That shift began nearly two decades ago, when Prince George’s County Executive Parris Glendening was elected governor, becoming the state’s first elected chief executive from the Washington suburbs in 125 years. Oden Bowie, a onetime slave owner also from Prince George’s and a founder of Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course, preceded Glendening as the last Washington-area governor. Bowie, for whom the municipalities of Bowie and Odenton are named, left office in 1872.   

The “seismic change” described by Gansler seems certain to carry over into 2014, with the potential for one or more political milestones in the state. Among them:

The first African-American governor. Brown, a Harvard Law School classmate of President Barack Obama, hints at this possibility after a recent gathering of Young Democrats in Bethesda.
“What I can most certainly say is that I do believe and am firmly committed to extending my service to the people of Maryland well beyond my term as lieutenant governor,” Brown says. “What that is, I’m not certain.”

As O’Malley’s ticket mate, Brown has been hampered in raising funds on his own and is playing catch-up. But he could benefit from a field with multiple candidates, particularly with party officials saying African-Americans could account for close to 40 percent of the vote in a contested statewide Democratic primary.

The end of the Baltimore era. “This may be the first election in modern history in which the Baltimore region does not field a credible candidate,” observes Blair Lee IV, a local political commentator for WBAL radio who has been involved in several statewide races over the past three decades, including that of his late father and namesake.

Of the four likely contenders, three—Franchot, Gansler and Brown—are from the Washington suburbs, and Ulman, the Howard County executive, presides over a constituency with close ties to Washington as well as Baltimore. “When I knock on doors in the southern part of the county, it seems that about every other person has just moved from Prince George’s or Montgomery County to Howard County,” Ulman observes.

Several Baltimore-based public officials are said to have already rejected pleas to run, and, at this point, the state’s longtime political powerhouse lacks an obvious 2014 gubernatorial contender.

Montgomery County makes political history. If Franchot and Gansler both run, they risk fragmenting the vote of the state’s most populated county, potentially enabling a candidate from elsewhere to come out on top. Alternatively, they could each carve out distinct statewide constituencies and make history if one or the other prevails.

“These are both very smart guys and astute politicians. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there may not be room for both of them in the race, and it may be that one of them will blink,” says state Sen. Brian Frosh of Bethesda, a friend of Franchot’s from their service together in the House of Delegates. “That wouldn’t surprise me. But it also wouldn’t surprise me to see both of them run.”

Green Mount Cemetery occupies a 70-acre tract in inner-city Baltimore, about a mile and a half south of where Memorial Stadium once stood. If the former stadium serves as a reminder of the glory days of Baltimore baseball and football, Green Mount is a monument to the city’s onetime dominance of Maryland politics.

Of the 29 governors elected since the end of the Civil War, 12 have emerged from the Baltimore region—and seven are interred in Green Mount Cemetery.

While the largely agricultural Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay shared political ascendancy with Baltimore during the last part of the 19th century, the city’s primacy became even more pronounced with the urbanization of the past century. U.S. Census figures show that nearly 45 percent of the state’s population, about 560,000 individuals, resided in the city of Baltimore 100 years ago. By comparison, 2.5 percent lived in Montgomery County.

Today, Montgomery County is the state’s most populous jurisdiction, with 970,000 residents and nearly 17 percent of the statewide population. Baltimore city, after reaching 950,000 residents in 1950, has declined steadily, and today claims just 620,000, roughly 10 percent of Maryland’s total.