Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rage Against A Machine

(Rockville, MD) After months of letting everyone know he’d join the race for governor of Maryland on his own time, Maryland State’s Attorney Douglas Gansler announced his intention to enter the crowded field of candidates vying to become the head of the Free State. Gansler admitted he has always face long odds whenever he has run for office. To showcase his campaign the State’s Attorney embarked on a 17 city tour starting in his home base of Rockville.

The crowd was peppered with family and friends who’ve supported him. Speaking on his behalf was State Senator Richard Madaleno of Montgomery County who reminded the crowd of Gansler often has gone against the grain. He cited the candidate’s early support of same sex marriage. Senator Madaleno went on to reminded the crowd, it was the State’s Attorney who supported Barack Obama for President while most of the established Democrats in the state were backing Hillary Clinton for President (expect to hear more about this in the next nine months).

The nominee was introduced to the crowd by his son. The vision was about being “Maryland Proud.” The theme under his administration will be to create jobs and provide for a fairer economy for the middle class according to his campaign literature.

In trying to change the conversation from what his two opponents (Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and Del. Heather Mizeur) have been talking about, the Rockville native questioned aspects of the so call “machine.” “I’m not your candidate if you just want the status quo. I’ve never just gone along merely to get along.” He also referred to “them” as the establishment –“My service as governor will be built on meeting the needs of people. Not the establishment. Not the special interests.”

This reoccurring theme has some legitimacy if you look at how his main opponent candidate Anthony Brown has been racking up endorsements. There are few high profile Democratic supporters left to get (Isaiah Leggett, Rushern Baker, and Peter Franchot). Just as Brown convinced Ken Ullman of Howard County to drop out of the race and support his ticket; is it time Gansler made an entrée to Del. Mizeur to give up her campaign to support him?

“So John, (Wagner –Washington Post) which one of the two candidates will go negative first,” I ask of my colleague who covers politics. John gives a wry smile, but we both know it could get very nasty. That’s always a risk in primary. It points out the weakness in your rival and makes you vulnerable in the general election, but wait this is Maryland. The last time we had a truly contested race was when Robert Erhlich, a Republican, beat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a Democrat, for Governor. The party powers in the Democratic Party are not about to let that happen.

The Scene

In looking at the announcement for Gansler and that for Brown there were some striking contrast…Energy. The crowd in Rockville for the most part was subdued. The event for Gansler was called an “Ice Cream Social.” Maybe that’s okay for Rockville, but in Prince George’s County where Brown kicked off his campaign there was a barbeque with a marching band.

Gansler held his kick off in a park in the middle of an urban landscape buffered by several thoroughfares with loud trucks, and blaring car radio’s (where I was standing I kept turning around to see who was making all the noise).

There has never been a Governor from Montgomery County. Gansler made reference to this and if anyone in the county has a potential shot, it’s him. However, a number of my colleagues made reference to candidate runs for Governor who launched their campaigns from Rockville. They include Martin O’Malley and Robert Erhlich. Let’s just say the last guy didn’t do so well.

Look I’m not a campaign manager, but you might want acknowledge some of the elected officials who showed up for the kick-off. I spotted several delegates and a state senator in the crowd. Heck even spoke to State Comptroller Peter Franchot who attended the event. He remains neutral in the race. He told me he has attended the kick-offs for Brown, Mizeur, and now Gansler. “I offer up my consultation to all them,” says Franchot. What will make him get off the sideline from being a spectator? “The fiscal issues in the state,” says the Comptroller, “we got get this state back to being business friendly.”

I was trying to figure out while standing at this event what this campaign reminded me of, and then it hit me, Stephen Sachs campaign against William Donald Schaffer. Sachs and Gansler were State’s Attorney’s. Sach’s was trying to seize upon the angst that people had about a “machine politician.” His pick for a running mate was supposed to change to election. I can go on and on…but you remember how that went.

At campaign events in order to get the crowd fired up they usually play music from various artist. Okay, I’m listening, there’s a tune from Kayne West, Billy Joel, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. If this is someone’s playlist/candidate playlist I guess it can be described as “all over the place.”

If there is an irony to this event Gansler can’t file paper work yet to appear on a ballot, the reason he doesn’t have a running mate. It’s the big unanswered question to the candidate. According to a staff member the announcement won’t be made until October. So what’s the criterion for the pick? A campaign source says they have vetted through a number of candidates and it’s come down to two jurisdictions Baltimore and Prince George’s County. Let me suggest that the running mate will not look like Gansler.

Five Questions the Candidate Needs to Answer

I did this with Anthony Brown and you can review them to see if he has sufficiently answered them. So here goes for Doug Gansler.

1.       Can the money you have in the bank (its estimate at $5 million) bring you energy and votes?
2.       Selection of a running mate can be a game changer will your selection be enough?  Let me suggest no one ever votes for the second name on the ticket, but in this case any change in narrative can’t hurt.
3.       You will have to answer the question about why you said “I mean, right now his campaign slogan is, ‘Vote for me, I want to be the first African American governor of Maryland,’ ” Gansler (D) told the group. “That’s a laudable goal, but you need a second sentence: ‘Because here’s what I’ve done, and here’s why I’ve done it.’ ” (from the Washington Post 8-12-13). FYI, saying it was a slip of the tongue won’t cut it.
4.       Here’s another one of those question which will haunt you, “Why aren’t politico’s in this state not endorsing/willing to stand with you?”
5.       The key to any campaign is tightening you base (Montgomery County) and marrying it with another jurisdiction/constituency that you can count on Election Day. I’m trying to figure out who your other is?