Will Democrats end up at odds?

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

October 30, 2005|By LARRY CARSON | LARRY CARSON,SUN REPORTER

Political notebook If Howard County's Democrats choose sides in the hot fight between Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, will they help or hurt Democratic chances to beat Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. next year?

Members of the group that endorsed O'Malley in front of the main library in Columbia last week said they want to back a candidate they see as a winner, and that Democrats will unite after a primary.

But fierce competition also could spawn bitterness among the Democrats - the traditional road to success for Maryland Republicans.

Duncan's camp criticized the O'Malley endorsements as a meaningless exercise exhibiting an "old-line establishment way of thinking." said Jody Couser, Duncan's campaign press secretary. "Doug's goal is to meet real people."

And although O'Malley got the endorsement of all three District 13 delegates, two County Council members, State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone and Ellicott City Democratic Club President Tony McGuffin, others are holding back.

The District 12 legislators, including state Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer and Dels. Elizabeth Bobo, James E. Malone Jr. and Steven J. DeBoy Sr. have not made up their minds.

"I really do not know what I'm going to do. I think they're both good," said Bobo.

But although County Executive James N. Robey endorsed U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin's bid for the party's nomination for the U.S. Senate, he said he won't endorse O'Malley or Duncan.

"They're two very good friends. I've worked closely with both of them. When it gets down to the winner of the primary, I'll be there 150 percent," Robey said.

C. Vernon Gray, a former councilman who endorsed O'Malley at the library Wednesday, has no fear that the Democrats would split apart.

"I think it's healthy for the party to have this and generate this kind of interest," he said. "I'm looking for someone to win."

Del. Frank S. Turner said he jumped aboard the O'Malley bandwagon because "I've known him for 20 years. ... We'll all come together at the end, and we'll all support the Democratic nominee."

County Council Chairman Guy Guzzone, who with fellow Democrat Ken Ulman also endorsed O'Malley, said they plan to recruit volunteers and post signs at locations identified last year in the presidential run of U.S. Sen. John Kerry.

"The reality is we've got two great choices. We'll all have to make our decisions," Guzzone said.

`All speculation'

Speculation that Republican state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader could take Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's place on Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s ticket next year is just that and nothing more, Schrader said.

"No one has approached me. It's all speculation now," she said, noting that she raised $75,000 for her re-election campaign at a fundraiser in Clarksville on Oct. 18. That's part of the $140,000 she has collected so far.

Ehrlich, along with former Gov. Marvin Mandel, attended her fundraiser, hosted by businessman J.P. Bolduc at his home - even though it was the same day a purported terrorist threat forced near-total closure of Baltimore's two harbor tunnels.

Those who attended said Ehrlich warmly praised Schrader, whose husband, Dennis, is Maryland's Homeland Security director, but never mentioned statewide office.

"There is no short list. There is no list" of potential candidates for lieutenant governor, said Paul Schurick, Ehrlich's chief of staff, who added, however, that "all options are open."

"Sandy is kind of at the heart of the governor's support in the state Senate," Schurick said. Only 14 of 47 state senators are Republicans.

In Howard, retaining Schrader's seat for the GOP is important to keeping control of the county's three-member Senate delegation, now split, 2-1. That majority allows Republicans to veto anything the county's Democrat-dominated (6-2) delegates propose. Because Republicans count as an important goal enlarging their numbers in the General Assembly, Schrader could be more valuable to the party as an incumbent senator seeking re-election.

Bolduc, a former W.R. Grace executive who operates an investment banking business, has been a Robey supporter, too, which would make his choice a difficult one if they end up vying for the same seat.

"I have nothing but the highest respect for Jim Robey," Bolduc said. Still, he added, "I consider Sandy Schrader a more viable candidate [for Senate]. Robey is not a legislator. He is a chief executive, and the skills are very different."

`Family name'

With a low-key, friendly demeanor reminiscent of his father's, John Sarbanes, 43, of Towson made a foray into Howard County early Wednesday, distributing literature outside the Dorsey MARC train station for his campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin in Maryland's 3rd District.

Sarbanes, son of retiring U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, is a Democrat, lawyer and father of three. He is the latest entry in the crowded field of candidates in a far-flung district that stretches from east Columbia through Anne Arundel County to Pikesville in Baltimore County. Cardin is running for U.S. Senate to replace Paul S. Sarbanes.

The Wednesday visit was part of John Sarbanes' daylong formal launch of his congressional campaign. Some commuters hurried by without taking a brochure, but Jacob Abraham, 52, an airline worker from Ellicott City, asked if John was the senator's son.

"I guess he's going to come back and take his father's seat - eventually," Abraham said. The family name, he said, "might carry a lot of weight."

larry.carson@baltsun.com

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