Josh Kurtz: Two Smart Moves

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By Josh Kurtz: 

Much has been made over the announcement this week that Jim Messina, the campaign manager for President Obama’s re-election, is going to become a strategist for Anthony Brown’s campaign for governor.
Messina is an enormously talented and tough operative, and any degree of assistance he can offer Brown will be a tremendous asset to the lieutenant governor’s campaign.
But does anyone really believe that Messina will be doing a lot of work on Brown’s behalf?
Messina remains chairman of Organizing for Action, the massive grass-roots organization that Obama’s campaign apparatus has morphed into. He’s trying to build a consulting business – one that, no doubt, will be very, very lucrative. So it’s fair to assume that Messina will only be giving scant attention to Brown’s campaign.
Which doesn’t mean that Brown’s decision to hire Messina is folly. Though it may play into the notion that Brown’s campaign is top heavy and hemorrhaging money, the Messina hire is optically brilliant – and a nice poke in the eye of Brown’s principal rival for the Democratic nomination, Doug Gansler.
Gansler regular touts his early decision to endorse Obama for president in the 2008 cycle – when Brown was backing Hillary Clinton. But here is another move by the Brown campaign that cuts that argument off at the knees. If Obama’s top strategist is for Brown – and by the way, so is Congressman Elijah Cummings, who served with Gansler as Maryland co-chairman of Obama’s 2008 campaign – then that may not be an issue Gansler can exploit.
Another smart – and unreported – move that Brown made recently was his decision to travel to the National Education Association convention in Atlanta last week to host a reception for the 300-strong Maryland delegation.
Because this was a campaign appearance, he flew down on a commercial flight, with no security detail in tow. A top campaign aide, Quincey Gamble, who hails from Atlanta, happened to be in town visiting family, and met Brown at the airport. Brown spent more than two hours at the reception. He spoke briefly, but he mostly worked the room, shaking hands, taking pictures, and asking questions.
No other gubernatorial contender traveled to Atlanta. Members of the powerful Maryland State Education Association, who are expected to dole out their endorsement in the fall, took note -- and were impressed.
It comes as little surprise that Brown is probably the frontrunner for the MSEA endorsement – unions are a significant part of the Democratic establishment, and the establishment, at this early stage, is falling in line behind the establishment candidate, Brown. And any number of Maryland insiders will observe that the power of unions to make a difference in every single Democratic primary probably isn’t what it used to be.
But for those who would compare Brown’s campaign to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s, consider this: Townsend’s campaign, in strange and discordant ways, seemed to go out of its way sometimes to insult the Democratic base. By making solid plays in recent days for Obama loyalists and the teachers’ endorsement, it’s clear that Brown’s campaign is, wisely, running right towards it.


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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.