Two prominent Maryland Republican leaders from the recent past threw their support behind the gambling expansion plan crafted by Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly, contending that a new casino in Prince George's County will yield hundreds of millions in tax revenue for the state's schools.
Former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who also served as chairman of the Republican National Committee, and former Republican national committeewoman Audrey Scott jointly endorsed the measure, which is up for a vote on the Nov. 6 ballot, according to the ballot committee supporting Question 7.
"Partisan politics should not interfere with economic development and the creation of jobs," they wrote.
The move by Steele and Scott is a break with many Republican leaders who have objected to the way the plan was adopted in a special session of the legislature in August. Steele and Scott both started their political careers in Prince George's.
Their statement came in a letter addressed to Maryland Republicans in which the two criticized "West Virginia interests" for dominating Maryland airwaves with what they contend is "false advertising" by Penn National Gaming, which owns the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, W. Va.
Steele and Scott defended the gambling expansion plan as one that would encourage private investment, cut taxes and increase competition -- "hallmarks of economic freedom and the Republican Party." Both threw their support behind National Harbor as the site for the proposed Prince George's casino.
The two Republicans, both of whom served in the administration of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., wrote that Question 7 is "not about Gov. O'Malley." They rejected the argument that voters should say no to the expansion plan because it will mean more revenue for the governor to spend, contended that the term-limited O'Malley will be out of office by the time the law is fully implemented.
The two are correct that O'Malley will leave office before any casino could open in Prince George's, but another section of the law permitting table games would take effect while O'Malley is in office if Question 7 is approved.
Scott, a former Bowie mayor, served as secretary of planning under Ehrlich. She was Maryland's Republican national committeewoman before losing a re-election bid earlier this year. Steele is now a frequent commentator on MSNBC.
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun