Josh Kurtz: I Love a Parade – and Other Tidbits

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By: Josh Kurtz 

With the Maryland primary a month away, and early voting starting in only two weeks, Memorial Day naturally has supplanted other traditional pre-primary milestones – like the 4th of July, the Tawes crab feast and the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference – in prominence.

With all due respect to the Maryland Municipal League Ocean City confab, scheduled earlier than usual this year, Memorial Day parades may have been the last chance for candidates to strut their stuff in front of large swaths of voters – and their rivals. 

So on Monday we bicycled 32 miles round trip to Rockville, armed with our Applause-o-Meter – so you didn’t have to.

One inherent problem with the Rockville parade is that only current officeholders are allowed to march – even if they hold office in other parts of Montgomery County or around the state. So several top contenders were forced to work the crowds on the sidelines rather than perfecting their Queen Elizabeth waves. It may have been a blessing in disguise.

There was former Del. Cheryl Kagan, competing for a state Senate seat, greeting voters with her characteristic brio. There were the two challengers in the Montgomery County Council at-large race, Beth Daly and Vivian Malloy. There were aspirants for other offices.

Most prominent – and appearing to be having the best time – was Doug Duncan, the former county executive who is trying to get his old job back. Duncan is a big man in Rockville. He launched his political career there more than 30 years ago, and he as much as anyone is responsible for the way the city looks. He’ll need a big turnout in Rockville – and in the whole central part of the county – if he is to have any chance of ousting Ike Leggett, the man who replaced him, in the primary.

As for the people actually marching, it’s safe to say that the three Democratic candidates for governor – Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Del. Heather Mizeur, and Attorney General Doug Gansler – got the biggest cheers, at least near the reviewing stand, where WJLA-TV meteorologist Brian van de Graaff served as master of ceremonies. But it was hard to tell if the lion’s share of the cheers came from the people along the sidewalks or from the candidates’ sizeable entourages.

Whose presence created the most noise? In a close three-way race, it was Brown, followed by Mizeur, who engendered the most whoops, and then Gansler.

“How do I get a group of supporters like that?” van de Graaff marveled as 50 blue Brown-Ulman T-shirts marched by in not-quite military precision.

Mizeur’s scruffy but vocal group beat drums and rang bells and chanted, “Get out and vote Mizeur and Coates” as the candidate herself danced at the front of the line.

Gansler rode by in a convertible – and he got extra points for tossing candy to the kids. Marching alongside the Gansler convertible was Paul Schwartzman of The Washington Post.

Last we checked, Schwartzman was covering the ferocious gentrification of Washington, D.C., and hasn’t been stationed in Maryland since Wayne Curry was governing rather than fighting cancer. It’s suddenly all hands on deck for the Post and The Baltimore Sun after years of devoting dwindling resources to Maryland politics – but we digress.

Other noteworthy applause came for Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who jumped in and out of an antique convertible, and, slightly more subdued, for County Executive Ike Leggett, whose entourage chanted “We like Ike.” It was mostly crickets for members of the County Council. Any applause Councilman Phil Andrews might have gotten, as he ends his 16 years of service with a Quixotic, reform-minded bid for county executive, was drowned out by the endless recitation of his resume.

And on it went. There wasn’t much applause for members of the legislature, either, though state Sen. Jennie Forehand got a nice hand, but only after van de Graaff – who in the same introduction called House Majority Leader Kumar Barve “Kumar Barv” – pointed out that she was retiring after 36 years in Annapolis.

Biggest takeaway from the parade? Looks like voter turnout will be awfully low.

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Looking for evidence that Congresswoman Donna Edwards may run for Senate in 2018? See if she tries to become chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm for House Democrats, in 2016.

Edwards is one of three members mentioned most prominently as possible successors to New York Rep. Steve Israel, who is finishing his second term at the helm of the DCCC. The others are Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut and Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado.

At the DCCC, Edwards would travel the nation, meeting donors and collecting political chits – useful things for someone pondering a statewide run. From this far distance, 2016 looks like it’ll be pretty good for Democrats, so that’s a plus for anyone who winds up at the DCCC in that cycle.

Edwards would be the first African-American to ever run the committee and the first woman since New York Rep. Nita Lowey in the 2002 election cycle. That’s got to appeal to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Md.), who makes the choice. An added bonus is that Edwards is no big fan of Rep. Steny Hoyer – and we all know what a tortured relationship Pelosi and Hoyer have.

Himes and Polis are undoubtedly stronger fundraisers. Himes worked on Wall Street before being elected to Congress in 2008 – a mixed blessing for the Democrats’ messaging. Polis is a tech entrepreneur who is openly gay, so has strong ties to key Democratic fundraising constituencies.

But don’t count Edwards out. She would be an effective advocate and has plenty of appeal. The feeling here is she’s gearing up to run for Senate in 2018 – regardless of what Sen. Ben Cardin does. So the DCCC would be an excellent proving ground.

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Other bits:

* When President Obama announced the other day that he was nominating San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development, we wondered whether Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was privately disappointed. Seems the HUD job would have been a plausible out for Rawlings-Blake, who is a talented politician but sometimes seems better suited for a legislative gig in Washington or something else that would get her away from the nitty-gritty of urban governance.

* No one should be surprised that two of businessman Larry Hogan’s opponents in the Republican gubernatorial primary have filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections questioning the relationship between Hogan’s campaign and Change Maryland, the supposedly nonpartisan organization that served as the vehicle for his anti-O’Malley crusading for the past couple of years. They have been grousing privately about it for months. The question is whether the board will act on David Craig and Ron George’s complaints in a timely fashion – and if there is any recompense at this late stage of the race.

* Standing in between Alex Mooney and a congressional seat is a man named Nick Casey Jr., the former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party. Casey grew up in Kanawha City, on the left hand fork of the Lens Creek River, near the town of Marmet, and close to a pollution-belching Libbey-Owens glass factory.

In short, he’s had a more uniquely West Virginia upbringing than Mooney, the erstwhile Maryland GOP chairman and state senator who says he migrated across the border a little over a year ago, much the way his ancestors fled Fidel Castro, “to live in freedom” – though it’s clear that more prosaic political considerations were never far from his mind.

Democrats are hoping that Casey will connect with voters in ways that Mooney can’t and flip the seat that’s been held by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) – daughter of the legendary West Virginia Gov. Arch Moore – since 2000. But Mooney’s best friend right now is Barack Obama – Obama took just 38 percent of the vote in that district in 2012, and his current approval rating in West Virginia is about 29 percent.

So more likely than not, we’ll be saying hello to Congressman Mooney pretty soon. After that, watch out – a Senate seat could be vacant as soon as 2016.

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.