Craig's got as good a shot as anyone at governor's office [Editorial]

William Paca, of Abingdon, was the first, having held the office shortly after the American Revolution. Augustus Bradford, of Bel Air, who served during the Civil War, was another to have held the office.

There may have been more Maryland governors, who called Harford County home, but people with such ties are hard to find. Heck, Henry Harford, a colonial era governor of the state, was from Phoenix, which was part of Baltimore County in those days, just as it is today. When Henry Harford was governor, there was no Harford County; the county, however, is named after him.

Then there's the matter of Republican governors of Maryland in the years since the Civil War. They have been few, and generally about two to three decades apart.

If you're David R. Craig running for governor, it could be seen either that the odds are against you, or the time is ripe for a change.

From a less fatalistic perspective, a Republican from Harford County has a leg up on Maryland's more typical GOP candidates for the state's top state office. It's worth keeping in mind that the last Republican elected governor was Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who had strong personal and political ties to Harford County, represented the county in Congress and was swept into the governor's office thanks to a large degree to the high percentage of Harford County votes he received.

Craig, like other successful GOP candidates for statewide office in Maryland, is a rather moderate member of his party, a reality that is a double-edged sword in state politics. In Harford County, he was successful at being elected to public office in the decade when the county was still a Democratic stronghold; since then, he has become, at least in some circles, an elder statesman of the local Republican Party.

He also has served in Annapolis, in both the House of Delegates and Senate, and had a rather effective tenure, proving to be capable of working with the Democratic super majority.

In other words, Craig has the potential to appeal to both Republicans and moderate Democrats in a general election, which is what it would take to get elected governor of Maryland as a member of the Grand Old Party.

The primary election, however, is likely to be the wild card for Craig. When he first ran for Harford County executive, he lost in the primary to the eventual general election winner Jim Harkins, largely because the Harkins campaign was successful in its efforts to portray Craig as less than fervent in his commitment to the Republican party. In retrospect, it rings kind of hollow, as Craig was a Republican being elected to public office before Harkins ever threw his hat into the ring.

The human reality remains, however, that the more recently converted are all the more passionate, be they more Republican than the old guard or, as the saying goes, more Catholic than the pope. As a result, Craig is likely to face a rough and tumble Republican primary during which will be likened not to the elephant of the GOP, but rather to a different pachyderm, the RINO, an in-party insult that stands for Republican In Name Only.

A lot is likely to happen in the next year before election season in Maryland is in full swing, so there's no way to say what Craig's chances are of becoming governor. His credentials, his track record and his political perspective make him a realistic candidate, albeit one with an up-hill campaign ahead.

Politics is, after all, a strange business. In 1998, when outgoing Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann ran for governor with Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke as her running mate, the pair looked like a shoo-in early on. That Democratic ticket, which had a lot going for it, including a fair amount of charisma, fizzled and fell to the rather wooden, but well-funded, Parris Glendening.

In the meantime, Craig would do well to remember he's signed on for another two years of running Harford County, and it's a job that won't do itself.

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