Let's just get this campaign over with

September 28, 2005|By GREGORY KANE

Sometime today, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley is expected to announce that he's running for governor.

Why is this considered news?

Hasn't Hizzoner been running for governor the past three years? Didn't he start just after Kathleen Kennedy Townsend lost her gubernatorial bid to Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in 2002?

O'Malley's entering the gubernatorial race isn't news. But it is a beginning. It marks the beginning of the end of a long, torturous and annoying three-year (and soon to be four-year) race for the governor's mansion.

No one should have to put up with a campaign that lasts three years. Kudos to the mayor for entering the race. No matter how it turns out, the people of Maryland win. If O'Malley defeats Ehrlich, he's kicked upstairs to the governor's office, and we're done. If Ehrlich wins, I'd guess O'Malley will resign as mayor, and we're done.

(This all assumes O'Malley beats Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan in the Democratic primary. Ah, O'Malley and Duncan! All that ego, and only one measly primary to cram it in.)

Key words here are "we're done." As in "finished." As in "please get this darned campaign over with."

A little over a year from now, we'll no longer have to worry about whether Floyd Blair was really qualified to head Baltimore's office of social services. Remember good old Floyd?

Ehrlich named Blair temporary head of the department. A miffed O'Malley protested, arguing that Blair had no experience and that, as Baltimore's chief executive, he should have had a hand in naming a director of social services, be it temporary or permanent.

What would have been in other times a simple matter of the governor and mayor quickly collaborating to name a permanent director became a political dogfight. The only losers in this were Baltimore's poor who desperately needed social services.

In just over a year, Baltimoreans may see our beloved mayor depart and be replaced by one who can actually keep a police commissioner. Remember O'Malley's game of top cop musical chairs?

His first one was former Commissioner Ron Daniel, who many felt was eminently qualified for the job. Daniel bolted early in his tenure, for reasons that are still not clear.

Then came Ed Norris from New York City, who in my book was as excellent a commissioner as we've ever had in this town. (Yes, there was that matter of $20,000 Norris supposedly "stole" from a police supplemental fund. But I recall Norris paid that back. I also recall that the U.S. attorney's office, which busted his hump for the $20,000 that got repaid, still hasn't accounted for $36,000 missing from its evidence lockup. It has also transpired that there may have been questionable motives involved in the Norris prosecution. But hey, these are topics for another column. Or four.)

Norris also left, to work for Ehrlich and then to serve time in federal prison. Then O'Malley got Kevin Clark, who came in and wrecked the joint before being canned himself. Was it the intervention of a divine and loving Providence or just dumb luck that O'Malley's problem with police commissioners hasn't been raised so far during the three-year gubernatorial campaign?

We may never know. And at this point, why do we even care? What we should care about is getting the longest gubernatorial race in the history of elections behind us.

Just think: In a little over a year, we'll no longer hear O'Malley claiming that state officials have some sort of conspiracy to make Baltimore's schools look bad.

Oh yes, he said that. Said it with a straight face, too. As if anyone would need a conspiracy to make Baltimore schools look bad. The only conspiracy involving Baltimore schools is the one that refuses to root out those responsible for the culture of incompetence at North Avenue headquarters.

But like it or no, Baltimore's schools have been an issue in the three-year gubernatorial campaign. Thank heavens there's only a year to go, because we all know Baltimore's schools will be even more of an issue now that O'Malley has officially announced his candidacy. The debate will go something like this:

O'Malley will repeat his claim that there exists a state conspiracy against Baltimore's public schools. He'll say it so often and so passionately that many will believe it.

He will then take credit for the little good that's occurring in Baltimore schools and take none of the blame. In all fairness, we have to conclude that Ehrlich will probably do the same thing. Any rise in test scores or achievement in Baltimore, the governor will claim, is because of either state initiatives or the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Any lingering problems in Baltimore schools, he'll proclaim, are because of THAT MAN in the mayor's office.

And so it will go until next November. Which raises an important question.

Any way we can move this election up 10 months?


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