Formidable Foe May Hamper Democrats’ Lt. Gov. Selection

By Bruce DePuyt

The long shadow being cast by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan (R) may make it difficult for the Democrats running against him to find a high-profile running mate.

With the departure of Maya Rockeymore Cummings (D), seven Democrats remain in the gubernatorial race. Less than a month until the filing deadline, only one has filled out his or her ticket: former NAACP president Ben Jealous surprised many when he chose longtime party leader Susan W. Turnbull to be his running mate last November.

susan-turnbull

Susan W. Turnbull is the only Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor so far.

Since then the rumor mill has been surprisingly quiet. A few names have been bandied about as potential candidates for lieutenant governor, but nothing has stuck.

“I have not — and I’m being totally honest with you — I’ve not heard of anybody,” said longtime State House lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano.  “And I’m a registered Democrat.”

Former Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) thinks Hogan’s popularity and war chest will make it difficult for gubernatorial candidates to find a top-tier ticket mate.

“The problem is there’s a perception that Gov. Hogan, with 71 percent favorable, an incumbent [who may eventually have] upwards of $25 million in his account, will be tough to beat,” Gansler said. “That’s one reason that this is taking so long.”

Bereano, who supports Hogan, agrees.  Noting that almost all local executive, council and state legislative seats in Maryland are also up this year, he said incumbent elected officials will be reluctant “to give up what they have” to join a ticket.

“You have two very significant challenges in front of you,” Bereano said. “You have a multiple-candidate primary and then, if you make it through the primary, you then have a daunting election in the general [against] a popular governor who is very astute, who is very trusted by the people.”

Those are “hard, cold facts,” he said.

Politicians who are retiring from office or who have already retired, municipal officials who are not in cycle this year, or non-politicians could become more attractive as potential running mates if state lawmakers and county officials demur.

Party leaders are eager to get past the primary so their nominee can replenish his or her war chest and Democrats can focus their energy on Hogan. Having two of the gubernatorial candidates team up would help winnow the field. But the inevitable hurdle of deciding “who’s on top” usually sinks such discussions before they get very far — particularly this far ahead of the June primary.

The filing deadline in Maryland is Feb. 27, and gubernatorial candidates most choose their ticket-mate by then.

Most candidates say basic competence is Job 1.

“I’m looking for somebody who has the quality, talent and experience to be governor,” said attorney Jim Shea. Geographic, racial and gender balance also rank as key factors, usually.

Turnbull, who has served as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and head of the state party, provides Jealous a proven fundraiser and a tie to vote-rich Montgomery County, though she lacks name recognition outside political circles.

“Susie and I are both activists and we’re bringing together networks of activists across the state,” Jealous said. “That’s why I pulled in Susie. That’s why I pulled her in early.”

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