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The Tentacle


March 23, 2005

How Liberal Is Maryland?

John P. Snyder

Well, we are about to find out the answer to that question. With Paul Sarbanes surprise retirement announcement (the surprise for many was that he wasn't already retired) potential replacements are lining up.

Liberalism may be on life support elsewhere, but, here in Maryland, the choices for Democrats is either left of center or far left of center. Conventional wisdom holds that Maryland is a solid blue state, a reliable Democratic stronghold. Sarbanes' seat is regarded as simply not in play this time around. Likewise, Gov. Robert Ehrlich's chances of re-election are seen as a toss up.

Those who are most likely to seek the vacated Sarbanes seat are proud liberals. Given that those likely to participate in the primary are liberal as well, one can assume the winner will have to move far to the left to please the base of the party. Someone is going to have to move far left to rise above the crowded field.

But that's no problem. You see, Maryland is a liberal state. Isn't it?

It didn't take long for Frizzell "Pee Wee" Gray to announce his candidacy for the U. S. Senate. You might know him by his adopted name of Kweisi Mfume, former head of the National Association for The Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and U.S. representative from Maryland's 7th district.

There is nothing middle of the road about him. His record is nothing but big government initiatives, dovish on defense and pleasing to all the liberal special interest groups. After years of whipping up racial divides, he may not be palatable for some.

I respect him because he left the NAACP because he had a falling out with co-director Julian Bond. Mr. Mfume suggested that the NAACP return to its politically neutral status. He suggested that comparing President Bush to Hitler and calling Republicans racists as counter productive. He lost the battle and resigned.

Not surprising that second term congressman from Montgomery County - Chris Van Hollen - is interested in stepping up.

Representative Van Hollen is a liberal's liberal. Many recall how he championed the Thornton Plan spending during his time in the Maryland Senate. He was nowhere to found when the bill came due. By then he had knocked off Connie Morella out of her seat.

Rep. Ben Cardin, from the 3rd congressional district, and Elijah Cummings, from Mfume's old 7th, all have set up exploratory committees to gauge their chances. More of the same here. Big time liberals who are right in line with MoveOn.org and who reside in the Howard Dean wing of the Democratic Party.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, from the 2nd district, also is taking the look. His record is more moderate, but he is capable of moving left to accommodate primary voters.

I would not underestimate Chris Van Hollen. From his Montgomery County base, he could prevail over all comers.

Should that be the case, the Democratic nominee will be an unapologetic liberal. After the primary, he will have five weeks to move to the center. After a bruising primary battle with three or more competitors, it may be too late.

To be sure, unless a deep-pocket Republican appears, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele will have to step in to give the voters of Maryland a choice. He will have ample time to hog the center. He will have time to chip away at the lopsided advantage the Democrats have in Prince George's County.

In a non-presidential year, voting levels are off. The Dems will not be able to resort to race baiting as Mr. Steele is an African American himself. He could replicate Governor Ehrlich's winning strategy by taking Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties while rolling up big margins in the northern county tier to erase the Montgomery-PG-Baltimore city bulge that traditionally make it difficult to beat a Democrat statewide. Pure fantasy, you say?

Your right. Maryland is a liberal state. It is, isn't it?



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