Time to say farewell, although politics certainly will live on

“So long, farewell

Auf Wiedersehen, goodnight,

I hate to go and leave this pretty sight.”

— “The Sound of Music”

Fourteen years ago, an editor named Baxter Smith asked if I would write a twice-monthly column for the Community Times.

Baxter has since retired. Now, the Community Times is retiring on me.

It’s been a pleasure contributing observations over the years on political and government happenings in our county and community.

I wrote a column for the big metropolitan newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, for 21 years as deputy editorial page editor.

Then I penned a weekly political op-ed for The Gazette newspaper of Gaithersburg, a subsidiary of The Washington Post.

That publication proved popular with Maryland’s political set but folded in 2012 after it lost most of its advertising revenue to Internet websites.

Now the Community Times is bidding us farewell.

It’s too bad because communities like Reisterstown, Glyndon, Pikesville and Owings Mills need a local news outlet — a place where you can find out what’s happening in your neighborhood, what local leaders are doing and what local business groups are up to.

Where else can you learn that state Sen. Bobby Zirkin, who hasn’t been challenged in an election since 2004, will have a serious opponent in the June 26 Democratic primary?

Sheldon Laskin, a tax law professor and former assistant attorney general, has told progressive Democrats he will take on Zirkin as their candidate.

Laskin’s task is formidable.

Zirkin is well known in the district, has built an energized voter base during his 20 years in office and will have a significant fundraising edge. As of Jan. 10, the Pikesville senator had $369,104 in his campaign account; Laskin is starting from scratch.

Yet, Bernie Sanders Democrats want to defeat Zirkin because he didn’t vote their way on key progressive bills.

Much of the left’s displeasure with Zirkin stems from his role in Annapolis as a powerful committee chairman. In that post, he has to perform a delicate balancing act to round up both liberal and conservative votes on the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

It’s a surefire way to make enemies and Zirkin has done that. Del. Shelly Hettleman considered running against her state senator but decided to seek a second House term as a progressive Democrat.

Progressives then approached Laskin, who agreed to run for office for the first time.

It could be tough finding traction in a county where Sanders got just 31 percent of the Democratic presidential vote last year.

Laskin does have one advantage: Zirkin is barred from raising funds until the General Assembly adjourns in April. The 90-day Annapolis session also will make it difficult for the state senator to do much campaigning until adjournment.

The June 26 primary also will be the first in 24 years without Dan Morhaim’s name on the ballot. The emergency room physician is a leading legislative expert on medical issues and played a key role in reforming Maryland’s overly complicated procurement laws.

In recent years, though, Morhaim encountered conflict-of-interest problems regarding his role in setting up the state’s medical marijuana program. That may have influenced his decision to step aside.

That announcement will set off a scramble to replace Morhaim, though his expertise will be sorely missed in the House of Delegates.

Speaking of retirement, this Community Times columnist is now signing off for the last time for this soon-to-be deceased publication. I hope you enjoyed reading these opinion pieces as much as I had fun writing them.

Barry Rascovar of Reisterstown writes weekly columns on his blog, www.politicalmaryland.com. You can contact him at brascovar@hotmail.com.

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