Josh Kurtz: The Incredible Shrinking City

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Political indignities continue to be heaped upon Baltimore city.

Not only do the latest Census figures show a decline in population of 30,000 over the past decade, meaning the all but certain loss of one legislative district and a dramatic change in the way the Baltimore region is represented in Congress. We also enter the very early stages of the 2014 gubernatorial campaign without an obvious contender from the Baltimore area.

It’s astonishing when you think about how thoroughly Baltimore has dominated state politics through the years, but it’s true. As of now, state Attorney General Doug Gansler (D), Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) and state Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) seem the likeliest to run for governor three years from now — two men from Montgomery County and one from Prince George’s. These are not Baltimore guys, however they try to pretend that they are.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D) is also in the queue — could he claim the Baltimore mantle? He may try. He was born in Baltimore. Lots of Howard County residents commute there.

But just as many commute to Washington or closer-in D.C. suburbs. And as Howard County grows, the place is taking on an identity all its own — not too Washington, not too Baltimore.

Former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith (D) probably wants to run for governor, too, but that “former” part of his title is problematic. He has no vehicle for keeping his name in the headlines — even if he winds up in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) cabinet.

A gubernatorial election without a major candidate from Baltimore? Unfathomable.

It may not happen. 2014 is a long time from now. If Stephanie Rawlings Blake (D) handily wins a full term as mayor of Baltimore in the fall, which now seems likely, she could become part of the 2014 conversation very quickly. And if the city improves substantially over the next few years, she’ll deserve to be.

A Baltimore civic leader from outside politics could emerge as a candidate — from business or academia or the nonprofit world.

Some Baltimore homers may try to convince U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) to re-engage in state politics. Ruppersberger wanted very badly to run for governor in 2002, when he was Baltimore County executive, but was talked into running for Congress instead. Now he’s happily ensconced there — and he’s very happy to have been named ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee last month.

But how long will he be content serving in the minority in Congress? Maybe he can be persuaded to run for governor after all.

Kevin Kamenetz (D), the new Baltimore County executive, probably fancies himself a potential candidate for governor some day. But there are probably too many people in the front of the line for him to contemplate a legitimate run in 2014.

And the indignities don’t stop there for Baltimore: if you think about it, there don’t seem to be many obvious Baltimore-based potential candidates for lieutenant governor, either — no standouts on the City Council or Baltimore County Council, and just a few young state legislators of particular promise.

Of course, how many state lawmakers — particularly from the city — will be thinking about the next step when their political lives are on the line? They’ll be engaged in a desperate game of musical chairs come 2014, with more players than chairs — more legislators than districts.

Equally fascinating will be watching the new Congressional district boundaries being drawn before the 2012 election. If Democrats are serious about putting one or both of the Republican-held seats into play, they will need some serious sacrifices from each of their six incumbents, all of whom have gotten a little too comfortable racking up huge victories year after year after year.

Currently, three Congressional districts cover Baltimore city — the 7th district, represented by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D), the 3rd district, represented by Rep. John Sarbanes (D), and Ruppersberger’s 2nd district, which touches different parts of the city in very artful ways.

Not coincidentally, thanks to population shifts in the state, those are three of the four Maryland House seats that now have fewer residents than the 721,694 required to constitute a Congressional district (The 4th district in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, served by Rep. Donna Edwards, is the fourth).

The Congressional districts that are significantly over the 721,694 mark confirm where the state’s population growth has largely been – Southern Maryland, Frederick County and the Eastern Shore.

Cummings’ district in particular has suffered a population hit: it’s now almost 62,000 residents short of the magic number. Cummings’ district already radiates south from the city into territory where you wouldn’t expect to find him, like blue-collar sections of Baltimore County and much of Howard County, including its most rural territory.

How different will it look in the next election? When politics collide with changes in population, anything goes.

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

Previous Center Maryland columns by Josh Kurtz:

Paying the Fare

Republican Rising Stars

Only 2,114 Days Till Election Day 2016

An Old Timer Holds Forth on Annapolis

Maryland's Moment?

Happy New War

Nobody Asked Me, but…

To the Mooney...

Can Baker Cook Up Real Change?

Preppies at the Gate

Marylanders (Still) on the National Stage

We Don’t Know Jack: Fallout from Johnson Arrest Could be Far-reaching

After Ehrlich

Tomorrow Never Knows

To Be Frank (Part 2)

The More Things Change....

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.