Josh Kurtz: Why Glenn Ivey Will Win -- And Why He Won’t

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Glenn Ivey has often dreamed of serving in Congress -- a goal that his many friends have long shared for him.

This may be his moment: Thanks to redistricting, with U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D) on the ropes, 2012 may be the year that Ivey, the former Prince George’s County state’s attorney and erstwhile House and Senate staffer, finally makes his triumphant return to Capitol Hill, this time as the principal.

Ivey’s candidacy, as the sports scouts might say, has a lot of upside. Less than a year out of office, he remains well known and well liked in Prince George’s County, where the overwhelming majority of voters in the newly-drawn 4th congressional district reside. He had eight mostly successful -- and equally significant, scandal-free -- years as the county’s prosecutor, not just putting away the bad guys, but beefing up the office’s victims’ assistance unit, placing a greater emphasis on sex crimes and domestic violence, and staying in close touch with community leaders in the diverse and ever-changing county.

Ivey is also incredibly genial, and smart as a whip. It’s hard not to like him, and it’s hard not to be impressed by his Ivy League pedigree and his steady rise to political prominence. He’s got a big, attractive, talented family, a solid political base in the 47th legislative district, which his wife represents in Annapolis, and friends in high places -- both inside the county and in official Washington, D.C.

You’re likely to see Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker campaign by Ivey’s side, along with a plethora of other Prince George’s pols. Expect some of his powerful ex-bosses to help out, including former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, former Maryland Sen. Paul Sarbanes, and former Gov. Parris Glendening, who appointed Ivey to head the Public Service Commission and still commands respect in Prince George’s politics.

Ivey should have a leg up on Edwards in the small Anne Arundel County portion of the district, where he can tout his law-and-order background and where he, in contrast to the incumbent, hasn’t insulted the voters there by suggesting he isn’t interested in representing them.

Edwards is anything but beloved by her fellow Prince George’s officeholders, who, along with other political insiders, grouse about her inefficient and unresponsive office and her inability to practice certain political niceties. She hasn’t proven to be much of a fundraiser, and her community -- and media -- outreach are lacking.

Edwards, in fact, has managed to make some powerful enemies after just three years in office, who wouldn’t shed a tear if she took a big tumble. In Glenn Ivey, they now have a bright and shiny vehicle to run Donna Edwards off the road.

But before Ivey starts measuring the drapes in the Rayburn building -- and before the Maryland political community writes off Donna Edwards -- consider this: The Democratic primary is just five months away.

Edwards may have only had $67,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30, but that’s still $67,000 more than Ivey had in any federal campaign account (at the beginning of this year he had $50,000 in his state campaign account, but that’s not automatically transferable). She may have a political operation that’s considered substandard in many corners, but at least she has one -- and she has important allies who will help her ramp it up, from EMILY’s List, to some of the unions that propelled her into Congress in the first place, and even some elected officials in her district.

Edwards will have the formidable powers of incumbency at her disposal, and she could see a parade of members of the Congressional Black Caucus rush to her aid -- maybe even venerable Michigan Congressman John Conyers, another one of Ivey’s ex-bosses. CBC members like to protect their own.

What’s more, Edwards will have a potent demographic on her side -- African-American women, who vote in greater numbers than men in Prince George’s elections. Remember, she was elected to Congress by upending the Al Wynn-Jack Johnson machine, and she retains that maverick image.

The duo of Ivey and Baker is considerably less sinister than Wynn and Johnson, but it still looks like a gang of men trying to upend a strong-willed woman who won’t play their game. Throw in Steny Hoyer and Mike Miller, who retain way too much power in Prince George’s County after all these years even though they no longer live there, and Edwards has a lot of bogey men to rail against. Her none-too-subtle message is sure to be: Help a sister continue to do battle with the old (and new) boys’ club.

Some pro-Israel groups have expressed their disappointment with Edwards, and Ivey has visions of wealthy Jews filling his campaign coffers. But that may be something of a mirage: J Street, the new and increasingly important pro-Israel lobby that advocates for a “two state solution” between Israel and the Palestinians -- and, incidentally, is in sync with the Obama administration on Middle East policy -- considers Edwards a friend.

What if Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit decides to run for the congressional seat as well? That would eliminate Ivey’s perceived advantage in that part of the district.

And how meaningful is the insiders’ grousing about Edwards? Insiders only influence so many votes. Come to think of it, who knows who’s going to be paying attention to an election that is kicking off just as the holidays are about to begin and is mainly going to be waged in the dead of winter? Who knows who’s going to turn up to vote in a primary in early April, when there won’t be much else of significance on the ballot?

Ivey and Edwards both have plenty of appeal. They are smart people with integrity. True, they have different strengths and slightly different political bases. But on the broad issues of the day, there is very little daylight between them.

Which may make it very difficult for Glenn Ivey to answer the essential question: Why should voters fire Donna Edwards and hire you?

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

Recent Center Maryland columns by Josh Kurtz:

Around the Horn: Maryland Register, IRV, Uly Currie

Oh Donna (and Valerie)

Bartlett Pared

Van Hollen’s Lament

P.G. Law

Race and Races

The Company He Keeps
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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.