Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home.
Print Email


Poll Positions

City Paper’s Primary Election Guide

Tom Chalkley

By Erin Sullivan and Lee Gardner | Posted 9/6/2006

Page 1 of 3.   1  2  3  

Last election cycle, we were filled with something resembling hope and enthusiasm. We were convinced that Baltimore residents' approval of a referendum to reorganize the City Council into 14 single-member districts indicated that maybe, just maybe, voters were in the mood to make changes in their often dubiously effective city government. We honed a slate of citywide endorsements for the 2004 city primary that leaned heavily on newcomers and long shots, thinking that, for once, having done the job in question for a few years might actually be a mild drawback for candidates facing down a seemingly disgruntled citizenry. Then Baltimoreans went out and put incumbents back in their jobs in every single race in which an incumbent was running.

OK, so incumbency is still a mighty force in politics--one of the mightiest. Fundraising is much easier when you're already in office, and vague name recognition alone can win thousands of votes from underinformed voters who often have no idea who they're sending back--especially in downballot races.

Of course, 2006 is another year and another election. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes is retiring, leaving one of Maryland's two Senate seats totally up for grabs for the first time in nearly 20 years. With control of the Senate hanging on every contested spot this year, that race alone makes the '06 election cycle a must for anyone who cares how the country proceeds from here. Nineteen-year U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin is making a run for Sarbanes' spot, leaving his 3rd District office open for a host of estimable area political players to fight over. And then there's the governor's race, which won't be decided until November, and all the state Senate and House of Delegates races, where, in Baltimore City at least, a weak Republican Party and a still-building Green Party means that the Democratic primary usually serves as a de facto general election.

So this year, we offer a thumbnail guide to the names you should look out for on the ballot in each race, be they incumbents or well-qualified and manifestly serious contenders, and then offer a word about the candidates we think most deserve to move forward to the general election. In races where candidates are running unopposed in the primary, we offer no endorsement; since third parties such as the Greens don't have a primary, they aren't covered here.

You don't have to take our advice, of course, but we do urge you to read our coverage, and The Sun's as well. Attend a candidates' forum. Visit the candidates' web sites and go over their positions. Do your best to be prepared to do more with your right to vote than tap the touch screen next to a name you recognize. And don't skip out on Sept. 12--drag yourself off the couch and vote.


U.S. Senate

Incumbent: Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes is retiring, leaving his seat open.

Democratic Challengers: Twenty-eight people filed to run in this race, 18 of them Democrats. Rather than rehash the whole list here, we refer you to this week's Campaign Beat, where we cover this race and list all the candidates you'll see on the ballot.

Endorsement: Ben Cardin

Though the small herd of would-be senators certainly includes a healthy fraction of nuts and cranks, it has also attracted two political figures more than equal to the stature of the office and at least one serious firebrand who definitely got our attention. While we have enormous admiration for former congressman and former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume and hope to be writing about Allan Lichtman's campaign for something next election cycle, we endorse 3rd District U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin. His 20 years in Congress have been marked by a steady stream of efforts aimed at improving the lives and futures of Marylanders and other Americans, whether through health-care reforms, pre-Bush II attempts to patch up Social Security, or keeping environmental concerns in front of the House. In short, he's more than a bit of a wonk, which is perhaps one of the main reasons why his campaign lacks much galvanic excitement to date. But by the same token, he isn't a grandstander, and has proven remarkably willing to put common sense above the political breeze du jour (for example, unlike so many of his Democratic colleagues, he voted against the Iraq war). In short, levelheaded, hard-working, effective representatives like Cardin don't grow on trees in any state, and with all due respect to his chief competitors, he is the best man for this critical job .

Republican Challengers: As we did with the Democrats, we refer you to this week's Campaign Beat, where we list the 10 Republicans who have filed to run in this race.

Endorsement: No Endorsement

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele's anointing as the man to beat in this primary seems to have dissuaded any Maryland Republicans of substance from making it a contest. So voters are left with Steele, whose elected tenure to date has been notable solely for his consistency in saying the wrong thing to the wrong people at the wrong time, and a handful of men who are clearly not qualified to be the next U.S. senator from Maryland. We offer no endorsement in this primary.

See "Heavy Hitters," Campaign Beat.


U.S. House, 2nd District

Incumbent: Democrat C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, a former Baltimore County Executive, is seeking a third term in office.

Democratic Challengers: Christopher Boardman, a Baltimore County nurse, filed at the very last minute to run against Ruppersberger because he says he is dissatisfied with the incumbent's performance in office. He accuses Ruppersberger of "sleeping on the job" and offering constituents "warmed-over platitudes" when it comes to the war in Iraq. In comparison to the $647,000 Ruppersberger has on hand to run this campaign, Boardman has no money or campaign-finance committee on file with the Federal Elections Commission. Boardman also ran an unsuccessful campaign for this seat in 1996.

Endorsement: Dutch Ruppersberger

We admire Boardman's spirit and desire to step up to challenge a popular congressman when no one else was willing to do so, but Ruppersberger is doing a competent job and we have no qualms about encouraging voters to send him back for a third term.

Republican Challengers: Banker Dee Hodges, freelance television photographer and production-company owner Jimmy Mathis, and telecommunications project manager J.D. Urbach are vying for the Republican nomination here. All filed to run at the last minute, and none has substantial political experience.

Endorsement: No endorsement

While each candidate has his reasons for running, none strikes us as serious enough to warrant our support.

See "Dutch Treat," Campaign Beat, Aug. 16.



U.S. House, 3rd District

Incumbent: Democratic Rep. Ben Cardin is stepping down to run for U.S. Senate, leaving an open seat.

Democratic Challengers: This somewhat crowded field includes one name that will be familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in Maryland politics: Baltimore County attorney John P. Sarbanes, son of retiring U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes. But Sarbanes faces stiff competition in two longtime public servants with substantive résumés: Baltimore County Sen. Paula Hollinger (11th District), a 27-year veteran of the statehouse, and former Baltimore City health commissioner Dr. Peter Beilenson. Then there's dark horse Kevin O'Keeffe, a longtime state bureaucrat who has worked for former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke, the Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore City, and, most recently, as director of government relations for Anne Arundel County.

Thus far, Sarbanes has raised the most money ($789,112) of all candidates in all parties in this race, and has amassed no-slouch experience in issues involving health care (litigating on behalf of providers), education (he's a former special assistant to the State Superintendent of Schools), and social justice (he's a board member and past president of the Public Justice Center), though he's never held public office. Beilenson, however, is not far behind him in fundraising ($671,776) and has serious in-the-trenches experience with government and urban issues during his 13-year tenure in the Baltimore City Health Department. He can also rely on public recognition uncommon for his former position (quick, name Beilenson's predecessor, or even his successor) and a reputation as a smart, straight-shooting, responsive toiler. Hollinger is certainly well-known to voters, at least on her own turf, and her leading role as an advocate for stem-cell research in Maryland has likely helped raise her profile across the 3rd. Third in fundraising with $635,595, she faces possibly splitting the Baltimore County vote with Sarbanes and/or Oz Bengur, a Baltimore County investment banker who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the 2nd District in 2002 and is now running for Cardin's spot. There's a chance O'Keeffe may prove a factor in AA County, as well. Still, many voters will surely see the name "Sarbanes" on the ballot and look no further.

Mishonda Baldwin, Andy Barth, and John Rea fill out the Democratic ballot.

Endorsement: Peter Beilenson

Perhaps it's our Baltimore City bias, but we like Beilenson for this race. His office was a bright spot of productive, forward-thinking activity in an often ineffectual city government under two mayors, and we can easily imagine him transposing that drive and brainpower to the U.S. House. While a Hollinger or Sarbanes victory will hardly be a cause for weeping, we will rue the missed opportunity to put someone who did a great deal of good for Baltimore in a position to possibly do a great deal more good for the city, the state, and the nation.

Republican Challengers: If Beilenson wins the Democratic primary, he very well may find himself facing another M.D.: Baltimore County's Gary Applebaum, a longtime head physician for Erickson Retirement Communities. He has raised more than double the cash ($259,770) of any other Republican in the race, a do-or-die for mounting a serious general-election campaign in this heavily Democratic district. Beyond his health-care background, Applebaum is likely to garner some favor with his outspoken pro-Israel stance.

Bruce Robert Altschuler, Adelsia Braxton, Rick Hoover, Eugenia Korsak Ordynsky, Scott Smith, Paul Spause, and John White also appear on the Republican ballot.

Endorsement: Robert Altschuler

Futile as it may be to endorse anyone other than Applebaum on the GOP side, we toss off a Hail Mary for Howard County's Bruce Robert Altschuler. A dentist and retired Air Force colonel, Altschuler calls himself a moderate and espouses some interesting positions, especially his vision for energy reform.

See "Gearing Up for War," Campaign Beat, July 12.

U.S. House, 7th District

Incumbent: Six-term Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings is seeking re-election. He is running unopposed, and no Republicans filed to run.


Incumbent: Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich is seeking re-election, running with prospective lieutenant governor Kristen Cox. Cox is the state secretary of disabilities. He is unopposed in the Republican primary.

Democratic Challenger: Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley is running with prospective lieutenant governor Anthony Brown, a state delegate representing Prince George's County's 25th District and the House's majority whip. After an early challenge from Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, who dropped out in June, O'Malley is unopposed in the primary.




Incumbent: Democrat William Donald Schaefer, a former mayor of Baltimore and governor of the state, has been the comptroller since 1998.

Democratic Challengers: This year two Democrats are taking on Willie Don: Del. Peter Franchot (Montgomery County's 20th District) and Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens. Franchot is a liberal Democrat, opposed to expanded gambling in Maryland, and a staunch supporter of the environment. Owens is a former Orphan's Court judge who was elected, to the surprise of the Democratic establishment, to her current position in 1998. Owens says she doesn't see any real changes that would need to be made to the office, if she were to be elected--she notes that there are a lot of "superb people" working in the comptroller's office now. Owens does, however, feel that the Board of Public Works meetings need to be more dignified. So no more knuckle-dragging or ogling, à la Schaefer, should she be elected.

It's interesting to look at the money in this race: Owens has $139,558 in her kitty, according to the most recent campaign finance reports, while Franchot has a whopping $916,791. But $750,000 of the latter amount is in the form of a loan, not campaign contributions.

Endorsement: Peter Franchot

William Donald Schaefer has become an embarrassment, and it's time to replace him. Janet Owens is a viable candidate--smart and good-natured, she has comported herself well as Anne Arundel County executive. But she is a status quo candidate: She interprets the powers of the comptroller narrowly, and she'd focus on nuts-and-bolts tax and budget issues, rather than delve into policy decisions. Franchot, however, is a liberal Democrat who pledges to do better--and more--should he be elected. He wants to use the office to create funds for schools, for example, and fight the effort to bring slot machines to Maryland. He also says he wants to get the state's budget estimates right, rather than shade them to paint the governor's fiscal decisions in a better light (we'll see if he feels the same way with a Democrat in office, though), and we think that's an important point in his platform. Franchot is a hands-on kind of guy, and a reformer, and if any office on the ballot needs that kind of energy, it's the comptroller's.

Republican Challengers: The ballot includes Stephen Abrams, a lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; political newcomer Anne McCarthy, former dean of the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business; Mark Spradley, executive vice president of a private equity fund; and Gene Zarwell, who says he's the CEO or CFO of about 15 companies around the world.

Endorsement: Mark Spradley

Stephen Abrams is not running what we'd consider an endorsement-worthy campaign--he told a CP reporter that he's running "just to be there in the event that there is an open seat." In other words, in case Schaefer loses the primary to one of his Democratic opponents and the Republicans need a potential warm body to support Ehrlich on the Board of Public Works. Anne McCarthy is out of her league in this race--she lacks the expertise for the office. Zarwell is battier than Schaefer. That leaves us with Spradley, who has some good ideas--using the comptroller's office to help families send their kids to college, for example--and a background in financial management, which gives him some point of reference to do the job. Republicans, if you want to throw your lot in with the best of the bunch, vote Spradley.

See "Comptroller for Life," Campaign Beat, Aug. 9.


Attorney General

Incumbent: Democrat J. Joseph Curran Jr., who has been Maryland's attorney general for nearly 20 years, is retiring this year.

Democratic Challengers: Douglas Gansler, the Montgomery County state's attorney, and Stuart Simms, a former Baltimore City state's attorney currently in private law practice, are both running for the Democratic nomination for this seat. Gansler is the better-funded of the two candidates, with $1,425,801.16. Simms filed to run for attorney general in June, after Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan unexpectedly dropped out of the gubernatorial race; Simms was to be his running mate.

Two other Democrats, Tom Perez and J. Wyndal Gordon, originally filed to run. Gordon has withdrawn his name from the race. Perez has since been disqualified to run, but his name will still appear on the ballot.

Endorsement: Doug Gansler

Gansler is a showboat, but he's shown himself to be dedicated and effective as a prosecutor, and he's promised to focus on environmental compliance. We like his vision of the attorney general as activist, as modeled by New York AG Eliot Spitzer (who is now running for governor of that state). Simms, on the other hand, has positioned himself as a traditionalist who would run the office the same way it's run for the past two decades. So Marylanders have a clear choice, and if the status quo appeals to them, they have a ready candidate in Simms, who is ready to retire in office. If Marylanders would rather an AG who means to enforce environmental laws, prosecute crimes, and generally be a loudmouth about it, then Gansler is the man for the job. We know where we stand, and it's not with the same-old, same-old.

Republican Challenger: Scott Rolle, state's attorney for Frederick County, is the only Republican on the ballot.


State Senate, 40th District

Incumbent: Democratic Sen. Ralph Hughes is retiring from public office, so the seat is wide open.

Democratic Challengers: Tara Andrews, Lawrence Bell, Belinda Conaway, Salima Siler Marriott, Timothy Mercer, and Catherine Pugh are competing for the nomination.

Marriott, currently serving in the House of Delegates, is the only candidate running in this race who has been elected to state office. Pugh, a former city councilwoman who lost her 2003 primary bid for City Council president (thus losing her seat on the council), is currently a state delegate, but she was not elected to her position--rather, she was appointed to serve out the term of Tony Fulton, who died in 2005.

A couple of other familiar names stud the ballot in this race: City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway (7th District), daughter of former state delegate and current Clerk of the Circuit Court Frank Conaway, has filed to run. So has Lawrence Bell, the former City Council president who left office in 1999 after he lost a bid for mayor to Martin O'Malley. Bell's defeat is now legend in the city. Embarrassing financial troubles and tactical gaffes plagued Bell during the campaign, and the man once seen as the heir apparent to former Mayor Kurt Schmoke ended up finishing third at the polls. Financial issues still dog Bell. A recent City Paper story noted that he has some $56,000 in overdue court judgments against him ("Bell Tightening," Campaign Beat, Aug. 2).

Andrews is a longtime public advocate and a lawyer who works on behalf of prison inmates. She ran for a seat in the House of Delegates in 2002 but lost. Timothy Mercer, who ran for City Council and lost in 2003, is also on the ballot.

Endorsement: Tara Andrews

If voters in the 40th District are interested in change and in having a real activist on their side, we urge them to cast their ballots for Andrews. While we appreciate Marriott's dedication to her job as state delegate, and we admire her progressive stances on prison reform, expunging criminal records for minor offenses, and education and child-care reform, we think Andrews takes just as progressive a stance--if not more so--on all of these issues. While we'd hate to lose Marriott, current head of the city's House delegation, we can't ignore the fact that Andrews is the person most dedicated to speaking truth to power and giving voice to those who need it most.

Republican Challenger: Stephen George is running unopposed.




House of Delegates, 40th District

Incumbents: Democrats Marshall Goodwin, Catherine Pugh, and Salima Siler Marriott currently represent this district. Pugh and Marriott, however, are both running for state Senate, so their seats are open, leaving freshman Goodwin the only delegate running for re-election here. No Republicans filed in this race.

Democratic Challengers: Voters face a whole slew of relative political newbies on the ballot for this race. Contenders include City Hall mail clerk Frank Conaway Jr. (son of Clerk of the Circuit Court Frank Conaway Sr.); City Council President Sheila Dixon's legislative director Antonio Hayes; Park Heights coordinator of the Community Law Center Mark Hughes; social worker Sara Louise Matthews; entrepreneur Barbara Robinson; vice president of the Greater Baltimore Urban League Nolan Rollins; youth advocate Kinji Pierre Scott; and Ashburton Area Association President Shawn Tarrant. Hayes and Tarrant are running on the "Team 40" ticket, along with Marriott.

Endorsement: Marshall Goodwin, Shawn Tarrant, Nolan Rollins

It's no mean feat picking candidates out of this crew. To get the best representation for the district, do you go with experience in politics or community activism and involvement? We suggest you select à la carte. First, we'd pick Goodwin, who was first appointed to his seat by the Democratic Central Committee in 2003. Though Goodwin is no show pony, he has spent his brief time in the House sponsoring legislation. In 2006, he was the lead sponsor on 13 bills, four of which he managed to get passed. Granted, some of those bills benefited the Baltimore City Sheriff's Department, an agency for which Goodwin worked for more than 20 years, but not a shabby record for a newcomer, nonetheless. While Goodwin doesn't blow us away, we think he's got the chops to do some good down the road.

For our next pick, we'd go with Shawn Tarrant, president of the Ashburton Area Association. Tarrant ran for City Council in 2003, and we endorsed him based on his knack for coalition-building, unique ideas on how to breathe new life into stagnant city neighborhoods, and involvement in his community association. This year we endorse him again, because if there's one thing the 40th District needs, it's the energy and ideas of a guy like Tarrant.

Finally, we'd go with an activist, and an outsider, and our pick would be Nolan Rollins. Rollins is the vice president of the Greater Baltimore Urban League. If you elect Andrews as senator here, and you back her up with a delegate like Rollins, we wager that the district could end up with a powerful civil-rights-minded legislative tag team that wouldn't be afraid to shine lights in some pretty dark places.

See "Open Seats," Campaign Beat, Aug. 16.


State Senate, 41st District

Incumbent: Democratic Sen. Lisa Gladden is running her first re-election campaign. No Republicans filed to run.

Democratic Challenger: Gladden is opposed only by Leonard Kerpelman, a disbarred attorney and longtime political gadfly who has run several unsuccessful campaigns for public office.

Endorsement: Lisa Gladden

As entertaining as Kerpelman can be, he leaves little choice but Gladden.




House of Delegates, 41st District

Incumbents: Democratic delegates Nathaniel Oaks (who has served 16 years in the House) and S.I. "Sandy" Rosenberg (23 years) are joined by freshman Democratic Del. Jill Carter in running for re-election.

Democratic Challengers: Incumbents don't get much more incumbent around these parts than the estimable Rosenberg and Oaks. The most notable challenger the incumbents' "Unity" ticket faces comes from former one-term delegate Wendell Phillips, who lost his seat in 2002 during a contentious race in the redrawn 41st. As a one-termer herself, Carter could conceivably be vulnerable, but the fact that Phillips lost to the three folks he's facing again doesn't bode well for him, and he seems to have more thoughts on how he got screwed out of his seat than on what he'd do if he wins it back. Corrections officer Kevin Hargrave could make a welcome voice from the front lines of the state's big houses in the House, but he could also wind up being a one-issue representative.

Karen M. Ferguson will also appear on the Democratic ballot.

Endorsement: Sandy Rosenberg, Nathaniel Oaks, Jill Carter

Send Rosenberg, Oaks, and Carter back to Annapolis.

Republican Challenger: Tony Asa is running unopposed.

See "All for One," Campaign Beat, July 26.

Page 1 of 3.   1  2  3  

Related stories

Feature archives

More Stories

Power Drain (6/30/2010)
Baltimore's influence in the legislature has been waning for years. Which of our remaining legislators get things done?

Structural Problems (5/26/2010)
Old dealings come back to haunt former state delegate Billy Madonna

Private Jet? No. Lesbian Bondage Show? "Yes We Can," says RNC Chairman (3/29/2010)
Private Jet? No. Lesbian Bondage Show? "Yes We Can," says RNC Chairman

Comments powered by Disqus
CP on Facebook
CP on Twitter