For the past month, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown has been making news in the 2014 Democratic race for governor. His presumed chief rival, Attorney General Douglas M. Gansler, has been biding his time.
Brown became the first big name Democrat out of the gate when he made his candidacy official May 10. He followed that up quickly with last week's news that Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, previously a prospective rival, has agreed to be his running mate.
As Brown and Ulman celebrate their new political partnership Monday in Columbia, the question is what Gansler's next move will be. Does the attorney general have an effective counter to Brown's jack rabbit start and recruitment of a top-tier ticket mate?
The Gansler campaign has insisted that it's in no hurry to parry Brown's move. Aides say he's content to stick with his plan to announce in the fall, when voters will be more tuned in to next year's campaign. In this view, it's still a long time before the June 2014 primary election — even though it's been moved forward from its previous date in September.
"We have a very clear and a very determined campaign plan. That's something we're executing right now," said Doug Thornell, a spokesman for the Gansler campaign. "We're not going to let other campaigns or insider chatter determine the unfolding of our campaign."
Nevertheless, Gansler released a statement Saturday saying in no uncertain terms that while he intends to finish out his second term as attorney general, he will not seek a third. Previously, he had sent mixed signals on the question, telling The Daily Record as recently as last month that he was keeping all his options open.
While the campaign provided the statement, Gansler declined a request for an interview for this article.
Gansler, 50, had more than $5 million in his political bank account as of the last report in January and has hired a high-powered campaign team. Nonetheless, some political observers believe he faces a daunting challenge.
Donald Norris, chairman of the department of public policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said the polling he's seen shows Brown with a significant advantage even before bringing Ulman on board.
Brown would be the first African-American governor in a state where blacks make up at least a third of Democratic primary voters. Norris sees Brown running up big margins in Prince George's County and Baltimore, getting a boost from Ulman in the Baltimore suburbs and taking a respectable share of the vote in Montgomery County.
"Many people would wonder why a sitting attorney general who seems to have a relatively safe seat would take a risky run at the governorship," Norris said.
Norris also questioned the Gansler strategy of holding off an official announcement until fall while the rival ticket hits the campaign trail.
"If he does that, he gives a three-month advantage to Brown-Ulman. They'll be able to out-fundraise him and go around the state as the only announced candidates," Norris said.
Norris' view is hardly unanimous. Some see an advantage for Gansler in having Ulman out of the governor's race.
Todd Eberly, professor of political science at St. Mary's College of Maryland, said Gansler's best shot against Brown is in a two-candidate race. By recruiting Ulman, Eberly said, Brown has reduced the field by one candidate who had the potential to draw votes away from Gansler.
Eberly noted, however, that the Ulman choice does not narrow the Democratic field to two. Also expected to run is Del. Heather Mizeur, an insurgent candidate from Gansler's home base of Montgomery County, where the attorney general would need to pile up a significant vote advantage to make up for the hefty majorities Brown is expected to rack up in Baltimore and his base in Prince George's.
While as of the last reporting period Mizeur had not raised money on the scale of Brown, Gansler or Ulman, she is a dynamic campaigner who is getting all over the state. As the only woman in the race and a lesbian, she could appeal to voters who otherwise might be in play for her rivals.
A big question for Gansler, Eberly said, is "how can I get Mizeur out of the race."
Eberly said one solution would be to recruit her to run for lieutenant governor, but that would pose the problem of having a ticket with both candidates from Montgomery — a move that might not play well in Baltimore.
Mizeur said last week she has no interest in being anyone's running mate or in seeking re-election to her House seat. She added that she plans to make a formal announcement of her plans this summer.