Governor's Race Follows 2 Orbits
Sunday, July 9, 2006
Maryland voters who happen to live in the Baltimore region have already been treated to $850,000 worth of television ads in the governor's race, candidates appearing regularly on the nightly news and a literal parade of politicians through their streets on the Fourth of July.
The view from suburban Washington is quite different.
Most voters in Montgomery, Prince George's and other Maryland counties in the region have yet to see a single one of those ads. TV news coverage of the race has been spotty. And the sole representative of a gubernatorial ticket at the region's Independence Day celebrations was the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, Prince George's Del. Anthony G. Brown.
Even as the population and legislative clout of the Washington region have grown, Maryland still tilts toward Baltimore when it comes to statewide elections, recent developments suggest.
The result is two versions of Maryland politics for voters living in the state's two dominant media markets. Nowhere is this more evident this election year than in the early stages of the governor's race.
"I feel cheated," said Sandy Rovner, a Democratic activist who lives in a Montgomery retirement community. "We read about the campaign, but we don't really feel part of it."
The candidates are not ignoring the state's Washington suburbs. For months, they have been building grass-roots operations, recruiting volunteers and making personal appearances.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D), for instance, staged a well-attended event in Rockville last week at which he won dozens of endorsements from former supporters of Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), who dropped out of the race last month to battle depression. And after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) announced his running mate choice in Annapolis, he and Kristen Cox put in appearances in Montgomery.
But no one denies that Baltimore is getting more attention -- and that there are consequences.
"The reality is, voters in Baltimore have a huge advantage over voters in the Washington market," said Anita Dunn, a Democratic consultant who worked for Duncan. "If you're in the Washington suburbs, you're going to have far less information about the candidates and their records."
Even the Fourth of July schedules for Ehrlich and O'Malley were telling. Both marched in a half-dozen parades, all in the Baltimore region.
Their itineraries reflect the battleground that suburban Baltimore is expected to be in November's general election. In 2002, Ehrlich was able to claim victory in a largely Democratic state by running up large margins in Baltimore County and other jurisdictions in the region where Democratic voters are more willing to vote Republican.