Pikesville-Owings Mills becomes pivotal

The Political Game

2006: Area is central to gubernatorial race and Democratic primaries for other contests.

July 12, 2005|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

MARYLAND political prognosticators have long expected the next governor's race to run through Baltimore County, where Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. mopped the floor with Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002 and secured nearly his entire margin of victory.

Some recent shifts in local races suggest the center of the action can now be pinpointed as the area around Pikesville and Owings Mills.

Although filled with generally left-leaning Jewish voters, the area went for Ehrlich in 2002. Ehrlich has always had supporters in the Jewish community, in large part because of his staunch support for Israel while he was in Congress. And he has worked since becoming governor to keep those supporters by traveling to Israel and earmarking homeland security money for Jewish institutions.

In 2002, there was little competition in local races in the area, and the incumbents there (all Democrats) said at the time that they found it best to avoid talking about the governor's race. In the 2006 race, though, some of the most popular Democratic politicians there will be working hard to turn out the base as they try for higher office.

The Democratic state senator there, Paula C. Hollinger, is expected to announce tomorrow her run for Congress in the 3rd District. The man she's seeking to replace, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, will need a heavy turnout from the area in his quest for the U.S. Senate.

Del. Bobby A. Zirkin, the top vote-getter in the 11th District in 2002, is bringing his reservoir of campaign cash and volunteers into a race to succeed Hollinger. County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz of Pikesville is weighing a campaign for state's attorney, and if he runs, there's likely to be a scramble for the seat he has held for the last three terms.

Because the area is heavily Democratic, much of the competition will probably be in the primary election.

Karl Rove to attend fund-raiser for Steele

If there is any doubt that the White House is eager to see Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele turn his exploratory committee into a full-fledged U.S. Senate campaign, it will be dispelled later this month when Bush administration political guru Karl Rove is scheduled to attend a Steele fund-raiser in Washington.

Republican National Committee Chairman (and Pikesville native) Ken Mehlman has promised significant support from the national party, and the presence of the man credited with engineering President Bush's victories underscores the point.

"Karl will be at the fund-raiser in support of the lieutenant governor and his candidacy," White House spokesman Taylor Gross said.

Third-party contender joins race for Senate

Kevin Zeese, a former spokesman for Ralph Nader's 2004 presidential campaign, said last week that he would soon announce that he is forming an exploratory committee for the U.S. Senate.

Zeese, 49, said that if he runs he will aim to connect several third-party groups, including members of the Green, Libertarian and Populist parties, to form a unity campaign.

He said his candidacy would focus on "peace, justice and democracy." He supports the medical use of marijuana, wants to help establish a paper trail for electronic voting and believes that the United States should pull out of Iraq.

Two Democrats enter congressional contest

Two more Democrats are throwing their names into contention to replace Cardin. Anne Arundel County Councilman Bill D. Burlison, a former five-term congressman from southeast Missouri, announced last week that he would run on a platform of working to get U.S. troops out of Iraq and reducing federal debt by rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy.

Oz Bengur, an investment banker who made a name for himself with a spirited primary fight against Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger in 2002, said he was forming an exploratory committee to consider the 3rd District race. He said he would probably be bringing a political adviser on board soon with an eye to making a decision in the coming weeks.

Making a statement under Taney's watch

Ehrlich's advisers are normally mindful of the backdrops behind the governor in press events, seeking to present a particular image to television viewers. But they made a curious choice when Ehrlich held a pair of news conferences last week to address the London terrorist bombings by setting up the podium on the seldom-used south side of the State House.

That meant that days after weathering criticism for holding a fund-raiser at an all-white country club, Ehrlich was photographed speaking in front of a statue of Roger B. Taney, the Marylander who as chief justice of the United States wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which held that Congress could not prohibit slavery in the territories and that slaves did not have the rights of citizens.

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