Now that we've settled in from last week, and almost stopped hearing the echo's of the 47% speech, it's time to look forward to 2014. I can assure you that the candidates are.
I've said before that I don't particularly look forward to writing about this election. I have friends at every level of the ballot. ("Quite a name-drop there, Tom. Quite a name-drop, indeed.") But in all seriousness, I don't think I'll be writing too much about the "horse-race" as much as I will about the ideas being discussed. Elections were much easier when I could be a "Snarkapatamus" (upping my bounty to a lunch for whomever owns up to calling me that). While I am personally happy to be friends with those running for higher office, it is very bad for my hobby.
Nevertheless, I find it interesting to see how things are lining up and wanted to share my insights on the County Executive race, lined up by the likelihood of entering the contest.
Tier 1: Fired Up, Ready to Go
Courtney Watson: Courtney currently serves as County Councilperson for District 1. She has been critiqued for running for County Executive since 2010, but it will take a lot of money to win the 2014 race, and you need to be in the race to raise money. But she hasn't just been raising money. Over the past year, Courtney has really dug into the community, continuously asking "What's the problem and how do we fix it?" This has ruffled the feathers of some of her fellow Council members, but that should be expected for anyone who seeks to distinguish themselves from a larger group. Don't be surprised to see Courtney have the biggest war chest come January. She's earned it.
Allan Kittleman: Allan has been in the State Senate since 2004, serving on the County Council before that. Folks laugh at me when I say this, but all things considered, Allan is the front-runner of the 2014 race. I didn't say "favorite" and I didn't say "likely winner." He is the front-runner. The Kittleman name is a well-respected brand in Howard County, further bolstered by Allan's courageous support of same-sex marriage in 2010 (and again in 2011 and 2012). Any polls you take right now will have him in the lead on name recognition alone. If Allan were a Democrat, he would be the front-runner and odds-on favorite...but he's not. He'll be entering a race in which Dems out-number GOPers nearly 2-1, with Unaffiliated voters leaning blue. As if that weren't enough of a disadvantage, Courtney will again mobilize her "Republicans for Watson" creating that permissive vote from the GOP contingent that is so inclined to vote for her. Allan has an uphill climb, but he is starting in a good spot.
Tier 2: Thinking About It
Guy Guzzone: Guy would enter this race as the only candidate with a building named after him. Not only that, he is probably one of the most popular Democrats amongst the party faithful. You will rarely hear anyone say anything bad about Guy (although I really wish he didn't leave CA out to dry on the HOA legislation...but that's for another day). However, many folks are wondering if Guy is all that interested in a big primary fight when he can ease back into Annapolis with more seniority and an inside track towards a state-wide leadership position. Let's not talk in terms of "scared" or "backing down." That's childish. This is a matter of career. If Guy were to go into a primary fight, and lose, his political career would be effectively over, but for a potential cabinet appointment or administrative position. That's not to say he isn't on the scene, and the likely favorite for County Executive by some, but all I know is that I have an outstanding beer bet on whether Guy runs that I am not particularly confident in right now.
Tier 3: What's Going On Down There?
These are the candidates that have the top three shifting in their seats and looking to see if anyone is behind them. They've expressed little interest in running, but we have two years to play with, and ambitions change.
Calvin Ball: Calvin is the longest-serving member of the County Council by about seven months, beginning his term in April 2006. He would be able to run again in 2014 if he chose to do so, but the County Executive seat would essentially be blocked out until after his third term expired. Calvin is one of the most liked politicians in Howard County. He has shifted himself more and more into the state-wide spotlight with editorials in The Sun and his recent elevation as Chair of the MACO Minority Caucus. Meanwhile, he continues to raise money in Howard County, despite having a safe seat for 2014. Some folks believe there "must" be a Dem primary for 2014 and will be encouraging Calvin to run if Guy decides to sit this one out. Maybe he'll run even if Guy is in.
Mary Kay Sigaty: Mary Kay is the County Council person for District 4 and acting "Mayor of Columbia." I haven't heard much on the fundraising front, but that was never MK's bag to begin with. I don't really see a circumstance in which Mary Kay runs, but you can be sure that those who do consider themselves in the race will be looking at her campaign account this winter.
Tier 4: Definitely Out
Greg Fox: You can quickly tell whether someone knows something about local politics based on whether they list Greg as a potential County Executive candidate. Greg likes his job. He's good at his job. And his job pays him well. Moreover, Greg would not run in a primary against Allan, who I see as having a free ride to the General.
Jen Terrasa: I see Jen as targeting a Delegate seat in 2018 (whoa, I just gave myself vertigo. That is so far away). Quite frankly, I think primary politics would drive Jen crazy. She gains strength from the Democratic party and having to jockey amongst the "powers that be" for support would drive her crazy.
Any other Delegate or State Senator: How do I put this...County elections are a young person's game. I don't foresee any of our distinguished State Officials, other than Guy and Allan, moving back to County politics. No one else has done much to keep themselves relevant at the County level and, quite frankly, Annapolis is not all that popular around these parts.
That's the race as I see it. I would be interested to hear additional names that you all have heard or are thinking about. You can also correct my stratification of candidates as you see fit.
In closing, I want to thank you all for voting for HoCo Rising in the Mobbie Awards. I try to make it a point not to shill for votes. In terms of "appreciation", I would much rather you contribute towards a Sober House or share this page on Facebook. But yesterday the results came out with HoCo Rising listed 4th for Politics Blog, right behind Maryland Reporter, and just above established sites like Monoblogue, Red Maryland, and Freestater. That meant a lot. I'm going to stop there before I get sappy.
Have a great Friday doing what you love. Go Ravens! Beat the Steelers!