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The Tentacle


June 5, 2013

Craig Steps to the Bottom of The Mountain

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Although the Maryland gubernatorial primary is over a year away, on Monday the 2014 contest began to take shape in earnest with Harford County Executive David Craig announcing his candidacy for the Maryland State House.

 

Outside of Saint Patrick's Hall in Havre de Grace, dark clouds formed and it threatened to rain. Inside, there was no doubt that Mr. Craig’s formal announcement has threatened to shake up the contest for governor by launching what many political insiders consider to be a serious and credible Republican bid to regain the governor’s office after eight-years of liberal governance by Democrat Gov. Martin O’Malley.

 

I felt badly that I was not able to make my way to Havre de Grace Monday. Mr. Craig went out of his way to visit Carroll County on several occasions to lend me a hand when I was an elected official. Over the years Mr. Craig has been a perfect host for a number of my sojourns to Harford County.

 

When I served for many years on the Maryland Municipal League board of directors, then-Havre de Grace Mayor Craig, along with many others such as then-Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and then Ocean City Mayor Jim Mathias were a constant source of help with the many difficult challenges facing municipalities throughout the state.

 

However, for better or worse, Maryland political campaigns are more often than not insufferably long and I am only sure that I will be able to see my old friend Mr. Craig on several occasions before the voters have their say on primary election date – June 24, 2014. (The next general election is scheduled for November 4, 2014.)

 

Mr. Craig’s candidacy raises many questions for political junkies. The next year ought to have plenty of fodder for political writers and armchair political pundits.

 

Mr. Craig’s quest for the governor’s office has been one the worse-kept secrets in Maryland politics for years. Although I never wanted to ask the obvious and put a friend in an awkward position, even I figured it out several years ago, and I can sometimes be the most inept and oblivious political junkie in the room.

 

As recently as January 4, 2012, I wrote in TheTentacle.com, a reference to liberal-governance fatigue. As much I admire my old friend Governor O’Malley’s accomplishments, one may actively debate whether or not he went way too far with Maryland voters with his uber-liberal approach to government and how much O’Malley-fatigue will plague the uphill candidacy of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), who was the first to formally announce his candidacy – on May 10.

 

In that January 4, 2012, column, “Scenarios Abound,” I observed: “The next big political roundelay in Maryland will not take place until 2014 and by then chances are most Marylanders – read Democrats – will have long gotten over any tax increases.

 

“That is, unless current Harford County Executive and likely 2014 Maryland gubernatorial candidate, David Craig, can remind voters of their pain...”

 

On September 10, 2011, Richard J. Cross, III, wisely noted: “If history is any guide, 2014 looks like it will be an anti-establishment year. Maryland voters will be restless after eight years of Martin O’Malley, just as they were after eight years of William Donald Schaefer and Parris Glendening.

 

“Plus, if President Obama is re-elected in 2012 and experiencing the traditional mid-term slump that most presidents do, a Republican like Craig could benefit from these anti-incumbent forces.”

 

Another of the many questions is whether or not the consistent and steady-as-you-go political leadership of Mr. Craig can overcome the two-to-one lead Democrats hold in the voter rolls.

 

Mr. Craig, an accomplished historian and an academic, is well-known for his measured, thoughtful, and scholarly approach to government. Other than Maryland State Senator Joe Getty (R., Carroll/Baltimore), and Senate President Mike Miller (D., Calvert/PG), few in Maryland state politics today are as knowledgeable as Mr. Craig about the mysteries of formulating public policy and how government works.

 

Whether or not Mr. Craig’s comfortable and easily-accessible personality, his decades of qualifications and experience, and his government acumen are enough to overcome the hyper-partisan politics of Maryland remains to be seen.

 

Then again, there are always the bizarre, byzantine, voodoo mysteries of Republican primaries. Specifically there is the not-so-small matter that the hard right-wing of the Republican Party hardly ever resists an opportunity to pee on its own leg and tell you that it is raining. Never in my 60-years have I ever seen an organization snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as well as the hard right-wing of the Republican Party.

 

If you will recall; toward the end of the Ellen Sauerbrey (R) campaign for Maryland governor in 1994 – the hard right-wing of the Republican Party decided that she was moderating on some core conservative values. Ultimately this resulted in the hard, uncompromising and inflexible elements of the right wing of the Republican Party electing Gov. Parris Glendening for eight years.

 

And the uncompromising and inflexible elements of the right wing of the Republican Party worked hard for Governor O’Malley in his gubernatorial contests with former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.

 

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, you have to admit that this is quite a paradox. I recall that in one of David Horowitz's books a number of years ago, “The Art of Political War and other Radical Pursuits,” it begins by saying: "Politics is war, but in America the left is doing all the shooting. Shell-shocked conservatives blame their failures on the media or unscrupulous opponents, but they refuse to name the real culprit – themselves…”

 

To loosely paraphrase an old partisan aphorism; these days, the only difference between a Republican and a cannibal is that the cannibal only eats its enemies.

 

. . . . . I’m just saying…

 

kevindayhoff@gmail.com

 

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