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Twin controversies for Gansler

ElectionsCommutingExecutive BranchDouglas F. GanslerMaryland Public Information Act

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler's announcement of his selection of a running mate in next year's gubernatorial election — the well-qualified Del. Jolene Ivey of Prince George's County — is being overshadowed by a report over the weekend that he routinely ordered state troopers to violate traffic laws while they were driving him and by predictable knee-jerk parochialism in Baltimore about an all-Washington suburbs ticket. The first issue warrants some concern; the second does not.

The Washington Post's John Wagner wrote on Sunday about a series of memos and emails he obtained under the Maryland Public Information Act detailing complaints by members of Mr. Gansler's executive protection detail. The memos recount instances of the attorney general insisting that the troopers drive at excessive rates of speed with lights and sirens on, run red lights and drive on the shoulder to avoid traffic. At one point, Mr. Gansler was called to meet with the head of the state police to discuss the matter.

Mr. Gansler contends that the memos are the product of a small number of state troopers who were disgruntled or otherwise did not get along with him, and his campaign put reporters for both The Post and The Sun in contact with other troopers who spoke well of the attorney general. Mr. Gansler admits to "backseat driving," but whether the use of sirens was really a daily occurrence, as the memos suggest, may be impossible to determine with certainty.

There does not, however, appear to be any dispute about an incident in December, 2011, when Mr. Gansler's state-owned SUV started driving on the shoulder of I-97 with its lights on to avoid a traffic jam caused by an accident. Among the frustrated motorists he passed: Gov. Martin O'Malley, in his state-owned SUV, which was not bypassing the gridlock.

A spokesman for Mr. Gansler speculated in an interview with The Sun's Michael Dresser that the governor had complained, leading to the memos that followed. Governor O'Malley is a strong supporter of Mr. Brown, and by that point, it was already clear that Messrs. Brown and Gansler would be fierce rivals for the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nomination. As such, the Gansler campaign has sought to dismiss The Post's story as the mere product of Brown supporters leaking unflattering information to the press on the eve of his announcement of a running mate. It was the same tactic he used when he tried to diffuse the controversy caused by his secretly-recorded criticism of Mr. Brown for running a campaign centered on a racial appeal.

But whatever the motivation for Mr. O'Malley's initial complaint — and a spokeswoman for the governor confirms that he did lodge one — we say good for him. It is beyond obnoxious — not to mention unsafe — for a state government official to use his position to break traffic laws with impunity in a non-emergency situation. That's the kind of thing that builds resentment against the state government, and Mr. O'Malley was right to do something about it.

This is by no means the most important issue voters should be considering, but it is worthy of their attention as they decide who should be the next governor. Less worthy is the notion that Mr. Gansler is, as one pundit put it, "thumbing his nose at Central Maryland" by failing to select a Baltimore-area running mate.

First, let's take note of the fact that Baltimore is not exactly long-suffering when it comes to representation on the second floor of the State House. Either the governor or lieutenant governor (or both) has been from Baltimore or Baltimore County since Gov. Harry Hughes dumped Prince Georges Countian Samuel Bogley from his ticket in 1982. Second, Ms. Ivey lives in Cheverly, which is 32 miles from Baltimore. That's closer than Republican candidate David Craig, who as Harford County executive is considered a Baltimore-area candidate. And third, the Baltimore-Washington region is more interconnected by the day, and the city's prospects for future success hinge on strengthening those ties, not on shunning them.

Ms. Ivey — who, incidentally, graduated from Towson University and worked for a time in Baltimore television early in her career — represents the highly educated, successful African-American professionals that are one of this state's great strengths. She is a working mother of five boys and the wife of another high-powered professional, former Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey. In the legislature, she has worked on issues related to family services and domestic violence, and she was the lead sponsor of one of most needed pieces of ethics reform to pass in recent years: a constitutional amendment that forces politicians to step down immediately after being found guilty of certain crimes. (In an unfortunate reminder of how little separates the Baltimore and Washington areas, the measure was necessitated equally by the cases of former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and former Prince George's County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson.) Ms. Ivey is an excellent choice, no matter where she lives.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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ElectionsCommutingExecutive BranchDouglas F. GanslerMaryland Public Information Act
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