Del. Ron George, a two-term state legislator from Anne Arundel County and Annapolis Main Street jeweler, will take the political leap of his life Wednesday night as he announces his candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor in 2014.
George said Tuesday that he will offer voters a detailed plan to improve Maryland's business climate and its ability to compete with other states. He said his record of 40 years in small business will give him an edge on his rivals in the campaign to succeed Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits.
"I'm a social conservative, but my focus is more making government work, and work in a way that creates jobs," George said.
George, 59, will become the second Republican to announce he's running for governor. Harford County Executive David R. Craig announced his entry Monday.
Also expected to join the GOP fray is Blaine Young, president of the Frederick County commissioners, who says he will announce his plans in August or September. Former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele said Monday that he is considering a race. And there is an active draft movement for Charles Lollar, a former U.S. House candidate.
George is one of two legislators trying to defy the political odds by vaulting from the House of Delegates to the top job in state government. The other is Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur, a Democrat. According to the Maryland Archives, no sitting state legislator has ever been elected governor.
One came close in 1994, when Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey won the Republican nomination and narrowly lost in the general election. But Sauerbrey was her party's leader in the House.
George has shown some support in his home county, where he won 41 percent of the vote in a straw vote at a party dinner over the weekend to Craig's 24 percent.
Outside the county the picture changes.
"He really has no name recognition unless you bought jewelry from him in Anne Arundel County," said Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College. George owns Ron George Jewelers Inc. in Annapolis.
George received only a handful of votes in a straw poll at last weekend's state convention of the Maryland Young Republicans, in which Craig dominated. Brian Griffiths, chairman of the group, said George is a credible candidate but was hurt by his absence at an event his chief rivals attended.
Sen. Edward R. Reilly, an Anne Arundel Republican, said he will be at George's announcement Wednesday night at the Annapolis Sheraton with a check and an endorsement. With the exception of Steele, Reilly said, none of the potential Republican candidates is known outside his home jurisdiction.
"We have a group of regional candidates," he said.
Reilly, who staunchly opposes abortion, said he believes George is more conservative than Craig, who has also said he will stress economic issues. "I know Ron George is strongly pro-life," Reilly said.
George was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2006, when he squeaked by Democrat Barbara Samorajczyk by 53 votes to take third place in the three-member 30th District. But in 2010, he was the leading vote-getter in the district, which he shares with House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat who placed second.
While George is among the earlier candidates to make an official announcement, Griffiths said Craig, Young and Lollar have been laying the groundwork for a campaign. In his finance report in January, George reported having $21,287 in his campaign bank account — an amount more consistent with a run for delegate than for governor. Young and Craig had amassed 10 times as much.
Nataf said George could hold his own in debates if he can raise enough money to reach that stage of the campaign. But if Craig emerges as the favorite, Nataf said, George's money would soon dry up.
Job: Owner Ron George Jewelers, State House Inn, Annapolis
Education: B.A., Syracuse University; M.S., Institute for Psychological Sciences
Experience: Master goldsmith, jewelry designer; small-business owner; delegate since 2007
Personal: Married to the former Becky Skinner, six childrenCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun