Lesser-known candidates also want to be governor

One is a bartender in Annapolis. Another has been imprisoned for spray-painting political slogans on government buildings. A third is a former commodities trader who owns a company that markets Maryland's official state dessert.

They haven't held elected office before, but they're aiming to start at the top — as Maryland's next governor.

While Democratic incumbent Martin O'Malley and Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. command nearly all of the attention in this year's gubernatorial race, theirs won't be the only names on the ballot. A colorful selection of seven people — mainly political outsiders — offer an alternative to voters unsatisfied with the two main choices.

These second- and third-tier candidates lack name recognition and a track record. But they nonetheless describe their operations as serious campaigns.

Their motivations for running are diverse: A self-styled teacher wants ethics reform; a man who has been locked up for failing to pay child support wants to change paternity rules; and the bartender articulated a vague wish that O'Malley would adhere more closely to the U.S. Constitution.

The major parties have coalesced around O'Malley and Ehrlich, meaning that the three challengers whose names will appear on September primary ballots face an uphill climb. The rest of the lesser-known candidates are affiliated with smaller parties that have posted few, if any, successes, even in local elections. Of the 3.4 million registered Maryland voters, only 13 percent identify with the state's four smaller parties — Constitution, Green, Independent and Libertarian.

Republican Brian Murphy, a former Constellation Energy derivatives trader, is by far the most organized of the pack. He is the lone candidate seeking to wrest the Republican nomination from Ehrlich and is attacking the former governor from the right.

"I'm not here to make a point; I'm here to win," he told members of the Campaign For Liberty, a Tea Party-affiliated group at an event last week at which he blasted Ehrlich for "reckless spending." Murphy, 33, told the audience that he's had "a lot of success" in business and focused his presentation on pocketbook issues. He pledged to end the state's income tax on corporations and to keep other taxes level.

Controversial topics that the main candidates have avoided emerged during a question-and-answer session. Murphy told the audience he opposes abortion, supports gun rights (though he doesn't own a firearm) and said illegal immigration is "immoral." He drew applause when he said that "being an American citizen is not a right to every person on this planet."

When a voter who described himself as a military veteran proclaimed that he was "sick and tired of what is going on" in Iraq and Afghanistan, audience members hooted in agreement. But Murphy hedged, saying, "I agree with everything you are saying, in theory."

Murphy, a Chevy Chase resident, is slim and appears not to eat much of the calorie-laden Smith Island Cakes produced by a baking company he owns. An ethics disclosure filing shows that he owns two other companies: the Plimhimmon Group, an investment firm, and Virginia-based Triumph Products, which markets shaving oil and other men's grooming supplies.

He has not yet filed a campaign finance report, so it is not possible to gauge the money behind his organization.

His campaign stumbled in June when his initial selection for lieutenant governor, former Carroll County Del. Carmen Amedori, withdrew from the ticket shortly after joining it, saying she did not think the team could win the primary. Still, she said in an interview that Murphy offers a good alternative to Ehrlich and predicted that he would receive much of the conservative vote in September.

O'Malley faces two Democratic challengers. Former Calvert County Del. George W. Owings III bowed out of the race in June, citing health problems. The remaining Democrats are unknown even to some veteran political watchers.

Ralph Jaffe, 68, is so unfamiliar with state government that he did not initially recognize that the man he stopped on the street recently to ask directions was O'Malley. Jaffe was on his way to the Board of Elections to file to run against him.

Partway through the conversation, Jaffe realized that he was talking to the man he hopes to unseat. "He's a charming man," Jaffe said. "I just don't think he's a good governor."

Jaffe lives with his sister and chose her as his running mate. He calls himself a teacher but does not hold a paying job. He runs an untraditional and unaccredited school out of his sister's home in Pikesville.

The candidate says he's disgusted by the mingling of money and politics and wants elections to be free from campaign donations. He plans to promote his candidacy via free media and word of mouth. Jaffe rails against "paid professional lobbyists," who he believes corrupt the political system.

O'Malley's other primary challenger, James P. Cusick, 54, said he has been imprisoned five times — twice for failing to pay child support and three times for spray-painting government buildings with adages such as "Thou shalt not steal." Cusick describes himself as a "political prisoner," contending that he was locked up for an act of protest against the state. He was charged with destruction of property and trespassing.

Cusick, who rents an apartment in Hollywood in Saint Mary's County, said he once worked at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant. He has sought elected office twice before, unsuccessfully taking on Del. John L. Bohanan Jr. in 2006 and then challenging Rep. Steny H. Hoyer two years ago.

He says he became disabled after his most recent prison stint, a three-year sentence for tagging the State House with anti-child-support graffiti. Cusick does most of his campaigning via Internet forums.

Maria Allwine, 57, the likely Green Party candidate, is making her fourth bid for office, though it is her first run for governor. She received 17 percent of the vote when she ran for Baltimore City Council president in 2007. She is a legal secretary with no experience as an elected official — but plenty in rankling them.

Allwine, a Baltimore resident and prolific letter writer to newspapers, has protested against the Iraq war, sometimes standing on street corners in a black robe to evoke the infamous image of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

"Our state is in dire straits. They talk about closing the budget deficit, but they won't close corporate tax loopholes," she said in reply to a question last week about why she is running for governor. "They just won't do it. They want to be a friend of business at the expense of ordinary people."

Before her name can appear on the ballot, the Green Party must officially nominate her, because there is another party contender for governor. But party faithful say Corrogan Vaughn, who until Tuesday was filed to run for U.S. Senate as a Republican, is trying to take advantage of the Green Party's ballot slot.

Vaughn wrote in an e-mail message to The Sun that "a number of businesspersons and friends" had suggested recently that he could be more effective as a governor than a senator. "After prayerful consideration, and counsel of those we respect, we believed they were right," he wrote.

He said he wants to help build the Green organization as a credible third choice in Maryland. The state now has 8,200 registered Greens.

Maryland's tiny Constitution Party will be represented by Annapolis bartender Eric D. Knowles, 32, who said he is running because he does not believe that O'Malley is upholding the U.S. Constitution. Asked for an example, he said: "I can't come up with one offhand."

Susan J. Gaztanaga, who lives in Baltimore and is running as a Libertarian, did not reply to several e-mails sent last week to the address she listed on her campaign filing papers. She left no phone number. An occasional writer of letters to the editor, she protested an increase in the city's income tax and expressed dismay over the government's handling of the deadly showdown in 1993 between federal agents and the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas.

Any candidate for Maryland governor can get on the ballot by paying a $290 filing fee; a similar fee applies for lieutenant governor. There is no requirement to collect signatures on a petition or otherwise demonstrate a foundation of support.

Lesser-known candidates

Name: Brian Murphy

Party: Republican

Home: Chevy Chase

Age: 33

Top issue: Restore fiscal responsibility to budget

Quote: "I am going to fix the broken budget, and I am going to make sure families and small businesses have an advocate in Annapolis."

Lt. Gov.: Mike Ryman

Name: Ralph Jaffe

Party: Democrat

Home: Pikesville

Age: 68

Top issue: Ethics reform

Quote: "My candidacy gives the voters a real choice now. They can continue to perpetuate the old morally bankrupt system or they can be part of a new movement to bring ethics into the political process."

Lt. Gov.: Freda Jaffe

Name: James P. Cusick

Party: Democrat

Home: Hollywood

Age: 54

Top issue: Reform of child support and custody laws

Quote: "I do believe Maryland would be greatly improved with my style of administration."

Lt. Gov.: Michael Lang

Name: Maria Allwine

Party: Green

Home: Baltimore

Age: 57

Top issue: Close corporate tax loopholes.

Quote: "The Green Party has been working for years to break through this system of exclusion with occasional success and frequent setbacks."

Lt. Gov.: Ken Eidel

Name: Corrogan Vaughn

Party: Green

Home: Baltimore

Age: No reply

Top issue: None provided

Quote: "Win or lose, we intend to have an impact as a responsible and effective voice for the issues of our day."

Lt. Gov.: Jim Crawford

Name: Eric D. Knowles

Party: Constitution

Home: Annapolis

Age: 32

Top issue: States' rights

Quote: "The federal government has overstepped its boundaries in accordance with the U.S. Constitution."

Lt. Gov.: Michael Hargadon

Name: Susan J. Gaztanaga

Party: Libertarian

Home: Baltimore

Age: No reply

Top issue: No reply

Quote: No reply

Lt. Gov.: Doug McNeil

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