Maryland liberals never tire of boasting about the state’s progressiveness. Maryland is proud to be a tax ‘n’ spend, big government, gay marriage, abortion-on-demand, anti-gun, anti-death penalty, pro-labor, anti-business, no-fracking sanctuary for illegal immigrants.
Thanks to our 57 percent Democratic voter registration and artful gerrymandering, Maryland’s Democratic primary is the only election that really matters. In one-party Maryland the general election is a mere formality.
We’re the nation’s fourth most Democratic state ruled, almost exclusively, by Democrats. Our liberal Irish troubadour governor wants to erase America’s memory of Maryland’s most recent contribution to national politics, Spiro Agnew, and next year Maryland could elect its first African-American governor, Anthony Brown.
True, there are a few soft spots in our progressive resume. Our state song is an ode to the Confederacy, our first black statewide elected official (Lt. Gov. Mike Steele) is a conservative Republican and, then, there’s the corruption. Sadly, much of Maryland’s political history is written on criminal court dockets.
Last year, as the number of convicted officials swelled, the voters had to pass a constitutional amendment booting them upon criminal conviction, not at sentencing or after appeal.
But the progressives’ greatest embarrassment is Maryland’s failure to elect a woman governor. We’ve elected a woman U.S. senator and scads of women congresspersons, state lawmakers and mayors. And just last week Maryland’s top court gained its first woman chief justice while becoming majority-female to boot.
So, why can’t we produce a woman governor like the majority (26) of other states?
Stretching back to 1925, 36 women have governed states. Currently there are six women governors and, historically, women governors have won in Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alaska, states much less enlightened than Maryland.
Don’t blame the women. Plenty of women candidates won their party’s nomination only to go down in flames. In 1974 Louise Gore lost to Marvin Mandel 63 percent to 36 percent. In 1994 Ellen Sauerbrey lost to Parris Glendening by only 6,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast (she didn’t run well in Baltimore’s cemeteries). And, in their 1998 rematch, a last-minute TV blitz smear helped Glendening swamp Sauerbrey (56 percent to 44 percent).
True, Gore and Sauerbrey were Republicans but even Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s 2002 sure-bet bid to become Maryland’s first woman governor faltered against Republican Bob Ehrlich (52 percent to 48 percent).
Nor do women’s prospects look hopeful. So far, only one woman, Democratic Delegate Heather Mizeur is running for governor and she may drop out. Mizeur would not only be Maryland’s first woman governor, she’d be its first lesbian governor and its first governor elected from Montgomery County. That might be just a few too many “firsts,” even for progressive Maryland.
Her candidacy would be most interesting to see whose votes she drains away and to see if her fellow gay politicians rally around her.
Well, how about the Republicans? So far, no woman likelies. Too bad because the right woman candidate might be just what the Republicans need to win the governor’s office next year.
You see, Republicans only win in Maryland when the Democrats screw up. And next year’s Democratic primary between Doug Gansler and Anthony Brown could be a disaster. If Gansler wins, what’s the party’s message to blacks, its core constituency? Sorry, it’s not your turn yet, vote for the white guy form Montgomery?
And even if Brown wins, will Marylanders embrace eight more years of historic tax hikes? And what’s the Brown-Ulman ticket’s message to Baltimore? Sorry, you’re history? And will January’s Obamacare rollout backfire on Brown, its principal architect in Maryland?
But Republicans can’t exploit a Democratic train wreck without a legitimate “crossover” candidate, someone Democrats and independents can justify voting for. And what greater justification than electing a woman governor with an amazing life story?
Not only does such a candidate exist, she’s currently the Anne Arundel County executive and, in next year’s gubernatorial race, would be the sole candidate from Baltimore. Here begins Laura Neuman’s own written account of her compelling life story:
“I was born in Baltimore City and grew up in a row house in East Baltimore. My father dropped out of high school in 10th grade and I’m not sure if my mother finished — she was pregnant in her senior year. They had five children (one mentally disabled) in a tiny house.
“My father was a draftsman and sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. He never had a full time job with benefits until just before he died. He was occasionally institutionalized and was also a drug user (marijuana and amphetamines).
“My parents rented a tiny house. They never owned a new car. My father’s driver’s license was revoked, my mother was the only driver.
“We lived on the dividing line (Montford Avenue) between black Baltimore and white Baltimore during the (1968) race riots. There was one house separating us from the corner store. The goal was to get to the store without getting robbed. I would put a nickel in one hand and a quarter in the other, hoping to only have to give up one.”
Next Week: The rest of the Laura Neuman story.
Blair Lee is chairman of the board of Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in the Business Gazette. His past columns are available at www.gazette.net/blairlee. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.