Inside-out, topsy-turvy politics

Weren't Maryland politics always predictable? Heavily Democratic and a bit of an election night yawn? Not this decade.

Maryland voters, considered the bluest shade of blue, defied conventional wisdom and went red in 2002, electing Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. as governor. Some called it a blip, an aberration, but, either way, everyone knew it was Ehrlich's reward for sensing the political zeitgeist and courting conservative suburbs instead of going after the liberal bastions of Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Then, after 50 years in office wearing one title after another, William Donald Schaefer, a man whose name is all but synonymous with city and state politics, found himself no longer able to charm the electorate. At 84, he lost the race for comptroller in 2006. No one was more surprised than he was.

More recently, to cheers from feminists across the region, Baltimore elected its first woman mayor in 2007. This fall Sheila Dixon became another statistic - the city's first mayor to be convicted while in office.