Josh Kurtz: The More Things Change...

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Political change is coming very soon -- just not to Maryland.

On Nov. 3, Republicans will find themselves controlling the U.S. House of Representatives, close to controlling the Senate, and with more governorships than they’ve had since the mid-1990s. With redistricting coming up in all 50 states, they’ll have the political infrastructure and muscle in place to build on their Election Day gains two years from now -- even if President Obama is re-elected.

Political change in Maryland? Not so much.

It looks increasingly like Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is going to win re-election -- maybe not by a comfortable margin, but a win is a win. The other statewide office holders up for re-election this year -- all of them Democrats -- are going to win easily. No county is going to see a flip in party control in the executive’s office.

U.S. Rep. Frank Kratovil (D) is in deep trouble -- but his win two years ago was a fluke anyway. And Democratic strategists haven’t completely written him off.

In the legislature, where the Democrats hold a robust 33-14 advantage in the Senate and an equally commanding 104-37 edge in the House, very few seats are likely to change hands.

In fact, even with the wind at Republicans’ backs nationally, the Democrats could pick up a seat in the Senate, with popular Del. Jim Mathias (D) running for an open seat on the Lower Shore (Democratic Sens. John Astle and Jim Brochin are somewhat vulnerable, but will probably prevail. Republican Sen. Alex Mooney, though he faces a tough challenge from former Frederick Mayor Ron Young, is a strong favorite to win a fourth term. And it’s hard to see any other Senate incumbent losing.)

With little change coming to the legislature -- even a Senator under indictment is going to return -- this means that the presiding officers are going to keep their gavels (though Republicans dream of knocking off House Speaker Mike Busch in two weeks). You couldn’t ask for much more stability than Mike Miller (D) as Senate president -- he’ll be entering his 25th year on the job and his 41st in the legislature. And assuming Busch wins re-election, he’ll be entering his ninth year in the top job.

(When Busch’s predecessor as Speaker, Casper Taylor, lost his House re-election bid in 2002, it took Busch just a few hours of phone calls to secure the Speaker’s job; chances are, a Busch upset would spark a three-way race to replace him as Speaker, featuring Dels. Maggie McIntosh, Kumar Barve and John Bohannan, with McIntosh the favorite.)

Miller and Busch might also be expected to keep their leadership teams intact, meaning in the House, Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Vallario (D) and Ways and Means Chairman Sheila Hixson (D) will hold on to their gavels after 17 years each. You can’t get more status quo than that.

And, to take the “no change in Annapolis” argument a step further, how can you expect change when the lobbyists who run the show (Gerry Evans, Gary Alexander, Joel Rozner, Bruce Bereano, et al) are all still around? But that’s another story...

So why has this become a status quo election in Maryland when enormous change is all around us? Part of the explanation is a national trend that has only become evident in the last several days: some traditional Democratic strongholds, even those that are seeing competitive elections like the Maryland gubernatorial race, are staying true-blue.

That’s why Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), whose poll numbers have been in the toilet for two years, seems to be pulling ahead. It’s why New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D), who was once considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country, is poised to win big. And why Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D), despite lying about his military service and struggling in the polls for a while, is almost certain to be elected to the Senate.

But let’s face it: the status quo in Maryland is, well, the status quo. Change is the exception here, not the rule. When change occurs, it’s often because of the state’s own vagaries and rhythm, not part of some national trend. And the fact is, the last few election cycles here have produced more change than Maryland is used to.

Take 2002, when a Republican was elected governor for the first time in 36 years and, thanks to the artful redrawing of Congressional boundaries, Democrats picked up two House seats here even as Republicans were making significant gains in the Congress nationwide. That same year, Cas Taylor lost his re-election bid, and in the Senate, thanks to retirements and primary defeats, all four committee chairmen were new.

Or take 2006, when an incumbent governor lost for the first time in more than half a century, and the retirements of Paul Sarbanes and Joe Curran and the Democratic primary defeat of William Donald Schaefer shook things up (it would have shaken things up further if more Congressmen had pursued Sarbanes’ open Senate seat -- two years ago, in New Mexico, all three House members ran for the Senate because there was a vacancy).

Even in 2008, a relatively quiet election year in Maryland, two Congressional incumbents went down to defeat in their primaries. In the primaries here five weeks ago, half a dozen state Senators lost.

So here it is, the 2010 general election. The political world has gone mad, except for here in Maryland, where we’re doing quite fine, thank you. See you in Annapolis, Bruce.

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

Previous Center Maryland columns by Josh Kurtz:

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Polls Apart

Van Hollen's Burden

Not Rhee-a-listic

Tomorrow’s Headlines Today!

20th Century Comes to Baltimore County

Primary Colors

Murphy the Smurf

A Gene for Public Service

No Agnew Here

The Full Montgomery

Shock and Tawes

Uly's Gold

Death and Deadlines

Bad News for Democrats From Washington to Washington County

Mr. Smith Goes ... Where?

End of the Line for Vallario?

Mission: Control

Post Plays Favorites

Red Storm Rising

Michael & Me

Wanted: Fresh Blood


Black and Blue?


Take Me Back to Old Virginny

The Political Lives of Peter Franchot

Bob and Weave

How to Make Prince George's County King

Kane is Able

To Be Frank

Gay Rights and Political Wrongs?

The Washington Post Goes to War

Snow Job

Unsolicited Advice for Ehrlich — Wait Till 2014

The Early Bird Gets the Worm?

Wayne's World May Be Another Planet

Miller Time Comes Early

Owings Owes an Explanation
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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.