Even in this real estate market, a for-sale sign can create a buzz. A "STUNNING/ELEGANT" 6BR, 31/2 BA house for sale in Reisterstown has people talking.
It's not the "updated" kitchen that's generating interest. Nor the "lush landscaping." It's the political intrigue.
Jim Smith, the term-limited Baltimore County exec, is selling the house and moving to an apartment in Andy Harris' state Senate district, where he'll mull a run for that seat. Smith and his wife, whose four children are grown, put their house up for sale two weeks ago.
"My wife and I are planning to downsize," Smith said.
But the empty nest isn't the only reason for the move.
"I am taking a serious look at the Senate seat in the 7th District," Smith said.
The Smiths plan to move by early November, regardless of whether the house sells.
Maryland law requires that a state Senate candidate live in the district at least six months prior to election, said Ross Goldstein, the deputy state elections director.
The Smiths' West Chestnut Hill Lane home is listed for $445,000. No nibbles yet, according to Smith's real estate agent, Jeff Mohler, the son of Smith spokesman Don Mohler.
But if buyers haven't taken an interest yet, Maryland politicos have. Many are surprised to hear that Smith might aspire to the state Senate. He would not be the first outgoing county executive to take that path; Jim Robey went from Howard County exec to state Senate.
But Smith's county is larger, his ties to Gov. Martin O'Malley are tight and his campaign war chest has hit seven figures. He considered a run for state comptroller earlier this year. He was thought to be a likely candidate for U.S. Senate if Barbara Mikulski had opted to retire. Most observers figured Smith, a Democrat, would seek statewide office, a state Cabinet post or judgeship.
"I find it hard to believe," said Del. J.B. Jennings, a Republican seeking the seat, which Harris is expected to vacate to run for Congress against Rep. Frank Kratovil.
Del. Pat McDonough called Smith, a county council member and judge before he became exec, "a carpetbagger looking for a fourth government pension."
"It's not a step up," McDonough said. "This is a fellow who was being talked about running for the [U.S.] Senate or comptroller. And the other part of the story is, he has $1 million."
Smith's decision to rent in Cockeysville rather than buy may give the carpetbagger charge extra oomph. But Smith said that reflects the down real estate market, not his lack of commitment to the 7th District.
"Like many other homeowners," he said, "we'd like to sell our present home before buying our next house."
Sure sign that Gov. O'Malley is shifting into campaign mode: The governor is dusting off "Danny Boy."
The schlocky Irish ballad was standard O'Malley campaign fare in 1990, when he challenged then-state Sen. John Pica Jr. O'Malley lost that race, but he gave his "Danny Boy" strategy another shot in 2006. A week before the election for governor that year, O'Malley used the song to seal the deal with voters at a Parkville senior center.
Then this week, at the Baltimore County Department of Aging's Baby Boomer/Senior Expo, O'Malley found himself with a few minutes on his hands and a guitar within reach. Next thing you know, he was strumming "Danny Boy."
"They thought Elvis was in the house," a spy tells me.
Weird tip of the week: "All of North Baltimore smells like cumin today," one of my spies e-mailed me Tuesday. "A bunch of people have noticed it." He detected the smell at his North Baltimore apartment, then at Howard Street and North Avenue, where he went to run an errand. "Friends in Remington and Roland Park smelled it, too."
Somebody out there knows what it was. Let me know.
Laura Vozzella's column appears Fridays.