3rd District race a magnet for big names

The Political Game

Candidates: John P. Sarbanes and Jon S. Cardin contemplate runs for the soon-to-be-vacant congressional seat.

August 02, 2005|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

EXPECT MORE big names to enter the contest for Maryland's 3rd District congressional seat, which already appears to be one of the most competitive and unpredictable races in the state next year.

John P. Sarbanes, elder son of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, said last week he is contemplating running for Congress from a district that, in an earlier version, was once represented by his father.

"I am looking at it actively and giving it hard consideration," he said.

John Sarbanes has not sought office previously but is widely known in the Baltimore area for his work in education and other causes.

A lawyer, Sarbanes, 43, is a partner at Venable LLP, where he heads the health care practice. For seven years, he also worked part time as special assistant to state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, helping the Baltimore schools develop a master plan and in other areas.

He has been a board member and president of the Public Justice Center, and is on the board of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies.

Sarbanes thinks that's enough of a background to establish himself as a credible candidate but acknowledges that his last name is a plus.

"If there's an advantage in it, it is that people know you come from a family dedicated to public service," he said.

Sarbanes said his father is encouraging him to take a serious look: "He knows that these are opportunities that don't present themselves very often."

Name identification is important in politics: It helps boost poll numbers, which translate into support from donors who would prefer to put their money behind a winner.

Such support also could follow another candidate considering the race, Jon S. Cardin, the nephew of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who is giving up the seat to run for the Senate. Jon Cardin continues to explore the possibility of running.

So far, most of the attention in the contest has been trained on announced Democratic candidates state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger of Baltimore County and former Baltimore Health Commissioner Peter L. Beilenson. Howard County Del. Neil F. Quinter has said he is running, as is Anne Arundel County Councilman Bill D. Burlison. Oz Bengur, an investment banker who ran against Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger in the 2nd District in 2002, announced yesterday he had hired political adviser Greg Shaffer to head an exploratory team. Baltimore City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. also is close to announcing an exploratory committee.

Republicans have been slower to jump in; none has made an announcement.

But the race soon could be defined by two of the best-known names in Baltimore and state politics. Cardin versus Sarbanes. Everything old, it seems, might be new again.

Ehrlich may be warming to national associations

Among the many ways that Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is different from his predecessor is an apparent dislike of national associations that are often viewed as career-boosters and networking opportunities for members.

Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening was active in the Democratic Governors Association, and was chairman of the National Governors Association during his final year in office. He also headed the Council of State Governments. The groups offer a mix of wonkish policy meetings on topics such as Medicaid and energy policy, plus travel to conferences in attractive locales.

To date, Ehrlich has shunned participation in such groups - even though the nation's governors gather yearly in nearby Washington.

But that might be changing. Ehrlich was on vacation last week, and spent part of his time off in Sun Valley, Idaho, at a retreat hosted by the Republican Governors Association.

Details on the event were scarce, but a visit to the association Web site showed that on Sept. 8, Ehrlich will be hosting a function with political and business leaders called the Maryland Roundtable, which is designed "to prepare for the upcoming 38 gubernatorial elections over the next two years."

Duncan poll shows race with O'Malley tightening

It's hard to tell which poll to believe. Just weeks after Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley leaked survey results showing him well ahead of Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan in a primary for governor, Duncan released a poll of his own showing the race much tighter.

The July survey by Harrison Hickman and Eily Hayes of Global Strategy Group LLC showed Duncan trailing O'Malley 32 percent to 43 percent statewide, with 24 percent undecided.

The poll found that Duncan would receive 66 percent of the vote in Montgomery County, within striking distance of the seven of 10 votes some political experts says he needs.

"One of the main factors contributing to O'Malley's statewide advantage is the fact that he begins the race better known in the Washington [media] market than Duncan is in the Baltimore market," the pollsters wrote in a memo. "This advantage in name recognition will change as the candidates campaign more widely and begin television advertising."

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