Politicians say darnedest things

Friday, May 26, 2006






Have you ever actually listened to what politicians say? Here are some items from this year’s campaigns — and it’s only May!

*‘‘We will win Montgomery County and I guarantee it.” — Anthony Brown, Martin O’Malley’s lieutenant governor running mate, at May 17 campaign headquarters opening in Rockville.

Anthony, just because you’re in Montgomery County doesn’t mean you have to act as wacky as the locals. Only two things are certain in this year’s election: Martin O’Malley is going to carry Baltimore and Doug Duncan is going to win Montgomery. I guarantee it.

Your team’s rose garden strategy isn’t going to rack up many votes in Montgomery where Duncan enjoys universal name recognition and O’Malley doesn’t. So tell your boss to open his wallet, spring for some TV ads and stop dismissing Duncan as dog poo. After all, you’re the one guaranteeing the victory.

By the way, would you like to place a little wager on your prediction? Let’s say we bet our houses and I’ll throw in my car just to even the odds. Do we have a deal?

*‘‘[Governor Ehrlich’s petition drive] is the ugliest voter suppression technique Maryland has seen in modern times.” — Terry Lierman, Democratic Party chairman, describing the GOP’s effort to take recent election law changes to referendum on the November ballot.

Until this year’s election Maryland voters could only vote at their home precinct, only on Election Day and could only get an absentee ballot by requesting one after offering a reason. But Democrats in the state legislature changed the rules. Now you can vote anywhere in Maryland (without ID) for a week before Election Day or by absentee ballot without request or reason.

The Democrats believe these changes will help Democrats win and the Republicans agree. That’s why Ehrlich wants to postpone the changes by gathering 51,185 referendum signatures by June 30.

Are both sides playing politics? Sure, but for the life of me, how are the Republicans guilty of attempted ‘‘voter suppression?” Why would somebody reading about the governor’s petition drive feel intimidated or less inclined to vote? Every study shows that early voting doesn’t increase voter turnout, it simply spreads the same turnout over more days. Why would Ehrlich’s petition make these voters stay home?

Terry, even the silliest mudslinging ought to rely on some shred of logic. Yours doesn’t.

*‘‘We need to replace the energy industry lackeys at the Public Service Commission with independent, qualified regulators who will work to keep energy affordable.” — Martin O’Malley, gubernatorial candidate.

Talk about illogical, if the mayor truly believes, ‘‘the PSC has repeatedly demonstrated no interest in determining if such a drastic increase is warranted and continues to protect the interests of big business...” why on earth is he asking a judge to make the same PSC rehear the rate plan?

What would the PSC do differently the second time if it blatantly disregarded its public duty the first time? Does Mayor O’Malley expect a sudden epiphany or is he simply beating the anti-PSC drum to distract voters from the real culprits — the 1999 legislature and governor who created the deregulation fiasco?

But in the rate hike debate illogic abounds. For instance, on one hand the Democrats and the media trash Governor Ehrlich’s rate relief deal saying it provides no relief at all. Then they complain that the plan’s ‘‘opt-in” feature will result in many seniors and uneducated ratepayers failing to sign up for the plan’s protection and benefits.

Come on guys, which is it? You can’t have it both ways.

*‘‘Doug Duncan is somebody who I’ve watched for about 12 years really work hard in Montgomery County, which is by no means some cow pasture in Western Maryland.” — Stu Simms, Doug Duncan’s lieutenant governor running mate.

Stu, what is it with you city guys and rural Maryland? Remember when Don Schaefer called the Eastern Shore a ‘‘s _ _ _ house?” In a close election you need every vote, even the guys who work in cow pastures. Next time say ‘‘some cow pasture in Virginia.” They can’t vote in Maryland.

*‘‘It is false, I think, to say, ... as the county executive [Doug Duncan] has in the past, ‘I understand urban blight, look what I’ve done for Silver Spring.’ Well, with all due respect, he does not understand urban blight. Silver Spring was not urban blight.” — Martin O’Malley on TV News Channel 8, May 11

With all due respect, that’s like saying, ‘‘Martin O’Malley doesn’t understand Irish ballads.” Mayor O’Malley, if you campaign in Montgomery saying, ‘‘Silver Spring was not urban blight,” expect a lot of laughs.

Doug Duncan inherited a bombed-out downtown Silver Spring abandoned by over 300 businesses and with over 44 vacant buildings. Not just empty buildings but boarded-up crack houses and homeless people’s hide-outs. I know, I toured them with the fire department. Meanwhile, brand new office buildings were half-full because tenants were turned off by panhandlers and street people.

Duncan vowed ‘‘to fix Silver Spring or die trying.” Using public funds, eminent domain, salesmanship and hard work, he turned Silver Spring into a thriving success story for which he gets full credit. And all this happened during a real estate recession, not a boom like Baltimore is enjoying today.

That’s why Doug Duncan is going to win Montgomery and why I’m going to end up owning Anthony Brown’s house.

Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in The Gazette. His e-mail address is blair@leedg.com.