Maryland's Political Scorecard

Pelosi, O'Malley, Cardin are among winners

An interesting array of Marylanders made marks - good, bad and indifferent - in last week's mid-term elections

November 12, 2006

NANCY PELOSI (WINNER)

Daughter of a long-time Baltimore mayor and congressman, Pelosi has overcome her reputation as a traditional liberal (and survived a GOP onslaught painting her as a radical) to become the consensus choice to be named Speaker of the House - third in line of presidential succession. Now she faces a larger challenge of building consensus within the Democratic Party and finding ways to work with a strong-minded Republican president. A lot is hanging on that effort.

MARTIN O'MALLEY (WINNER)

O'Malley, the popular and telegenic mayor of Baltimore, ran a cautious campaign for Maryland's top elective office and won a solid victory against incumbent Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. with some help from a national anti-Bush landslide. O'Malley has been widely viewed as a potential national Democratic candidate - a featured speaker at the 2004 National Democratic Convention and called one of America's top five mayors by Time magazine in 2005. But the roller-coaster gubernatorial campaign, with polling that showed O'Malley's lead over Ehrlich shrink and then disappear, left some Democrats hoping the governor-elect will show more leadership and charisma as he attempts to build a relationship with a famously intransigent legislative leaders.

BENJAMIN L. CARDIN (WINNER)

Cardin, a veteran Maryland congressman, won the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Paul S. Sarbanes handily in a campaign that lacked much sparkle but left many voters impressed by his solid grasp of health care, pensions and other important issues. Cardin, a liberal Democrat, read Maryland's growing body of independent voters well, spotlighting his ability to find common cause with Republicans in Congress to win passage of key legislation. If compromise and moving to the center becomes Washington's political mantra, as promised, Cardin's low key style and grasp of the issues should make him a low-key star.

STENY H. HOYER (WINNER)

The long-time Maryland congressman has put himself in the running to become House majority leader, and the buzz in Congress is that he has a good chance to beat Pennsylvania Rep. John P. Murtha in a race for that job. Hoyer is serving his second term as the House Democratic whip, the second-ranking position among House Democrats. Hoyer's service as whip makes him the highest-ranking member of Congress from Maryland in history. He is now serving his 13th term in Congress, where he has built a reputation as a defender of federal employees and a leader on education and human and civil rights issues.

ISIAH LEGGETT (WINNER)

An African-American candidate for county executive in white-majority Montgomery County, Leggett roared to an overwhelming victory last week, capturing 68 percent of the vote. A Howard University Law School professor and former chairman of the state Democratic Party, Leggett had been criticized by some for failing to effectively lead the party's opposition to Republican Governor Ehrlich. But others describe him as a bright and effective consensus-builder.

SHEILA DIXON (WINNER)

After waiting years for her chance, Sheila Dixon is about to become mayor of Baltimore, succeeding to O'Malley's job thanks to her current role as City Council President. She has stated that at the end of 2007 she plans to run for mayor. If elected, she would become the first elected female mayor of Baltimore. A former elementary school teacher, Dixon has been active in city politics for 20 years. Her ambitions are shadowed by two threats. First, Kweisi Mfume, a former five-term congressman and president of the NAACP, may decide to pursue the mayor's job. Second, the state prosecutor is investigating a City Council computer contract that Dixon helped engineer. Dixon has acknowledged that the contract didn't follow proper procurement rules, but blamed her staff for the mistakes and lax oversight.

MICHAEL S. STEEL (Loser)

Steele's pursuit of a seat in the U.S. Senate put him in the national spotlight as a wide array of GOP political leaders and conservative commentators identified him as a potential breakthrough candidate illustrating his party's appeal to African-American voters. In the end, he was soundly beaten, with a solid majority of African-Americans voting against him in a campaign that turned out to be as much a national referendum on the Bush administration as a local race. Steele was praised by some for a creative TV advertising campaign, but others complained that he offered little substance in his discussions of issues.

KEN MEHLMAN (LOSER)

Born in Baltimore, Mehlman is the chairman of the Republican National Committee and has been credited with playing a key role assisting Karl Rove in attempting to implement the Republican Party's long-term plan for electoral dominance. Now he must accept his share of the responsibility for the Republicans' failures in last week's mid-term elections. Mehlman took the lead in Republican efforts to reach out to African-American voters, a strategy that appears to have fallen short.

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