By Adam Bednar
There was no deficit of intrigue in political stories in Maryland in 2013, setting the stage for what can only be an even more interesting 2014.
Making it official
Major candidates in the Republican and Democratic parties announced plans to run for governor. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur are the Democrats seeking their party’s nomination. Harford County Executive David Craig, Del. Ron George, Charles Lollar and Larry Hogan, a former Cabinet official during former Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s term, also have announced their intentions to be Maryland’s next governor.
Two of the top candidates on the Democratic side, Brown and Gansler, both have had to deal with embarrassing stories as they launched their campaigns.
Shortly after making his run official, Gansler faced allegations that he ordered state troopers to drive recklessly. He also garnered national attention when a photo of him at a party where underage drinking was allegedly happening, emerged.
Brown has recently had to deal with the blowback from the troubled roll out of the state’s online health care exchange. Brown’s campaign had previously bragged about his oversight of the project, but then Gansler’s campaign began attacking Brown about the glitches as issues with the website continued through December.
Fumbling Heath Care
The fallout over the problems hampering Maryland’s health care exchange, which was created to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), has dogged the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Although the governor announced in December that most of the major issues with www.marylandhealthconnection.gov were corrected, the early problems forced Rebecca Pearce, the woman in charge of establishing the website, to resign.
The problems also resulted in Rep. John Delaney, a Democrat, suggesting that Maryland scrap its website and instead use the federal government’s health exchange, which was also plagued by its own problems but apparently fixed more quickly.
The delay even caused some lawmakers to question whether the minimum of 150,000 people needed for the state’s health care exchange to function properly could be reached by the March 1 deadline.
“It’s a big mess and it’s not something we didn’t warn about,” Del. Just Ready, R-Carroll County, said.
Gov. Martin O’Malley has long been rumored to be interested in running for president, and the two-term governor and former Baltimore mayor has done little to suppress speculation about his White House ambitions.
In November, O’Malley made a trip to New Hampshire, which hosts the nation’s first primary elections, to tout his record of success.
He was also the subject of profiles in The National Journal and The New Republic speculating about a possible presidential bid. But not all the news has been good for O’Malley. Polls consistently show O’Malley in last place among possible Democratic contenders, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
On the heels of states such as Colorado decriminalizing the use of marijuana, the idea is gaining acceptance in Maryland. A poll by Goucher College released this fall reported that 51 percent of residents want to legalize marijuana while 40 percent oppose legalization.
Gubernatorial candidate Mizeur has also released a plan calling for the decriminalization of marijuana and proposes using revenue from taxing its sale to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.