Smith appointment subtracts one from ticket speculation

Wednesday's appointment of former Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. as Maryland's secretary of transportation removes one prominent name from the guessing game over who the leading Democratic contenders for governor will choose as their running mates.

Smith said Wednesday that he has no interest in any job other than his new one running the transportation department. Gov. Martin O'Malley announced the appointment at a news conference with Smith at the site of a new Beltway expansion project near Frederick Road.

The former county executive's name had been floated a few weeks before as a possible runnng mate choice by a campaign aide to Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown. The Brown gubernatorial campaign ended that speculation Wednesday when it confirmed that Ulman has accepted an invitation to run for lieutenant governor on Brown's ticket.

Smith, 71, said he and the O'Malley-Brown administration have no agreement about his remaining in place longer than the 18 months remaining in the governor's term.

"What I'm hoping to do is a very good job, and we'll see if the next governor is interested in retaining me or not," Smith said.

Smith said one thing he is especially interested in accomplishing as secretary is making progress on the use of public-private partnerships to finance transportation projects. That gives him a common interest with Brown, who spearheaded the administration's effort to win passage of legislation creating a framework for so-called P3 agreements.

Brown released a statement Wednesday praising the appointment.

“Jim Smith is an excellent choice to head up Maryland's Department of Transportation and I'm excited to have the opportunity to work with him on road and transit projects such as Baltimore's Red Line, the Capital region's Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway,” said Brown. “Together, we are committed to making the investments in our infrastructure that will spur new economic development and create jobs across our state.”

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