Acknowledging the "naysayers" who think his campaign is already doomed, Harford County Executive David Craig formally launched his bid to become Maryland's next governor Monday morning with a spirited attack on Maryland's current government and the state's current economic climate.
"The government has forgotten us," Craig told a crowd of more than 100 people who attended his gubernatorial campaign announcement at St. Patrick Hall in Craig's hometown of Havre de Grace. "The government is not working for us."
The 63-year-old Republican said he has held every possible political office over the course of almost 40 years and presented himself as a native son of Maryland.
"I am a 10th-generation Marylander," Craig began in his speech, explaining he has "great faith" in Maryland, having gone to college, met his wife and raised his children in the state.
Craig said people have lost faith in their elected officials at all levels, but noted that he grew up in Havre de Grace, a city that has survived everything from floods to economic depression to an invasion and sacking during the War of 1812.
People's faith in their country and government of all stripes "is now being tested," Craig said. "It's not us, it's government that lost its focus."
Maryland's government spends more money and creates more programs, "yet continues to divide us," he said, questioning the controversial stormwater fee tax.
"They punished us with a rain tax," Craig said. "Now we hope we don't get a sunshine tax after that."
"A government that is promising you more and more is probably failing you," he said.
While Craig did not call out Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration by name, he did critique politicians who "seem more like rock stars and celebrities."
One of his introductory speakers, former House of Delegates minority leader Ellen Sauerbrey, took on O'Malley's administration more directly.
Sauerbrey, who narrowly lost the 1994 governor's race, blamed O'Malley for a 30 percent increase in state spending and opined a number of tax increases.
"What will they do to the state of Maryland?" Sauerbrey asked. "Is this a free state anymore?"
"I want to live in a state that is run like Harford County," she concluded, with a nod toward Craig's nearly nine years leading the county.
Craig did seem to be already on the defensive about his chances of winning in a perennially Democratic state.
"There will be some naysayers who have already counted us out," he told the cheering crowd. "They don't know what it's like to put up with somebody from Havre de Grace."
After the rally, Craig pointed out that voter registration numbers between registered Democrats and Republicans have not changed and said his campaign can win, as did Maryland's most recent Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich, did in 2002.
"We have a good game plan, a good message," Craig said. "If we have a good candidate, it's very possible."
He also expressed confidence about his chances of working with the General Assembly, despite the somewhat-rocky relationship that Craig's administration, as well as other local officials, have had with Harford's own legislators in Annapolis.
"I have been able to get every piece of legislation I wanted," he noted with a smile.
As for campaign funding, Craig said he "has more than Bob Ehrlich did when he started" but expects to have close to $1 million eventually. His main opposition for the GOP nomination is expected to be Frederick County Commissioner Blaine Young.
This story is updated to reflect a correction of an editing error that misidentified Blaine Young in earlier versions.misidentified Blaine Young in earlier versions.