Josh Kurtz: Jim Rosapepe’s Boot & Roscoe Bartlett’s Poll

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It’s no secret that state Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D) wants to run for comptroller in 2014.

Of all the would-be candidates for comptroller, Rosapepe has been the most out-front so far. He held a fundraiser this fall with former Gov. Harry Hughes and has another scheduled soon with former Sen. Paul Sarbanes. He is touting the support of his fellow state senators. He even put his desire to run in his holiday card this season.

The problem for Rosapepe – and for anyone else who desires to be elected comptroller in 2014 – is that the job is currently occupied.

In his mailings and other outreach, Rosapepe is careful to offer all kinds of caveats. In his holiday card, he writes, “…with his friend Peter Franchot expected to run for governor in 2014, Jim has been talking with people across Maryland about running for state Comptroller.”

Rosapepe has also reached out to Franchot personally, telling him of his plans. Despite the courtesies, Franchot may be feeling the boot anyway.

But is Franchot really running for governor? It’s safe to say Franchot himself doesn’t even know the answer at the moment.

The feeling here is that it’s a 50-50 proposition. So what does that mean for Jim Rosapepe – and for the 2014 political dynamic, both statewide and in Rosapepe’s Prince George’s-Anne Arundel district?

It’s smart for Rosapepe to get so far out ahead in the comptroller’s race – up to a point. The fact is, with Rosapepe’s very public interest, and with the interest of state House Majority Leader Kumar Barve (D) also very apparent, the number of potential candidates being talked about for the comptroller’s race has diminished significantly in the past few months.

But does Rosapepe risk putting himself too far out on a limb? Is it unseemly to be campaigning so vigorously for an opportunity that may not exist?

What happens if he makes all these preparations and then his friend Franchot ultimately doesn’t run for governor? Sure, Rosapepe can drop back and run for re-election. But does flirting with statewide office – an admission that he’d really rather be doing something else – hurt him with the folks back home?

Rosapepe’s district is changing, and under the new lines it will become majority-minority. Will he be more vulnerable to a challenge now? Will some would-be senator assume Rosapepe is running for comptroller, and lay the groundwork while the incumbent is trying to boost his statewide profile?

Some insiders suggest that Rosapepe, despite his protestations, may throw caution to the wind and run for comptroller even if Franchot seeks re-election. After all, Rosapepe was close to William Donald Schaefer, the man whose storied career Franchot ended in 2006. Could Rosapepe rally the Schaefer troops in a delayed act of revenge?

The problem with that theory is that Franchot, the ultimate anti-Schaefer in 2006, has artfully remade himself as the ultimate Schaefer Democrat. So if there’s any room to challenge Franchot, it’s probably from the left. But that disqualifies Rosapepe, whose primary argument for the comptroller job is his business and investment experience.

If nothing else, Rosapepe’s aggressive mobilizing probably pressures Franchot to make his own decision about 2014 sooner rather than later. It may not be the ideal scenario from Franchot’s perspective, but for all the crystal ball gazers whose 2014 picture remains very cloudy, it will at least clarify things some.

The irony to all of this is that while Rosapepe and to a lesser extent Barve and Del. Galen Claggett (D) move to run for comptroller, no one is overtly running for attorney general yet, even though AG Doug Gansler, barring unforeseen circumstances, is certain to run for governor. That, no doubt, will change in the new year.

* * *
U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R), written off by the political classes as a goner, released a poll last week showing him leading the Democratic frontrunner, state Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, by 7.5 points.

The poll created all kinds of buzz. But what it should have done was set off alarm bells.

Bruce Donisthorpe, who conducted the poll, is a legitimate GOP strategist. He’s been in the business for more than a quarter century – mostly working for New Mexico Republicans. But he’s hardly considered in the top tier of GOP pollsters.

Although the poll reached a large sampling of voters, it was conducted over just one day – and many pollsters will tell you that a survey conducted over two or three days is usually more reliable. The polling memo leaked to political websites did not disclose whether it was automated or conducted by live operators. It did not disclose whether the result – Bartlett 43 percent, Garagiola 35.5 percent – was found on an initial head-to-head question, or after a round of questions, prompting some Democrats to cry that it must have been a push poll. With such a large sampling of Republicans queried, Donisthorpe must have collected hypothetical GOP primary results – and chose not to release them.

And no matter how legitimate the poll, no matter how some Bartlett allies choose to spin the results, 43 percent for an incumbent – especially one who has been in office for 20 years, running against someone who is just introducing himself to a majority of the district’s voters – is pretty bad.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

Recent Center Maryland columns by Josh Kurtz:

Walter Dozier, RIP

Redistricting, By the Numbers and in Black and White

Living in Infamy

Holiday Green and Anthony Brown

All I Want for Christmas Is Bob Ehrlich’s Book (Plus: A Meditation on Tom Perez)

Road to Nowhere

Hoyer on Currie: ‘The system works’

Why Glenn Ivey Will Win — And Why He Won’t

Around the Horn: Maryland Register, IRV, Uly Currie

Oh Donna (and Valerie)

Bartlett Pared
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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.


But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.


The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.


In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.


Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.