Yes, we must, and so must you

What makes a good politician?

Ideally, a good politician encompasses many qualities: intelligence, unshakeable ethics, responsibility, compassion, and vigor. But what makes a politician good, when it comes right down to it, is getting things done: sponsoring legislation, getting it passed and signed into law, making good deals and plans for those who elected him or her, getting a message out, reaching out to people--constituents or colleagues--and having them reach back, and accruing clout to aid in getting more things done.


We don't think it's too much to ask to see some sign of those qualities in those who want our votes for office, even if they've never held office before. Races in overwhelmingly Democratic Baltimore City tend to be all but decided by the primary, and why should that be a surprise? Republicans, Libertarians, and various other unaffiliated candidates often mount challenges to the Democratic incumbents and the politically Darwinized Democratic newcomers, but even in races that pull in voters from the redder areas outside I-695, the challengers rarely reveal the kind of drive, organizing ability, or flocking support that tends to indicate an effective politician with a mandate (the governor's race being the obvious exception this time around). So if it looks like we're not taking some of the non-Democratic candidates in the Nov. 2 general election very seriously, it's because we mostly see little reason to. (The general election ballot features a number of unaffiliated candidates and write-ins; while voters deserve a choice and those who qualify to run deserve the right to, we will not be discussing them here.)

In short, if these endorsements feel like an overall endorsement of business as usual in Annapolis and Washington, it's not by design, and not delivered with much enthusiasm. Regardless, we are passionate about urging you to vote. The surest cure for business as usual in politics would be a massive turnout for every election, not just a committed fraction. Our politics suck because we let them suck, or, as essayist Thomas Carlyle put it, "In the long-run every Government is the exact symbol of its People, with their wisdom and unwisdom; we have to say, Like People like Government." So while we're not looking forward to pushing some of these buttons either, we hope to see you at the polls.

Governor/Lt. Governor

We have to say, we expected more. We know that Martin O'Malley left City Hall and wound up in the governor's mansion just as the state economy was slowing down, and shortly before the national economy blew a gasket. After the fat budgets Robert Ehrlich enjoyed during his four-year tenure, O'Malley was left with scraps, and then less, to pursue the agenda he'd sold to voters statewide. Still, the charisma and dynamic leadership that helped vault him off the City Council's backbench and onto the road to national Democratic buzz have been little in evidence during O'Malley's four years as governor. More than once, we found ourselves wondering, What's he doing down there?

Ehrlich deserves credit for a number of things relating to his 2002-2006 term as governor. He pursued a relatively moderate agenda and did little harm to, and even some good for, many things more liberal Marylanders hold dear--for example, boosting spending on the environment ("The Pie Slicers," Feature, Oct. 20). But his wholesale dumping of Democratic bureaucrats at the beginning of his term is only one aspect of his stewardship that speaks to his partisan nature more than his centrist reasonableness.

The field of third-party candidates serves up a number of sincere contenders with some interesting ideas ("Third Wheels," Mobtown Beat, Oct. 20). This is especially true of the progressive Green Party candidate Maria Allwine, running with lieutenant governor candidate Ken Eidel. The Libertarian ideas/ideals of Susan Gaztañaga (running with lieutenant governor candidate Doug McNeil) could hold broad appeal for progressives and free-range conservatives alike. On the other hand, Constitution Party candidate Eric Delano Knowles (running with lieutenant governor candidate Michael Hargadon) presents a hard-right-leaning platform unlikely to appeal much to a wide constituency in this state. More than anything else that limits their viability, the third-party candidates bring to the race no executive or legislative experience, and this election has to be about getting things done.

Both O'Malley (running for re-election with incumbent Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown) and Ehrlich (running with former Maryland Secretary of State Mary Kane) have proven their ability to run the state. The question now is, in what direction? Ehrlich's campaign rhetoric of lowering taxes as the solution to most ills is disingenuous considering that state government is running on fumes as it is, and a significant part of his plan to create new jobs is to make it easier for businesses to deny unemployment insurance to Marylanders who've lost their jobs, which shows a lack of connection with the realities faced by so many in the current economic climate. Voters have already rejected Ehrlich's stewardship once, and bringing him back for another go-around, with the state's economy in such precarious health, is regressive at best. O'Malley's forward progress has been cautious and perhaps necessarily slow, but we'll take it.

Endorsement: O'Malley/Brown


For decades, the Maryland comptroller's office was something of a sinecure, politically speaking, rarely changing hands despite its critical power over the state's purse. Former state legislator and first-term Democratic incumbent Peter Franchot has nonetheless run the office like someone was chasing him. True to campaign promises, he has provided an independent vote on the state Board of Public Works, including questioning some highly questionable land deals. He has also taken to reforming and updating the state's tax collections and legislative audits with vigor. Republican William Henry Campbell brings to his campaign an admirable reasonableness, a welcome politically moderate stance, and a wealth of experience from serving as chief financial officer for giant organizations such as Amtrak, but he has not proved himself the better man for this important job.

Endorsement: Franchot

Attorney General

Democratic incumbent Doug Gansler is running unopposed.

U.S. Senator

Republican physician Eric Wargotz is making perhaps the most substantive challenge to four-term Democratic incumbent Barbara Mikulski, Maryland's widely respected senior senator. Yet of the roughly $1.2 million his campaign has raised, some $976,000 came out of his own pocket--not exactly a sign of a dissatisfied groundswell--and his platform offers little besides rote national Republican talking points, other than the requisite saying of nice things about the bay. Kenniss Henry is on the ballot as the Green Party's candidate only because her daughter, initial Green Party candidate Natasha Pettigrew, was killed in a traffic accident in September. Richard Shawver, a long-time veteran, is running for the Constitution Party. The fact that Mikulski remains industrious and connected to her constituents makes it easy to endorse her for another term.

Endorsement: Mikulski

U.S. Representative, 2nd

The able Democratic incumbent, former Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger, faces a substantial challenger in Dr. Marcelo Cardarelli, a Republican surgeon who lives in Baltimore County. Leaving the social issues for other candidates (or maybe just another time), Cardarelli focuses on a handful of well-articulated, moderate positions: cutting taxes and spreading the cuts around, bringing the budget deficit under control, and redoing the healthcare fix. As sensible as some of these positions are, they look somewhat out of step with the urgency of the current economic crisis, for our government and for many local families. The fact that his campaign is largely self-financed (some $120,000 of his more than $161,000 total take, according to campaign finance records) doesn't speak to a groundswell of discontent in the district, either. Libertarian candidate Lorenzo Gazta?aga offers a few scrappy positions (ending the Afghan war and the war on drugs) but few immediately practical solutions.

Endorsement: Ruppersberger

U.S. Representative, 3rd

Democrat John Sarbanes is coming off his second term in the House, and has already won our admiration if for no other reason than his introduction of 2009's No Child Left Inside Act, designed to strengthen environmental education for school children. He faces nominal opposition from Republican Jim Wilhelm, a former naval aviator and defense-industry consultant; Libertarian Jerry McKinley, a manager for Verizon; and Constitution Party candidate Alain Lareau.

Endorsement: Sarbanes

U.S. Representative,

7th District

Democratic incumbent Elijah Cummings has had a de facto lock on his district for some time now, not least because of his nuts-and-bolts service to his constituents and admirable legislative record (that 2002 vote against the Iraq War shines brighter every year). Howard County landscape architect Frank Mirabile Jr. is running as a Republican and, unlike so many of his fellow GOPers this season, presents an admirably moderate and reasonable (if somewhat vague) approach to the issues entirely appropriate for a blue state such as Maryland. Meanwhile, fresh-faced Libertarian Scott Spencer is a Hopkins grad whose platform includes the usual limit-government planks, but also some admirably progressive goals, including repealing the PATRIOT Act and ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell once and for all. If only the challengers weren't running against such an experienced, responsive, and admired representative.

Endorsement: Cummings

District 40

Senate: Democratic incumbent Catherine Pugh is running unopposed.

Delegates: Democratic incumbents Frank Conaway Jr., Barbara Robinson, and Shawn Z. Tarrant are running unopposed.

District 41

Senate: Democratic incumbent Lisa Gladden is running unopposed.

Delegates: Democratic incumbents Jill Carter, Nathaniel Oaks, and Sandy Rosenberg face nominal Republican challenger Mark Ehrlichmann.

Endorsement: Carter, Oaks, Rosenberg

District 43

Senate: Democratic incumbent Joan Carter Conway is running unopposed.

Delegates: Democratic incumbents Curt Anderson and Maggie McIntosh and fellow Democratic primary victor Mary Washington are running unopposed.

District 44

Senate: Able Democratic incumbent Verna Jones faces a nominal challenge from Republican Bernard Joseph Reiter.

Endorsement: Jones

Delegates: Primary voters re-elected Democratic incumbents Keith Haynes and Melvin Stukes and chose Democratic former Baltimore City Councilmember Keiffer Mitchell Jr. for the third delegate spot. Haynes has done a respectable job, and Mitchell brings experience and promise to the table, even as a statehouse freshman. Stukes, another former City Councilmember, has not impressed much in his first term in the state house, but Republicans Brian Jones and Lewis Trae offer little to hold out hope for them as worthy replacements.

Endorsement: Haynes, Mitchell, Stukes

District 45

Senate: Democratic incumbent Nathaniel McFadden is running unopposed.

Delegates: We have no problem with voters returning Democratic incumbents Talmadge Branch and Cheryl Glenn to Annapolis. We are less enthusiastic about the idea of Democratic incumbent Hattie Harrison taking up yet another term (she's been in the House since 1973) given her somewhat lackluster recent results. Republican Rick Saffery is running on an actual platform that's impressive in its thoroughness, but its hard-right lean appears out of step with the district in general. Fellow Republican Larry Wardlow Jr., a cab driver, has run a minimal campaign. Libertarian Ronald Owens-Bey has campaigned unsuccessfully for a number of offices over the past 15 years, including runs as a Democrat and a Republican. He has brought nothing more to his current effort to distinguish it.

Endorsement: Branch, Glenn, Harrison

District 46

Senate: Democratic primary victor Bill Ferguson is running unopposed.

Delegates: Democratic incumbents Peter Hammen and Brian McHale are respected veteran legislators with impressive legislative portfolios; they survived the primary for good reason. Democrat Luke Clippinger had already racked up a fairly impressive career as an attorney and activist even before winning the third spot in the Democratic primary. Republican Roger Bedingfield, who works at security firm Kroll, appears to offer low-taxes/promote-business bromides rather than specifics about aiding his Baltimore City district.

Endorsement: Clippinger, Hammen, McHale

State's Attorney

Democratic primary victor Gregg Bernstein is running unopposed.

Clerk of the Circuit Court

Democratic incumbent Frank Conaway is running unopposed.

Register of Wills

Democratic incumbent Mary Conaway is running unopposed.

Judge of the Orphans' Court

Democratic incumbents Joyce Baylor-Thompson and Lewyn Scott Garrett and fellow Democratic primary victor Ramona Moore Baker are running unopposed (see "We've Got Issues," Mobtown Beat).


There are no easy choices here. Democratic incumbent John Anderson has enjoyed a long and undistinguished tenure in this relatively obscure office, which administers various legal-but-non-law-enforcement functions (court security, serving eviction notices, etc.). But Republican David Anthony Wiggins offers little confidence of improved performance.

Endorsement: Anderson

Constitutional Convention Question

This ballot issue puts to a vote the question of having a state constitutional convention ("Pro and Con," Mobtown Beat, Oct. 13). Though we think it's unlikely that a majority of voters will vote "yes" (leaving the question blank counts as a "no"), we think that the opportunity to crack open the state's torturous foundational document is an interesting one, the minor expense involved in a constitutional convention notwithstanding. For what it's worth, we say let's see what happens. For this and the remaining ballot issues covered, "for" equals "yes," and "against" equals "no."

Endorsement: For

Constitutional Amendments

The more typical way to change the state's Constitution gets a workout this year. Question 2 involves raising the minimum of damages that merits a jury trial in civil cases from $10,000 to $15,000. Since jury trials are much more expensive than letting a judge decide, this sounds reasonable. Question 3, aka the Ramona Moore Baker question, would require that judges for Baltimore City's Orphans' Court be attorneys in good standing. This might, or might not, prevent Baker, a non-attorney who won election to the bench in the primary, from being sworn in, depending on whom you ask (see "We've Got Issues," Mobtown Beat).

Endorsement: For; For

Charter Amendments

These three questions are the legislative equivalent of computer software patches, designed to make existing city law function more efficiently. Question A repeals a measure that any surplus city budget must be spent in certain circumscribed ways. Question B provides for establishing a city sustainability fund. Question C calls for new rules to regulate bids for city contracts and procurements. We see no reason not to support all three.

Endorsement: For; For; For

Bond Issues

These pertain to a series of city loans in various amounts to support the following purposes: improvement and maintenance of city school facilities; community development; improvement and maintenance of public buildings; economic development; the National Aquarium; the Walters Art Museum; the Baltimore Museum of Art; and Recreation and Parks.

Endorsement: For all

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