Josh Kurtz -- Around the Horn: Delaney and Gansler, and Hogan

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By: Josh Kurtz 

Maybe it’s just a feint. Maybe Congressman John Delaney (D) isn’t thinking about running for governor after all.

What if he’s just enjoying all the speculation about his plans, which becomes more rampant as the Feb. 25 filing deadline approaches? He’d hardly be the first politician to be guilty of that.

But most of all, what if he’s just enjoying torturing Doug Gansler? At the very least, he seems to be sending Gansler a few messages.

As we’ve written before, a Delaney candidacy would have a direct impact on all three Democratic candidates for governor. He’d definitely cost both Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and state Del. Heather Mizeur critical votes.

But a Delaney candidacy would be fatal to Gansler, the state attorney general. And Delaney has good reason to flip Gansler the bird.

Delaney’s withering remarks about the failures of the state’s health care exchange are a direct rebuke to Brown – and indirectly, the state’s political establishment. But in his short political career, Delaney has always been estranged from party leaders. The very nature of his campaign for Congress ensured that.

More interesting – and possibly even more pointed – was Delaney’s statement last week after Gansler proposed allowing Marylanders to sign up for health care through the federal exchange in addition to the state program.

“I compliment Attorney General Gansler for suggesting a sensible solution on the Maryland Exchange which is the same solution we have been proposing for months,” Delaney said, curtly.

Delaney and Gansler have a history. They’ve been friends. They travel in the same circles. Delaney has been a supporter of Gansler’s previous campaigns, appearing on the list of wealthy sponsors of the AG’s annual Montgomery County fundraisers.

So when Delaney went against the establishment by running for Congress in 2012 against a candidate anointed by party leaders, he had every expectation that Gansler, who likes to tweak the establishment whenever he can, would support him. Instead, Gansler sat on his hands – not so much out of deference to the party bosses, but to avoid offending Daphne Bloomberg, a party activist extraordinaire from the 15th legislative district who was a key supporter of Rob Garagiola, the establishment choice for the congressional seat.

Peter Franchot, Donna Edwards, Valerie Ervin – they didn’t hesitate to get behind Delaney, a guy they hardly knew. But Gansler couldn’t bring himself to endorse his old friend.

So is all this Delaney for governor talk political payback? Maybe. But then again, maybe it’s just a gentle nudge.

It’s become increasingly apparent that Gansler can’t win the Democratic primary. And surely if Delaney is serious about a last minute bid for governor, he’ll need Gansler out of the way if he is to have any prayer of winning, his millions notwithstanding. So maybe this is Delaney extending Gansler a lifeline, dangling his congressional seat as a graceful way out of the gubernatorial election and a way to extend his political career (even Daphne Bloomberg would likely approve).

We’ll all know how this drama plays out soon enough.

The Restoration

Larry Hogan goes to pains to insist that his candidacy for governor, like his anti-O’Malley group Change Maryland, can appeal to independents and dissident Democrats as well as to Republicans. But now that he’s a full-blown candidate, that’s harder to see.

More and more, Hogan’s bid – which, to be sure, is exciting Republicans more than the campaigns for the other three GOP candidates – seems like an attempt at a restoration: the restoration of the Ehrlich era in Annapolis.

Hogan’s time in government, of course, came in the service of Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R). Kendel Ehrlich, the former first lady, was prominent at Hogan’s announcement at Mike’s Crab House last week, a blessing from a power couple now on political Elba. And to reinforce the Ehrlich ties, Hogan tapped Boyd Rutherford, a fellow alumnus of the Ehrlich cabinet, to be his running mate (Rutherford, you’ll recall, is the guy who tried to kick reporters out of their traditional lair in the basement of the State House during Ehrlich’s tenure).

Hogan invoked his father, the former congressman and Prince George’s County executive Lawrence Hogan, to illustrate his own ability to be politically independent. The elder Hogan, the son pointed out, was the first Republican in Congress to call for President Nixon’s impeachment in 1974 (and for that heresy, the elder Hogan was tossed aside by GOP voters in that year’s gubernatorial primary, despite being the frontrunner).

Even though Hogan’s message of lower taxes and less intrusive government no doubt appeals to many independents and some conservative Democrats, he is, at heart, a partisan brawler, more in the Ehrlich mold than that of his politically moderate father. Democrats know it and are lying in wait.

Hogan will have money and the affection of Republican insiders for the November election if he wins the primary in June. But at least some Democrats believe Harford County Executive David Craig (R), measured, thoughtful, and with a long record of public service, would be a more formidable general election foe, particularly after this messy Democratic primary.

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

   

 

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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.