Political intrigue starts early
Now that County Executive Isiah Leggett has announced he wants a third term, Montgomery County Democrats might feel like Goldilocks when they make their decision in next year’s primary for county executive.
Will they want something new, in Councilman Phil Andrews? Do they want to rekindle the past, in Doug Duncan? Or will they vote for Leggett, thinking the county, as is, is just right?
It’s a question that will no doubt consume the politically minded until the ballots are counted in the overwhelmingly Democratic county.
Leggett’s re-election revelation wasn’t really much of a revelation at all. Late last year, he signaled that he might drop his self-imposed two-term term limit — he just needed until January to meet with supporters to help him decide. January became February, and February became June. Last week, he finally said he still had unfinished business and wanted the third term.
Looking back on Leggett’s two terms, he deserves credit for navigating the county through extremely difficult economic period, but voters still will have questions. The first would be the Silver Spring Transit Center. Were the construction mistakes made because Leggett administration inspectors were asleep? Or more importantly, will Leggett be able to engineer solutions that will get the long-delayed transportation hub open?
In his interview with The Gazette, Leggett called the transit center a “slight bump.” Some might see that remark as a $120 million understatement.
Then there’s Leggett’s labor record, which will be difficult for voters to judge. On the one hand, he opposed the special bargaining rights the police union enjoyed. He won the legislative fight, and when the matter was put to voters, he won the referendum. Don’t expect the Fraternal Order of Police to be inactive this election season.
On the other hand, he lavished the public employee unions with generous raises this year. Jaded observers remember the raises Duncan provided unions just before his aborted gubernatorial campaign, and many said the raises were meant to buy labor peace through the election.
Pro-Leggett voters probably can support either scaling back the bargaining rights or the generous raises, but probably not both. Curiously, Republican James Shalleck, the only Republican so far to express an interest in the position, knocks Leggett for his treatment of the police union. In essence, the Republican says the Democrat doesn’t do enough for labor. Go figure.
The 2014 primary election ballot will have other great races — in fact, political observers haven’t had this much fun in 20 years. You have to go back that far to find an election when both the Democrats and Republicans had contested primaries for governor. (For the record, it was in 1994 that Parris N. Glendening won the Democratic primary over American Joe Miedusiewski and Mary Boergers. Glendening then defeated Ellen Sauerbrey, who had defeated Helen Delich Bentley in the Republican primary.)
For 2014, two solid Republicans already have announced gubernatorial bids — Harford County Executive David Craig and Anne Arundel Del. Ron George.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown already has tapped Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as a running mate in his bid to become full-bird governor. Attorney General Douglas Gansler, Del. Heather Mizeur and Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger still are waiting to enter the race.
Down ticket, the races should be equally interesting. Sen. Brian Frosh and Del. Bill Frick both say they want to become attorney general, as do Del. Jon Cardin of Baltimore County and Del. Aisha Braveboy of Prince George’s County.
Frosh’s departure from the Maryland Senate opens up his chairmanship of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. The resignation of Sen. Robert Garagiola recalibrates the discussion on the candidates to succeed Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. as Senate president. There are implications for Montgomery’s clout, real or perceived, in Annapolis.
For the general election, one race already likely to generate excitement is freshman Rep. John Delaney’s first bid for re-election. Delaney wrested the 6th District seat from 10-term Roscoe G. Bartlett Jr. in 2012. Delaney appears to be headed for a challenge from Republican Daniel Bongino.
Bongino, a former Secret Service agent, tried to unseat Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin last year. He’s been a fixture on political TV talk shows. He announced he was entering the race Tuesday in Frederick.
Some faulted Delaney because his Potomac home is just outside the district’s boundaries. Bongino lives in Severna Park and will need to take the Intercounty Connector to cross into the 6th District.
All in all, 2014 is shaping up to be a remarkable election year. Fasten your seat belts, voters; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.