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The Tentacle


May 26, 2005

Let There Be Peace and Unity

John P. Snyder

An outside mediator was brought in last week to the palatial Strathmore Arts Center in Rockville for a rally to help various warring factions to put aside their contempt and distrust for each other to work for a common goal. Israelis and Palestinians? North and South Koreans?

No, no. Maryland Democrats, of course.

Applicants for the governor’s job and the right to succeed Sen. Paul Sarbanes each have tough competition and democrats know that two bruising primary battles await them. With tempers already flaring, this event was planned to put a pretty face on a grim picture.

Entering the fray was Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, the keynote speaker and chief cheerleader.

Republicans love Howard Dean because he apparently has no control over his mouth. Last week he suggested that House Majority Leader Tom Delay was guilty and should return to Houston to serve out his sentence. No matter to Mr. Dean that Mr. Delay had not been actually charged with any specific crime or corruption only accusation and suppositions; this from a man who was unwilling to pass judgment on Osama Bin Laden until he had been properly tried and convicted.

Perhaps operating under the radar screen, the Senate race is shaping up as a real donnybrook. Former Congressman and NAACP head Kwiesi Mfume and Rep. Ben Cardin are in. The status of Rep. Chris Van Hollen is unclear.

Mr. Mfume has been in some hot water regarding an investigation at the NAACP headquarters. Apparently, the home office was quite a Baltimore version of the old ABC sitcom “The Love Boat.” Women who participated in the intramural hanky-panky were given promotions and raises while those not chosen were not.

Mr. Mfume has admitted to an error in judgment with regard to getting too cozy with a colleague but insist he has done nothing wrong. The Washington Post and Baltimore’s Sun have reported on the on-going investigation. Some in the Mfume camp believe a Cardin operative leaked the story. Speculation abounds over whether this will hurt him. Democrats easily forgave Bill Clinton for his indiscretions. Why should they pass judgment on Mr. Mfume.?

Those in the Mfume camp believe that given the high level of support the black community has given the Maryland Democratic Party they should clear the way for a statewide back candidate for the Senate. They are correct, of course, and failure to do so could come back to haunt them.

Suppose Ben Cardin disposes of Mr. Mfume in a tough primary fight. Might his supporters seek retribution by staying home on Election Day?

For a fellow who first won elective office when was 24 (He is 61 now.) Ben Cardin sure is a low key kind of guy. He compares himself to Paul Sarbanes for being deliberative, quiet and shunning publicity. While making his Senate bid announcement he tore in to President Bush for his position on Social Security and threatened to fight him every step of the way.

Hours later, in Frederick, he was touting his ability to make bipartisan agreements. When did he work with the other side? When he was Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates during the mid "80's? It was a time, as noted by Republicans, when in Annapolis Democrats were Democrats and so were the Republicans.

The American Conservative Union gives him a 9 rating (out of 100) for his voting record. No doubt he'll be passing himself as a moderate during the general election.

Montgomery County Executive Doug (I’d walk a mile for a camera) Duncan was in full flower for the event. Only in Montgomery County would a $100 million taxpayer funded concert hall exist. Few have the resources like that, and those who do would have other priorities.

The likable lug has been cooperating with Ehrlich strategists during Montgomery's budget process by exposing himself as an unrepentant spender with little regard for frugality. The county council is trying to reign in his spending and even The Washington Post has scolded him for his irresponsibility. Politicos from Montgomery County have historically done poorly statewide, (see Barnes, U.S. Rep. Michael 1984) for various reasons.

Mr. Duncan believes he can be the exception.

Wisely absent from the shindig was Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. He had a prior fundraiser scheduled. Good thing, because it is speculated that Governor Ehrlich will have a $20 million war chest available for the election. To keep pace, Mr. O’Malley needs to take in about $250,000 a week, or about what the average drug dealer in Baltimore takes in.

Baltimore’s Sun loves Mayor O'Malley and promotes him wherever possible. Bad news for the O’Malley camp is that the Sun’s circulation fell a reported 11% last year.

The spectacle of not one but two knock down deadly primary fights next year warms the heart of Maryland Republicans. And if they are begging for unity this far out, well, one can assume there won't be much left for next year’s general election.



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