Sunday, December 18, 2005

Political jockeying

I love it when one story (and therefore one link) covers multiple issues. Today's political story in the Sun is one of those welcome Sunday morning surprises. Divided into three mini-stories, let's tackle them in order.

First, on his annual pilgrimage to New York's bond rating agencies--those who control the county's credit--county executive James Robey brought with him both legitimate candidates for the seat he is relinquishing--Democrat Ken Ulman and Republican Chris Merdon. Custom calls for the executive to be accompanied by the county council chairman--and Ulman's invite initially upset his opponent, Merdon--but Robey offered a perfectly good and non-political reason for including both:

Robey said he felt the invitations could help the county in the long run.

"It makes sense. Whoever the next county executive is will have some experience, and it will show a relationship between the current administration and whoever is coming in," Robey said.

After the initial disappointment, Merdon put politics aside and seemed supportive of Robey's decision to buck tradition.
But after returning home Friday, Merdon said the trip itself changed his mind. "It's something all council members should have the opportunity to do at least once. You get a better understanding of what the bond rating agencies are looking for," he said, and it's not political.
I'm very glad to see this. The importance of the county's stellar bond rating cannot be understated. Financing public projects with bonds (read: debt) is terribly important to maintaining the high quality of life in this county, and keeping our credit score high ensures we pay less in debt service. Learning first hand about the way our county is rated and what measures are important to the bond agencies should be a part of every council person's education. Both Robey and Merdon (and presumably Ulman) recognize this, and we should be thankful for that.

But surely someone was pissed off about the list of invitees. That's right, the third announced candidate for county executive was left behind.

Howard's delegation usually has included the council chairman, who until this year was Democrat Guy Guzzone. Robey said Merdon and Ulman "appear to be front-runners" for the top job, though [Democratic candidate Harry] Dunbar disagreed.

"I'm a candidate for county executive. I should be there, too. I'm outraged," Dunbar said.

While technically Dunbar has a point, especially given Robey's ostensible reason for including Merdon and Ulman, I'm kind of happy he stayed home. Dunbar's a bit of a lose cannon, and in my mind represents only the views of himself (and a very small group of county residents). Keeping him away from those who excersise considerable control over the county's financial future is probably a good thing (it would be wise to remember this advice come next September as well).

Second in the above story is a discussion of the four Democrats vying for the three delegate positions for District 13 (south and east part of the county). The list includes current delegates Shane Pendergrass, Neil Quinter, and Frank Turner, and Guy Guzzone is the not-incumbent fourth. Guzzone, Pendergrass, and Turner have already formed an alliance, but Quinter's made some friends in his single term in the General Assembly, and called on prominent Democrats to help him out a fundraiser last week.
He announced the event with a news release claiming "the entire Democratic leadership of the Maryland House of Delegates is supporting his re-election" by sponsoring the affair. As if to emphasize his point, Quinter was introduced by House Majority Whip and Prince George's County Del. Anthony G. Brown, who last week joined Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's gubernatorial campaign as the ticket's candidate for lieutenant governor.
Brown has received a lot of glowing media attention recently and is good ally for Quinter to have. Still, the claim that the Democratic leadership supports his reelection appears to be a little misleading.

Guzzone said all Quinter did was get the House leadership to support his fundraiser, labeling the endorsement claims "not significant." Turner agreed.

"It's a general practice for all of leadership to allow any incumbent to use their name on a fundraiser," Turner said.

House Speaker Del. Michael E. Busch said, "We support the 98 Democrats in the General Assembly. As a practice, I will agree to be on a fundraising ticket."

Several House committee leaders confirmed that. But Health and Government Operations Committee Chairman Del. Peter A. Hammen went further, saying he endorses Quinter for re-election.

"He's worked hard. He's a very thoughtful delegate," Hammen said. Judiciary Committee Chairman, Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., also said he also supports Quinter's re-election.

Yes, it's never to early to squabble over these types of things, I guess. Petty politics aside, I still think it's Guzzone's race to lose (Turner and Pendergrass are locks,, for now anyway, but you know, things change, and I don't want to be pinned down--you know what, forget I even said this). Quinter, most certainly, will not go down easy, however. And this race could be one of the more interesting ones. Coffers will surely fill to overflowing.

In addition to the four Democrats, there are three Republicans who think they have a shot at representing District 13 in the House of Delegates.
As for the Republicans, [Loretta] Gaffney [an aide to GOP Del. Gail Bates] joins Mary Beth Tung and the Rev. Rick Bowers in seeking a seat in the Democrat-dominated, L-shaped southeastern county district.

Gaffney, a 15-year county resident who lives at the western edge of District 13 in Glenelg, has worked for Bates for two years, and she said that experience encouraged her to run.

In December, almost a year away, political hope springs eternal.

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