Josh Kurtz: A Last Look Across the State

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By: Josh Kurtz 

It’s the most shopworn of clichés to say that the result of an election will boil down to turnout.

But here in Maryland, we can be pretty specific about it: If African-American turnout is strong, then Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) will be elected governor. If it isn’t, then businessman Larry Hogan (R) wins.

Brown is lucky that first lady Michelle Obama came to Baltimore Monday for a last-minute get-out-the-vote rally. The ensuing images on TV – which will probably also appear on the front page of this morning’s Baltimore Sun – will help remind base Democratic voters that it’s Election Day. There is no other discernible sign of excitement among Democrats.

I’ve never been much of a numbers-cruncher, but for Hogan to win, something akin to 2002, when Bob Ehrlich (R) upset Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D), will have to take place. Can it happen again?

That year, Ehrlich won largely on the strength of his showing in the Baltimore suburbs and exurbs. He took 65 percent of the vote in Anne Arundel County, 62 percent in Baltimore County, 75 percent in Harford County, and 80 percent in Carroll County.

Martin O’Malley closed the gap on Ehrlich in those four jurisdictions in 2006 and 2010 – he even beat Ehrlich narrowly in Baltimore County four years ago. But it’s very likely that Hogan will do just as well in these places as Ehrlich did in 2002.

Townsend was unable to make up the difference in the Democratic “Big Three” of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Baltimore city. Despite solid showings, percentage-wise, the sheer number of raw votes was just not there for her.

But the minority population in Maryland is slightly higher today than it was a dozen years ago. Howard County has moved marginally into the Democratic column and will probably stay there this year, thanks to Ken Ulman’s presence on the ballot as Brown’s running mate. Charles County is now reliably Democratic, thanks to the surge in African-American population there. Ehrlich took 57 percent in Charles in 2002.

So the fact that there’s a slightly different electorate may save Brown. Voters are angry – and Hogan’s name has become synonymous with change. But Hogan doesn’t have the political brand Ehrlich did, or the campaign apparatus, or the base of long-standing support in Baltimore, and all that could limit his ability to fully take advantage of the voters’ disenchantment.

In the end, though, for the Democrats, it’s still all about that devil turnout. Soon enough, we’ll know if they were able to generate just enough enthusiasm to drag Brown across the finish line.

Andrew’s Air Force Base: With his reelection assured, Congressman Andy Harris (R) has single-handedly become a financial angel to his fellow Maryland Republicans, spreading money around in swing legislative districts in ways that the moribund state GOP is incapable of doing.

Harris has created a Super PAC called A Great Maryland. He seeded it with $150,000 from his campaign account, and persuaded a well-heeled Republican donor, Arlene Hillerson, whose husband Robert Hillerson is a Montgomery County-based lawyer and developer, to chip in an additional $100,000.

Through Oct. 24, according to campaign finance records, the PAC had shipped $188,000 to Jamestown Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based GOP media firm. The PAC has put out attack mailers against state Sen. Jim Mathias (D) on the Eastern Shore, and appears to be paying for campaign literature and radio and TV ads in at least two other legislative districts – one in eastern Baltimore County, the other in Harford County – where Democrats are vulnerable.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Harris, drawn a safe district by Democrats in Annapolis so the party could flip the 6th District congressional seat, proved to be responsible for the defeat of incumbent and open-seat Democrats in conservative-leaning state Senate districts?

Forever Young: You know where I’d like to be a fly on the wall? At the Young family Thanksgiving up in Frederick County, just three weeks from now.

If there’s any place in Maryland where politics is crazier than it is in Frederick, I’d like to know about it. And the Youngs are at the center of the drama.

Republican Blaine Young, the president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, is running for the county’s top post, the newly-created position of county executive. Young, despite a lackluster opponent and a toxic environment for Democrats (Hogan will surely trounce Brown in Frederick), may be on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Like Alex Mooney in Frederick four years ago, Young has made so many enemies that a significant number of Republicans will vote against him and for the Democrat, former County Commissioner (and ex-Barbara Mikulski aide) Jan Gardner. This could put her over the top.

Meanwhile, Young’s dad, state Sen. Ron Young (D) – who knocked off Mooney four years and served two tours as mayor of Frederick – faces a tough reelection battle against Corey Stottlemyer (R), a smart young economist who may be hampered by his lack of fundraising chops.

While Ron Young fights for his political life, his wife, Karen Lewis Young (D) – Blaine Young’s step-mother – is competing for a state House seat. The two-seat House subdistrict, centered in Frederick city, was designed to elect Democrats, but the general election will be close.

Ironically, Karen Young’s Democratic “running mate” is Carol Krimm, the top aide to retiring Frederick County Del. Galen Clagett (D). Clagett and Karen Young ran against each other in the Democratic primary for Frederick mayor last year and there’s no love lost between them; Young won the primary but lost the general election.

And don’t forget about Brad Young, Blaine’s brother. He’s seeking reelection to the Frederick County Board of Education – and is being targeted by the teachers union.

Frederick voters will be forgiven if they’re tired of seeing Youngs on the ballot. And you have to wonder whether voters will be considering each race – and each Young – separately, or whether a certain amount of Young Fatigue will set in, dooming some who might otherwise be safe. How many Youngs will be standing – and talking to each other – tomorrow?

Pugh-gilist: There has been no formal announcement yet, but Baltimore city Sen. Catherine Pugh (D) will be the Senate’s new majority leader come January. Senate President Mike Miller (D) said so at a fundraiser recently.

In a chamber run so tightly (and for so long) by Miller, the majority leader doesn’t have a lot of power – and the Democratic caucus has no say over who gets selected. But with ongoing speculation over who will eventually succeed Miller – if that day ever comes – Pugh now becomes part of the conversation. For the record, she’s 64, eight years younger than Miller. The majority leader title could also be a nice credential for Pugh to tout if she decides to run for mayor of Baltimore again, as she did in 2011.

Narcissist: Tongues are still wagging over that extraordinary op-ed Del. Heather Mizeur (D) wrote in the Baltimore Sun last week, urging her supporters to resist writing her name in for governor and instead vote for Brown.

Maybe that appeal helped Brown. But what it really did was reveal how self-centered and self-aggrandizing Mizeur can be.

Mizeur offered several very legitimate criticisms of Brown and his campaign. In fact, her diagnosis of the cautious, unimaginative and negative campaign Brown is running may explain why he is struggling to put Hogan away. But from there she moved into the realm of fantasy.

Heather Mizeur ran a very effective campaign for governor with very few resources, exceeding expectations by staking out bold, progressive positions and energizing voters in a way that her two Democratic primary opponents clearly did not. But she finished third, and then, after some obligatory public declarations of party unity, she essentially faded from view.

Mizeur likes to imagine herself leading a progressive movement in Maryland, but there’s very little evidence of that. In the immediate aftermath of the primary she privately told some campaign aides and supporters that she wanted to build on the momentum of her surprisingly strong showing and keep an organization intact, but that idea didn’t last very long – or at least, has yet to be developed.

Mizuer may be doing Brown a favor by dissuading some of her supporters from writing in her name today, but come on, how many people are we really talking about here? This isn’t Cesar Chavez building a movement meant to last.

Mizeur signaled her true intention with the very last line in her op-ed: “Our time will come at some future election.” This is a talented and hard-working politician, and she probably will compete for another office someday. No doubt she’ll bring the same passion and energy to that endeavor that she did to her gubernatorial campaign. But now was not the time to say so.

By focusing the spotlight on herself, Mizeur wound up diminishing herself. Any desire on her part to remain relevant if Brown is elected may also have just been thrown out the window.

Election Night: I’m sorry to say I won’t be circulating in Maryland this evening. I’ll be in the newsroom of Environment & Energy Publishing, helming our coverage of races across the country. But I will be keeping half an eye on the action back home. If you see anything interesting or exciting or amusing tonight, please don’t hesitate to drop me an email or text me. Good luck to one and all!

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.

But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.

The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.

In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.

Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.