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Saturday, September 30, 2006

MD-Sen: Steele's Style

Great article by Brian Morton on the Maryland Senate race:
Michael Steele, Maryland's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, gets to have it both ways, just like he has been trying to the entire election season. The lieutenant governor can take the high road and argue that the NBRA should yank the ads, and the group can ignore him and keep running them. This way, they get their message out, and he gets to appear above it all.

Steele wants this campaign to be about anything except the issues. America is divided more now than it ever has been in the last 46 years, with high-profile issues like the Iraq war, torture, stem-cell research, abortion rights, energy policy, and the regulation of big business--and Steele acts like this campaign is about him and his fabulous personality. Excuse me while I gag.


Punch the button on the screen for Steele in November (if they're working at the time), and what are you getting in Washington? A vote to bring an end to the waste of American lives that is the war in Iraq? Not likely. A vote against torture and the redefining of the Geneva Conventions that is making the United States a pariah in the civilized world and a model for dictators everywhere who might want to do the same? Hardly. A vote for the return to real science instead of politicized pseudo-intellectual garbage like "intelligent design?" How will we know--Steele won't talk about it. But he'll tell you he's all about his "style" of "leadership," whatever the hell that means.
Two things I would add: 1) Steele is so inept as a candidate that even when he tries to make the election about his "personality," he falls flat on his face; and 2) as the Post has documented, Steele is going to face a serious shortage in campaign funds as the national GOP scrambles to protect their more endangered incumbents, such as Conrad Burns and George "Deer Hunter" Allen. This might not be so bad for Steele, if he had an independent base of support in Maryland. As it is, he is almost entirely a creature of the Republican Party, and therefore cannot credibly reach out to the state's Democratic majority -- black, brown, or white -- without making himself as bland and issue-free as possible. So in a sense, the much-derided puppy ad was inevitable.

Street Fighting Town

From the Washington City Paper, a depressingly accurate profile of College Park:
But whatever the president's success might be on the academic front, Maryland will never rank among the heavyweights. Stocking the student body with mathletes has done little to address College Park's greatest shortcoming: It has the locational charm of a highway rest stop. The campus itself possesses lovely qualities, such as tasteful neo-Georgian architecture and the wide grassy expanse of McKeldin Mall. The town has neighborhoods that are as green and chock-full of pre-war cottages as Takoma Park. But it doesn't suffice. Instead of an Ann Arbor, a Berkeley, a Madison, or a Charlottesville -- perennial chart-toppers on lists of America's most livable citie -- you somehow get, in College Park, an ugly shopping strip, a scarcity of choice, an air of lurking danger, and the promise of thoughtless mayhem. According to FBI figures reported in the Diamondback, the principal college newspaper, Maryland has the highest rate of violent crime among universities of comparable size. [emphases added.]
How bad is it? So bad that Cornerstone, the local bar where much of the recent violence has taken place, has banned all non-students and non-regulars. I'm fortunate enough not to live near that area, but even apart from the violent crime, College Park is one of the more poorly designed towns I've ever seen. The ugliness and congestion of Route 1 figures prominently in the article, but almost as bad are the side roads: many of them are disjointed (literally, they stop at one place and pick up again half a mile away), and there's no real way to get from one end of town to the other, except through Route 1 or the main highways. While there are some redevelopment plans in the works, they'll likely take several years to complete.

The Tubes Were Clogged

Internet service has been spotty the last few days, hence the lack of posts. Regular blogging should resume shortly.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Frederick County Teacher's Union Issues Endorsements

From the Gazette:
The Frederick County Teachers Association is endorsing five candidates for the Board of County Commissioners � only one of whom is a current commissioner.

Three of the incumbents seeking re-election failed to make the association�s list.

Pending approval Wednesday night, after The Gazette's press time, from 58 percent of its members, the association will endorse candidates Richard Floyd (D), David Gray (R), Kai Hagen (D), Charles Jenkins (R) and current Commissioner Jan H. Gardner (D).

Bad news for the three Republican incumbents, Lennie Thompson, John Lovell, and Mike Cady -- who happens to be the county commissioners' liaison to the school board. Lovell and Cady have had an especially hard time, since they are widely seen as being in the pocket of developers.

Speaking of Frederick County, here's an interesting development: Apparently, state Sen. Alex Mooney's leading primary challenger is now endorsing the Democrat in the race, Candy Greenway (who was also endorsed by FCTA, by the way). There's a definite anti-incumbent mood this year, and it appears to be at work even at the local level.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Get... Those... Puppies!

From the DSCC:

District 21: Giannetti Joins the Dark Side

It's official:

State Sen. John Giannetti, fresh off a resounding defeat in the local Democratic primaries two weeks ago, told a group of Republicans yesterday that he has switched parties and will run as a Republican in November.

The Associated Press reported Giannetti's comments at a large Republican fundraiser in Baltimore last night, where he told about 1,000 attendees that "there is room for a moderate in the Republican party" should he win in a general election bid against Democrat and former regent Jim Rosapepe.

Time to put this sad, pathetic man out of his misery: Check out Jim Rosapepe's website, and volunteer or contribute what you can.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

District 21: Joementum Coming to Maryland?

John Giannetti, who was crushed by Jim Rosapepe in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, may come back as a Republican this November, according to the Capital (via Blog Arundel). Since the token Republican has dropped out of the race, the local Republican Central Committee has the power to appoint a replacement, and Giannetti looks like he'll step in, thus circumventing Maryland's "sore loser" law:
"I am driven by my personal values, and often times these values do not fit squarely into typical 'Democratic' or 'Republican' categories," Mr. Giannetti said in a statement released this afternoon. He said he still has not decided what to do, and has until Nov. 1 to run as a write-in candidate.
How convenient for him. Funny how we didn't hear this before the primary...

I understand that the 21st District is relatively conservative, despite being thoroughly Democratic, so Giannetti's gambit may not be so ill-advised. Of course, the specter of Joe Lieberman looms large, and Giannetti hasn't exactly struck me as the sharpest knife in the drawer. Let's stay on our toes, though: Perhaps we need the Senator Speedo website to return?

Also, I have to wonder how Senate President Mike Miller feels about one of his favored candidates possibly joining the other side. Can that guy pick them or what?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Statement from Donna Edwards

Via Email:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

The final votes are counted and we've fallen short by just a few.

Nonetheless, I am energized and humbled by what we�ve accomplished in these last several weeks. I take seriously the confidence that the voters of the 4th Congressional District have shown in me. When I began this campaign, I spoke to the failed representation of the seven-term incumbent. I also expressed great optimism about our capacity to be better, bolder, and more true to who we are. With your hard work and your votes, I tried to demonstrate that governing and legislating are a set of choices. We can choose peace and diplomacy over war. We can choose energy independence and environmental stewardship over waste and profiteering. We can choose health care for all, quality education, living wage jobs, and forward-thinking economic development over protection of wealth and wealthy special interests. As your member of Congress, I committed to you that I would listen and with your guidance make the right choices for our communities, our counties, and our country. That commitment remains true, whatever has been the outcome of this election.

By now we all know of the multiple layers of failures in our election system that played out most profoundly in the contest for the Democratic nomination for the 4th Congressional seat. Whether these failures happened as a result of incompetence, inefficiency or some other more nefarious explanation, they are unacceptable. The voters of Maryland and throughout this country deserve an election that is conducted professionally and securely. We deserve transparency in the conduct of the election; trained and skilled elections officials, workers, and technicians; a system whether electronic or paper that is failsafe and able to be audited; and security mechanisms that are enforced strictly so as not to compromise the integrity of the election. I urge the State Board of Elections and the Maryland General Assembly to conduct a thorough investigation, machine-by-machine, precinct-by-precinct of the 2006 primary election and of the multiple layers of administrative and technical failures. Maryland is now a lens through which others are looking at the conduct of elections -- we need to get it right. Voters should be confident in the process and the results. We should have no reason after the election to question the results or to forever wonder whether we trust the outcome.

Throughout this election, I have tried to conduct myself with the dignity and integrity befitting the office that I sought. I believe firmly that the voters deserve no less. I remain committed to the people of the 4th Congressional District � to our values and our promise. I believe that every elected official must be held accountable to his or her record and should be expected to do the business of the people everyday. I trust that Mr. Wynn will be challenged to listen to the voices that spoke so strongly at the polls on election day as he serves this next term in Congress. I look forward to continuing to be a voice for accountability and for change.

Thank you for volunteering and for voting. Thank you for this tremendous opportunity.


Donna Edwards

P.S. I hope you will join me in working to elect Mayor Martin O'Malley and Delegate Anthony Brown as our next Governor and Lt. Governor and to ensure that we continue the strong tradition of Democratic leadership in the United States' Senate by electing Rep. Ben Cardin as our next senator. Please vote on Tuesday, November 7, 2006.


MD-04: Edwards Concedes


Congressional hopeful Donna Edwards (D) accepted defeat yesterday, saying 12 days after a deeply troubled primary election that she believes votes in the congressional district straddling Montgomery and Prince George's counties have been counted "to the extent that they will be."

Edwards, who challenged Democratic Rep. Albert R. Wynn in a bid for Maryland's 4th District seat, had previously taken the position that a narrow margin in early returns and concern over the integrity of the balloting left the contest too close to call. But with the final ballots from the Sept. 12 primary counted by late Friday, unofficial results had her falling short by 2,725 votes.

Edwards said that although she remains "really troubled" by "multiple layers of failures" in the election, she is no longer contemplating legal action. She urged lawmakers and the state Board of Elections to conduct a thorough investigation.

I had hoped that, given how many of the voting machines in Montgomery and Prince George's were compromised, that Edwards would be well-positioned to have the election taken to court. But the problems may have been too broad for a single court case to effectively remedy. Perhaps Bruce at Crablaw can clarify?

Still, I am amazed at what a strong campaign Edwards ran, given how entrenched Wynn has been for the last 14 years. It was professional, committed, and fearless, everything you could want from a liberal Democrat challenging the powers that be. If she had begun her candidacy sooner, or if the netroots had gotten involved sooner -- or if the Boards of Elections in this state could run a proper election -- I have no doubt she would have won. Let's hope she comes back in 2008 and finishes Wynn off.


Fort Meade Expansion Brings Sprawl

From the WaPo:

When the Pentagon announced a long-term plan to reorganize the nation's military bases, Fort Meade became one of the region's big winners.

Now, more than a year later, residents near the Anne Arundel County base fear that they might turn out to be the big losers, as developers rush to accommodate an estimated 5,400 additional workers coming to the base.

I've come to refer to the D.C. Metro area as "the land of perpetual rush hour," and with the various BRAC expansions, it will become even more so.

In this vein, let me link to a rather compelling proposal my brother once made to reduce sprawl in the D.C. area: move the various departments of the federal government to other, less congested areas of the country. It'll never happen, of course, but in an age of instant communication, it's at least a possibility, and a good one, at that.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

New features

I've put in a miniblog over at the left column; it'll contain links to non-Maryland news items and other things I find interesting. I've also streamlined the design a bit; that red block I had before was always a distraction for me.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Baltimore Firm to Build Solar Power Plant in Colorado

From the Sun:
Minneapolis-based Xcel, with 1.3 million ratepayers in Colorado, plans to build the 8-megawatt solar farm in the San Luis Valley, near Alamosa. The plant, expected to go online by the end of next year, would be capable of powering 2,600 homes.

The project went up for bid in March. Xcel plans to announce the contract Monday, but the newspaper on Saturday reported Baltimore's SunEdison had been selected to build the plant.


Gary Schmitz, a spokesman for the National Renewable energy Laboratory in Golden says utility-sized solar projects are rare and the San Luis Valley proposal would be "pioneering."

The solar plant is part of Xcel's response to an initiative approved by voters in 2004 that requires utilities generate at least 10 percent of their electricity with renewable sources as wind and solar power by 2015.

Currently, just under 2 percent of the electricity sold in Colorado comes from renewable sources.
A good example of how public policy can spur economic development, rather than, as the Right claims, detract from it.

MD-04: PG County Finishes Vote Count

And (surprise!) Al Wynn comes out ahead:

The final Prince George's tally helped cushion Wynn's lead over challenger Donna Edwards in the 4th Congressional District. Edwards said late yesterday that she would not concede until Montgomery County officials finished counting a few thousand provisional paper ballots.

In the congressional district that includes much of Prince George's and a slice of Montgomery, Wynn now leads by about 2,700 votes, officials said.

As of late yesterday, 9,945 of the nearly 12,000 provisional ballots had been counted in Montgomery. That appears to make it mathematically impossible for Edwards to win.

Still, Wynn was not ready to declare victory until all provisional votes were counted. "I don't want to make premature comments," he said. "It's a thing where people are sensitive right now."

Last week, Edwards threatened to file a lawsuit over voting irregularities in Prince George's. Yesterday she said she was waiting to get more information from the county's Board of Elections before deciding what legal step, if any, to take.

Does this count include the white truck ballots?

Tags: md-04 al wynn donna edwards 2006 election democrats electronic voting

Friday, September 22, 2006

Crackhead Democrats

Maryland Democrats are in an uproar over Michael Steele's attempt to appropriate the Democratic label at an event in Baltimore, and rightly so. Less commented on is something noticed by Steve Gilliard: Not only were there no elected Democrats present, but, a la Josh Rales, Steele populated the event with drug rehab patients. Like everything else about Steele, there's less to this ploy than meets the eye.

Tags: md-sen michael steele republicans democrats

Democrats and Civil Rights

I haven't said anything about the sophistry in the recent ad put out by the National Black Republican Association, but it's nice to see that even Michael Steele is denouncing it, no doubt figuring that the "I don't hate puppies" ads will work better for him in the end. I, for one, still demand proof he doesn't hate puppies :-)

I won't bother to refute the old Republican slander that Democrats today are racist because Democrats a hundred years ago were racist -- Mike Raia, among others, has already done that -- but it may worth musing about why it is that Democrats became the party of civil rights, and not the Republicans. Steve Gilliard recounts some of the relevant history here, but the leftward drift of the Democratic Party was going on long before that, going back to FDR and even to William Jennings Bryan. In a sense, this may have been inevitable. Political parties in the US have always been disparate and evolving entities, but still have certain traits written into their DNA. And the Democratic Party, even in its nascent Jeffersonian form, has had a streak of economic populism that the Federalist/Whig/Republican coalition have never quite matched. Of course, populism in this country has tended to be associated with racism and sexism -- the New Deal, it has been said, was built on a foundation of white supremacy, since FDR needed the support of southern Democrats for his programs. But perhaps the Democrats' reliance on the urban ethnic vote in the North helped pave the way for a more inclusive party in 1964 and afterwards.

UPDATE: I know Wonkette is, by nature, superficial, but this is just horrible.

Tags: md-sen michael steele republicans democrats racism civil rights

Thursday, September 21, 2006

MD-04: Wynn Brags of Stealing Election

Via Matt Stoller, an email from the Donna Edwards campaign:


By now you are aware of the multiple layers of problems that occurred in the Tuesday, September 12, election in Maryland's 4th Congressional District. Whether these flaws are attributable to incompetence, inefficiency, or fraud -- we may never know. Votes are still being tabulated in Maryland's 4th District -- provisional ballots arriving as late as Tuesday, September 19, a truckload of machines and memory cards arriving 21 hours after the polls closed on September 12, changing estimates of absentee ballots to be counted, etc.

Needless to say, the system is deeply flawed -- leaving voters with little reason to be confident. In the midst of all of this system failure and uncertainty, I wanted to share with you the transcript of an exchange that took place on Tuesday, September 19, between my opponent, Albert Wynn, and his colleague on the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee:

BARTON: Down in Texas, we had a Democratic primary about 50 years ago that Lyndon Johnson won by 54 votes. And he got the nickname "Landslide Lyndon." We have Mr. Wynn next. He had a little bit of a tussle last week, but he did win. And so, I want to recognize "Landslide Wynn" for any opening statement that he wishes...

WYNN: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. In fact, they're still counting, but we're quite optimistic. And I did take a couple pages out of Lyndon's book, so if I win, it can be attributed to Texas know-how. (LAUGHTER)

(UNKNOWN): Did you (inaudible)?

BARTON: I hope not. I hope you win fair and square. (LAUGHTER)

WYNN: A win is a win.

P.S. Just within the last couple of hours, the Board of Elections in Prince George's County opened up a machine with no tamper tape (so much for security), and at least one other machine that recorded votes for other offices but none for U.S. Congress. [emphases added]

Listen to the exchange here, starting at minute 27:36. "Landslide Lyndon," of course, refers to this (via grg in comments):

Unlike Stevenson, Johnson had prepared for a close race, and besides having his men watch the voting stations for stuffing or withholding, he asked election officials that supported him, like boss George Parr, to withhold their vote totals until the official results were announced. Stevenson was no amateur; he realized Johnson might try to pull something. But he made a mistake in instructing his supporters to only watch the voting stations on Sunday. (32) Johnson ordered his men to watch the stations the entire week. According to H.Y. Price, a Johnson campaign insider, LBJ went so far as to tap Stevenson's phones. Anytime Stevenson or his men called the stations and asked for votes, LBJ immediately called his watchmen and told them to be on their toes.

After the "official" results were announced on Thursday, the real conspiracy began. Early on Friday, September 3, election officials in a little southern Mexican-American town, dominated by George Parr, announced that the returns they released earlier in the week were incorrect. Officials in Alice, said they found an additional 203 ballots in their "Box 13." Of these 203 ballots, 202 were for Johnson, leaving only one for Stevenson! Officials from another Parr-dominated county-Duval-also announced that they had some ballots that were not included in their tally from earlier in the week.(33) After these votes had been counted, LBJ had 87 more votes than Stevenson with a final tally of 494,191 to 494,104. [emphases added]

Corrupt and stupid is never a good combination. We can only hope the vote count and/or likely court challenge turns out well for Edwards. And legal action, either against Wynn or his cronies, might also be in order.

Tags: md-04 maryland donna edwards al wynn 2006 election electronic voting

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Theory and Practice

I think Bruce Godfrey is confused. A minimum wage, in classical economic theory, doesn't create a black market -- being a price floor, it creates unemployment. (I'm in a microeconomics seminar now, so this is all fresh in my mind.) I suppose one could argue, with respect to illegal immigration, that employers aren't satisfied with the supply of domestic labor, and that the supply of foreign labor is capped -- i.e., under a quota -- so they resort to the "black market" of undocumented workers. That's the theory, anyway; the reality is that the issue of immigration is a lot more dynamic than what economic models can capture, as Roger Lowenstein's article on the subject from a while back showed.

As for Bruce's underlying point -- that some liberal blog commenters are ignorant and intolerant -- well, liberals in theory are supposed to appreciate knowledge and be open to differing views. And conservatives in theory are supposed to be against violent changes in law or society. So much for theory, then.

UPDATE: Speaking of illegal immigration, this crackdown on a day laborer site in Gaithersburg looks like it could backfire on the authorities, though it appears mass arrests are unlikely.

MD-04: Where the Story Is Now

From the Baltimore Sun:
A week after Marylanders voted in the primary, the race for the Democratic nomination for the 4th District seat remains too close to call.

Fewer than 3,000 votes out of about 75,000 cast separate [Donna] Edwards from Rep. Albert R. Wynn, and elections workers in both counties were busily sorting thousands of provisional ballots yesterday trying to compile final vote totals as quickly as possible.

Officials don't expect to be finished for days.


In Montgomery, there are between 11,000 and 12,000 provisional ballots to be sorted, Karpinski said, though it is still unclear how many will ultimately be counted. (Officials last week said about 3,000 of those ballots are in the 4th District. In Prince George's County, the number of provisional ballots in the 4th was unknown.)

After the provisional ballots are counted, both counties will move to the
remaining absentee ballots as early as tomorrow.


Last week, she said she was planning to file suit against Prince George's County elections officials because she was concerned that some votes were not properly safeguarded on election night. But she said yesterday that she was holding off until the counting is done.

"It's more important to me that the votes are counted than how quickly," she said.

It's still "possible" that she could make up the vote gap with the congressman, Edwards said.

Regardless of the outcome, she said, she feels good about the fight she has waged.

"Clearly there were voters who were really trying to speak, and we heard them," she said. She hasn't ruled out a rematch in two years.
I think this is going to be settled in court. And even if Edwards is the victor, we'll still be left with a deplorable infrastructure for voting in this state.

Old Schaefer

Dan Rodricks reminds us of what William Donald Schaefer used to be:
It's hard, but the 20-somethings and 30-somethings and 40-somethings out there - particularly those who have moved to Maryland and Baltimore in recent years - just need to know, as Schaefer reaches the end of his political road, what the man gave this city and this state.

Esquire magazine once proclaimed him the greatest mayor in America. Go to Harborplace or a game at Camden Yards and look around - that's all him.


See, I remember the Old Schaefer and a not-for-publication letter he wrote to me in the 1980s, during the recession that followed Ronald Reagan's election. Unemployment was high, and the president wondered openly why that was so when there were abundant help-wanted ads in the Sunday classifieds.

Schaefer understood what Reagan couldn't comprehend: that many of the ads were for jobs that required an education or advanced degree, and that the people who were collecting unemployment had worked in factories that had closed.

As mayor of Baltimore, which had suffered through the decline of industry and a significant loss of population and tax base, Schaefer knew that intimately. I wrote a column blasting Reagan for his cluelessness, and Schaefer wrote me a note with agreement and thanks. (The only one ever!) He was quite familiar with the recession's effect on working people, and he believed government leaders needed to help them rather than dismiss them to "market forces." That was Old Schaefer.
Schaefer certainly has been a unique figure, to put it mildly, in Maryland politics. But I think the kind of multigenerational reign that he epitomized (Curran and Sarbanes are obvious, but also the late Louis Goldstein) is coming to an end. Incumbency is no longer the safe bet it once was, as the fates of Ida Ruben, John Giannetti -- and Schaefer -- demonstrate.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Health Care Inefficiency Keeps the Economy Going

From Business Week (via Kevin Drum):
But the very real problems with the health-care system mask a simple fact: Without it the nation's labor market would be in a deep coma. Since 2001, 1.7 million new jobs have been added in the health-care sector, which includes related industries such as pharmaceuticals and health insurance. Meanwhile, the number of private-sector jobs outside of health care is no higher than it was five years ago.
Tell me about it. On the other hand, one could credibly argue that job growth in the U.S. is being retarded by the lack of affordable health insurance for anyone who doesn't work for a large firm -- like, say, an insurance company.

Tags: health care, economy, jobs

The Vote, Unfortunately, Has Indeed Been Rocked

During my brief hiatus, there have been quite a few developments in the outcome of the voting problems that plagued Maryland last Tuesday. Bruce Godfrey and MyDD, fortunately, have managed to keep on top of things, along with David Lublin, Russ Louch, and others. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the recent developments is that the failure of the Montgomery County Board of Elections to send out access cards to the polling places, which caused massive delays in the ability of people to vote, may be the smallest problem we have to deal with. If the stories are true of voting machines in Prince George's County "mysteriously" showing up as late as a day after the polls closed, then whether we use paper ballots may not matter, so long as we have corrupt political machines to contend with.

As mentioned below, the counting of provisional ballots begins today, which includes all the ones cast in Montgomery County that may or may not push Donna Edwards ahead of Al Wynn in the 4th Congressional District race. Let's all hope no further mischief goes on.

Tags: maryland md-04 donna edwards al wynn 2006 election electronic voting

Does Steele Have a Chance?

Chris Cillizza writes an inane post on Michael Steele's chances in November:

Judging from the numbers alone, Cardin's victory is less-than-convincing. He beat Mfume by approximately 13,000 votes while outspending the former congressman by at least $3 million.

The potentially bigger problem for Cardin is whether the results of the primary create a divide between the Democratic nominee and the black vote. The primary between Cardin and Mfume was not at all contentious (the two men have known each other for years), and even though Mfume took three days to concede the race, he spoke glowingly of Cardin when he did, calling him a "great public servant."

Those kind words were overshadowed somewhat by a controversy within Cardin's campaign. A staffer was fired late last week after it was revealed that she made controversial racial remarks on a personal blog.

The timing of the firing couldn't be any worse for Cardin: The nominee wants to make clear to black voters, who comprise 28 percent of the state's population, that he -- not Steele -- will best represent their interests in the Senate. While the issue of race was barely mentioned in the primary, Republicans were quick to note that the only two black Democrats in contested primaries (Mfume and Stuart Simms, who was seeking the nomination in the attorney general's race) were both defeated by white men.

Republicans also circulated a recent quote from Rep. Al Wynn (D-Md.) in which he was asked by the Maryland Gazette what he thought the impact on the African American electorate would be if Mfume and Simms were defeated. Wynn, who is black, replied: "It's a scenario that I don't even want to talk about. 'I wouldn't want to speculate on what such a negative scenario it would be for the party."

It remains to be seen how the blog flap and comments like Wynn's will play out in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Steele is wasting no time in appealing to black voters.

He has already run an ad featuring hip hop mogul Russell Simmons endorsing him, and his campaign has made clear he believes this traditionally Democratic bloc of voters is up for grabs. (A Democratic National Committee memo made public this spring argued that Steele had real potential to win a sizeable portion of Maryland's black vote.)

Steve Gilliard sets him straight:

The real indicators here is the Wynn-Edwards race, which is still relying on absentee ballots to determine the winner.

Now, if black voters were willing to turn Wynn into the street for Edwards, why would they vote for Steele? Who not only is more right wing that Wynn, but is closely aligned to the White House and racist contributors.


The one issue which will ruin any chance of Steele getting widespread black support is Iraq. Ned Lamont got a sizeable percent of the black vote in Connecticut because of Iraq. Cardin will get that same level of support because of the war in Iraq. That's the biggest issue in the black community and opposition is widespread. As long as Steele supports the war, his ability to get black votes is limited.

Exactly. Cillizza may be wowed by Steele's ads -- Hell, even I'm wowed by them -- but they can't disguise Steele's conservatism, or his basic weaknesses as a candidate. Indeed, I would say his most effective advertisement was his failed attempts to distance himself from President Bush. It may not have been his intention, but it was certainly accurate.

UPDATE: Nice also to see Al Wynn reinforcing GOP talking points. I hope the vote count goes well today (not for him, at least).

Tags: maryland md-sen michael steele republicans ben cardin democrats race

Sunday, September 17, 2006

4 Inmates Stabbed in Jessup Prison

This is depressing:

Four inmates from the maximum-security Jessup Correctional Institution were recovering from stab wounds yesterday after a fight Friday night, the latest in a spate of violent incidents at Maryland prisons.

A union representative for Maryland corrections officers said the attacks show the continued dangers of short staffing, and state corrections officials said they are working to better manage a violent population.

What else is there to say?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cardin Staffer Fired for Blogging While Stupid

Hopefully this doesn't set the tone for the fall campaign:
Rep. Benjamin Cardin has fired a campaign staffer who wrote racially charged comments on an Internet blog against his opponent, Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who is black, Cardin's campaign confirmed Saturday.


In a statement, Cardin also condemned "anti-Semitic" comments written by the female staffer on her own Internet blog.
The blog in question, Road Diaries of the Persuasionatrix (which appears to have been deleted even as I'm writing this post) is a pretty amateur effort. And the two offending posts do indeed qualify as racist and anti-Semitic, respectively, though I think it's the bigotry of ignorance, not malice. Russ Louch is right: A blog is as public as anything you can find at a newsstand; act appropriately. Blogger is even kind enough to offer advice on how not to be fired for blogging; did the erstwhile Persuasionatrix read it?

More consequential, however, is the response from the Steele campaign, which predictably wasted no time in playing the concern troll:
"It is deeply disturbing to learn that a staff member of ten-term Congressman Ben Cardin would keep a blog chronicling racial prejudices toward Lt. Gov. Steele and others," [Melissa] Sellers [Steele spokeswoman] said. "This is the kind of attitude and gutter politics that Marylanders are sick of and why they are ready for change."


Steele, who attended a fundraiser near Centreville for Rep. Wayne Gilchrest on Saturday, called the comments "very shocking."

"That it exists in a national campaign is very disappointing," Steele told The (Easton) Star Democrat.
I find this reaction to be a little rich, given Steele's history of manufacturing outrage in order to draw attention to his campaign and paint Democrats as "racist". It's especially galling, as always, to hear denunciations of "gutter politics" from Republicans. Which party, after all, plans to spend unprecendented amounts of money this fall on personal attacks of their opponents? But I guess for Steele, faking outrage about race beats having actually having a serious debate about the issues.

Tags: md-sen ben cardin michael steele democrats republicans race blogging

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Morning After Blogging

Latest results:

Senate: I think Ben Cardin is the clear winner here. With 93% reporting, he leads Kweisi Mfume 47% to 38%.

MD-04: Against the odds, Donna Edwards may have toppled Al Wynn's machine. With 75% reporting, she has a razor-thin lead, and, as Matt Stoller notes, that doesn't include the provisional ballots in Montgomery County, where Edwards is strongest. That said, it could still go either way.

Comptroller: I'm pleasantly amazed to see this, but Peter Franchot looks like he's going to win. With 93% reporting, he has a two point lead over Owens. And William Donald Schaefer? Alas, who will be an embarassment to our state now?

I'm going to bed

It looks like the multiple fiascos with the voting machines in Montgomery County and Baltimore are going to keep us from knowing the full results in many, if not most of the major races in Maryland (including Senate, Comptroller, and the 4th Congressional District) so I'm going to hold off on any more blogging until tomorrow.

MD-AG: WJZ Calls It for Gansler UPDATED

With 57% reporting:
Gansler 55%
Simms 43%
And the Sun concurs.

UPDATE: Simms concedes.

PG Exec: Johnson Slightly Ahead

From the Post:
Prince George's County Executive (50% reporting)

Baker 48%
Johnson 52%
Another race that will probably go down to the wire. Baker has put up an impressive fight; and while I sensed that there was a lot of disgust with Johnson's cronyism, but I didn't think it'd be this strong.

District 21 Update

John Giannetti is in very bad shape:
State Senate District 21 (41% reporting)

Rosapepe 59%
Giannetti 38%
Nothing has changed yet in the House race, however; Ben Barnes has pulled ahead slightly, though:
House of Delegates District 21 (51% reporting)

Frush 21%
Barnes 21%
Pena-Melnyk 20%
Moe 18%

Comptroller: Owens & Franchot neck and neck

Not a good night for Willie Don (66% reporting):
Owens 35%
Franchot 34%
Schaefer 31%

District 20: Raskin winning big

With 59% reporting in the State Senate race:
Raskin 64%
Ruben 36%
Meanwhile, in the House of Delegates race, with 48% reporting:
Mizeur 20%
Hixson 19%
Hucker 18%
Klein 18%
Lessley 11%
Does anyone know why the same district has a different number of precincts reporting?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Late Night Election Results

Bruce Godfrey and MyDD probably already have an edge on me, but I'll try to keep up with the primary results as best I can. Here are the main sites for updates:
As of 11:52 PM, here are the results for selected races:
Senate (48% percent reporting):

Cardin 46%
Mfume 37%

Comptroller (50% reporting)

Franchot 34%
Owens 35%
Schaefer 31%

Attorney General (50% reporting)

Gansler 56%
Simms 42%

Congress, 3rd District (44% reporting)

Sarbanes 34%
Beilenson 23%
Hollinger 22%

Congress, 4th District (48% reporting)

Wynn 52%
Edwards 44%

Congress, 6th District - Democratic (71% reporting)

Duck 59%
Kissin 41%

State Senate District 21 (32% reporting)

Rosapepe 58%
Giannetti 39%

House of Delegates District 21 (41% reporting)

Frush 22%
Pena-Melnyk 20%
Barnes 20%
Moe 18%

Prince George's County Executive (40% reporting)

Baker 49%
Johnson 51%

Arrgh! F**king Outrageous!

By now, of course, everybody knows about the massive screw-up with the voting machines in Montgomery County, which has received ample commentary already. Simply put, this is a travesty. Someone needs to be fired, whether on the County or State Boards of Elections. Even conservatives are incensed. Fortunately, it now appears things are getting back on track, and voting is going to be extended until 9 PM in Montgomery, so if you missed your chance, it's not too late.

And, at the risk of being snarky, it would have been nice to have had even a limited early voting program in place, so that fiascos like this couldn't threaten the very legitimacy of the election.

For myself, I live in Prince George's County, and while I haven't heard of any mishaps, I had one of my own. You see, a few weeks ago I requested an absentee ballot so that I might avoid having my vote compromised in the manner described above. Instead of an actual ballot, however, I received another absentee ballot request form. Why? I have no idea. I figured this was some procedural SNAFU -- i.e., I didn't send in the "right" form -- and since it was by then too late to request an absentee ballot, I decided to just vote in person. When I came to vote today, however, I was told I was listed as an absentee voter and therefore could only vote at the polls provisionally. I don't fear very much that my vote won't be counted, but with everything else going on, it just adds to my frustration with the voting system in this state.

UPDATE: It appears a voting machine crashed at a polling station in Bowie. And Baltimore is encountering problems too.

Election Day

Democrats, get out and vote. Find your polling place here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

MD-Sen, Comptroller: Last-Minute Poll

Via email from Peter Franchot's campaign, a Survey USA poll of likely Democratic voters:
Senate: 9/11 (8/31); MoE +/- 4.9%

Cardin 47% (38%)
Mfume 38% (42%)
Rales 7% (7%)

Comptroller: 9/11 (8/31); MoE +/- 4.9%

Franchot 32% (15%)
Owens 32% (42%)
Schaefer 31% (35%)
This is big news for Cardin, who seems to be reeling in the undecided Dems that were leaning toward Mfume a week earlier. Hopefully the actual turnout will go otherwise, but SUSA is a pretty reliable outfit, so I think all the Mfume camp can do is pray and get out the vote.

But the huge news is Franchot doubling his percentage, putting Owens' electoral future, much less Schaefer's, in doubt. Maybe it was the Post and Sun endorsements, maybe voters were turned off by the Old Mother Hubbard spat between Schaefer and Owens, but Franchot's campaign, which looked quixotic a year ago, has got a lot of momentum in the final stretch.

MD-04 Preview

Good post by Matt Stoller. Machine politics in Maryland is not something to be underestimated, so despite voter discontent with Al Wynn (and despite the rise of the Maryland blogosphere), Donna Edwards by no means has an assured victory. Nevertheless, she does have an excellent shot.

District 21: Endorsements

The Post comes out in favor of Jim Rosapepe:
Of the three Democratic candidates for state Senate [in District 21], the best is Jim Rosapepe. Incumbent John Giannetti is a legislative horse trader whose positions on important issues can flip at the drop of a favor from the governor or a legislative colleague.
Not to be outdone, Giannetti had made a last-minute media blitz basically accusing Rosapepe of being ungrateful for his having saved his life earlier this year by giving him the Heimlich maneuver in an Annapolis restaurant; though if Rosapepe's version is correct, he was never in danger of choking to death and Giannetti overreacted.

The Post also endorses Joseline Pena-Melnyk of College Park for the House of Delegates race, and I'm inclined to concur with that judgment. She has a lot of potential to do good in the General Assembly.

"It's gonna be September now for many years to come"

It's cloudy and gray outside my window. I understand that New Yorkers call cloudless sunny days "9/11 days;" the only reason I mention that is that one of my most distinct memories of Sept. 11, 2001, was how utterly, surrealistically blue the sky was (I was living in Annapolis at the time, and, as I recall, it was cloudless and sunny across the entire Eastern seaboard that day). And the reason I mention that is that I feel highly unqualified to offer any words of remembrance of 9/11; and even if I were qualified, I wouldn't say anything: Such is my temperament that I find the prohibition of mourning to be the most reverential act one can do for the dead.

But perhaps I should reflect, if not on 9/11 itself, then on what has haunted me most for the last five years: the reckless course our country has taken since then, beginning with the failure to capture Osama bin Laden, continuing with the invasion and occupation of a country that had nothing to do with the attack, and culminating in the current situation, where President Bush and the Republican Congress repeatedly wave the banner of terrorism in order to justify their unjust and unworkable policies. It appears to finally be losing its effect, but the fact is that we have had five years in which we could have seriously taken on al-Qaeda and improved relations with the Arab and Muslim world; and not only have those five years been wasted, but Bush and the Republican Congress have tossed this country down a hole in Iraq that may take five more years, if not five more decades, to crawl out of.

Matthew Yglesias writes:
It seems like these anniversaries should be apolitical. Like there ought to be some neutral zone from which to critique the administration's crass politicization of American pain and American memory. But it's not, I think, realistic. National myths, national anniversaries, national memory of big events is always political. It only starts to look apolitical if one side or another decisively wins the battle for interpretation.
It would be one thing if there were a consensus, not on every detail of an anti-terrorism policy, but at least on the broad contours of such a policy. What we have, however, is a drive for one-party rule masquerading as a policy. Dick Cheney's view is paradigmatic of the Republicans' strategy: Even criticizing current administration policy will cause us to lose Iraq (assuming it can even be saved in the first place); likewise with terrorism, taxes, energy policy, etc. The challenge of our time, then, is to refute the slander that opposition to the current government is opposition to America itself. We can only hope that refutation will come this November.

I began this post by linking to a poem, and perhaps it's best to close by citing another poem, this one by Leonard Cohen:
I used to be your favorite drunk
Good for one more laugh.
Then we both ran out of luck
And luck was all we had.
You put on a uniform
To fight the civil war
I tried to join but no one liked
The side I'm fighting for.

So let's drink to when it's over
And let's drink to when we meet
I'll be waiting on this corner
Where there used to be a street

It wasn't all that easy
When you upped and walked away
But I'll save that little story
For another rainy day
I know the burden's heavy
As you wheel it through the night
The guru says it's empty
But that doesn't mean it's light.

So let's drink to when it's over
And let's drink to when we meet
I'll be waiting on this corner
Where there used to be a street

You left me with the dishes
And a baby in the bath
And you're tight with the militia
And you wear their camouflage
Well I guess that makes us equal
But I want to march with you
It's just an extra to the sequel
To the old, Red, White & Blue

So let's drink to when it's over
And let's drink to when we meet
I'll be waiting on this corner
Where there used to be a street

It's gonna be September now
For many years to come
Many hearts adjusting
To that strict September drum
I see the ghost of culture
With numbers on his wrist
Salute some new conclusion
That all of us have missed.

So let's drink to when it's over
And let's drink to when we meet
I'll be waiting on this corner
Where there used to be a street.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday Thoughts on Tuesday's Primary

With little more than a day to go before the primary election, let's step back briefly to survey the landscape.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post aptly summarizes, I think, the dynamic of the many contests going on across the state:

Maryland is a state where politicians get elected and tend to settle in. But Tuesday's party primaries are the first step in a dramatic reordering of the political hierarchy, one that will mean a new U.S. senator for the first time in decades and could result in new faces in every statewide office.

This is certainly true; but it masks the fact there are in fact two realignments going on. One is merely generational, as old warhorses like Paul Sarbanes, Joe Curran, and Doug Duncan retire, and new people take their place. The other, less prominent but more interesting, involves rank-and-file Democrats yearning for a party that doesn't sit on its laurels or merely bring home bacon for constituents, but actively promotes a vision of what a just society should be doing. You can see this most vividly in the Donna Edwards/Al Wynn primary battle, but also to a lesser extent, in Peter Franchot's run for Comptroller, in Tom Perez' aborted run for Attorney General, and, going local, Jamie Raskin's challenge to longtime Sen. Ida Ruben in Montgomery County. Running through all these races is a common theme: Many in our current Democratic leadership have become calcified and unresponsive, and we need fresh, forward-thinking liberals to take over. Seen in this light, this potential progressive realignment is part of the national effort to revitalize the Democratic Party, though the Internet has played less of a role.

Let me go back to the Maryland 4th congressional primary to explain what I mean. Al Wynn has responded to Edwards' multiple criticisms of his record by citing his support from the AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, and other liberal groups [1], as well as many Democratic leaders in Maryland. He even goes so far as to defend his votes for the Bush/Cheney energy bill and the permanent repeal of the estate tax by he was, in effect, responding to the interests of his constituents. Of Edwards, he says:

I'm more concerned about getting money for low-income residents. She's more concerned about having a partisan fight.

What's striking here is how perfectly Wynn's attempt to bolster his liberal credentials fits in with Mark Schmitt's theory of the end of "checklist liberalism." Wynn, like Joe Lieberman before he became a Republican, seems to think he can flash his endorsements in Donna Edwards' face and win -- that is, when he's not condoning having her supporters beaten up by his. The challenge Edwards presents, however, isn't just about issues, it's about identity. Al Wynn may have a liberal voting record viewed as a whole, but he's a bad Democrat: he doesn't come through for the party when it counts, and he's more concerned about satisfying his donors (both known and hidden) than about seeing to the welfare, not only of his constituents, but also of all Americans. He lacks, in other words, a broader perspective of what liberals should be doing in power; and so he thinks he can excuse doing the wrong thing half of the time by doing the right thing the other half of the time. That broader perspective is what Edwards has staked her candidacy on, as have many of the other candidates, like Franchot and Perez, in this state's primaries.

I should stress that I don't want to overemphasize this potential progressive realignment; the Wynn/Edwards primary isn't going to transform the Maryland Democratic Party any more than the Lamont/Lieberman battle transformed the Connecticut Democratic Party -- though it certainly has had an impact. And the last session of the General Assembly shows that the current crop of Democrats are forceful, if maladroit, about promoting a progressive agenda. But going forward, especially if the Democrats sweep the statewide offices this November, the relationship between Democratic leaders and voters in Maryland will be something that needs to be addressed.

[1] Though, if his lying about his support from the Teamsters is any indication, it may be his only real support comes from corporate PACs and high-dollar donors.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Where's the money, Wynn?

The big news is in: Al Wynn is a serial abuser... of campaign finance law. More in a little while.

The case against Al Wynn, Part 2

While we're waiting for Matt Stoller's big news about Al Wynn, let's remember another reason why he should not be reelected.

The day before Wynn voted to sell out the average American to the credit and debt industry, he was faced with a vote on a permanent repeal of the estate tax, one of the holy grails for President Bush and the Republican Party. Despite GOP propaganda to the contrary, only a minority of a minority of a minority of Americans ever pay this tax, and for good reason: they are the wealthiest of Americans, and thus have the greatest potential for establishing an aristocracy of wealth in this country through the passing of their extreme wealth to heirs who have done nothing to earn it. Not for nothing is it often called "The Paris Hilton Tax." The only reason one would vote for this bill, especially in a time of massive budget deficits, is out of some obsequious desire to please the rich at the expense of all other hard-working Americans.

Al Wynn voted for this bill. Support Donna Edwards' effort to defeat him.

(Edited for clarity.)

Tags: estate tax

Alternative Energy in AA?

Interesting news:
Anne Arundel County will research the viability of converting horse manure, wood waste and gas emissions from landfills into electricity and fuel for cars - the first effort of its kind in Maryland, the state's top agricultural official said yesterday.

The $85,000 study of renewable energy alternatives has drawn the interest of state and federal leaders who are wrestling with the rising costs of electricity and limited supply of oil. County, state and federal agencies are funding the study.

Local officials see the additional benefits of reducing nutrient flow into the Chesapeake Bay, conserving landfill space and attracting energy-related businesses.
This is a great development, something that needs to be encouraged in other agricultural counties, like Frederick or St. Mary's. The thing to remember, when thinking about the energy crisis, is that there isn't going to be any one replacement of oil as an energy source, for reasons spelled out here, so that thousands of little projects like this one in AA will be necessary -- and, if they can boost the local economies, desirable.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

MD-04: The case against Al Wynn, Part 1

With less than a week before the Democratic primary, campaigns are going into high gear in Maryland. This will be especially true for Donna Edwards, who, while having an incredible amount of momentum in her favor, still has a difficult fight ahead of her as she tries to unseat the Republican-lite incumbent, Al Wynn. So with the end of providing some last-minute buzz for Edwards, let's go over why Wynn has been such a bad Democrat, such a bad representative of Maryland's 4th congressional district, and why Edwards would do so much better on both counts. (I'll be doing this in stages.)

Here's the thing: Wynn's faults lie not in having a conservative voting record (viewed as a whole, it's fairly liberal); nor does it lie merely in his deviations on recent key votes, as bad as that is. Rather, it's the fact he has made these deviations while representing a heavily liberal Democratic district. Wynn is not the only offender here, as the American Prospect points out, but given that he has a serious challenger for the first time in his congressional career, it's only fair that his record on certain key issues be brought out into the light.

Let's start with last year's bankruptcy bill, shall we? As these posts by Kevin Drum and Hunter make clear, it was more or less a giant giveaway to the credit and debt industry, which had wanted the bill for years. Although its stated purpose was to crack down on "bankruptcy abuse," the truth is that the majority of individual bankruptcy filers do so because of necessities like medical bills, not because they're living large on the credit card. And the Republicans blocked every single attempt to make the bill even a little bit more fair and equitable. Of all the bad policies Republicans have pushed in the last five years, this was one of the worst.

Al Wynn voted for this bill. Support Donna Edwards' effort to defeat him.


Not only is Michael Steele not the moderate he claims to be, he can't even fake it very well, as Lee Fang discovers.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

MD-04: More Buzz for Donna

According to Matt Stoller, MoveOn has overwhelmingly endorsed Donna Edwards' challenge to Al Wynn in next week's primary. Markos also weighs in, saying Wynn is not long for the 4th District.

And if you want to know what Wynn thinks of this challenge, I think this says it all:
"My general view is that the Democratic Party used to be the big tent party where everyone is allowed to express their views, now it is being taken over by these bloggers and purists who can only see one way of thinking," Mr. Wynn said. "We can think for ourselves and not for somebody else's idea of what a liberal is supposed to be."
More on this later.


Jessup Prison Guard Stabbed by Inmate

Fortunately, the officer's life isn't in danger. But those new security upgrades can't come fast enough.

More on unions

Because every day should be Labor Day, here's a nice Gazette article on the state of unions in Maryland: better than some places, but not as good as it could be.

District 21: Giannetti v. Rosapepe

The Sun profiles the House and Senate races in District 21, focusing mainly on the rivalry between Sen. John Giannetti and challenger Jim Rosapepe. Much has been made of this, most recently after the massive sign defacement on Route 1 last week. (Have police found who was responsible for that yet, by the way?) More interesting is the Diamondback's finding that while Giannetti can claim the support of high-level Democrats like Sen. Mike Miller and Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson, Rosapepe has the backing of many local politicians in both College Park and Laurel who are fed up with having to work with Giannetti. That local disgust, ultimately, may cut the knees out from under Giannetti's candidacy come next Tuesday.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Out of the fields and the factory lines

Happy Labor Day! If you're fortunate enough to be spending this afternoon around a grill, thank a union.

Speaking of which, the Post profiles unions as a political force, and how candidates (mostly Democrats) work to get their support. Despite declining numbers and a hostile political climate, they are still the backbone of any progressive movement worthy of the name. Moreover, they have evolved fairly novel strategies for winning gains for workers in the last ten years, as Nathan Newman shows. One thing he doesn't mention, and something I think will be extremely important in the near future, is the alliance that labor has been forming with the environmental movement, with whom they've traditionally been at odds. Most of the talk about the energy crisis has focused on the supply side of the equation (and sometimes on the fuel efficiency of vehicles), but if the states and the federal government made a commitment to refurbish our country's infrastructure -- which is aging as it is -- to be less wasteful of energy, you would have a huge demand for a (high-wage, high-skilled) green building workforce; something that, I think, would be welcome in a time when Wal-Mart has replaced Ford and GM as the benchmark for American business.

Tags: Labor Day, unions, Democrats, environment

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Franchot, Simms win Sun Endorsements

The Baltimore Sun breaks with regional loyalties and endorses Peter Franchot for Comptroller over William Donald Schaefer and Janet Owens:
During his 20 years in the General Assembly, Mr. Franchot has risen from an obscure gadfly to a respected and outspoken chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee. He has a strong grasp of budget intricacies and an appetite to shed light on corporate income tax loopholes. Mr. Franchot is no wallflower, and if he can curb his enthusiasm for straying into matters of policy beyond the scope of the comptroller's office, he will be a strong advocate for the interests of the taxpayer both on and off the Board of Public Works.
Stu Simms also gets the newspaper's backing in the Attorney General's race, citing his legal experience as trumping Doug Gansler's media savvy -- though isn't Franchot usually criticized for being a media hound as well? In any case, assuming newspaper endorsements make much of difference -- a big assumption -- this will be a needed boost for Simms, along with Tom Perez' endorsement. I think either would do well in the AG's office, and while I've nodded in Gansler's direction, I probably won't commit until I get my absentee ballot in the mail.

UPDATE: Bruce Godfrey: "This is major. Owens is ahead of Schaefer and Franchot according to one recent poll. Franchot is quite well funded, though. Schaefer getting the nod should be automatic were he anything but a walking insult comic dog."

Tags: Maryland, attorney general, comptroller, William Donald Schaefer, Janet Owens, Peter Franchot, Doug Gansler, Stu Simms, Tom Perez

Spuds Bursting in Air

God, I love me some potato guns. Although, in my experience, they have to be more like potato bazookas to get any kind of range.

Tags: potato guns

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Mo' Money

Good news for prison guards: John Rowley, the new head of corrections in Maryland, has announced that the state will spend $7 million to upgrade security in jails across the state. Among the things to be improved: more surveillance cameras, new scanning equipment, expanded intelligence-gathering, and new prison vehicles. A hotline will also be established for prison staff to report threats and other security problems.

In the backdrop of these changes is the loss of support that Ehrlich has suffered among Maryland's correctional officers, many of whom live in the rural areas of the state, where Republicans normally do best. Already AFSCME Council 92, which represents many prison guards in Maryland, has endorsed Martin O'Malley. (I couldn't find similar information on the other prison guards' unions, or much information at all, for that matter.) Moreover, this influx of money, while necessary, will probably not do much to repair Ehrlich's image: As Ron Bailey of AFSCME notes, it seems more than coincidental that the Ehrlich administration is appropriating these funds just as Ehrlich's reelection campaign is about to kick into high gear.

The most intriguing part of the Sun article are the comments by Frank Sizer, the former head of corrections, who's apparently now gone into Michael Brown mode (emphasis mine):

In an interview Friday, Sizer said that many of the items are things he had requested money for in the past, but none was available in the budget.

He said he surveyed the need for additional surveillance cameras several months ago and that his department had complained for the past three years about the need to replace worn out vans and buses used to transport inmates and security vehicles used for patrols.

"I would have happily accepted that," Sizer said of the resources now being poured into the corrections system.

But he said buying new equipment isn't the real key to operating a safer prison system.

"We will not solve the problem until we do something that involves programming [for inmates] and we have a better trained staff with better supervision," Sizer said. "Buying all this equipment is equivalent to giving a kid a toy to pacify him."

It's not clear whether Sizer means the Ehrlich administration or the General Assembly was responsible for the security money not being appropriated sooner. But if the Ehrlich administration is able to get the money now, and have the General Assembly approve after the fact, as the Sun article says, we should ask: Why wasn't this done sooner?

Tags: Maryland, MD-Gov, prisons, Bob Ehrlich, Martin O'Malley

Blogging in the Free State

After apparently going on hiatus over the summer, the folks at Free State Comment have returned. They're one of the better Maryland blogs, in my opinion, so it's great that they're back in time for the fall election season.

Tags: Maryland, blogs

Kane caves on ballot question language

I recently posted on Secretary of State Mary Kane's proposed language for a ballot question that would bar the Board of Public Works (i.e., Gov. Ehrlich) from selling public land without the approval of the General Assembly: Not only was it much more verbose than what the General Assembly had drafted, it also made it sound like the measure would be a burden on the Governor's business, rather than put a check on his power. Now, however, Secretary Kane has relented:
Amid criticism from legislative leaders and environmentalists, Maryland's secretary of state has agreed to scrap her wording of a ballot question on whether to amend the state constitution to restrict state land sales.

Instead, Secretary of State Mary D. Kane said she would use the wording of the amendment as approved by the General Assembly.

"We didn't want to have a fight over something we didn't intend to have a fight over," said Kane, who was appointed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Given the Ehrlich administration's history of warring with, and ultimately losing to, the General Assembly, it's probably a good thing that Secretary Kane backed off.

As for the measure itself, I think it's a good idea: we have the legislative branch check the executive branch on a vast array of issues; why not on something as important as park land and nature preserves? Of course, it's obvious that the Democrats in the General Assembly put forth the measure to embarass Ehrlich as he's running for reelection. But given the fact that the Ehrlich administration tried to make the land sale back in 2004 in secret, it's not an undeserved jab.

Tags: MD-Gov, Bob Ehrlich, environment

MD-Sen: New ad, new polls, new debate

Some interesting developments in the Cardin/Mfume race this week...

Two new polls give different results to the primary: The Gonzales Research poll has Cardin crushing Mfume 43% to 30%, but the Survey USA poll has Mfume with a narrow lead over Cardin, 42% to 38%. In either case, if 10-20% of Democrats are still undecided at this late stage, I don't think we can expect anything come Sept. 12.

Cardin and Mfume also debated each other again Thursday, and once again the differences rested mostly on style, with Cardin lamely joking that his granddaughters "think I'm the funniest person in the world, so I don't understand where this criticism [that I'm bland] comes from." Mfume, for his part, aptly summarized what makes him different: "We'll both be a vote. But I'll be a vote and a voice."

Meanwhile, three of the minor candidates -- Josh Rales, Allan Lichtman, and Dennis Rassmussen -- protested their exclusion from the debate, with Lichtman going so far as to get arrested. David Lublin has pictures.

And last, while Cardin and Rales have been carpet-bombing the airwaves in the last few weeks, Mfume put out his first TV ad yesterday, and it has a lot of punch: He has an inspiring life story of pulling himself out of the gang life, and he deftly draws a parallel between changing his life and changing the country. This is one of the more powerful political ads that I've seen, and it could tip the scales in his favor.

Tags: MD-Sen, Kweisi Mfume, Ben Cardin, Democrats

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