ByÂ David Hill-The Washington Times
The only thing anyone seems to know right now about Marylandâ€™s 2014 governorâ€™s race is that it could be the most wide open in recent memory.
A slew of candidates could vie to replaceÂ Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who will be forced out after a maximum second term. The most likely contenders are three statewide Democrats who have already crafted identities, connections and policies that could get them to the governorâ€™s mansion in 2014.
Political analysts have predicted the battle could divide politicians and supporters into many camps, potentially leaving the winner with the task of reuniting a divided state.
â€œItâ€™s going to be a very, very bloody battle and whoever wins is going to have to reunify the Democratic coalition,â€ saidÂ Todd Eberly, acting director of the St. Maryâ€™sÂ College Center for the Study of Democracy.
â€œIf it fractures in the primary, youâ€™ve got to bring the state together,â€ he said.
Candidates have been tight-lipped about their intentions, with more than three years remaining before the primary elections. Nonetheless, much of the gubernatorial buzz has centered on three Democrats â€” Lt.Â Gov. Anthony G. Brown, ComptrollerÂ Peter V.R. Franchot and Attorney GeneralÂ Douglas F. Gansler.
While none of the three has spoken openly of their candidacy â€” and declined to do so with The Washington Times â€” they have all worked of late to distinguish themselves from each other and to boost their political profiles.
Mr. Brown â€” a former two-term delegate â€” has worked closely with former colleagues on legislation, whileÂ Mr. Gansler has been outspoken on the environment and gay marriage.Â Mr. Franchot, who spent 20 years in the House, has crafted an image as a relative fiscal conservative in the largely Democratic state.
Mr. Brownâ€™s work could bring him valuable connections and endorsements, whileÂ Mr. Ganslerâ€™s support of progressive causes could help in a Democratic primary â€” where more liberal voters often turn out in large numbers. AndÂ Mr. Franchotâ€™s efforts to reel in spending could win over moderate voters.
The two might hold a historical edge over other candidates, considering county executives have traditionally fared best in gubernatorial races. Three of the last four governors were mayors or county executives, while no lieutenant governor has ever been elected to the lead the state.
No former comptroller has been elected since 1958 and no former attorney general since 1946.
â€œYouâ€™re either going to have very successful local legislators or people with executive experience,â€ saidÂ Theodore Sheckels, a professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., and a Maryland political historian. â€œLately, it seems to be going more in the county executive or mayorâ€™s direction.â€
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