly accurate. Janet Owens is certainly running as a traditional administrator, which may have more mainstream appeal, and Peter Franchot is certainly injecting an activist agenda into his campaign platform. As I've said before, though, that may not be a bad thing.

(Edited for clarity.)

Tags: William Donald Schaefer, Maryland Comptroller, Peter Franchot, Janet Owens

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Via Gilliard, the General's two posts on "liveblogging" the end of the Lieberman campaign are a riot. Gilliard's post on Michael Steele's comments about Kweisi Mfume is also worth reading.

Tags: MD-Sen, Joe Lieberman, Michael Steele, Kweisi Mfume

The bipartisan ideal

To follow up on my previous post:

Steele's answers to the Sun survey are a good example of why many Democrats have come to abandon bipartisanship as a desirable political goal. (The Republicans having abandoned it long ago.) When a politician wraps a staunchly ideological agenda in the the language of achieving unity among all citizens, it's only a matter of time before one concludes that such language is inherently dishonest. Indeed, it is because many centrist and center-left pundits and politicians clung, and still cling, to the bipartisan ideal that they got bowled over by Bush and the Republicans during the build-up to war in Iraq, and it is why any politician who puts on a show of bipartisanship will have his praises sung by the traditional media, regardless of his actual positions (e.g., John McCain).

The situation is such that bipartisanship has become, paradoxically, just another partisan cudgel, used especially by Republicans to scold Democrats when they don't play along with their agenda, as they did for most of the first Bush administration. Perhaps not coincidentally, Joe Lieberman also invokes the bipartisan ideal as a reason for him to continue holding on to his Senate seat, despite the majority opinion of Connecticut Democrats (and, I suspect, of all Ct. residents). For their part, the Democratic Party is, albeit slowly, learning that proudly standing up and fighting for your beliefs yields dividends.

And even were the situation described above not the case, why should bipartisanship be held up as an ideal anyway? There is certainly value in not having political debates devolve into shouting matches (denizens of Frederick will know what I'm talking about), but the practical effect of such idealization is to make compromise more important than what's being compromised, and to make a bad compromise more desired than nothing at all. It is a bad compromise, for example, to give a $50 billion tax break to the top 1% of wealth-holders, rather than the $100 billion tax break that the opposition wanted. Similarly in Maryland in 1999, the General Assembly ought to have kept electric utilities regulated, or else gone whole-hog into deregulation; the compromise, however, turned out to be a fiasco, since the utilities retained their monopoly, but no longer had any real restraints on how they could set their prices (which may change with the BGE bill passed back in June). Compromise may be necessary, but, if you believe in what you advocate, never desirable.

UPDATE: Via Kos, Simon Rosenberg's post mortem on the Lamont/Lieberman battle explains why partisan politics is good -- or at least necessary for Democrats to survive.

Tags: Maryland politics, MD-Sen, Michael Steele, bipartisanship, Joe Lieberman

Steele's answers

Via Maryland Moment, Michael Steele has published his replies to a survey by the Baltimore Sun on his website -- as he bills it, submitting his answers "to Marylanders, not [the] paper." It kind of sounds like he's practicing disintermediation a la Al Gore, but in fact it's just an instance of Steele's (perhaps understandable) grudge against the Sun.

As for the substance of his answers, it's mostly standard Republican boilerplate: he supports President Bush's Health Savings Accounts, is against a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, wants to deal with border security before immigration reform, and opposes embryonic (but supports other kinds of) stem cell research. The only two topics on which Steele dissents from the GOP line are affirmative action and energy policy, though global warming is conspicuously absent from his rationale for reform.

Steele is clearly styling himself as a moderate Republican: his rhetoric is shot through with calls for getting past "political posturing" and "partisan rancor," and he expresses admiration for John McCain and the so-called Gang of 14 (which I guess is now 13). It's a shrewd tactic, given the state he's running in. But his invocation of McCain should be a reminder that what we call moderate Republicanism, is, in fact, a mirage. You can see this in the way Steele, for example, decries partian bickering over the budget deficit, only to propose as part of the solution the very partisan and very divisive tax cuts for the wealthy that Bush and the GOP have been pushing for the last five years. As we saw with the flap over his on background comments, his attempts to distance himself from the Republican Party are, at best, superficial, and serve mainly to hide his conservatism from view. In other words, if you call President Bush your "homeboy" and support the vast bulk of his policies, then no matter how many times you say otherwise, you're not that independent.

UPDATE: As a white guy who's supporting Mfume, I find Steele's remarks about Mfume's supposed racial loyalties to be rather offensive. What, exactly, about Mfume's platform is "black"? The part about bringing the troops home from Iraq, or the part about fighting poverty, or the part about serious health care reform?

UPDATE 2: Steele in a car wreck. Despite the above drubbing, I hope he gets well soon.

Tags: MD-Sen, Michael Steele, Kweisi Mfume

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Frederick: New Market event

Those of you in Frederick County may be interested in this event hosted by the two major anti-developer PACs. Kai Hagen and Jan Gardner, among others, will be there.

CT-Sen: Election results

Most everyone's eyes will be glued tonight to the primary results in Connecticut, so let's join in:

Hartford Courant election results page.

David Sirota's four scenarios on how the election will turn out.

Cross your fingers...

UPDATE: And Lamont wins. I think this means the end of the Republic, or something.

Tags: CT-Sen, Lieberman, Lamont

Get out and vote, Nutmeggers

As a Marylander, let me give a shout-out of solidarity to Connecticut Democrats as they go to the polls today, and hope they reject Joe Lieberman and the broken-down Democratic establishment he represents. Get out the vote for Ned Lamont.

Tags: CT-Sen, Lieberman, Lamont

PG: And the County Council responds

The P.G. County Council will vote Thursday on a bill that would create a ballot initiative that would restrict the ability of the County Executive to approve contracts without the Council's consent. If it passes, it will add to the troubles swirling around Jack Johnson, but since it's a ballot initiative, I have doubts it will seriously hurt him -- the primary, after all, is the real election here.

Tags: Maryland politics, Prince Georges, Jack Johnson

Go to Hell, Angelos

Marc Fisher on Peter Angelos' continued stranglehold on the broadcast rights for the Nats. His behavior, while plainly ridiculous, might be exusable if he actually ran a winning team. In fact, Angelos has been running the Orioles into the ground since at least 1997.

Tags: Nationals, Orioles, Peter Angelos

Monday, August 07, 2006

Perez Interview

Via Crablaw, a brief interview with Tom Perez. On why he's different from Doug Gansler or Stu Simms:
Many people perceive the office to be a Statewide "State's Attorney" but it's not. The bulk of the work is in the areas I described above -- consumer protection, health care, environmental protection.

To be sure, there is work done prosecuting environmental crimes, health care fraud, etc. -- but that is a different kind of prosecution altogether that requires some manner of subject area expertise which I bring.
Bruce Godfrey's points are good, too. It's also helpful to remember that the AG's office, like the Comptroller's office, has quite a bit of room to decide what its priorities are. So far, Perez and Peter Franchot have been the most expansive in imagining what their respective potential offices are capable of.

Tags: Maryland politics, Tom Perez, Attorney General

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Rockfish Republicans?

This Dan Rodricks column on environmentalist Republicans on the Eastern Shore is interesting. There's a similar phenomenon going on in Frederick County, with Republicans being split between pro-developer and anti-developer factions, although there the goal is preserving a rural way of life rather than promoting any kind of green ethos. An enterprising Democratic Party could find a way to reach out to these voters; but given the lopsided nature of the political scene, I doubt there will be much pressure to do so.

Tags: Maryland politics, Republicans, environment, Frederick County

Johnson in trouble?

Being a newcomer to Prince Georges County, I'm not too well-versed on the details of the local political scene, especially the County Executive's race. That said, these two WaPo pieces on Jack Johnson do not bode well for him.

Tags: Prince Georges, Jack Johnson

New design

I ditched the Minima Black template with which I started this blog, and replaced it with a rejiggered version of Andrew Hoshkiw's Bold Lines design, which you may recognize as being used by Dave Neiwert of Orcinus and Roy of Alicublog. The colors, as you can see, have a more Maryland feel to them, and also (as my girlfriend pointed out) make the blog look like Mondrian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie. I'm still fiddling with a few minor details, but that should be done with soon.

Praise the Lord, pass the ammunition

I saw the Dixie Chicks Friday night at the Verizon Center with my girlfriend, who's a major fan. Despite the Washington Post's observation about the group having trouble filling up concerts, the place was practically, though not totally, sold out. They played well, despite the distorting effects stadiums tend to have on a band's sound. The two bluegrass numbers were especially good. And the political references were kept to a minimum: The trio came onstage to the tune of "Hail to the Chief" (irony and country music, they just go together!); Natalie Maines gave a shout-out to President Bush, which was greeted with resounding boos; and of course they played "Not Ready to Make Nice," which would make a really good slogan for the Democrats this year -- it'd be just as good than "Together, America Can Do Better" or whatever it is.

(Edited for brevity.)

Tags: Dixie Chicks

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The joys of franking

Maryland Moment:

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) has begrudgingly, it seems, offered to support the Democratic nominee for governor this year -- which is just one reason why he is likely to raise eyebrows this morning when he unveils new public service ads featuring the wife and son of the Republican incumbent.

The ads -- there are television and radio versions -- are designed to promote Maryland's upcoming tax-free shopping period on clothes and footwear from Aug. 23 to Aug. 27. The TV version of the ad depicts first lady Kendel Ehrlich and her 7-year-old son, Drew, doing back-to-school shopping.

Well, old loyalties do die hard.

Speaking of tax holidays, the Robert Reich column explains why they're a scam. I don't fully agree with what he says, but I always welcome challenges to the taboos surrounding progressive vs. regressive taxes.

Tags: Maryland politics, Schaefer, Ehrlich, taxes, Robert Reich

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Steele on global warming

No one's really sure where he stands on the issue, but this little vignette from Maryland Moment is a hoot. And perhaps his endorsement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the fact that he ran away from the press conference in a SUV speak louder than anything he could say.

Tags: Maryland politics, MD-Sen, Senate, Steele, global warming

Domestic workers in MoCo mistreated

This WaPo article is concerning in and of itself, and of course the County Council should take up CASA of Maryland's suggestions regarding a workers' bill of rights. But it also raises a troubling question in the context of immigration reform: namely, that even if we bring illegal immigrants "out of the shadows," as many advocates of serious reform claim, will it change anything about their situation, given that most unskilled workers (and many skilled workers) are getting a raw deal for their services in this country? Even raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour (with or without a tax cut for the rich) or a living wage wouldn't change the rules of the game regarding family leave, overtime, and other benefits. On the other hand, it's worth noting that CASA of Maryland is advocating a workers' bill of rights for all employees in the county, further evidence that the future of labor is intertwined with the fate of Latino immigrants.

Tags: Maryland politics, immigration, Montgomery, living wage, labor

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More on Fair Share

Let me follow up my previous post on the Fair Share Health Care Act by linking to Ezra Klein's post from a few weeks ago, though he argues against it from a different angle, saying that it would complicate efforts to create a "more standardized, navigable, and comprehensive" health care system across the country. That's certainly something to consider, but let's be honest: any health care proposal that isn't a massive corporate welfare program is so far at the bottom of the current federal government's agenda that a slew of incompatible state plans is going to have to fill the void.

Tags: Maryland politics, health care, Medicare

We are family

If you haven't already, please check out my brother's blog, Polis, which is centered more on Chicago politics. He was kind enough to name-check me, so this blog should be headed to the stratosphere very soon -- soon, I tell you! :-)

MD-AG: Perez cleared to run

Republican Stephen Abrams' challenge to Tom Perez' candidacy for Attorney General has been thrown out of court. Now Abrams will have to go back to losing the Comptroller's race.

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