Carroll County Times

Michael Zimmer: Republican contenders lining up

Carroll County and Maryland may be the ultimate in political odd couples.
In Carroll County, when the Republican primary is over, the election is over. In Maryland, when it comes to a statewide office, when the Democratic primary is over, the election is over.
In Carroll County, you have to go back to the election of Del. Richard Dixon to find an exception to this pattern. He ran as a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-business Democrat. He went on to serve as Treasurer of Maryland. That office is selected by the Maryland General Assembly.
The last Republican elected to statewide office was Gov. Robert Ehrlich in 2002. He had a strong background running for office as a delegate and member of Congress prior to his first bid for governor. He ran an effective campaign, and he had a heaping portion of help from the Democratic Party that year.
The Democrats then chose Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as their candidate for governor. She had no record of electoral achievement prior to serving as Lt. Governor. She was gaffe prone. Her claim to fame was being a member of the Kennedy family. That family name is akin to royalty in American politics, but even that name alone was not enough to win a statewide race.
Against stiffer competition in 2006 and 2010, Ehrlich faded. His opponent, Gov. Martin O'Malley, now seeks to springboard to national prominence as a candidate for president. He may want to meet with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to see what kind of options he may have.
In spite of this lackluster history for the GOP in Maryland, several eager candidates have stepped up to seek the nomination for governor. Harford County Executive David Craig was one of the first to file for this office.
He has an enviable resume in elected office as a former mayor, a former General Assembly member and a current county executive. His career prior to politics may have potential cross party support as a teacher and school assistant principle. By objective measures he'll be able to make a persuasive pitch to voters that his record of performance demonstrates leadership ability.
Another Republican aspirant is Del. Ron George. I'm not personally acquainted with him. Some of my friends who do know him speak highly of him. Others do not have such positive things to share about him.
Charles Lollar is a more recent contender for the GOP nomination for governor. His professional career has been as an officer of the Marine Corps and a business manager. He cannot match Craig in terms of demonstrated wins for political office, but he has a gifted oratorical style that has the potential to move an audience.
On paper one would think that Craig would have greater fundraising potential than any other Republican candidate. In the primary, the candidate with the most effective television advertising campaign would have a huge advantage.
That's one of the reasons Republicans have faced such an uphill climb in statewide general elections. The fundraising isn't there for GOP candidates because big donors like to back winners. The Washington TV market is particularly expensive.
Will next year be a breakthrough year for Republicans in Maryland? A lot of folks are sick and tired of the tax and fee hikes that Annapolis seems to embrace year after year. Some potential voters who might have been willing to embrace a change in party for Maryland have already voted with their feet and left our state.
Maybe next year will finally be the year that Charlie Brown actually kicks the football before Lucy can snatch it away. Then again, maybe not.