Kamenetz, other potential Democratic candidates for governor face tough task

Community Times

Kevin Kamenetz, the Baltimore County chief executive who is running for governor, has two steep hills to climb if he wants to win the top job in Annapolis.

As a recent Goucher Poll indicated, Kamenetz is hardly known outside his home jurisdiction. This is especially true in regions beyond metropolitan Baltimore.

Seventy-two percent of those in the poll didn’t know the name of the Pikesville resident.

That’s not a good sign, but there is a silver lining: Other legitimate candidates in this race — Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and former NAACP CEO Benjamin Jealous — also had high “don’t know” numbers.

It is early in the campaign season. Indeed, it will be months before we hear a lot about these governor wannabes. So Kamenetz has the fall, winter and spring to gain name recognition.

He’s spending much of his after-hours attending Democratic Party gatherings around the state. That’s essential in a primary in which no one is well known.

The Goucher Poll is misleading in that it was taken so early that people in the survey had no idea who they want to vote for in the June 26 primary.

Indeed, the winner of this poll was “none of the above,” with 44 percent.

Baker finished second with a mere 13 percent. Former Attorney General Doug Gansler, who announced he’s not even running for governor, got 11 percent in the poll. Kamenetz received just 8 percent.

Nothing in this survey gives a hint of how this primary election campaign will turn out.

The other steep hill that Kamenetz must surmount if he gains the Democratic nomination is the popularity of incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

The same Goucher Poll showed 67 percent of people approve of the job Hogan has done.

Fifty-one percent said they would definitely or would likely vote again for the Republican governor, versus 42 percent who would not.

A high number of Democrats, 37 percent, said they would likely vote for Hogan in 2018. Among independent voters, a strong 59 percent said they favored the incumbent.

Thus, the Democratic nominee starts with a disadvantage.

Hogan is well liked and respected for beating cancer and rejecting many of the statements and actions of President Trump.

He also is viewed as a moderate who has put Maryland on the right track.

Additionally, Hogan has a huge advantage when it comes to buying advertising time on television and radio.

The governor could wind up spending $15 million to $20 million to gain a second term — multiple times more than his Democratic challenger.

Still, all is not lost. The Goucher Poll indicates voters are exceedingly angry about the intolerant and snappish behavior of President Trump.

If that anger grows and rubs off on Hogan, he could have trouble in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by better than 2-1.

According to the Goucher survey, 71 percent disapprove of Trump’s performance as president and 56 percent of them feel so strongly.

That includes an astounding 93 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents.

This could be fertile ground for Kamenetz in the general election.

His other plus is his strong management of Baltimore County, including a $1 billion-plus school construction program. He’s also made some tough calls that were not popular but he felt were necessary.

If the governor’s race comes down to competence, Kamenetz stands a chance. And if Trump’s erratic performance is voters’ chief concern, Hogan may have a struggle on his hands from Kamenetz or any other Democrat.

Barry Rascovar’s blog is brascovar@hotmail.com. He can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com.

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