Nitkin: Vice presidential candidates are usually selected to help bring geographic balance to a ticket as well as electoral votes. Maryland is a relatively small state, with only 10 electoral votes. Plus, it's a "between" state -- not really northern, not really southern, so it doesn't add a lot of geographic balance.
Andrew, Gaithersburg: Is it a sign of desperation by Doug Duncan when he is already going negative in his campaign against O'Malley? If Duncan is so qualified to run for governor, then why doesn't he stress his accomplishments, instead of trying to smear his opponent?
Nitkin: I wouldn't say it's a sign of desperation. I'd say it's a nod toward reality. Duncan is about 20 points back in the polls, so he doesn't have the luxury of merely appearing "gubernatorial" or just telling voters all he has done in Montgomery County. For Duncan to win the primary, he needs both to sell himself and raise doubts about O'Malley's record and leadership.
Duncan's campaign believes it is fair -- and I agree with them -- to talk about the performance of schools and the safety of the streets in Baltimore. Duncan does talk about his accomplishments often. He talks about school quality in Montgomery County, and other issues. But when the trains run on time, as they figuratively do in Montgomery County government much of the time, it's hard to get the media's attention.
Bacon, Baltimore: I'm of the mindset that what one does with a little, he will do with a lot. With that in mind, why on earth should anyone vote for O'Malley as governor when he has done a horrific job as mayor of Baltimore City? (See Baltimore City Public School System and revolving door of police commissioner.)
Nitkin: Big cities are hard places to manage, and we've written articles that big-city mayors often don't get elected to higher office. (Think of Ed Koch in New York, for example.) For decades, Baltimore had lost population and suffered from high drug-addiction rates. Schools in Baltimore are a partnership of the city and the state, so there's enough blame and/or credit to go around.
O'Malley's selection of police commissioners is certainly a topic for debate. But one of his commissioners -- Ed Norris -- was hired by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to run the Maryland State Police before being indicted on charges that he misused a slush fund. Whatever happens in Baltimore over the next 11 months -- murders, school problems and other matters -- will certainly be debate topics.
Eric, Ijamsville: With Kweisi Mfume and Michael Steele running for the U.S. Senate seat, and Anthony Brown a lieutenant governor candidate, does this make Maryland a geographical hot spot for black politicians?
Nitkin: Maryland has a black population approaching 30 percent, the highest of any state outside the Deep South. Prince George's County is the wealthiest majority-black jurisdiction in the country, and the only place that has gotten wealthier as the black population increased. The viable candidacies of Mfume, Steele and Brown reflect the demographics of the state, and the political opportunities available to black leaders.
Dan, Largo: Is Brown now a contender for the Senate seat in 2010 currently held by Barbara Mikulski?
Nitkin: Yes, if Mikulski does not run again. But the list of candidates in that case would be very long.
Craig, Gaithersburg: After O'Malley's formal announcement of Brown as his running mate, it is most likely that Duncan will have to pick a black running mate, preferably from Prince George's County. Does this make Duncan look like a follower of O'Malley's practices?
Nitkin: Most political observers agree that Duncan will also select a black running mate, and Prince George's County is perhaps the most important jurisdiction in the Democratic primary. If Duncan goes in that direction, it is now inevitable that his announcement will make slightly less of a splash than O'Malley's did. The advantage, in this case, goes to the person who went first.
Kevin, Hagerstown: Do you think it would be a wise choice for Duncan to ask Mfume to be his running mate? Would Mfume consider this opportunity?
Nitkin: As a black Baltimore Democrat, Mfume would be an asset to a Duncan ticket -- although he does carry some baggage regarding allegations that surfaced after he left as CEO of the NAACP. But after heading a national civil rights group and serving as a congressman for 10 years, Mfume is unlikely to play second fiddle to anybody, even if he slips behind in the Senate contest.
Nick, Howard County: The youngest age for becoming a delegate is 21. Can any 21-year-old candidate actually win a race against three older incumbents?
Nitkin: Hypothetically, sure. There are several members of the General Assembly in their 20s -- but most commonly, they ran for open seats, not against incumbents. Scandal, controversial votes or non-aggressive campaigning can lead to the defeat of incumbent delegates.