The Md. governor’s race: Who’s the favorite?

August 13, 2013

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about the 2014 gubernatorial contest in Maryland. In a post in September, I profiled the four men most likely to seek the nomination: Attorney General Doug Gansler, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. I mentioned Heather Mizeur as a “rumored to be thinking about it” candidate. I argued then, that Brown was the odds on favorite to win the nomination.

“If the 2014 primary were like a typical Democratic primary in recent years with only two credible candidates then certainly Gansler would be the favorite — but in a three man race his odds drop considerably and in a four man race a clear new favored candidate emerges from the pack — Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.”

Much has changed since September … and yet very little has changed.

Two of the expected candidates are now out of the race.  The Franchot folks always understood they had a very narrow path to victory, a path that relied on moderate and conservative Democrats outside of the I-95 corridor. The Franchot team understood that if Gansler and Brown split the progressive vote, and Gansler, Brown and Ulman divided the I-95 vote, and if Franchot could compete with Gansler in their shared home turf of Montgomery County, and if Franchot could win over Democrats from parts of the state that feel ignored by the Democratic Party, then Franchot could build an electoral plurality in a multicandidate race. It was a path to victory that needed every “and if” to fall into place. In the end, Franchot decided that he enjoyed being comptroller too much to risk everything on a series of and ifs. It was probably the correct call. I had written and spoken favorably of Franchot and make no secret of the fact that he would have been my preferred candidate. He openly and passionately challenged the Democratic Party status quo in the state and would have been the candidate most likely to embrace the types of good government reforms so desperately needed in Annapolis.

As for Ken Ulman, there had been rumblings for some time that the Brown campaign was working feverishly behind the scenes to get Ulman on board as Brown’s running mate. Those rumblings turned out to be true, and the Brown/Ulman team has been traveling the state fundraising and securing nominations all summer long. At first blush, this was a smart move by Brown. Not only did he eliminate a dynamic and appealing opponent — someone with the only real claim to the Baltimore region, which can really matter in a primary contest — Brown also absorbed Ulman’s campaign war chest, and Ulman had proven to be a damn good fundraiser. Going into this contest, Gansler enjoyed a tremendous cash advantage, but the merging of the Brown and Ulman coffers largely eradicated that.

I’m still not certain if taking Ulman out of the race was the best option for Brown. I argued in January of last year that Brown’s chances of securing the nomination increased with each additional candidate in the race. By tapping Ulman, Brown may have created a simple two-man contest between himself and Gansler. In that scenario, Gansler has an advantage.

But of course, it’s not a simple two-man race; rather, it’s shaping up to be a pretty exciting three person race. Heather Mizeur announced that she was joining the fray just one month ago this week, but her intentions were clear months beforehand. Mizeur is among the very few women to ever seek the nomination for Maryland governor, and if elected she would be the Free State’s first female governor. Mizeur is also one of only eight openly gay members of the Maryland General Assembly. If she were to win the nomination, she would become the first openly LGBT candidate to run for governor on a major-party ticket. Given the recent swings in public opinion in favor of marriage equality, Maryland’s legalization of same-sex marriage (upheld by the voters at referendum), and the election of Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate, Mizeur must feel a little bit of the winds of change at her back.

There are still the occasional rumblings about another candidate hopping into the race (Dutch Ruppersberger anyone?), and there’s certainly plenty of time for a new candidate to get in – but one is left with a strong sense that the Democratic field is set: Gansler, Brown and Mizeur.

[Continue reading Todd Eberly’s post at The FreeStater Blog.]

Todd Eberly blogs at The FreeStaterBlog. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

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