Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D) announced his support Thursday for Maryland’s expanded gambling plan, becoming the latest of the state’s potential 2014 gubernatorial candidates to take a stand on the divisive issue.
Ulman endorsed Question 7 at a press conference alongside two other county executives — Prince George’s Rushern L. Baker III (D) and Montgomery’s Isiah Leggett (D) — who had made their support of the plan clear during last month’s special legislative session.
In November, voters will get the final say on the plan, which calls for allowing a new casino in Prince George’s County, as well as Las Vegas-style table games at the state’s five previously authorized slots sites.
“When it comes to economic development, we’re talking about 2,000 construction jobs, 4,000 permanent jobs,” Ulman said. “These are great jobs for our economy, and I want them here in Maryland.”
On a lighter note, Ulman added: “Just like I want Maryland to beat West Virginia this weekend in college football, I want to beat back these efforts to send revenue and jobs to West Virginia.”
Full-scale casinos are legal in West Virginia. The owner of the most lucrative of those, Penn National Gaming, has been funding the opposition to Maryland’s expanded gambling plan.
The ballot measure has divided other Maryland Democrats eying the 2014 race to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) opposed slots during his days as a Prince George’s delegate. But since joining O’Malley’s ticket for the 2006 election, Brown has been supportive of the administration’s gambling program. In July, he wrote an opinion piece touting the economic development potential of a casino in his home county.
Two other potential 2014 candidates — Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery) and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) — have been staunch opponents of a gambling expansion for some time.
On Thursday, Mizeur released a video explaining her opposition (as well as her support of two other ballot measures this fall).
In a speech earlier this week, Franchot lamented that Maryland’s political system had been “hijacked ... by out-of-state gambling interests, by billionaire casino owners and conglomerates who will benefit from sweetheart deals negotiated behind closed doors.”
Among the most frequently mentioned Democratic contenders, only Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) has stayed mum on the issue.
“I’ve intentionally stayed out of the issue of casino gambling,” Gansler said in an interview Thursday, citing his office’s regulatory role on the issue.