ANNAPOLIS – Maryland Democrats are not the only ones gearing up for the 2014 gubernatorial race. At least three prominent Maryland Republicans are gathering resources and taking preliminary steps to potentially enter the battle for governor.
“People have encouraged me to consider running for governor as the Republican nominee,” said Blaine R. Young, president of the board of county commissioners of Frederick County. “When I heard enough people say it, I put together a statewide committee.”
Harford County Executive David R. Craig is also a potential contender, but said he will focus on continuing to canvass and fundraise for Mitt Romney in the presidential race before moving on to consider 2014.
“We’re giving very serious consideration to running for governor in 2014,” Craig said. “(But) if there’s a game, and there’s a game after that, and you’re the coach, you don’t talk about the game after that.”
Charles Lollar, chairman of New Day Maryland, a political action committee promoting fiscal and social responsibility, has also received a lot of pressure from friends and citizens to join the race.
“Based upon their feelings, we’re taking this thing seriously and strongly considering running in 2014,” Lollar said.
Larry Hogan Jr., chairman of Change Maryland, a grassroots organization promoting fiscal restraint in government, is another potential candidate, but Jim Pettit, communications and policy director for Change Maryland, said Hogan is focusing his energy elsewhere for the foreseeable future.
“Larry Hogan is flattered that so many people are asking him to consider running,” Pettit said. “Right now, Hogan is focused 100 percent on Change Maryland.”
Pettit said Hogan was too busy and unavailable for an interview and did not offer any other comments about the 2014 race.
Louis Pope, vice president of the Republican National Committee and Republican national committeeman for Maryland, said that in light of the fiscal issues facing the state, the Republican Party has a good chance of securing the governor’s seat if it can nominate someone planning big policy changes. Pope cited the large debt that Parris Glendening left after his time in the governor’s office.
“That is a drop in the bucket compared to what Martin O’Malley has done,” Pope said. “The government has totally run amuck financially.”
However, Todd Eberly, political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said that depending on who secures the Democratic nomination, Republicans may have a harder time than they think.
“If you wind up with a nominee, for instance, like Peter Franchot, who has become the Democratic Party’s financial conscience in Maryland … I don’t see how the Republicans counter-program that,” Eberly said.
In a predominantly Democratic state like Maryland, Republicans have a tough recent history in both primary and general statewide elections. In 2008, then candidate Barack Obama received almost 62 percent of votes in Maryland, while his Republican counterpart Sen. John McCain received less than 37 percent.
Similarly, in the 2010 gubernatorial race, Gov. Martin O’Malley beat challenger Bob Ehrlich 56 percent to 42 percent.
Before Ehrlich, there had not been a Republican governor elected in Maryland since Spiro Agnew in 1966.
In a state like Maryland, securing the Republican nomination comes with what State Sen. Allan Kittleman calls, “a daunting task.”
“I’ve lived in Maryland all my life. I know the difficulties of running statewide as a Republican,” Kittleman said.
Kittleman stressed that the condition of the state – financially and otherwise – will be a key factor in how the 2014 race plays out.
“I think all of them have the experience … it’s all going to depend on what the climate is at the time,” Kittleman said.
Experience is exactly the thing that Craig thinks will give him an edge in the competition among Republicans.
“There’s no one on the list who has the broad experience in government that I do,” Craig said.
He said it is his experience in other elected government positions that would make him a better candidate for the Republicans than others currently considering the race. Craig is the former mayor of Havre de Grace, a former state delegate, and a former state senator. The gubernatorial election, should he decide to participate, would be his 21st he said.
“There are very few people in the state of Maryland who have had that many elections,” Craig said.
Lollar is another contender who feels his experience will be his strongest ally in the race.
“With my Marine Corps experience, my business experience and my experience in the community, it gives me a different perspective,” Lollar said. “If I decide to run, I’m going to win this thing. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
Lollar said that the three most important things he would do once in the governor’s seat are to create jobs in Maryland, create the right environment for businesses to thrive and bring down costs of electricity.
“They (voters) don’t want to hear about social issues…they just want common sense solutions that get people to work in our state,” Lollar said.
Young, however, thinks that his success in Frederick County will surge him to the forefront among Republican candidates.
“We have a record here in Frederick County proving that we can streamline and modify regulations and eliminate various taxes and fees. And we can also pare back the size of the government where we don’t have budget problems,” Young said.
He said his primary goal is, “to make sure that this is a state where a young family can get started, that the middle class can thrive and survive and that our seniors can retire with dignity,” Young said.
Rep. Andy Harris’ name has also been mentioned as a potential Republican candidate, but he is focusing on the congressional election for now.
“Right now, we are focusing on sending Andy to Congress with a mandate from the voters,” said Kathy Szeliga, campaign manager for Harris.
Former State Sen. Martin G. Madden, who represented Howard and Prince George’s Counties, was also mentioned as a potential candidate, but he said he would not provide any official comments or announcements regarding 2014 until after the presidential election was finished.