The political arithmetic of 2014 dictates that, if he is to triumph in next June’s gubernatorial primary, Bethesda resident Doug Gansler must win an overwhelming majority in his home county.
However, two weeks after the two-term attorney general formally announced his candidacy at a Rockville event, his campaign has yet to trot out a list of Montgomery County elected officials who have endorsed him – a move that could have added momentum to Gansler’s early efforts on his home turf.
“I’m not sure what his rationale is,” said one state legislator of Gansler’s not moving faster to demonstrate strength in a jurisdiction that ranks second among the state’s 23 counties and Baltimore city in Democratic voters. This legislator did add, “My sense is that [Gansler] believes the vast majority of the local legislative delegation will ultimately be endorsing him.” Sources say Gansler has spent significant time courting local elected officials, playing up his potential status as the first Montgomery County resident in state history to be elected governor.
A Gansler spokesman said Monday that the campaign is withholding a list of endorsements until after a lieutenant gubernatorial running mate is named. An announcement of a running mate is expected in the next week to 10 days, the spokesman added.
Gansler’s Sept. 24 campaign kickoff came just two days after the state’s senior senator, Barbara Mikulski, had endorsed his chief primary rival, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. And half of the eight members of the Maryland congressional delegation have endorsed Brown. Together, the four represent the bulk of Brown’s political base: his home county of Prince Georges, along with Baltimore city.
While Gansler’s breadth of support within the Montgomery County political establishment will become clearer once his campaign releases its endorsement list, recent interviews indicate something short of a stampede in his direction. There also appears to be continued second-guessing – brushed aside by Gansler supporters – over whether he waited too long to launch his campaign, allowing Brown a head start..
“I’ve heard people asking “Does he think he’s going to get [the nomination] because he has a lead in money, and is he being too soft on when he starts because of that?’,” said County Councilmember Marc Elrich, who has yet to settle on a gubernatorial candidate.
Gansler’s kickoff in Rockville, which featured an introduction by a Gansler supporter — state Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Kensington — was attended by a half-dozen other state legislators out of the county’s 32-member delegation. It was not clear whether all those in attendance were endorsing Gansler, or whether some were simply there as a courtesy.
County Councilmember George Leventhal, who also attended the kickoff, said he is not sure he will endorse a candidate in the gubernatorial primary. He described all three contenders – Brown, Gansler and Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Takoma Park – as “good friends.”
In fact, outside of Councilmembers Valerie Ervin and Nancy Navarro, both of whom have endorsed Brown, the balance of the all-Democratic County Council remains uncommitted.
Those on the fence include District 1 Councilmember Roger Berliner, whose district includes Gansler’s Bethesda residence. Asked when he might make an endorsement, Berliner replied, “The timeliness depends on how fully the candidates articulate their visions, and I haven’t heard that yet from any of the candidates.”
Delegate Susan Lee, D-Bethesda, also counts Gansler as a voting constituent. Lee, a candidate for state Senate next year, is endorsing Gansler, lauding his work on issues such as domestic violence and human trafficking. Madaleno, the Maryland Senate’s only openly gay member, cited Gansler’s early support of same-sex marriage.
But Gansler’s efforts to attract local endorsements may be slowed by several more recent stances. Privately, there is grumbling among some party insiders about his opposition to this year’s gas tax increase – a substantial portion of which will flow into Montgomery County – and his proposal to cut the state’s corporate tax. While this is seen as part of a Gansler effort to appeal to moderate Democrats elsewhere in the state, some question how well this will play with elected officials and voters closer to where he lives.
A group supporting the Purple Line – which will be funded in part by the gas tax hike—has invited all gubernatorial candidates, Democratic and Republican, to a Dec. 10 forum at Montgomery College’s Silver Spring/Takoma Park campus of Montgomery College. Among the Democratic candidates, Brown so far is the one to confirm he will attend.
Meanwhile, while she has yet to show up on his official list of endorsements, Brown has picked off at least one state legislator from Gansler’s turf: state Sen. Nancy King, D-Montgomery Village.
Citing her friendship with Brown back to when they served in the House of Delegates together, King declared: “Brown, I think, is the workhorse and I think Gansler is a show horse. And I think the people of Maryland are looking for a workhorse.”
For his part, Madaleno – if not directly mentioning Brown’s reputation as being overly scripted – alluded to it in explaining his support of Gansler.
“I don’t know if the campaign would appreciate this comparison – but I almost see him [Gansler] as a Chris Christie of the left,” Madaleno said. “He’s passionate, he’s real – and he isn’t afraid to piss off people by speaking his mind.”