Monday, December 31, 2012

Maryland State of Mind Top 10 Stories

(Baltimore, MD) – When I started this blog it grew out of the abundance of material I was collecting, and writing about on Maryland. This year as I have done on Charles Black Politics Blog I’ve chronicled the stories which reached the top ten. I want to thank many of my State House colleagues who have done a lot of the first person reporting on stories around the state.  I am sad that a number of my colleagues who have institutional memory are no longer here, others are now writing for larger media groups, and the new crop of reporters who ventured into “the Pit” provided the spunk we need to up our reporting skills. So let’s get started.

10. The Schism in Maryland GOP. The GOP in the state is desperately looking for new leadership. Robert Erhlich has given up the mantle as a political juggernaut (but everyone wants his endorsement) and taken to writing opinion. So you can imagine my surprise when the county GOP Central Party was removed from the decision to replace a council member on the Cecil County Council. Instead the state party was chosen to make the selection. It’s pissed off two high powered GOP members Rep. Andy Harris and State Senator E.J Pipken. Also there was an insurgent campaign to remove Alex Money as thestate chair of the GOP. Stay tuned.

9. Peter Franchot is not a candidate for Governor. The state comptroller is loud and visible in his many criticisms of how government could be better. He was against gambling and appeared in a commercial against the idea. If he ran for governor he would have been in a field of four.

8. Ethical Reform. Political office holders need to think twice about using their offices for financial or political advantage. Heed the lessons of several of your colleagues, Sen. Ulysses S. Currie, Del. Tiffany Alston, and Del. Don Dwyer. FYI, if you believe you can keep your position until you are sentenced, a change in the law says you will be removed.

Del. Neil C. Parrott
7.  Ballot Initiatives.  You can thank Del. Neil Parrott for the increase in ballot initiatives. He was able to use technology to put more initiatives on the ballot. Great for democracy, but an increase in the amount of time you spend filling out a ballot on Election Day.

6. Special Sessions.  I must admit I’ve been through 7 Special Sessions since I began at MPT. Some are done to address urgent matters.  Others have been concocted to address issues which are man/women made.  The latest revolved around gambling in the state.  The legislature meets for 90 days and it appears this is not enough time to get things done.

5. Leadership at HBCU’s.  There is nothing worse than poor leadership. The last place you need ineptitude is at the state’s leading institutions for educating African-Americans. It began with the removal of Coppin State University’s President. The Board of Regents at Morgan State University (in a close vote) decided to remove the President then reversed itself. Lastly, the President of Baltimore City Community College was removed after losing nearly 2000 students and is in jeopardy of losing its accreditation. This is a bad sign.

4. Gambling Interest. We knew that lobbying by those interested in bringing expanded gaming to the state was active. Who knew they would be the driver of political ads in the state during a Presidential race. Everyone else sat on the sidelines. The amount of money spent dwarfed the amount spent on a governor’s race.

3. Maryland Leaders in Congress Get Juiced. Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer is waiting to see if Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California is ready to relinquish control. Congressman Elijah Cummings is poised to become a Chairman of a committee. The biggest change in 2013 is Sen. Barbara Mikulski will become the chair of the Appropriations Committee one the most powerful committees in the senate. She will have the power to decide what gets funded.

2. Waiting in the Wings. There will be a lot of posturing in the New Year with a trio of Maryland Politicians who are poised to replace the governor. Here’s what we know today. On the Democratic side expect Attorney General Douglas Gansler to via for the top spot; Ken Ullman, Howard County Executive, is looking for an upgrade and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown will likely throw his hat in the ring. On the Republican side there is Harford County Executive David Craig, Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, and Brian Murphy who challenged Robert Erhlich.

1. Governor Martin O’Malley. 2012 was a very good year for the Governor. He backed a pair of ballot initiatives that won (Same Sex Marriage and the Dream Act). He was the chair of the Governor’s Association, which allowed him to address the GOP directly. He also made a major speech to the DNC. He has made no secret he will seek higher officer i.e. The Presidency, and yes, he has an exploratory committee called “Oh Say Can You See…”

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Taking the Pulse

 (Goucher College) Maryland is not a factor in the Presidential race but, its voters are a laboratory experiment for a series of ballot questions with potential implications that will radically change life in the state. Where are Marylanders on these new initiatives? I got a chance to watch what it’s like to be in the room as pollsters are taking the pulse of an electorate.

It’s 7:00 pm in the Olga V. Bowden Library Classroom on the campus of Goucher College. There are 40 students seated at tables with headsets and computer screens.  They have spent an hour and half training with Mileah Kromer Kristen Keener Pinheiro of Goucher allowed me to watch. She tells me, “We’ve given them a script…to keep them focus.” A number of the students are getting nowhere with respondents, but others are getting more than they asked for. “How often do you attend church,” asks a questioner. She records the response into a screen. While the conversation continues I’m amazed that there is more gab between the pair. “Mam, I'm here just to collect the information,” and with that the conversation ends.
The Goucher Poll  joins a growing list of organizations conducting polls this season. Maryland hasn’t been in the mix of polls being watched because it’s not a battleground for the national campaigns. The state has become this unique laboratory on issues which may rise up on the national level.

They include a pair of questions via a referendum to allow instate tuition at community colleges for the children of undocumented workers; and the sanctioning of same sex marriage in the state. What will surprise no one is a lot of outside money has come in to stop these issues.  Conversely, championing these two issues is Governor Martin O’Malley who is hanging his attempts to run for President in 2016 on their passage.

Voter Referendum

Del. Neil Parrott
The conservative base has had little to hang its hat on in the state, but using computer based targeting Delegate Neil Parrott  has “flipped the script” on ballot initiatives. Until this year few if any initiatives reached the state threshold for being certified (18,000 signatures).  Delegate Parrott, a GOP member from Washington County, put up a website ( and asked for people to sign up and weigh in on the issue of instate tuition. People were able to sign the petition and he linked voting data to petitioners which allowed for little attrition on invalid names. Parrott and his followers also went in person to targeted districts who did not favor the change in the state law. Before long they had the required signatures and expanded the petition drive to encompass same sex marriage and a revision of the governors redistricting plan.

Pastor Derek McCoy
Initially, the public ground swell was evidence of a deep suspicion of Maryland government which came together in the election of Robert Erhlich as governor. Just as Erhlich learned you don't have enough Republicans in the state to win and it allows for unique coalitions. The idea of strange bedfellows was born in the marriage of Black Churches and same sex marriage. The legislative odd couple came when Del Parrott joined forces with Derek McCoy, of the Maryland Marriage Alliance. McCoy, who is Black, was able to tap into a large and vocal Black clergy to rally them against the idea of gay marriage. When I initially asked Mr. McCoy about fundraising for this cause he didn't have an answer. There is now an answer, and it has come from groups that are funding a media campaign which I expected.

Not to be Out Done
The Governor has been able to enlist a bevy of Hollywood heavyweights to back the same sex marriage issue. He’s made campaign stops from California,Washington, DC, and New York to showcase the issue and could serve as the bank he needs to make a presidential run. According to a source close to the governor, “he can tie up the Irish Catholics/Kennedy’s in New England and tie that to Hollywood and that’s a win win.”

To combat the religious/philosophical appeal from those oppose to same sex marriage those who favor granting marriage to same sex couples they have turned to the civil rights community which garners large following from those in the church. The big guns were brought in from Famed Civil Rights Activist Julian Bond and NAACP CEO Benjamin Jealous.

This is a win at all cost for the Governor. No state has approved either the same sex marriage issue or the instate tuition provision. The way I see it he wins if he wins or loses. If he wins he'll be able to tout it as an accomplishment. If he loses he can say, "see I tried."

What the Polls Say about Both Issues.


 Courtesy: Goucher Poll Dr. Mileah Kromer Director, Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center
 Rolling the Dice

If there is one issue on the ballot that is driving all other it is the issue of expansion of gambling.  The total spending for all media is in the neighborhood 70 million dollars. Much of the ads have targeted the population centers in Baltimore and the Washington, DC Metro Area. The wildcard if there is one is how will Prince Georges County vote? For several years the legislative members of the this group have fought back efforts to bring gambling to this District suburb. 

A recent debate at MPT studios between Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and Jacqueline Goodall, the Mayor of Forest Heights. The debate became emotional and shed no light on what would be best for the county. This is where the rubber meets the road.  So how did this come out in the Goucher Poll?

Courtesy: Goucher Poll Dr. Mileah Kromer Director, Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center

Polls are only mere snapshots of an electorate at a given time. They tell you a simple truth, where voters are when they are sampled. I got a a chance to see the process and will vouch for its validity. I am still concerned about it's inability to take into account cellphone users (this poll factored in 25% of those polled). The sampling of mobile phone users will have to increase in the future in order to get a true picture of what voter are thinking.

For more information and detail on the Goucher Poll please go to