Townsend's challenge

Leadership: Marylanders must demand a spirited campaign for governor in 2002.

November 09, 2001

SOME HANDICAPPERS will tell you no one can beat Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in Maryland's next gubernatorial campaign.

She has the name recognition -- and a deep reservoir of Kennedy family sentiment.

She has eight years of experience in the governor's office.

And she has money: $4.4 million raised with months to go before the race begins.

Still, she is not what athletes and politicians call a mortal lock -- and should not wish to be. Her many advantages should make her anxious for a spirited campaign that proves she deserves the job.

Those who might oppose her know, of course, that winning takes money. Money for TV advertising allows a candidate to communicate his or her message -- and to attack one's opponent, a feature of many campaigns these days. Early money, in particular, demonstrates real muscle -- votes from high-rolling contributors who believe they must be with winners in races for governor, a very powerful office in Maryland.

Nevertheless, Ms. Townsend's performance has not made her a consensus favorite among these same contributors, some of whom are still hoping for another horse to back.

What the givers and the potential challengers must believe is that every race has its own unique shape and character. You can look like a sure thing, in other words, and still lose. Ask Mark Green, the Democratic loser in New York.

No one knows yet what the electoral dynamic will be in Maryland's Campaign 2002. Resourceful, charismatic and effective candidates would have leverage against the front-runner -- if they have the nerve to use it.

Maryland deserves the best. And hard-fought campaigns are the best means available for finding it.

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