By Barry Rascovar / June 25, 2013
YOU HAVE GOT TO WONDER what makes grown Republicans scramble and jostle for the right to play David to the Democrat’s Goliath in next year’s Maryland governor’s race.
Republicans have held the Free State’s top job for just six of the last 50 years.
Given daunting voter registration figures – 2 million Democrats vs. 900,000 Republicans and 600,000 independents – it’s hard to see a bright future for the party’s nominee.
Yet today there are more Republican than Democratic politicians looking at a run for Maryland chief executive. Amazing.
Let’s look at the contenders and handicap their chances. Remember, we’re still a year removed from the primary next June:
Leader of the Pack
David Craig. He’s finishing his second term as Harford County Executive after serving as a state senator, state delegate, Havre de Grace mayor and councilman and public school teacher and principal. In other words, he’s battle-tested and a winner.
As an executive, Craig have played the role of fiscal conservative with a social conscience. He’s the most practical politician of the group, which may not be a positive in an era of Tea Party absolutism within the GOP.
Establishment Republicans favor Craig because he’s got the best shot at pulling an upset. But will that be enough to win a summer primary where ideologues and hard-liners turn out and the rank and file tend to stay home?
Odds of winning the nomination: 3-1
Name From The Past
Michael Steele. He’s a conservative TV analyst (MSNBC), columnist and public speaker who served one term as Maryland lieutenant governor and a controversial term as Republican National Committee chair.
He ran for U.S. Senate in 2006, losing to Democrat Ben Cardin by nearly 180,000 votes.
Steele brings statewide name recognition and the ability to attract national donors. But he’s not been part of the Maryland dialogue on issues for a long time.
He might appeal to urban and rural conservatives in the party as someone who has been in the news for a decade and doesn’t stray from GOP orthodoxies. He’ll pick up votes from the party’s small band of black voters, too.
Odds of winning the primary: 6-1
Larry Hogan Jr. He’s an Annapolis real estate broker who runs a group of real estate companies. His chief claim to GOP fame is founding Change Maryland, a lobbying group that has loudly criticized Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley for his anti-business, anti-growth actions.
He’s also the namesake son of the former Republican Prince George’s County congressman (1968-1974) and county executive (1978-1982).
Hogan’s only government service was appointments secretary under Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich. He was getting ready to file for governor himself in 2010 before Ehrlich tried to re-claim the job he once held.
Back in 1992, Hogan ran Congress and came close to upsetting Democrat Steny Hoyer.
Hogan’s high-profile, well-documented broadsides against O’Malley’s spending practices appeal to conservative voters. He’s positioned as the non-politician who wants to run government like a business.
Odds of winning the primary: 8-1
Ron George. He owns a well-known Main Street gem store in Annapolis and is concluding his second term in the Maryland House of Delegates.
His chances for a third term in 2014 vanished when Democrats gerrymandered his district. Thus, running for governor looks like a graceful political exit while reaching for the state party’s brass ring.
George is a strict fiscal conservative opposed to almost every tax on the books. He’s counting on a huge vote in Anne Arundel County, home to the third largest number of Republican.
Will that be enough?
Odds of winning the primary: 10-1.
Blaine Young. He’s the one-term president of the Frederick County Commissioners, former Frederick city alderman, radio personality, taxicab and limo company owner and mobile van advertising operator who likes to stir things up.
Young’s Tea Party outbursts, grandstanding and outspoken nature thrill party hardliners.
Yet translating his appeal beyond Frederick’s borders (where his Democratic parents and brother all hold elective office) could prove difficult without lots moolah.
He may opt to forgo the governor’s race and run instead for the new post of Frederick county executive next year.
Odds of winning the primary: 12-1
Charles Lollar. He is a Southern Maryland businessman (Cintas) who wanted to file for governor in 2010 but couldn’t because he hadn’t been registered to vote over a five-year period.
Instead, he ran for Congress against Democrat Hoyer, winning 35 percent of the vote.
Now finishing up his Marine Corps reserves tour at the Pentagon as a major, Lollar is all but officially running. He’s proud of never having held elective office and thinks that gives him an advantage with GOP voters. But with Steele in the governor’s race, Lollar has little chance. They will split the party’s small but important African-American vote.
Without wads of cash and a collapse by the frontrunners, Lollar will be just another vocal conservative voice at candidate forums across the state.
Odds of winning the primary: 50-1.
[Do you disagree? Agree? Feel free to respond with a comment about Maryland’s Republican Governor candidates.]