Will Martin O’Malley Pull a Kathleen Kennedy Townsend?

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“Cassius has a lean and hungry look.”

— William Shakespeare

Baltimore, Maryland – This state is in the midst of the roughest, toughest and dirtiest political gubernatorial campaigns in modern history. And, guess what? It makes for great theatre, too! Millions of bucks are pouring into the coffers of the two major candidates from the special interests. In one corner is the incumbent, Robert Ehrlich, a Republican and loyal Dubya devotee. A former member of the U.S. Congress, Ehrlich learned his politics on Capitol Hill at the knee of a take-no-prisoners’ politico–Newt Gingrich. Yes, the same man, who before he became House Speaker, regularly drove the then-Speaker, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, into serial hizzy fits.

O’Malley, meanwhile, earned his stripes in a Baltimore City, still dominated, partly, by clubhouses, ward bosses and the Old Boy-Ohs’ Political Machine. After failing early on in a bid for the state senate, O’Malley eventually captured a City Council seat, from Northeast Baltimore. He then used that position to catapult himself seven years ago into the office of Mayor. It didn’t hurt his career that he married the daughter of Joe Curran, the state’s aging and soon retiring Attorney General. But, there’s the rub, as the Bard would say. That connection, the Curran connection, may now have a downside for the politically zealous O’Malley.

In the 2002 governor race, Ehrlich trounced the Democratic nominee, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend by over 66,000 votes, about 52 to 48 percent. At the time, she was the Lt. Gov. of the state but that didn’t help her much. Despite the fact that Democrats also out registered Republicans in Maryland by a 3 to 1 margin, Ehrlich became the first Republican governor since Spiro T. Agnew. [1] Townsend was seen as too aloof by some of her base, and too fickle by others, and obviously, the independent voters didn’t like her very much either. Was she really a Democrat, a few still to this day, wonder? In any event, Ehrlich is a brawler. He likes hammering an opponent into the ground. O’Malley is no Townsend, but he’s vulnerable on a lot of counts that go beyond the much-criticized lowly status of the school system in Baltimore. [2] And, maybe the biggest count of all against him, is–O’Malley himself!

Enter Billy Murphy, a life long Democrat. He’s a well known criminal trial lawyer in Baltimore. Murphy comes from one of the city’s most prominent Afro-American families. He has also been a judge, like his late father before him. Murphy is now really mad at O’Malley! In fact, he’s so mad, he doing a radio ad for Ehrlich attacking O’Malley. The ad stings a lot. It has been running continuously in Baltimore City and in Prince George’s County, a suburb of Washington, D.C. These are the two most heavily populated jurisdictions with Black majorities in Maryland. Blacks make up about 29 percent of the electorate in the state, but there are concerns that many will stay home on Nov. 7th. [3]

In the radio ad, Murphy accuses the city administration of arresting “thousands of blacks–without ever charging them with a crime.” He also blasts O’Malley with having “seven police commissioners in seven years” and insists “morale is down” in the police department. According to the Baltimore Sun, Murphy earned more than $100,000 in a no bid contract with the Maryland Stadium Authority back in 2004. That deal was criticized by Curran. He said the agency had “exceeded its authority.” Both O’Malley and the present Police Commissioner, Leonard D. Hamm, have denied Murphy’s claims. Nevertheless, his kind of criticism will temper support for O’Malley in the black communities of the state. [4] Murphy also said that O’Malley has a “history of insulting distractors, such as City State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy.” [5] That incident happened a few years back when O’Malley, on camera, raged at the highly respected state’s attorney, an African-American. Many Court House insiders consider Jessamy to be the best state’s attorney, since the days of Charles E. Moylan, Jr. (1964-70). I’m sure video clips of that ugly episode between her and O’Malley will surface in the last weeks of this campaign.

I’ve always suspected that O’Malley’s support in the Black community in Baltimore doesn’t run deep. And, if push comes to shove, that shallowness will show up, like it is now in this election year. Recently, published reports have echoed Murphy’s lament that black voters are “disillusioned” with the state’s Democratic Party and with O’Malley. [6] At press time, O’Malley has a six percent lead in the polls, but that means little or nothing in a volatile election battle. His disrespecting Jessamy, in public, left deep, painful and unhealed wounds in the Black community, and with women, too. O’Malley’s law and order persona has also turned a lot of Whites off. It reminds them of NYC’s ex-Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, an uber-ambitious man, who didn’t hesitate to trample on the civil liberties of citizens to get ahead in the political arena.

Then, there is this encounter, which I present for only anecdotal purposes. A few weeks ago, I was shopping down at the Cross St. Market, in South Baltimore, and ran into a man, who I once knew from the Stonewall Democratic Club. We started talking about politics. He said he didn’t want his name used in any story for fear of reprisal. Then, he told me he couldn’t vote for O’Malley. This is a life long Democrat, a strong Union man and of Irish descent to boot. I was stunned. I asked him why? He said: “It’s just an instinct thing with me. There is something about O’Malley that I don’t trust. I’ve seen it before in other politicians. He’s bright and a hard worker, but I think he would step over anybody to get ahead.” Wow! If O’Malley can’t count on that kind of traditional Democratic voter, who can he really count on?

On top of all of the above is–Peter Angelos! He’s the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, another habitual Democrat and a former City Councilman from Baltimore, whose spirited advocacy at the Council’s meetings in the early 60s, is still fresh in my memory. Angelos is supporting Ehrlich, too. Why? Well, I can only speculate. Angelos had a chance to pick up the mother of all legal fees for representing the state of Maryland in a law suit against the Tobacco Industry. After the case was resolved, without a trial, Curran objected to the size of the fee. Angelos got upset, since there had been a prior fee agreement covering the matter. Eventually, the size of the legal fee was cut substantially. [7] Angelos, of Greek heritage, didn’t get to be a multimillionaire by acting like St. Francis of Assisi. He knows how to protect his turf and, if necessary, strike back. Angelos just had a fund raiser for Ehrlich in which he reportedly raised a quarter of million dollars. I’m sure there will be more fundraising like that in this last month. [8] Oh, I almost forgot, Angelos also got seriously annoyed directly with O’Malley, when the Mayor publicly announced that he favored a major league baseball team returning to Washington, D.C. It wasn’t long after that comment that the Nationals took the field in the Capitol, cutting into the fan market in that area, that Angelos’ Orioles once had exclusively for themselves. [9]

Finally, Ehrlich upset Townsend in 2002. He could do the same to O’Malley in 2006. The race is O’Malley’s to lose. I say a plague on both of their Parties–and to the Duopoly that they represent. I’m voting for the Green Party’s nominee, Eddie Boyd on Nov. 7th for governor. [10] Late on the evening of Nov. 7, 2006, either Ehrlich or O’Malley is going to be crying in their beer over what could have been. Don’t be surprised, if it’s O’Malley doing the weeping!

Notes:

[1]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiro_Agnew
Most people, understandably, have a negative reaction to the mere mention of the name–Spiro T. Agnew. I don’t. Maybe, it’s because when he was an adjunct professor at the U. of Baltimore’s School of Law in 1962, he gave me an “A” in Torts!

[2]. http://www.mabe.org/Monitor.August.2006.htm and
http://www.gazette.net/stories/081905/poliMaciss_31871.shtml and
http://www.stmarystoday.com/Duncan%20attack
%20on%20OMalley.htm and
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,210508,00.html

[3]. “Md. Democrats’ Biggest Worry: Will the Black Voters Show Up?,” Andrew R. Green, 10/01/06, Baltimore Sun.

[4]. “Ehrlich Ad Slams Arrests,” Doug Donovan, 09/28/06, Baltimore Sun and “Hamm Highly Critical of Ehrlich Ad,” Doug Donovan, 09/28/06, Baltimore Sun.

[5]. “Attorney Compared Police Tactics to Hitler’s,” Len Lazarick, 09/29/06, Baltimore Examiner.

[6]. “Ticket Worries Black Senators,” Doug Donovan, 10/05/06, Baltimore Sun.

[7]. http://www.oag.state.md.us/Press/2002/1210b02.htm

[8]. Peter Angelos has come a long way from Darley Ave and Hartford Rd, near Clifton Park, in Baltimore, where his parents once had a popular restaurant. He’s made some enemies along the way. On balance, however, I think he’s a big asset for the city and the state and the Greek-American community is rightly proud of him. Angelos deserves his success. He worked hard for it.

[9]. “Baseball’s Political Box Score,” Blair Lee, 10/01/04, Gazette.net

[10]. http://www.baltimoregreens.org/boyd0216.php

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