Josh Kurtz: Quick Hits

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By Josh Kurtz: 

You could almost hear the gasps in Maryland political circles Friday when U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that she was resigning.

What if President Obama chooses Gov. Martin O’Malley to replace her? people inevitably thought. That could screw up two statewide races in 2014 and any number of down-ballot contests.

Under the O’Malley-to-DHS scenario, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown would move up to be governor, making it harder for Democrats to run against him -- if they run against him at all. That could mean Attorney General Doug Gansler stays put, affecting any number of candidates farther down the ballot -- making what was shaping up to be the most wide-open state election in a generation a status quo election in a distressing heartbeat.

But hey, ambitious Maryland pols -- there’s probably no reason to panic. There are at least five non-politicians -- folks in law enforcement or homeland security-related fields -- who are being mentioned prominently as successors to Napolitano. O’Malley and a few other elected officials are seen as longshot candidates.

If Obama is thinking about nominating a politician, he might want to look at Maine Sen. Susan Collins. She’s the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Even though the Republican governor of Maine would get to pick Collins’ temporary replacement, her seat is up for election in 2014. That’s a seat Democrats might be able to win if Collins is out of the way -- and that’s a serious consideration, because they’re already in grave danger of losing Senate control next year.

All this is idle speculation, of course. Even if O’Malley gets the call, who says he wants the job? How would it fit into his 2016 ambitions? A spokeswoman threw water on the speculation the other day. But if the president calls…


It’s hardly surprising that David Craig, the early frontrunner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, is choosing state Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio to be his running mate in 2014.

Haddaway-Riccio was probably the No. 1 pick for No. 2 for every declared and prospective Republican candidate. She’s young, attractive, articulate, friendly; partisan, but not disagreeably so. In Annapolis, she’s popular with colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Haddaway-Riccio doesn’t change the dynamic of the race -- Republicans are still heavy underdogs, and Craig is still vulnerable to a challenge from the right in the GOP primary.

But she provides contrasts to Craig -- notably, she’s 36 and he’s 64; also, she has two last names and he has two first names.

She also helps reinforce some of his strengths. He’s a conservative, but a governing conservative -- someone who isn’t allergic to government. Haddaway-Riccio has 10 years of legislative service on her resume. In fact, she has more experience in office than any Republican candidate for lieutenant governor since Helen Bentley tapped Howie Denis in 1994.

In other words, with all of Craig’s government service, this is a duo that is ready to govern. Republicans in Maryland haven’t always been able to say that.

Also an asset for the GOP in a general election: Haddaway-Riccio, while undeniably conservative, is one of those Eastern Shore Republicans with a decent environmental record. In fact, she began her professional career working for the Maryland Department of the Environment, and she later worked for the National Audubon Society in D.C. She has a respectable 43 percent lifetime score from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and belongs to the national group Republicans for Environmental Protection, which recently changed its name to ConservAmerica.

So in all, a solid pick for a solid guy. If Craig emerges as the Republican nominee, the GOP will have a solid ticket, a plausible alternative to whatever Democrats offer up following their rollicking primary. And that’s all Republicans can hope for at this early stage.


Two prominent Maryland interest groups recently released their annual scorecards on the 2013 legislative session. There are few surprises in the ratings of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, which just came out yesterday, and Maryland Business for Responsive Government. Yet they both tell a story.

Predictably, Democrats did very well in the LCV report card and Republicans didn’t. Similarly, Republicans did better in MBRG’s list than most Democrats.

But there are always exceptions: The lowest-ranking Senate Democrat on the LCV report was Roy Dyson of St. Mary’s County, with a 29. Howard County Sen. Allen Kittleman was the chamber’s highest-ranking Republican, with a 33.

In the House, Anne Arundel Del. Cathy Vitale scored highest among Republicans, with a 60. Baltimore County Del. Sonny Minnick was the lowest-scoring Democrat, with a 33.

Baltimore County Sen. Bobby Zirkin was the highest-ranking Democrat in the MBRG report, with an 80. St. Mary’s County Del. Johnny Wood had the highest score among House Democrats, with a 75.

In the Senate, Chris Shank of Western Maryland was the lowest-scoring Republican, with a 60. Another Western Maryland Republican, Don Elliott, was the lowest GOPer in his chamber on the MBRG report card, with a 57.

More tellingly is the split between Democratic legislators in the state’s three most liberal jurisdictions -- Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore city -- and those from the rest of Maryland.

In the LCV report, senators from Montgomery, Prince George’s and the city -- and they’re all Democrats -- averaged a 77 score, and eight racked up perfect 100’s. The Democratic senators from the rest of the state averaged 56, and only one -- Baltimore County Sen. Jim Brochin -- was perfect.

Senate Democrats from the three most liberal jurisdictions scored an average of just 29 on the MBRG pro-business report. Democratic senators from the rest of the state scored an average of 48.

Here is further confirmation that Maryland is essentially a three-party state: Liberal Democrats, centrist Democrats and Republicans (for the record, GOP senators averaged 12 on the LCV list and 87 on the MBRG report card).


It may sound like a foreign concept to old-school, shoe leather campaigners, but data mining is an increasingly essential part of campaigns.

Surprisingly, it isn’t just a whippersnapper’s game.

Several Baltimore-area political veterans have started a consulting practice around campaign management software that they‘ve designed. Under the system developed by the Towson-based company CampaignON, candidates, with just a few computer keystrokes, can keep track of an unlimited amount of useful information, from constituent communication to campaign finance records.

Mining the data, the company can help candidates devise a media campaign, a door-knocking strategy, a get-out-the-vote operation, and more.

The people who have put the company together -- the leaders include Herb Sweren, a sales and marketing veteran, Barry Silverman, a longtime Baltimore-area campaign strategist, and former Baltimore County Executive Dennis Rasmussen -- spent a few days in Annapolis during the legislative session soliciting clients.

Most of the company’s initial business will be in Maryland -- but the group recently inked a candidate for mayor of El Paso, Texas. Baltimore County Del. Eric Bromwell (D) is a client -- and a fan.

“I think they have a product unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Bromwell told Center Maryland, describing how arduous it has always been to keep track of all the information necessary to run a successful campaign and a legislative office. “Instead of walking around with two binders, I have a tablet I can punch information into.”

And it’s nice for us geezers to know that people from our generation can still be cutting-edge when they need to be.

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.