Douglas F. Gansler is running for governor.
The Democrat recently launched a three-month “Building Our Best Maryland” tour to start sharing his policy ideas for the state. When he arrived in Rockville on the first stop, there was even a “tracker” from an opposing campaign there poised to film any missteps.
But does he say he is a candidate?
No. At least not officially.
“Right now I’m preparing to be a candidate for governor,” Gansler explained. “In September, I’ll do a formal announcement.”
For now, he is content to just announce his announcement.
Gansler, Maryland’s attorney general, is hardly the first politician to dance around his candidacy. In modern politics, deciding whether to run is, like the campaign itself, an often drawn-out affair. Candidates “eye the race.” They form exploratory committees, consult focus groups and pore over polls.
By the time they get around to the announcement — the formal announcement — it can feel like an anticlimatic ritual that is full of pomp but largely devoid of surprise, not unlike a national political convention. Timing is often dictated more by strategic calculations than a need to tell voters something that isn’t already obvious.
Gansler vs. Brown
In Maryland, the primary is a year away, but already the timing of the candidacy announcements has provided the first contrast in styles — and salvos.
Gansler’s chief Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, announced his candidacy to a crowd of hundreds at a staged family-style cookout in Prince George’s County back in early May — and he has been off to the races ever since.
Brown already has announced his choice of a lieutenant governor candidate — Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D) — and started rolling out endorsements, a move that some political observers said was designed to make Gansler look slow out of the gate. Just recently, Brown claimed the support of Baltimore’s mayor and 70 elected municipal officials. On Monday, he has an event planned with President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager.
Gansler’s team, by contrast, calculated that the better strategy is to make an announcement after the summer vacation season, when more people start paying attention to an election that is still a long ways off.
Gansler was dismissive of Brown’s decision to announce in May, saying voters appreciate elected officials who focus on the jobs they already have.
“I don’t see an appetite among the public for longer campaigns,” Gansler said. “Campaigns are already long enough.”
Some, however, see a downside in Gansler’s wait to officially join the race to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
“You look silly for one reason: Everyone knows he’s running for governor, but for some reason, he doesn’t want to say that,” said Todd Eberly, a professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
Besides the tour, Gansler has made some other moves that have struck some as thinly veiled campaigning.
Recently, for example, there was his widely publicized letter to O’Malley urging him to appoint a special prosecutor to hold members of his administration accountable for the scandal at the Baltimore jail where a federal indictment alleged that gang members took over the institution. Brown, the No. 2 member of O’Malley’s administration, has largely avoided talking about that issue.