The dominant news story of 2012 was the seemingly never-ending campaigning for political offices, including but not limited to the presidency. Unless you’re a big Chris Christie fan –– he’s up for re-election in New Jersey this year –– 2013 is going to be an election-free zone. No political ads, no robo-calls, no tall tales from Mitt Romney.
In Maryland, we will, of course, see pre-campaigning activity, as various candidates start positioning themselves for the 2014 election. Comptroller Peter Franchot has taken himself out of the gubernatorial race, but we should see increasing activity from other presumptive candidates: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.
Franchot’s decision in all likelihood exempts the Office of Comptroller from any serious challenge. In the race to succeed Gansler, Montgomery County state Sen. Brian Frosh, longtime chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, looks like a strong front-runner. Whether anyone else can mount a credible challenge will become apparent in the coming year.
Eventually, you’ll start seeing speculation about who the various gubernatorial candidates will select as running mates. In the absence of a Baltimore-area contender for the top office, it seems likely that all of them will be looking in that direction for some geographical balance.
An ideal choice for someone, probably Gansler, would be Baltimore city Del. Keiffer Mitchell Jr., from a distinguished political family, who already stands out for his willingness to take public positions on such key issues as marriage equality.
Watching what happens with respect to four important local offices in 2013 also will be interesting. Can Doug Duncan make a successful comeback in his bid to win the county executive position in Montgomery County? Will Ike Leggett run for a third term? In Howard County, term-limited County Executive Ulman has been widely seen as effective and skillful in running the county. While he makes what many see as a long-shot race for governor, there will be an interesting scramble to succeed him from a number of locally well-known candidates.
On the Republican side –– yes, there is still a barely breathing Republican Party in the state –– Sen. Allan Kittleman is said to be considering the race. Among Democrats, Del. Guy Guzzone almost ran in 2006, before stepping aside for Ulman. Even if he decides to try in 2014, he’s far from a shoo-in.
The candidate to watch for this office is County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, who has won twice in a competitive district after serving on the county school board.
Anne Arundel County may have breaking news even before 2014. County Executive John Leopold faces a trial this year that could force him from office. How and when his fate plays out will have a significant bearing on the efforts of prospective candidates to position themselves for the next election.
Finally, in Baltimore city, there is the enigma of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. There was a lot of talk before the last election that once she won a term on her own, Rawlings-Blake would start to establish a distinctive leadership style. She still does not seem particularly comfortable in the office and has not put her stamp on the city in the way that some previous mayors have.
More immediately, the Maryland General Assembly convened for its annual session Wednesday. The single most important question will be whether the ongoing structural budget deficit was resolved by last session’s decisions. The whole tone of the 90 days will be dependent on the answer to that question.
Last year saw some momentous actions, including on gaming, marriage equality and the Maryland Dream Act. All of those decisions were ratified by voters in November. Will there be a new set of contentious issues this session?
One possibility, in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, is a serious effort at new gun control legislation. Frosh already has indicated his intent to introduce a package of bills. While a comprehensive approach needs to be made at the national level, tightening the laws in Maryland could be an important step.
2013 is also likely to tell us a lot more about MartinO’Malley’s political future. He had some notable ups-and-downs in 2012. The negatives included a shaky end to the regular General Assembly session and a less-than-stellar speech at the Democratic National Convention. On the plus side, his strong support for the ballot measures enhanced his reputation, as did the prominent role he played as a surrogate for President Obama during the election.
Despite his skeptics, O’Malley is on a relatively short list of credible presidential candidates for 2016. What can he do to improve his standing in that race? I have argued previously that the best path for him would be to finish out the next two years and then devote himself full time to setting up a presidential campaign operation.
Others think he would be best served by a cabinet position in the Obama administration. Many more words will be written on this subject. As the old Chinese curse warns, we live in interesting times.
Despite the absence of any elections, 2013 promises to provide lots ofadditional challenges.
Laslo Boyd does consulting in higher education, public policy and politics. His email address is lvboydgmail.com.