The 2012 presidential election is barely over. Barack Obama has yet to be sworn in for a second term. Yet pundits are already speculating about 2016. Will Hillary Clinton run again? Is Joe Biden a potential candidate despite his advanced age? Will New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo try to gain a national profile?
On the Republican side, has New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie become the presumptive front-runner for 2016? Will the party instead turn to a minority candidate such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal?
Given such attention to 2016 nationally, it is surely time to think about the Maryland state elections of 2014, which promise to be among the most interesting in the recent history of our state. Republicans are not likely to field a competitive statewide candidate for any office in 2014.
Barack Obama won Maryland with 62 percent of the vote in 2012. Democrats now hold seven of the state’s eight congressional seats after Democrat John Delaney defeated long-standing Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett in a redrawn 6th District. The only Republican with a strong statewide profile is former-Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who lost twice to O’Malley –– by a whopping 14 percentage points in 2010, a good Republican year nationwide.
The crucial state-level election is the Democratic primary, which is only about a year and a half away, on the third Tuesday in June 2014. Thus the election contests actually will commence early this year, as candidates jockey for support, visibility and funds. Already one political bombshell has landed in Maryland. In December, Peter Franchot announced that he will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor, but will instead run for re-election as comptroller.
Franchot can still change his mind. As British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said, “Finality is not a word we use in politics.” As an outspoken critic of legalized gambling and other positions of the O’Malley administration, Franchot would have been an exciting maverick candidate for governor. However, his decision to forgo that contest is probably is a wise one. Comptroller is an extremely powerful position in Maryland, with considerable influence over spending and taxing decisions. If Franchot ran for governor, he likely would be competing against another white male candidate from Montgomery County: Attorney General Doug Gansler. Under such circumstances, current Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, an African-American from Prince George’s County, would become the presumptive favorite.
Presuming Franchot has no charge of heart, the next governor almost surely will be either Gansler or Brown, with the Democratic primary tantamount to election. Although I respect both of these public officials, my money is on Gansler, whom I have known well for many years and who has served with distinction as both Montgomery County state’s attorney and attorney general. Brown, meanwhile, has utterly disappeared as lieutenant governor. No lieutenant governor in the modern history of Maryland has won election as governor –– remember Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002. Some have speculated that O’Malley’s endorsement of Brown gives him an important advantage. But O’Malley will be too busy with his long-shot campaign for the Democratic nomination for president to be of much help to Brown. The governor’s approval ratings also have slipped to an anemic 49 percent in the most recent Washington Post poll, released in late October.
No high-profile Democrat is likely to challenge seriously Franchot’s bid for re-election. But Gansler’s near-certain run for governor creates an open seat in the race for attorney general. A likely and strong Montgomery County candidate is the estimable state Sen. Brian Frosh. Known as the conscience of the Senate, Frosh is also the long-term chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Should he choose to run, Jamie Raskin would be a formidable contender for attorney general. Raskin is a well-respected, two-term state senator and one of the nation’s outstanding constitutional lawyers. However, Frosh and Raskin would appeal to much the same constituency. The presence of both candidates in the race would open up the field for a candidate from outside Montgomery County.
The looming statewide races in 2014 also have implications for local politics. But that is the subject for another column. Meanwhile, consider the prospect that after 2014, for the first time, all three statewide elected officials in Maryland could be from Montgomery County.
Allan J. Lichtman is a professor of history at American University and a national political analyst. His email address is email@example.com.