Anne Arundel County

Arundel executive Leopold weighing run for statewide office

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold said Friday what has long been rumored in local political circles: He's considering a run for governor or comptroller in 2014.

"I'm going to keep all those options open," said Leopold, a Republican who is term-limited. "The record that I've established of strong fiscal discipline, I think, would resonate not only in Anne Arundel County but elsewhere."

Leopold, 68, served 20 years in the House of Delegates before he was elected county executive in 2006. Supporters say he has paid close attention to constituent services and have praised his environmental record.

But he also has some personal issues that could potentially affect a run. The state prosecutor's office is investigating Leopold's use of his county-funded security detail. And Leopold is named in a former county employee's $10 million federal lawsuit alleging gender discrimination. Leopold has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

Considering Maryland's overwhelmingly Democratic voter rolls, Leopold would have "a tough road ahead," said Matthew A. Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at the Johns Hopkins University.

The last Republican comptroller ended his term in 1900. And former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who in 2002 became the first member of the GOP elected to the state's top job in a generation, lost his bid for re-election in 2006 and was handily defeated when he ran for governor again last year.

Crenson said Leopold would have to defuse the security-detail and discrimination-lawsuit issues if he ran for office. "Somehow, he's got to prove to people that the allegations are trivial or false," he said. "Any of his opponents would be sure to bring it up."

Alex X. Mooney, chairman of the state Republican Party, said Leopold would make a formidable candidate for either seat.

"He knows how to win tough elections," said Mooney. "Leopold is known for being a tenacious campaigner. He sign-waves and knocks on every door. … I certainly think he's a credible candidate."

Yvette Lewis, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Other GOP candidates frequently mentioned as possible gubernatorial candidates in 2014 include Harford County Executive David Craig, state Sen. E.J. Pipkin and Larry Hogan, a former Ehrlich administration deputy. Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, is prevented by term limits from running again.

Leopold, who in January reported $423,000 in on-hand cash in his campaign account, said he'll make a final decision on his future by 2013.