The leading candidates for governor have announced their running mates, making choices that underscore a harsh reality for Baltimore: It is no longer the center of the Maryland political universe.
Democrat Douglas F. Gansler's selection Monday of Prince George's County Del. Jolene Ivey, coming after other announcements from candidates of both parties, makes it highly likely that neither Baltimore nor Baltimore County will be represented in the two top State House offices for the first time in more than three decades.
The tickets in the 2014 election have exacerbated concerns that Baltimore's needs will not get attention in Annapolis.
Bishop Douglas Miles, pastor of the Koinonia Baptist Church on Belair Road, said none of the leading candidates has treated Baltimore with respect in choosing running mates.
"It shows a total disrespect or disregard for Baltimore," he said. "Perhaps some are taking our votes for granted or perhaps they don't care." The candidates, he said, "have made a strategic mistake in disregarding Baltimore voters."
The choice by Gansler, the state attorney general and a Montgomery County resident, breaks with a recent pattern in Maryland politics. Since 1994, every successful gubernatorial ticket — Democratic or Republican — has matched political partners from the Baltimore and Washington regions.
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who lives in Prince George's County, followed that formula by choosing Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as his running mate. But while Howard is part of the Baltimore metro area and media market, its leafy suburban neighborhoods are a long way — culturally, if not geographically — from the streets of East or West Baltimore.
Gansler's move represents a calculated gamble that the old rules of geographical representation no longer apply, and that it was more important to add racial and gender diversity by naming an African-American woman.
Gansler is leading what he hopes will be the first victorious Democratic ticket since 1978 without a candidate from the Baltimore region. That year, Eastern Shoreman Harry R. Hughes teamed with Samuel Bogley of Prince George's to win an unlikely upset in the Democratic primary, followed by victory in the general election.
Since then, the Baltimore region has been represented on the winning ticket each time — by Govs. William Donald Schaefer, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Martin O'Malley and Lt. Govs. J. Joseph Curran Jr., Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
The fact that Gansler hopes to win with a Washington-suburban ticket illustrates a long-term drift of political power away from Baltimore. Its population decline and shrinking legislative representation have been matched by the growth of Montgomery and Prince George's counties as the powerhouses of Democratic politics.
Todd Eberly, professor of political science at St. Mary's College in Southern Maryland, said it once would have been considered "political suicide" to put together a gubernatorial ticket without a Baltimore candidate.
Today, residents of the region have reason to be concerned, Eberly said. "If I'm Baltimore City and even Baltimore County, I'd see the writing on the wall: We're losing political power and political influence."
On the Republican side, none of the announced candidates has strong ties to Baltimore or Baltimore County. Like Ulman, Harford County Executive David R. Craig heads a jurisdiction in the Baltimore region, but his Havre de Grace home is about as far north as one can go before crossing into the Philadelphia census region. For lieutenant governor, he chose Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio of Talbot County.
The other GOP gubernatorial hopefuls, Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County and business executive Charles Lollar of Charles County, have not named running mates. Neither has Del. Heather R. Mizeur of Montgomery County, another candidate in the Democratic race.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the fact that no major gubernatorial candidate is from Baltimore will make the city a more hotly contested battleground.
"The candidates are going to be splitting the vote in the Washington suburbs, making the support of Baltimore all the more necessary. If someone could garner Baltimore's support, it would ensure victory," she said. "I don't think there's a way to win the governor's race without the Baltimore vote."
The mayor acknowledged that the city has lost legislative seats over the years, but pointed to a $1.1 billion school construction program approved by the General Assembly this year as evidence that city officials can get major deals done by building coalitions with politicians throughout the state.
John Willis, executive in residence at the University of Baltimore's School of Public and International Affairs, said Baltimore makes up 15 percent of Democratic primary voters; Montgomery County makes up 17 percent, and Prince George's County, 21 percent.
Gansler's pick of Ivey, Willis said, "shows the attorney general is not taking for granted what will happen in Prince George's County. He's going to fight there."
Willis said the lack of a favorite son – or daughter – ensures that Baltimore will be a battleground between Gansler and Brown.
Along with its shrinking share of the electorate, Baltimore has less political clout in other ways. As recently as 2002, with the help of a redistricting plan that maximized its strength, the city's legislative delegation included 10 state senators. After the next election it will have five and share a sixth with Baltimore County.
For an eight-year period between 1994 and 2002, Baltimore lawmakers held the chairmanships of both budget committees in Annapolis — positions second in power only to the Senate president and House speaker. Now legislators from Howard County and Wicomico County wield those committee gavels.
In 2000, the comptroller and attorney general were Baltimore icons Schaefer and Curran. Now both offices are held by Montgomery residents.
With that political backdrop, Gansler's supporters are counting on Baltimore voters to view Brown's selection of Ulman as being just as lacking in regional diversity as the attorney general's choice of Ivey.
But Del. Curt Anderson, a Democrat who chairs Baltimore's House delegation, questioned Gansler's wisdom in running with another Washington-area official, even if Ivey does bring racial diversity.
"It definitely hurts. I don't think people in Baltimore City know who Gansler is, who Jolene Ivey is," said Anderson, who has endorsed Brown. He predicted they would be looked at "askance" when showing up at Baltimore community events or church functions.
"The attitude of Baltimoreans is going to be 'Aahhh, OK. You're running for governor. Why did you never show up before?'"
One of Gansler's top supporters in Baltimore, Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., said the campaign had sounded him out about whether he wanted to be considered for lieutenant governor before the Ivey choice. Mitchell said he declined because he didn't want to put his children through a grueling statewide race.
For his part, Gansler said Monday that he has strong ties to Baltimore and works in the city every day.
"I was a Baltimore Orioles season-ticket holder before my opponent even moved to Maryland," he said.
Reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun