The current governor of Maryland, Democrat Martin O’Malley, is running for re-election against former governor Republican Robert Ehrlich whom O’Malley beat by a seven-point margin in the 2006 election. Maryland is a Democratic stronghold, with registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one, according to NBC News. Ehrlich’s election in 2006 was an anomaly — one of only five Republican governors elected in Maryland out of the 18 holding office since 1900.
But despite Maryland’s Democratic leanings, the race is considered a toss-up, according to Real Clear Politics. Maryland is facing a $1.5 billion budget shortfall, and voters are unusually sensitive to fiscal issues.
Candidate: Martin O’Malley
Political experience: Gov. O’Malley was elected to a four-year term in 2006. O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore from 1999 until he ran for governor. His stint as mayor followed two four-year terms on the city council. Before being elected to the city council, O’Malley ran for state senate, losing by 44 votes, according to his state biography.
In 1986, O’Malley served as field director for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, becoming a legislative fellow in her office after her election. During college, O’Malley worked on Gary Hart’s presidential campaign.
Professional experience: O’Malley reports no professional experience outside of politics. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Catholic University and his law degree from University of Maryland School of Law.
Key issues: Jobs, taxes and fiscal responsibility top the issues O’Malley identifies on his website.
On jobs, O’Malley points to his record, noting that Maryland’s unemployment rate is almost 25 percent below the national average and was ranked No. 1 in the country by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2010 for entrepreneurship and innovation. He signed a bill giving any company hiring an unemployed Marylander a $5,000 tax credit.
O’Malley also cites his record on taxes, saying that 85.8 percent of Marylanders pay less taxes now than they did when Ehrlich was governor due to O’Malley’s income tax restructuring plan. His website indicates that he reduced the $1.7 billion deficit inherited from Ehrlich primarily through tough-decision making, increasing the sales tax by one penny.
Fiscal responsibility is a huge bone of contention between the candidates with each accusing the other of causing the current budget shortfall. O’Malley touts his record in reducing state spending by $5.6 billion and eliminating 4,200 government jobs. Maryland under O’Malley’s administration is one of eight states to maintain a Triple A bond rating by the three predominant bond-rating agencies and was ranked No. 1 in tracking Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. His approach is to fund budget priorities like education and biotech investment while making corresponding cuts to comply with General Assembly spending affordability limits.
Endorsements: With only a week passed since the primary, post-primary endorsements are just starting to surface. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed O’Malley. Service Employees International Union and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters were among O’Malley’s endorsers at the primary stage.
Chances of winning the seat: A Sept. 20 Rasmussen poll gives O’Malley 50 percent of the vote to Ehrlich’s 47 percent including leaners in the count. September’s poll shows a three-percent pick-up for O’Malley since August with Ehrlich’s numbers remaining unchanged. Of voters planning to vote based on economic issues, O’Malley has a 56 percent to 42 percent lead. There’s a chasm between Maryland’s economic optimists and pessimists revealed by the polling: Those who think the economy is on and upswing prefer O’Malley eight to one while those who see it plummeting favor Ehrlich by 50 points.
O’Malley has a 51 percent approval rating as governor. The Maryland voters have the advantage of knowing both candidates and having seen both perform as governor. This campaign won’t be so much about promises as records.
Candidate: Robert Ehrlich
Political experience: Like O’Malley, Ehrlich is a career politician, according to his biography on Maryland’s state website. He was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1987 and spent eight years there before moving on to the U.S. Congress in 1994 where he represented Maryland’s 2nd District. In Congress, Ehrlich was a deputy majority whip and served on the Energy and Commerce, Government Reform and Oversight, Banking and Financial Service and Budget committees. In 2002, he was elected the first Republican governor of Maryland in 36 years.
Professional experience: After leaving the governor’s post in 2006, Ehrlich went into private law practice. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Princeton and law degree from Wake Forest University.
Key issues: Like his opponent, Ehrlich has identified jobs, taxes and fiscal responsibility as three top issues in the campaign.
Ehrlich is unapologetically pro-business and his platform on jobs reflects this stance. Ehrlich proposes fostering a business climate favorable to small business, which he says comprises 98 percent of Maryland employers. He advocates a Small Business Bill of Rights, worker retraining to put unemployed Marylanders back to work and lower taxes to compete with Virginia and Delaware.
On taxes, Ehrlich promises to lower the sales tax, repealing the one-cent increase effected by the O’Malley administration. He opposes 43 new taxes envisioned by the General Assembly. To make Maryland more attractive to prospective employers, Ehrlich would explore ways to make Maryland’s corporate tax more competitive with neighboring states.
To balance the budget, Ehrlich proposes a Value for Dollar initiative under which government agencies’ missions would be re-evaluated. Revenue estimates should be deliberately conservative to reduce the risk of shortfall, he says. Ehrlich would also employ cost-cutting measures in the state procurement process and initiate a bipartisan review of Maryland’s approximate $24 billion in mandated spending categories.
It’s a battle of statistics when it comes to fiscal responsibility with each candidate assailing the other’s spending record. O’Malley promises to preserve priority programs while complying with General Assembly spending affordability limits. Ehrlich proposes a revamping of the state budgeting and procurement processes.
Endorsements: With the post-primary endorsements only beginning to trickle in, the Maryland State Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed Ehrlich.
Chances of winning the seat: A Sept. 20 Rasmussen poll gives Ehrlich 47 percent of the vote to O’Malley’s 50 percent, including leaners in the count. Ehrlich has strong support among the minority of voters not affiliated with the major political parties, 63 percent to O’Malley’s 36 percent. Nearly 16 percent of Maryland’s voters were unaffiliated as of the filing deadline for the 2008 election, the latest period for which the Board of Elections published cumulative statistics. Democrats accounted for 56.7 percent of the registrations and Republicans 27 percent.
Because this race involves an incumbent running against Maryland’s next most recent governor, Ehrlich will have to convince voters that he was the better performer as governor to win this race. He has both the polling and the plurality of Democratic voters working against him, though his opponents lead is too small to move the race out of the toss-up category.
Key differences between Martin O’Malley and Robert Ehrlich
Both the incumbent and former governor understand the importance of small business to Maryland and their job strategies reflect this recognition. Both would lower business taxes. O’Malley’s jobs plan centers around innovative partnerships and biotech investments. Ehrlich advocates a Small Business Bill of Rights and worker retraining.
On state taxes, O’Malley is running on his record, citing the income tax restructuring bill he signed into law. Under the income tax restructuring, O’Malley says 85.8 percent of Marylanders are paying less income taxes than under the Ehrlich administration and 45 percent of Maryland families are paying less combined income and sales taxes. Erlich, by contrast, would repeal the one-cent increase in sales tax put in effect under O’Malley and would lower corporate taxes, while opposing new taxes under consideration by the General Assembly.
Demographics: Although fiscal concerns and unemployment are dominant themes in the gubernatorial race, U.S. Census statistics show Maryland to be better off than average. The median family income during the 2006 to 2008 survey period exceed $84,000, contrasted with a national average of just over $63,000. Maryland also fares better than the nation as a whole when it comes to unemployment, with the BLS reporting 7.6 percent of its workforce unemployed in July while 9.7 percent of workers in the nation overall were unemployed.
61.2 percent of Maryland is white, 28.7 percent are black, 4.9 percent Asian. 6.4 percent of residents of all races describe themselves as Latino or Hispanic.
35.1 percent of Maryland residents age 25 or older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.