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You Really Oughta Vote

Baltimore City Paper's Maryland General Election Endorsements

By Lee Gardner and Erin Sullivan | Posted 11/1/2006

"Change" is one of those words that politicians wear out on the stump. This year in particular, it's become a byword in Maryland's U.S. Senate race, as Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin (3rd District) promises to bring change to Washington, which is exactly where he's been for the past 20 years, while his Republican competitor, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, vows the same while not making it at all clear what he'll change, if anything. Change is, in fact, an unpredictable result in Washington, and in Annapolis, and it's rare that even the most talented politician can promise it and actually deliver unassisted by his or her fellows or by history.

Still, this year's general election does promise the opportunity for change: If enough U.S. Senate and House seats change hands nationwide, the Democratic Party may win control of one or both bodies. If Robert Ehrlich loses his bid for re-election to Martin O'Malley, the first Republican governor of Maryland since Spiro Agnew will be history and Baltimoreans will wake up to Mayor Sheila Dixon. But change may prove elusive in the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates. Democratic incumbents dominated in the primaries, setting the stage for them to dominate Nov. 7. While Baltimore fields a number of fine pols in its delegation, many of those looking at a cakewalk re-election have little to show for their years (and sometimes years and years) of service. Remember, it was the state legislature that passed the 1999 deregulation bill that led to this summer's statewide dawning horror regarding our energy prices and energy future. And it was the current legislature--all those incumbents--who fumbled a solution before the session's end.

In these general election endorsements, we do our best to offer some thoughts on the worthy and the perhaps less-than-worthy in the current races, and often we, like you, face a limited number of appealing options. Still, it's not as though there are no options for genuine change in Annapolis. After all, there are the Greens . . .

U.S. Senate

Candidates: Benjamin Cardin (Democrat), Kevin Zeese (Green/Libertarian/Populist), Michael Steele (Republican)



This is one of those agonizing occasions where we wish we could pick and choose candidates and their races. There is no third-party candidate on the Baltimore City ballot this year more substantive than Green Party major domo Kevin Zeese, and we'd like to see him in office--some office--sooner rather than later. But there is an ugly fight under way for control of the U.S. Senate, and the race between the two mainstream-party candidates for this seat has turned fairly ugly as well, with policy differences and records of service largely shoved aside for posturing and misleading hair-splitting. And so we endorse U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin.

This is not something we're unhappy about or unused to. CP has repeatedly endorsed Cardin in his re-election bids over the years, and with good reason. His record over his years in Washington to date bespeaks hard work and dedication to the legislative nuts and bolts of how government can improve the lives of ordinary citizens in the core areas that never stray too far from many voters' minds or daily lives--the environment, health care, Social Security, and the financial well-being of the middle class--and his social positions and well-established stance against the Iraq war place him firmly in today's moderate vanguard.

Cardin's well-documented public service is exactly the kind of measurable accomplishment/paper trail that Lt. Gov. Michael Steele lacks, a fact that Steele compensates for by running a campaign composed almost entirely of smirking and admittedly well-polished bullshit. The Democrats may not gain control of the Senate if Cardin wins, but if Steele wins, it is Marylanders who value responsible, substantive representation of their interests who will lose in the end.

U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd District

Candidates: C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (Democrat), Jimmy Mathis (Republican)



Mathis has a few items on his agenda that we can get behind--he's eager to see an end to our nation's dependence on oil, he wants to see a sensible immigration policy that grants illegal aliens guest-worker status--but we're turned off by his stances on other issues, as reported to Project Vote Smart in its National Political Awareness Test. He says it's not the federal government's responsibility to get involved in health care, that he's not sure how he thinks the U.S. should proceed in Iraq, and that abortion should be legal only when a woman's life is in danger. Fortunately, the incumbent in this race is someone we're happy to throw our support to. Ruppersberger is a seasoned politician who, prior to being elected to the House of Representatives in 2002, served two terms as Baltimore County executive and two terms on the Baltimore County Council. He's a competent and respected leader who supports many of the good things Mathis stands for, and he also supports stem-cell research and feels the U.S. should work to end the war in Iraq and develop a new strategy with regard to Mideast relations. And unlike Mathis, Ruppersberger has hands-on experience as a representative.

U.S. House of Representatives, 3rd District

Candidates: John Sarbanes (Democrat), Charles Curtis McPeek (Libertarian), John White (Republican)



The Sarbanes name certainly didn't hurt John Sarbanes at the primary polls, but he's no mere show-pony political scion. Though technically just as much a newcomer to elected office as his opponents, his past work with the state's educational system and his efforts in the sphere of public justice alone make him vastly more qualified to tackle such complex issues in Congress.

U.S. House of Representatives, 7th District

Candidate: Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings is running unopposed.


Candidates: Martin O'Malley (Democrat), Ed Boyd (Green), Robert Ehrlich (Republican)



We feel like we've been wrestling with this endorsement for years now. Despite the official coyness of the O'Malley camp, the mayor's ambition for higher office in Maryland, and eventually beyond, has been one of the worst-kept secrets in Maryland politics since his earliest years in City Hall. And so, given the timing of the state's election cycle, we've known the day would come when we would have to either send him off toward his ostensible destiny with our blessing, such as it is, or not. We offer our blessing, but not without misgivings.

A man of enormous personal magnetism, the mayor tends to make things look brighter simply by showing up and exerting the force of his smarts and personality. While things seem to be looking up for Baltimore after six years of his stewardship, appearances can be deceiving (see "Old Business," page 20). Many Baltimoreans look around them and see a city transformed, but many of those changes are cosmetic, and many came about through happenstance (e.g., the housing boom), not good governance. Certainly perception influences reality, and the fact that the city doesn't seem to be on its last legs at the moment is cause for sincere relief, but Baltimore remains mired in intractable problems, none of which the O'Malley administration can honestly say it has improved unequivocally, across the board. His obvious political gifts notwithstanding, O'Malley has not finished the job he promised he would do in 1999.

So why give him the nod? With the state legislature in the hands of Democrats and unlikely to change hands, oh, ever, we're wagering that O'Malley can get more done than the current governor. While we have a certain amount of respect for Ehrlich as a political prodigy in his own right, the stasis and bitching that has typified his first term has done no one any good. If the governor had spent the past four years backing popular measures that could benefit Marylanders and the country as a whole (say, taking advantage of the state's edge in biotechnology and medicine by funding stem-cell research) rather than squandering political capital trying to push through ultimately unpopular initiatives (say, slots), his administration to date might carry some distinction other than partisan bickering. And while his re-election campaign has bypassed no opportunity to smear O'Malley with Baltimore's blood and grime, Ehrlich is the governor inside I-695, too.

And so, we believe that O'Malley offers the best hope for the kind of forward movement the state needs at this generally prosperous but precarious juncture. We also hope that O'Malley can and will continue to work on Baltimore's behalf from Annapolis and thereby deliver on his promise--personal and otherwise.

Attorney General

Candidates: Doug Gansler (Democrat), Scott Rolle (Republican)



Both candidates in this race are hoping to breathe some life into Maryland's rather stagnant AG's office. Both are staunch advocates of cleaning up the environment and the Chesapeake Bay, both say they'd crack down on internet-related crimes, and both tout a more aggressive approach to law enforcement, should they be elected. One big difference, to us, is Gansler's experience combating gang activity in Montgomery County, where he currently serves as state's attorney. Gansler appointed a prosecution unit to focus solely on gang activity in the county, and promises to do something similar if elected at the state level. He also has a detailed plan of action to reduce the number of illegal guns on the streets, to work with the legislature to pass bills increasing penalties for sex crimes against children, and to prosecute health-care fraud. Despite detractors, who point out career gaffes made by Gansler in the past, we like the credibility and detail in his proposal for shaking up the attorney general's office. He gets our support.


Candidates: Peter Franchot (Democrat), Anne McCarthy (Republican)



We admire Anne McCarthy's background in business and academia and have no doubt she's a competent and thoughtful individual. However, she lacks any experience as an elected public official and has lived in Maryland for only four years. That combination makes us hesitant to throw our support behind her--we feel strongly that the state needs a comptroller who has a more intimate relationship with Maryland's political landscape and its taxpayers. We therefore support Franchot, who has served five terms as a state delegate and sits on the House of Delegates Appropriation Committee, which reviews all legislation that would have a financial impact on the state. Further, we like Franchot's vision of the comptroller's office--he sees the office not just as a tax-collecting body, but as an agency that can make change for people in the state. Making higher education more affordable for working families is at the top of his agenda, he's got an eye toward improving transportation systems throughout the state (in other words, his transportation vision is not all about constructing the Intercounty Connector), and he's vehemently opposed to the notion of using slots to boost state revenues. It's a platform we can't resist.

State Senate, 40th District

Candidates: Catherine Pugh (Democrat), Stephen George (Republican)



We've had our doubts about Catherine Pugh in the past--her background in PR and her sensitive "nice guy" demeanor often made us wonder whether she was tough enough (or serious enough a representative) to do the job. But with time served both in the Baltimore City Council and the House of Delegates, Pugh has proven, if nothing else, that she cares deeply about Baltimore and is intimately familiar with the problems it faces. We're hoping that the time she served as a delegate helped her ease into the culture of Annapolis and primed her to move up in the world to the Senate. We're putting our doubts about Pugh aside and throwing down with her in this race--don't let us down, Sen. Pugh.

House of Delegates, 40th District

Candidates: Frank Conaway Jr., Barbara Robinson, and Shawn Tarrant (Democrats); Jan Danforth (Green)


Tarrant, Danforth, no endorsement

After learning about the troubled pasts of both Conaway Jr. ("Star Power," Mobtown Beat, Oct. 25) and Robinson ("Open Seats," Campaign Beat, Aug. 16), we are loath to get behind either of them as candidates in this race. So we endorse only two people running for the three open seats here: Shawn Tarrant, longtime community activist and president of the Ashburton Area Association, who's proven time and again that he's willing to do the hard work needed to get things accomplished in the city; and Jan Danforth of the Green Party, who, working from the Green platform, could bring a much-needed progressive voice to Annapolis. Danforth's political newbie status makes her a bit of a wildcard, but under the circumstances, she's a smart bet.

State Senate, 41st District

Candidate: Democratic Sen. Lisa Gladden is running unopposed.

House of Delegates, 41st District

Candidates: Jill P. Carter, Nathaniel Oaks, and S.I. "Sandy" Rosenberg (Democrats), Tony Asa (Republican)


Carter, Rosenberg, no endorsement

Del. Rosenberg is a solid representative with an appreciable impact, especially on the stem-cell research front. Del. Carter, while still a relative novice, has made a name for herself already, in part because of alleged personality clashes. At least she's clashing with or about something; we like that. Despite his long-term incumbency (and the overwhelming likelihood that he'll be reelected along with the rest of the Democratic ticket), Oaks has done little to distinguish himself from the legislative pack. Tony Asa offers little more than some vague ideas and an under-the-radar campaign. As it is, Carter and Rosenberg get our OK.

State Senate, 43rd District

Candidates: Joan Carter Conway (Democrat), Maria Allwine (Green)



Here's where the rubber meets the road in third-party politics in Maryland. The 43rd District offers the best chance in this year's election to put some Greens in a place where they might be able to offer more than right-on rhetoric, and you can start with Maria Allwine. Legal secretary and peace activist Allwine is unlikely to get many opportunities to exercise her anti-Iraq war passion in Annapolis, but she and her fellow Greens have a plan to "re-Marylandize" the state's power plants and take back Maryland's energy future from BGE that we admire, along with their professed dedication to working on behalf of working people instead of special interests (given the tumbleweed-ridden state of their campaign coffers, we believe them on this one). After all, who can argue against full funding of the schools? And while universal health care might be a more contentious issue, again, at root, who doesn't want to get the care they need when they need it without being cleaned out in the bargain? Incumbent Sen. Conway is seeking her second return trip to the statehouse, but we have trouble mustering much enthusiasm for her re-election. Vote Allwine and see what happens. There's a slim chance something might actually change.

House of Delegates, 43rd District

Candidates: Curt Anderson, Ann Marie Doory, and Maggie McIntosh (Democrats); Brandy Baker, David Greene, and Richard Ochs (Greens); Armand Girard (Republican)


McIntosh, Baker, and Ochs

Again, here's a Hail Mary for breaking the bipartisan hegemony in Annapolis and putting a few progressives in place. Del. McIntosh is an able and dedicated legislator with some pull, well worth returning to her seat. While delegates Anderson and Doory are running on a ticket with McIntosh, we urge you to consider touching the screen for Baker and Ochs, political newcomers but longtime activists and sober-minded concerned citizens. Even Girard, a perennial also-ran, agrees with the Green Party that Maryland should attempt to reregulate its power plants, and the Greens' grass-roots machine perhaps offers them, and us, hope in this race.

State Senate, 44th District

Candidates: Verna Jones (Democrat), Sameerah Muhammad (Republican)



We respect Muhammad's frustration with the city's boarded-up buildings and poorly performing schools, but she doesn't have the experience or focused platform we'd like to see in a viable Senate candidate. We support Jones, who has been successful in bringing state money home to Baltimore for urban revitalization projects, small-business development programs, and anti-crime initiatives.

House of Delegates, 44th District

Candidates:Keith Haynes, Ruth Kirk, Melvin Stukes (Democrats)


Haynes, Kirk, Stukes

We endorse all three Democratic candidates in this race, and we are pleased to see that voters in this district have both statehouse experience (Haynes and Kirk) and a seasoned-but-not-jaded fresh face (Stukes) on the ballot.

State Senate, 45th District

Candidates: Nathaniel McFadden (Democrat), Leonard J. Wolff (Republican)


no endorsement

With his Eastside Democratic Organization (EDO) power base, dubious incumbent Sen. McFadden doesn't need our endorsement to overcome the token opposition offered by his Republican opponent.

House of Delegates, 45th District

Candidates: Talmadge Branch, Cheryl Glenn, and Hattie Harrison (Democrats); Ronald Owens-Bey (Populist)


Branch, Glenn, no endorsement

Newcomer Glenn has impressed us in the past, EDO ties notwithstanding. We're happy that she survived the primary, and we're down with her getting a shot at the House. Del. Harrison won her umpteenth primary despite her 2002 break with the EDO, but we feel that 33 relatively undistinguished years in Annapolis might be enough. Meanwhile, Del. Branch has the seemingly requisite EDO ties, but he also shows promise of having sufficient pull in the House to help out Baltimore and the east side, which certainly need the help. Thus we endorse Glenn and Branch.

State Senate, 46th District

Candidates: George Della (Democrat), Keith Losoya (Republican)



Della's got chops. He's been a member of the Senate since 1983, and before that he served for seven years on the Baltimore City Council. He's also got some pull: He's a longtime member of the Senate Finance Committee, which reviews all legislation having to do with community development, economic development, labor, and social programs, among other things. And he's also got connection to his constituents, which was evidenced this past session when he got up on the Senate floor and denounced those legislators who weren't pushing for a resolution to the BGE rate-hike fiasco. We like this combination in Della, and we'd urge voters to send him back to Annapolis again.

House of Delegates, 46th District

Candidates: Pete Hammen, Carolyn Krysiak, and Brian McHale (Democrat); Peter Kimos (Republican)


Hammen, Krysiak, McHale

Tavern owner Kimos will appear on the ballot, but he seems to be doing so just to make sure there's a Republican on the ballot. We extend our support to the three incumbents who've been a hard-working team, well-liked by their South Baltimore constituents.

Baltimore City State's Attorney

Candidates: Democratic incumbent Patricia Jessamy is running unopposed.

Ballot Initiatives

You've probably wondered what to do about the laundry list of ballot initiatives that run for pages like the fine print on a used-car contract. So have we. After all, we like the idea of money for schools, etc., but what are we actually voting for? Is someone in the city or state government counting on us not paying close attention to these things? Having looked into them (see "New Year Resolutions" on page 17), we can say that although some of the initiatives are worded a little more vaguely than we'd like, we see no problem with voting yes to all with the possible exception of Question 4, which addresses changes to the state's voting system. Certainly the state's voting system needs work, perhaps a radical overhaul, but in voting for the question, you endorse "requir[ing] all polling places to be equipped with computers containing a record of all registered voters in the county." Having that list on-hand is essential, but given the state's recent troubles with computerized voting machines, we might not want to rush into what could amount to mandating more unproven equipment.

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