Archive for the ‘Elections 2010’ Category

Maryland Congressmen Say Lame Duck Session Likely Pretty Lame

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

It seems everyone is talking about what Congress will do during the lame duck session that stretches from now until probably early December: the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the DREAM Act immigration bill, the extension (or not) of the Bush tax cuts.

The way politicians have taken to the soapbox since the elections would indicate a lot of upcoming legislative drama — but Maryland Democratic congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger and Elijah Cummings are pessimistic about anything significant getting done before the end of the 111th Congress.

“I don’t think a lot’s going to happen during this session,” Cummings, D-Baltimore, said outside the Democratic Caucus yesterday.

But while Cummings may have just been pessimistic, Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, seemed to not want much to happen, saying now was not the time for Congress to rock the boat.

“You don’t want to push through something that’s controversial or that will repealed later on,” Ruppersberger said. “I think right now in a lame duck session you only try to work through things that weren’t completed that both sides can agree to.”

Ruppersberger also said he “can’t imagine at this point” that any progress would be made on the repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he is “committed” to bringing DADT to the Senate floor after the Thanksgiving recess, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the issue is “a priority” for President Obama. Some Democrats have balked at the vote, however, saying that Congress should wait to see the findings of a Pentagon study scheduled to be released Dec. 1.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released yesterday showed 50 percent of Americans support the repeal of the regulation.

Ruppersberger also dismissed any optimism regarding the DREAM Act, a bill that came up in September but failed to get enough votes to bring it to the Senate floor as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill. The bill would give a path to citizenship for those who came to the U.S. illegally before age 16, granting permanent residence to those who apply to the program and complete either two years of college or two years of military service.

But Democratic leaders in both houses have said they intended to bring the measure to a vote, and Obama said he would begin calling individual legislators to get them to vote for the bill, according to Politico’s Simmi Aujla.
What Ruppersberger did support, however, was the reduction of government spending — and the extension of all the Bush tax cuts.

“We have to change gears and start focusing on the deficit,” Ruppersberger said. “We have to stop the spending. This deficit literally is making us weak as a country. We can’t compete.”

But he then said that all of the Bush tax cuts — set to expire Dec. 31 — should be extended for a year, even though they will “cost us more money and add to the deficit,” adding that extending tax cuts for the wealthy will encourage investment and spur jobs growth. CNN Money’s Jeanne Sahadi reports that “based on Treasury Department numbers, the cost is likely to range anywhere from $200 billion to $500 billion, depending on whose cuts are extended and for how long.”

Cummings, D-Baltimore, said his biggest priority was extending unemployment benefits. The current package expires at the end of the month, but the House introduced a “last-minute addition” to the voting docket to extend benefits for another 90 days, according to NBC’s Shawna Thomas and Luke Russert.

“The thing that we ought to be concentrating on is this unemployment insurance situation. We’ve got two million people that are about to lose their unemployment benefits,” Cummings said. “We’ve had hours upon hours of discussion about tax cuts for the rich, but when it comes to people who will be getting no check to even be taxed, there’s very little being said.”

– By Capital News Service’s Rich Abdill

Baker Looks Forward Despite County Executive’s Arrest

Monday, November 15th, 2010

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — The Baker administration will remain focused on campaign promises — improving the school system, expanding the tax base and creating jobs – despite the federal probe that resulted in the arrests of the current county executive and his wife, Prince George’s County Executive-elect Rushern L. Baker III said today.

“Despite recent events, these are not sad days in Prince George’s County,” said Baker. “The alleged acts of a few in no way should deter the direction of all of Prince George’s County.”

When asked if he was surprised by recent events, which on Friday resulted in the arrests of County Executive Jack B. Johnson and wife, Leslie E. Johnson, Baker said he ran because he wanted to participate in making the county great.

“In a few days, or a few weeks quiet honestly, we’re going to get the chance to do that [improve the county],” said Baker, who will be sworn in Dec. 6.  “That’s why I ran, and that is what I am going to focus on.”

–By Maryland Newsline’s Rabiah Alicia Burks

O’Malley: Cuts, Not New Taxes, Will Balance Next Budget

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
Gov. Martin O'Malley, flanked by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, speaks to reporters outside the State House Wednesday.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, flanked by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, speaks to reporters outside the State House Wednesday. Photo by Capital News Service's Stacy Jones.

ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Martin O’Malley, the day after trouncing former Gov. Bob Ehrlich en route to securing a second term, said he is preparing a budget based on additional cuts and no new taxes.

O’Malley, speaking to the media Wednesday morning outside the State House, said he is not looking for new sources of revenue.

“I’m looking for cuts,” he said.

Each of the last three years, the Democratic governor said he’s had to close at least a billion-dollar gap, and new cuts will come from some of the same line items that have already seen cuts.

Maryland’s new budget won’t include stimulus funds, which end this year, O’Malley said, but state revenue will increase with continued job creation. And increased revenue would allow for easing off furloughs for state employees.

The governor said his goal is that “we come out of this miserable, hard recession, and we come out of it before other states.”

But O’Malley also looked beyond Maryland’s borders, saying he’s looking forward to continuing to work with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to “implement health care in a way that helps small business.”

O’Malley paused before saying whether he was surprised by the scale of his 14-point victory Tuesday.

“We serve such an intelligent people. I’m very proud of the campaign (we) ran. We took the attack to our opponent,” he said.

In a local ballot initiative, Anne Arundel County residents approved Tuesday a ballot referendum allowing Cordish Cos. to continue with plans to build a casino near Arundel Mills mall. O’Malley said he would have preferred for the slots to be at the racetrack.

– By Capital News Service’s Abby Brownback

Republican Tide Carries Harris in 1st District

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

KENT ISLAND – State Sen. Andy Harris made this round look easy — toppling freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in their rematch for Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.

Kratovil spoke to his supporters at the Crab Deck restaurant a little before 11 p.m., saying that he was “consistently overwhelmed” by his supporters and praised the electoral process.

“The battles we have we fight at the ballot box and not on the battlefield.”

With 77 percent of the vote in, Harris was leading Kratovil 54 to 42 percent. The Washington Post called the race for Harris. Last time around, in 2008, it took a week before the race between the two was official.

Frank Kratovil Sr., 77, from the Crab Deck restaurant, said he was “apprehensive” most of the night.

Just a half mile away at Harris Crab House, Kathryn Harris, the candidate’s niece and a nurse, said she was “very confident” that her uncle would pull it off this time.

“He will use his platform as a doctor to affect change in Congress,” she said.

But perhaps the biggest deciding factor in the race may be the mood of the electorate. In 2008, Kratovil was helped by enthusiasm for President Obama, although Sen. John McCain won the district. This time, it’s a rising tide of Republicanism and a call for change that is lifting Harris.

“It’s time to take the trash out,” said Bernie Parkinson, 62, a retired firefighter and registered Democrat who voted for Harris. “Everybody wants change” this year.

That’s the feeling, too, of Charles Dyes, a 55-year-old Dorchester businessman at the Harris party.

“Politicians are playing puppets with us all,” he said. “We need change.” And he said that Kratovil has been unresponsive.

“Where’s (Kratovil) been? He’s been a ghost.”

Even House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer in Maryland’s 5th District got a taste of the mood. Republican Charles Lollar was close enough after early results were in that it was the only other federal race in Maryland not called almost immediately. Hoyer went on to beat Lollar.

Marcella Drain, 31, who voted on Kent Island in the 1st District Tuesday, demonstrated the 1st District’s swing nature. She voted for Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Ehrlich, and also for Kratovil.

“What I like about him is he’s local,” she said of Kratovil, the former Queen Anne’s County state’s attorney. “I like his history and track record.”

Kratovil and Harris first butted heads in 2008, when Harris unseated nine-term incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the Republican primary.

That time around, the general election was so close it took a week for Harris to concede. Ultimately, 360,480 votes were cast in District 1 and official results left Kratovil the winner by 2,852 votes, or a .8 percent margin. On election night, however, Kratovil led by just 915 votes.

The lead-up to this year’s race has indicated it could be just as close: an Oct. 6 poll published by The Hill and conducted by Penn Schoen Berland had the candidates statistically tied; another, an automated poll from Monmouth University two weeks later, had Harris ahead 53 percent to 42 percent. On Oct. 25, the Baltimore Sun released yet another poll, this one with the two candidates tied at 40 percent.

The Washington Post and other media outlets already called the U.S. Senate race for Democratic incumbent Barbara Mikulski, and all other congressional incumbents except the 1st District and 5th District, where House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was wrangling with tea party leading light and Republican Charles Lollar.

By far the closest House contest in the state, District 1 had more spending than the rest of the races combined: while final tallies won’t come in until early next month, Federal Election Commission reports show the two candidates spent a combined $1.3 million between Aug. 26 and the end of September. The other House races combined spent less than half a million dollars.

More than $1.1 million of Kratovil and Harris’s spending has gone into several heated television spots in which each accused the other of dishonesty in ways that may have been dishonest themselves.

Kratovil accused Harris in an ad of supporting a 23 percent sales tax, a mischaracterization of a bullet point on Harris’s website saying he “can support either the flat tax or the fair tax.” Harris demanded Kratovil stop running the ad and said Kratovil cited a report that never mentioned the fair tax. The report, compiled by a committee commissioned by President George W. Bush, mentions the fair and flat tax programs more than 30 times.

Harris mirrored the strategy of many Republican challengers nationwide, attacking Kratovil’s association with the current Democratic administration by pointing to his votes in favor of the economic stimulus and the cap-and-trade energy bill. The Harris campaign also put out a statement attacking Kratovil for a recent fundraiser headlined by Vice President Joe Biden.

Kratovil has banked on his independence, a necessity in his deeply Republican district. He pointed to votes against the final version of the health care bill and the 2010 budget, as well as endorsements from Chambers of Commerce and the National Rifle Association, which supported Harris in 2008.

Harris, like Kratovil, did get an A rating from the NRA and said he didn’t get the endorsement because groups tend to support incumbents. Harris did once again get the endorsement of the Gun Owners of America.

The Republican Party also considered Harris a rising star, with National Committee Chairman Michael Steele bringing his “Fire Pelosi” (for getting rid of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) to Harris’ campaign headquarters in the final weekend before the vote.

In 2008, the Obama wave didn’t quite reach the Eastern Shore. Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain won the 1st District by 19 points, but Harris still lost to a Democrat. A win for him this time around would signal just how much discontent there is with Democratic leadership, even with those who have not voted the party line on key votes.

–By Capital News Service’s Richard Abdill and Jon Aerts

Voices from Md. on Election Day: Who’d You Vote for?

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

ANNAPOLIS – At the Eastport Volunteer Fire Hall, John Hartnett, 75, said he waited 45 minutes to cast his vote. Because of the long lines, many people left without voting.

“I’ve never seen so many people arrive and leave without voting, and that’s a shame,” Hartnett said.

Hartnett said he couldn’t decide who to vote for in the gubernatorial race because neither candidate was appealing to him.

“I can tell ya, it was darn close,” Hartnett said. “I didn’t think either candidate communicated that well on the issues I thought were important.”

He said he did end up voting for former governor Bob Ehrlich.

“Let’s hope (Ehrlich) does a better job,” Hartnett said. “His history is what turned (my vote).”

Bob Gionis, 44, an insurance company investigator from Anne Arundel, voted for former Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

“I just like what he’s proposed as far as reducing the state tax and some of his education proposals,” he said.

“I think he’s kept down the cost of tuition at schools,” said Susan Eisen, 64, a retired Montgomery County resident who voted for Gov. Martin O’Malley at Chevy Chase Elementary School.

Thom Turner, 45, a vice president for an energy services company who voted at Chevy Chase Elementary School, picked Ehrlich. The issues he thought were important: “Jobs, jobs and jobs.”

A slow trickle of people voted at Bel Pre Elementary School in Silver Spring Tuesday morning.

“I didn’t like the way (Ehrlich) was always pushing for gambling in the state,” said Arthur Meister, 52, an architect and Montgomery County resident who voted for O’Malley. Meister also voted against fees for ambulance services

“I just don’t want to go back to where we were four years ago,” said William Watson, 68, a veterinarian and Montgomery County resident who voted for O’Malley at Cloverly Elementary School in Silver Spring.

Also at Cloverly, Don Calvetti, 69, a retired Montgomery County resident, voted for Ehrlich.

“This governor (O’Malley) didn’t give any state employees any raises,” Calvetti said.

“O’Malley’s managed to ruin the city of Baltimore,” said Mary Jane MacArthur, 62, who works for an international labor union, from Annapolis, about the school system. “He governed as a Democrat, not a governor.”

Bernie Parkinson, 62, a retired firefighter from Annapolis and a registered Democrat, said he voted for Ehrlich, Republican Eric Wargotz and Republican 1st Congressional District candidate Andy Harris: “It’s time to take the trash out.”

Betsy Tropp, of Greenbelt, said she voted for O’Malley: “I trust him, he’s a good Irishman.”

“I think that the country was led in the wrong direction for many years. Now we’ve forgotten who got us here,” said Gregory Gertner, an ophthalmologist, from Bethesda who said he voted Democratic.

Mark Anderson, 61, a retired union official from Bethesda, said he voted for Democrats, including O’Malley: “He’s got my vote.”

The chances of a Republican takeover in Maryland, he said, are remote: “I don’t think that’s going to happen in Maryland,” but if the Republicans take Congress, “I fear for my country,” he said.

John Pedersoli, 50, of Greenbelt, voted for Republicans for the top offices, including tea partier Charles Lollar for Congressional District 5, and Ehrlich. Pedersoli said he’s “against any incumbents” because “incumbency breeds corruption and laziness.”

As for most voters, he said, “They are uninformed.  … Programs like “American Idol” and “Jon & Kate Plus 8″ is what they’re focused on, and that’s exactly the way incumbents want it.”

“I think he’s doing a good job, and I want to give him another chance,” said Mary Lou Reidy, 54, a data analyst from Frederick County who voted for O’Malley. “It’s not his fault we lost jobs and the economy’s in the tank.”

Colleen McKnight, 32, a librarian from Frederick County, also voted for O’Malley.

“(Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich) did not do a good job with the money we did have when he was in office,” McKnight said. “I think Martin O’Malley is doing a good job with what we have now.”

Jay DeWire, 33, a pianist from Frederick County, voted for O’Malley.

“I think we have to be patient,” said DeWire about the financial crisis. “It could be much worse.”

“Getting out of it in four years would be super human,” said DeWire, who said he is disappointed by people who expect the governor to be able to make change happen instantly.

“I think he is somebody I feel comfortable with. Trust is something I have issues with especially in government, and he’s someone I can trust,” said Emilia Riccio, 47, a Frederick County resident and international network liaison for a ground transportation company who voted for O’Malley.

“I sneezed this morning and the guy next to me told me it was because I haven’t voted. I think it was the cold air, but I’m here now and hope everyone votes,” said Carolyn Crosby, 47, and a Prince George’s County bus operator who voted for O’Malley.

“I love him. I like what he stands for. He stepped up education. A lot of people didn’t care about the kids, but he does,” she said.

“A lot of people can vote, don’t, and still complain about results. Someone never taught them the importance – it all goes back to education,” said Martina Lutz, 27, a Beacon Heights Elementary School teacher who voted for O’Malley.

“In P.G. County, education is a big issue,” she said. “Teachers are getting furloughed and with salary cuts, I can’t put more money into the economy.”

“It’s been slow, not been big crowds. Even at 7 a.m., there were maybe eight people in line. There wasn’t a crowd at all at lunchtime, just a sprinkling of people,” said Mike McPherson, 68, a retired Navy Engineer from Prince George’s County who said he supported the entire Democratic Party ticket.

“The Democratic Party got out of touch with me,” said Tom Stickles, 72, a retired school teacher from University Park who said he voted for Ehrlich. “I am totally frustrated with both parties, but more frustrated with the Democrats for a liberal agenda. Both parties are unable to have a civil conversation about anything and the country suffers.”

Billy Nesmith, 68, a retired federal employee from Prince George’s County, said he thinks O’Malley has done a pretty good job.

“The things he’s done have been beneficial to the county. I was in Ehrlich’s corner when he was there, but I think O’Malley has done a better job,” Nesmith said.

Peter Davy, a 26-year-old mechanic from Prince George’s County, said he wasn’t really following politics this year but wanted to vote to show his support for Democrats.

“I voted for Gov. Martin O’Malley to help Obama,” he said. “I’m concerned because a lot of his policies are getting turned down, and his approval rating is low.”

Brandon Settle, 25, of Prince George’s County, said he was in and out of James R. Bates Hall at Ascension Church in Bowie in about 20 minutes. “I’m voting all Democrat, because I’m trying to keep them in office,” Settle, a contractor, said.

Tara Gray, 42, director of operation at a health care company, said she voted for  O’Malley because she’s pleased with what he’s done so far.

“I’m not pleased with Ehrlich,” she said. “I like O’Malley’s stance on education and that he hasn’t raised tuition for the past four years.”

Post office employee Pamela Brooks, 50, of Prince George’s County, voted for  O’Malley and said she wants to see Democrats do well in this election for  Obama’s sake.

“I think they need to give the president more strength,” she said. “If he had more people working with him, he could get his job done.”

Anita Matthews, 46, of Prince George’s County, works for the U.S. Department of Defense.

“I voted for Gov. Martin O’Malley because he’s a Democrat. I believe the Democrats have the interest of the people at hand,” she said. “They represent what I represent.”

Her husband, Rich Matthews, 48, said he’s an intelligence officer.

“I voted for O’Malley because I liked his platform and I don’t think he ever gave Bob Ehrlich a chance, so I decided to stick with him,” Matthews said. “I don’t pride myself on being a Democrat or a Republican. I’m an American, and I’ll support whomever I think will do the most for the country.”

Martha Ajiwe, 47, a psychologist from Prince George’s County, said she voted for O’Malley.

“I’m a little concerned about Bob Ehrlich’s policies,” she said. “So I don’t think there’s any need for a change.”

Ajiwe said she didn’t study up on the other ballot questions, several of which concerned bonds, so she didn’t cast a vote for or against them.

Caitlin Bacha, 28, an aerospace engineer for NASA, declined to say whom she voted for in the governor’s race.

“I was surprised how high money was for the various bonds,” Bacha said. “It seemed like more than usual.”

Darlene Fitts, 50, an occupational therapist from Prince George’s County, said she voted for O’Malley.

“I like what he stands for in terms of education, and what he’s done for the state so far,” she said.

--By Capital News Service’s Nicole Dao, Alexis Gutter, Stacy Jones and Lindsay Powers.

Social Media Tools Being Tested for 2012

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Get-out-the-vote organizations like Rock the Vote are experimenting this year with social media innovations that will serve as a test run for the 2012 presidential elections — especially as a way to reach out to the youth vote.

Rock the Vote, teaming with Google, the Pew Research Center and others, recently came up with a way to track where people vote by having them “check in” online on Foursquare to indicate their polling station. Those who do so receive an “I Voted” badge on Foursquare, a social media forum where users can find out other users’ locations and give their own. The data for this voting information project shows up on a map so users can see where other people have voted and when, although not with individuals’ names attached.

“Location data is an important social media tool that is currently in early-adopter phase, but that will likely play a major role in 2012,” said Rock the Vote spokeswoman Maegan Carberry. “We’re excited to see how it comes together in 2010 and learn from that going forward.”

Mindy Finn, a partner at the D.C.-based company Engage, which is working with Foursquare, said they’re looking to see if the “bandwagon effect” will help to increase voter turnout. “When someone checks in [on Foursquare], many people push that to Facebook and Twitter,” she said, explaining how information shared on one social media network can spread to others.

The tools could carry increased importance, as at least one national poll seems to indicate enthusiasm among young voters has waned. The Harvard Institute of Politics released a national poll last week of 18- to 24- year-olds. The poll, conducted Sept. 24 to Oct. 4, showed that while enthusiasm normally tends to ramp up as an election draws nearer, the percentage of millennials who say they will “definitely” vote in this election has fallen over the past 11 months, from 36 percent to 27 percent.

In addition, those who said they were politically active or engaged also dipped, from 24 percent who answered positively in November 2009 and February 2010 polls to 18 percent.

Politico and Facebook sponsored a panel discussion Oct. 25 at George Washington University to discuss the ways campaigns are using social media in the midterm elections. “Very few congressional candidates are doing a good job using these tools,” said panelist Matthew Hindman, an assistant professor of media and public affairs at GWU. “The most important thing in these social media is that they have to be updated constantly, and so many candidates just use them as window dressing.”

Finn, a panelist, noted that in 2008, generally only candidates who wanted to reach young voters used social media. “Now, in 2009, and particularly in 2010, it’s just the default. As a candidate or campaign you have to have a Facebook profile,” she said.

In 2008, online tools played a role in Barack Obama’s successful run for the presidency. The Washington Post reported after he won the election that Obama had raised more than $500 million online, most of it in small donations. Political analysts observed that Obama had far more Facebook friends and Twitter followers than Republican nominee John McCain.

Campaigns continue to use Twitter and Facebook, but some are doubtful of their effectiveness in delivering votes on Election Day. “I don’t believe that Facebook can win an election,” said Jake Weissmann, the 25-year-old president of Young Democrats of Maryland. Weissmann said he does find Facebook useful for organizing volunteers and reminding people about early voting.

One Facebook application that is generating a lot of interest (and opposition) is Obama’s “Commit to Vote” challenge, which lets users share why they’re voting by posting on their friends’ walls. Bloggers who say that the application collects an invasive amount of private information are spreading the word about blocking and avoiding it.

Facebook was also used to get out the word about two big rallies Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C., hosted by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The largest Facebook event pages for the “Rally to Restore Sanity” and the “March to Keep Fear Alive” had reached 224,492 and 91,585 members respectively two days before the event, although smaller spin-off groups exist.

“Rock the Vote works with many organizations to get out the vote, and Comedy Central is an entertainment network that young people watch,” Carberry said, about the natural synergy between the two. Rock the Vote wants to encourage young people to show up on Election Day.

“We want to connect with them at an event they are interested in, just as we attend Ohio State football games and Lady Gaga concerts,” Carberry said.

Old-fashioned star power never dies as a get-out-the-vote tactic. But is it effective?

“It obviously helps when someone like Jay-Z comes out and talks about enfranchisement,” said Dan Hochman, 21, a senior at Johns Hopkins University. “But in the end, they can’t drag you to the polls. You have to feel something.”

When it comes to more practical matters like voter registration, Rock the Vote has an online tool that it’s used since 2004, updating and redeveloping it every election cycle. It seems to be working.

“In 2006, we registered 50,000 young people, and this cycle we’re at almost 300,000 registrations in person or via our downloadable tool online,” Carberry said.

–By Maryland Newsline’s Esther French

Voters in Maryland Urged to Cast Tallies Early

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Maryland voters can skip the long lines of Election Day and vote early.

“We recommend it to anyone who may not be available on Election Day or who might not want the hassle of waiting in lines on Election Day,” said Daneen Banks, deputy elections administrator of the Prince George’s County Board of Elections.

Early voting centers are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day through Thursday, Oct. 28. Voting began on Friday.

There will be 46 centers spread across the state, with five centers apiece in Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

On Nov. 2, 223 polling places will be available.

The state first experimented with early voting in September for the primary elections. Turnout was lower than expected; organizers planned for a turnout of about 95,000, and more than 77,000 voted early. But “it went very smoothly,” said Donna Duncan, the election management director for the Maryland Board of Elections.

Almost 2.5 percent of the state’s more than 3 million registered voters voted early in the primary.

“We’re expecting similar, if not greater turnout, as word spreads,” Banks said.

Prince George’s County had the greatest number of people who voted early in the primary, with more than 14,500, almost 3 percent of the county’s registered voters, turning out. Kent County had the highest percentage, with more than 6.8 percent of its registered voters casting ballots, officials said.

The option of early voting carries advantages for both voters and election boards. “You can pick which day is convenient for you to vote,” Duncan said.

Banks hopes early voting might take some of the burden off polling places on Election Day, especially with people who can vote only during the early morning or evening rush. “It would just be really good for us if people take advantage of it,” she said.

Both Republican and Democratic party committees are urging their supporters to get out and vote.

“Absolutely we’re spreading the word” about early voting, said Norma Lindsay, chairwoman of the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee. The group has been contacting supporters through telephone banks, commercials, Facebook and Twitter, and will provide some taxi and van services to help people get to the polls. Lindsay said she expects early voting to allow more seniors and college students to vote.

The Montgomery County Republican Central Committee is encouraging supporters to take advantage of the options available to them, said Chairman Mark Uncapher. But he doesn’t think early voting has necessarily provided a boost.

“I’m not sure that early voting has significantly increased voter turnout,” Uncapher said. “People who want to vote will vote.”

Registered voters can also choose to vote by absentee ballot. If mailed or delivered, applications for an absentee ballot must be received at the applicant’s local election board by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26. If faxed or e-mailed, it must be received by 11:59 p.m.

More information on voting procedures can be found at the Maryland State Board of Elections.

- By Maryland Newsline’s Karen Carmichael

O’Malley, Ehrlich hit neighboring counties

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Maryland’s two leading gubernatorial candidates campaigned within three miles of each other Friday, one at a groundbreaking ceremony in southwest Baltimore and the other at a lunchtime meet-and-greet in Catonsville.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, thanked a myriad of people who worked to make possible the Uplands redevelopment, a project that began in 2004, during his tenure as the Baltimore’s mayor.

“He continues to demonstrate his commitment to this project and this city,” said Paul Graziano, commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development, who called the project “one of the pre-eminent new communities in the country.”

The $238 million redevelopment on the site of a former low-income housing community will consist of more than 1,100 mixed-income housing units when completed and will create 54 permanent jobs and about 300 construction jobs, O’Malley said, reinforcing his campaign message of job creation.

“We are going to bring back moms and dads and kids to this part of the city as we move forward,” the governor said.

O’Malley, who was twice referred to as “the current and future governor,” also highlighted some of his other campaign sound bites: improved schools, decreases in violent crime and a freeze in college tuition.

Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, a Republican, spent early Friday afternoon talking to voters about his Roadmap for 2020 at Grilled Cheese & Co. in Catonsville.

Scott Pevenstein, the company’s vice president of marketing and public relations, said Ehrlich visited the restaurant partially because his parents are regulars there. His mother reportedly has said Grilled Cheese & Co. has the best Caesar dressing.

Pevenstein said he and his business partners back candidates and policies that are pro-business.

Cutting taxes on small business helps us grow,” he said.

Andre Gingles, a small business owner in Prince George’s County, said he just happened to be at Grilled Cheese & Co. for lunch when the former governor, whom he supports, stopped by.

“He implemented a set of regulations that help small businesses survive and expand,” Gingles said. “I’m glad he’s interested in trying to come back.”

– By Capital News Service’s Abby Brownback

O’Malley: Recession Will End Soonest in Maryland

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Gov. Martin O’Malley told a building and construction industry group Wednesday that statewide efforts will create jobs, but he acknowledged the toll the recession has taken on employment in the state.

In a speech to members of the Maryland State and Washington, D.C., Building and Construction Trades Council on Wednesday in Baltimore, the governor said the state is fighting a battle for economic survival.

According to figures released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland’s unemployment rate rose from 7.1 percent in July to 7.3 percent in August, which represents a loss of 5,700 jobs. However, the state has added almost 14,000 jobs since August 2009.

O’Malley said Maryland has seen a net job gain of 33,200 jobs this year due in part to the capital investments made possible by the state’s AAA bond rating, against which it is able to borrow. He cited a $5,000 tax credit for companies that hire from unemployment rolls, an increase in the tax credit for biotech companies, jobs gained through Base Realignment and Closure decisions in 2005, and Maryland’s high growth rate in the technology sector as ways the state of the state is improving and will continue to do so.

“It all comes down to jobs, and I get it,” O’Malley said. “This recession too will end. You’ll start to see it end soonest in our state.”

The governor also pledged to work with the White House to secure the loan necessary to build a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs. The project would decrease greenhouse emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, and create 4,000 jobs, O’Malley said.

“Nuclear’s our bridge to the future,” he said.

Council President Rod Easter said the organization has endorsed O’Malley over his opponent, former Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

– By Capital News Service’s Abby Brownback

Ehrlich: Business Reputation Is Top Priority

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich on Tuesday condemned the “goofy ads” incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s campaign has been airing.

“Nobody prepared me for the O’Malley attack ad that blamed me for the Louisiana oil spill,” Ehrlich joked to members of the Maryland State Builders Association at a luncheon in Columbia. “It’s a serious time for serious people talking about serious issues in a serious way.”

Before a friendly audience of businesspeople, Ehrlich said his top issue is repairing Maryland’s business reputation. Small business has been hammered, the former — and only living Republican — governor said, by the highest state sales tax in the region and by harsh regulations on business.

The regulatory environment of a state is “a reflection of the philosophical orientation of the executive,” Ehrlich said. “We’re going to change this business culture. Maryland’s back in business.”

When one member asked Ehrlich how Maryland could recover business that has been lost to neighboring Virginia, he said he would use his clout to generate one good piece of economic news to create positive momentum for the state’s business climate.

Association President Thomas Farasy asked Ehrlich to address his plans for mass transit in Maryland. In his Roadmap for 2020, Ehrlich comes out against the Purple and Red line projects — in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and in Baltimore, respectively — that O’Malley has endorsed and for which his administration has proposed an initial $90 million.

Ehrlich said a rapid bus transit system, instead of the proposed light rail, is less disruptive and much cheaper. He also said there is no demand for the east-west red line in Baltimore.

“Thousands of families need this long-term commitment to transportation and sustainable development,” said Mark Giangreco, a spokesman for O’Malley.

To forgo these two projects is to expand gridlock and put the state’s economic growth at risk, Giangreco said.

With several references to Nov. 3, the day after the election, Ehrlich, who has been working as a consultant for a law firm and hosting a radio show with his wife, said he’s ready to get back to work for Marylanders.

- By Capital News Service’s Abby Brownback