WASHINGTON – With the legislative session behind her, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has set her sights on the governor’s race, revealing Thursday that she will officially announce her candidacy on May 5 at the State House.
The statement came just minutes before former President Clinton gave Townsend the Democratic Leadership Council’s first Clinton Center prize for her commitment to public service.
Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., the DLC chairman, plugged Townsend’s impending candidacy, looking at her and saying he hoped that “when we meet next year it will be not as lieutenant governor but as governor of the state of Maryland.”
When she stepped to the podium to accept her prize, Townsend sounded more like a candidate than an honoree.
While she did not mention her campaign specifically, she spent 20 minutes outlining Maryland’s achievements in student service, education, crime reduction and police training since she and Gov. Parris Glendening took office eight years ago.
The other award winner, an AmeriCorps project manager from Philadelphia, spoke for less than 60 seconds.
“I’ve learned that even if you get results and even if you’re the smartest and even if you tell everyone what to do, they don’t like it,” Townsend said. “So it’s very important to get everyone involved and get everyone around the table.”
Clinton praised several of Townsend’s service initiatives, including her push to require 75 hours of community service from all high school students before they graduate and the HotSpots program, which matches police and community leaders to reduce violent crime.
“No lieutenant governor ever had an impact on the citizens of her state like Kathleen Kennedy Townsend did,” Clinton said. “She is a public servant who has advanced the cause of citizen service.”
Townsend told the crowd of her conversations with Maryland students as she promoted character education and community service requirements in public schools. She said a program she championed, offering police officers training in race and ethics issues, has allowed neighbors to work with local cops to protect their community from drugs and violence.
“You teach people that they have a destiny, that they can create something, that they can have dreams, and then you get them there,” she said.
Maryland leaders who attended the ceremony, including Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan and University of Maryland President Dan Mote, stood to applaud Townsend when she recognized them for their help in promoting her state agenda.
Even the invocation, given by Bishop Douglas Miles of Baltimore’s Koinonia Baptist Church, included a plug for Townsend.
“She doesn’t meander through the maze of mediocrity,” Miles said during the prayer, “or pander at the pool of popularity.”
A Mason-Dixon Polling & Research poll released in late March showed Townsend leading her likely GOP rival, Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, by 13 points. Roughly half of voters polled said they would vote for the lieutenant governor, who lead solidly in Baltimore and in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, according to news reports.
The poll also showed that likely Democratic primary voters favored Townsend to Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, 48 percent to 34 percent. A spokesman for O’Malley said Thursday the mayor has not yet decided whether he will challenge Townsend.
Phone calls to Ehrlich’s office were not returned Thursday. He officially announced his candidacy March 26.
Maryland’s primary election is Sept. 10, and the general election is Nov. 5.