Ehrlich raised $7.4 million for his campaign for Md. governor

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. spent $2.15 million in the final two weeks of the campaign, according to a spending report filed Tuesday with the state.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s final report hasn’t been posted yet. It had to be filed by midnight Tuesday and the state offices are closed today, so we’ll have to wait until Monday to get a peek. (I know, I know. How will we get through the Thanksgiving holiday without it?)

Most of Ehrlich’s dough, $1.6 million, was spent on ads, with another $245,000 on direct mail to would-be voters. Ehrlich also reportedly spent $14,000 with a political operative who said he sent the Election Day “relax” robocalls under investigation by Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. (Kudos to The Washington Post for unearthing that first.)

Ehrlich also dished out about $63,000 in fundraising expenses during the reporting period, which covered Oct. 18 to Nov. 16. During that time, Ehrlich raised $710,000, including $20,000 he appears to have lent his own campaign. The loan came from a Robert Ehrlich in Timonium, according to the campaign finance database run by the University of Maryland’s Center for American Politics and Citizenship.

Based on his last four campaign finance reports, Ehrlich raised about $7.4 million for his rematch with O’Malley, and spent $7.2 million.

O’Malley meets with Stronach, Penn National to discuss Md. horse racing

Gov. Martin O’Malley managed to get the bickering corporate parents of the state’s thoroughbred racing industry in the same room this week, but Penn National and MI Developments have not yet agreed on a plan for the Maryland Jockey Club in 2011.

Liam Farrell, at The Capital, reported the meeting first.

Shaun Adamec, O’Malley’s spokesman, said the governor met Wednesday in the State House with Penn National Vice President Steve Snyder and MID officers Frank Stronach, the chairman and CEO, and Vice Chairman Dennis Mills.

“There weren’t a lot of concrete details discussed in terms of ways forward. It was the first time they sat down since the vote in Anne Arundel County,” Adamec told me. “I can tell you what the tone wasn’t. It wasn’t about circumventing what happened at the ballot box.”

“It was very forward-looking,” he said, meaning how do you keep a horse track afloat sinking the casino development at the mall?

Penn National and MID have two very different notions.

Continue reading

Maryland’s innovation economy praised by Kauffman Foundation

Maryland is No. 3 in the “New Economy States” rankings released Thursday by the Kauffman Foundation.

That means the Old Line State is at the “forefront of the nation’s movement toward a global, innovation-based new economy,” along with Massachusetts, Washington, New Jersey and Connecticut, according to the report.

Maryland’s Kauffman spot is unchanged from 2009, and has been one of the bright spots for the state among the constellation of rankings by think tanks and nonprofits that seek to identify the best and worst states for doing business.

Kauffman’s list is one of the few in which Maryland ranks ahead of Virginia, which placed in the 8th spot in the 2010 list. (And for an even better pick-me-up, check out West Virginia at No. 49.)

In statement released Thursday, Gov. Martin O’Malley said the ranking reaffirms Maryland’s strong economic position.

“To move forward creating and saving jobs, and expanding opportunity – our challenge and opportunity is to advance innovation and its primary ingredient: the skills and education of our people,” O’Malley said. “And if we are to expand opportunity to greater numbers of our people and continue to create jobs in the new economy, we must commit to continued advancement of innovation.”

Maryland received some of its highest marks for the size and education of its IT workforce, its ability to attract IT workers from other states and for having some of the fastest-growing firms in the country. (Check out the full list of rankings on pages 12 and 13 of the report.)

And the rankings were particularly kind to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, which has the thickest concentration of innovation-friendly states in the country. Among the other high finishers were Virginia (8), Delaware (6), New Jersey (4), New York (10), Connecticut (5), Massachusetts (1), and New Hampshire (11).

DeMarco calls Andy Harris’ health care stand “outrageous”

Have you heard the one about the newly elected congressman who ran against the federal health care overhaul, then complained when he learned his government-subsidized plan wouldn’t kick in until a month after he was sworn in?

Vinnie DeMarco has. And he thinks it’s “outrageous.”

DeMarco is the president of the Health Care for All coalition that is pushing the dime-a-drink alcohol tax increase and the lobbyist who successfully pushed for the $1 increase in cigarette taxes in 2007. And the congressman in question is Andy Harris, the Republican state senator who defeated Democrat Frank Kratovil in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.

Politico reported Monday evening that Harris “reacted incredulously” when told that his health care plan would not kick in until Feb. 1, nearly a month after he is to be sworn in. Harris ran against President Obama’s health care plan during the campaign, promised to work toward repealing the legislation and repeatedly lumped Kratovil in with Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was instrumental and shepherding the bill through Congress.

“For a month, he’ll be like 40 million other Americans,” DeMarco said Tuesday morning. “How can he with a straight face deny them health care while demanding government-subsidized health care for himself?”

Continue reading

Sarah Bloom Raskin urges mortgage servicing reforms

Sarah Bloom Raskin hasn’t been at her new job long, but she’s already making herself heard.

The Senate confirmed Maryland’s former commissioner of financial oversight to a post on the Federal Reserve Board in September and she started work there on Oct. 4.

Last week, Raskin said mortgage servicers are not doing enough to help homeowners avoid foreclosures and the industry needs “serious and sustained reform,” the Wall Street Journal reported in its Real Time Economics blog. (And a hat tip to them for reporting this.)

“Many may view these procedural flaws as trivial, technical, or inconsequential, but I consider them to be part of a deeper, systemic problem and am gravely concerned,” Raskin said, according to the Journal.

Raskin had been Maryland’s top banking regulator since 2007 and had previously worked at the New York Fed.  Her former deputy, Mark Kaufman, took the top financial regulation spot on Sept. 30.

Maryland transportation funding situation clouded by the feds

As Maryland searches for a sustainable way to fund its transportation needs, the work being done in Annapolis will likely be overshadowed by changes being made in Washington.

“I’m not sure we can anticipate the feds are going to bail us out. We’re entering a new era,” Anne P. Canby, president of the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, told the Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding.

The state relies on the federal government for about 20 percent of its transportation funding, and Gov. Martin O’Malley is hoping for federal dollars to make up at least half of the construction costs of the Red and Purple Light Rail lines.

Jack Basso, director of program finance and management for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said the Obama administration is expected to release its long-term transportation funding bill in February. He said he expects the plan will emphasize funding for transit and passenger rail, promote transit-oriented development, and seek to create an infrastructure bank to spark private investment in transportation projects.

Congress has failed to pass a long-term transportation funding plan, relying on short-term funding extensions for a year. And any changes in 2011 will have to navigate a Democratic Senate and the newly Republican House of Representatives. One of the victims of the Republican wave on Nov. 2 was Rep. James L. Oberstar, the Minnesota Democrat who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Continue reading

Gov. Martin O’Malley and Jeff Bridges a.k.a. The Dude

Or El Duderino, if you’re not into that whole brevity thing.

Just thought I’d pass along this shot of Gov. Martin O’Malley, fresh off his re-election campaign, with Jeff Bridges, who of course played The Dude in “The Big Lebowski.”

The unlikely pair (career pol/Irish rock band leader and an actor probably best known for playing a pot-smoking amateur bowler) were in D.C. yesterday at the National Press Club to talk about their efforts to end childhood hunger in the U.S. by 2015.

The Reliable Source blog at The Washington Post has more here.

Just one day earlier, O’Malley commemorated the second year anniversary of his own childhood hunger effort, the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland, in Annapolis. It, too, has a target date of 2015.

Sen. Cardin wants Election Day robocall investigation

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate robocalls made on Election Day that Democrats say were intended to suppress turnout in African-American communities.

“While I fully understand that campaigns can be rough and tumble, where candidates question and criticize their opponent’s record and judgment, some actions go beyond the pale and seek to intimidate voters,” Cardin said in a statement Thursday. “We must take action when entities deliberately use deceptive practices to marginalize and disenfranchise voters.”

The Washington Post and first reported the robocalls on Election Day, and a later TBD item said the calls came from a number in the 202 area code. Cardin said voters in Baltimore City and elsewhere around the state received the calls.

In the calls, a woman’s voice tells voters to “relax.”

“Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful,” the voice said. “Our goals have been met. The polls were correct … and we’re OK. Relax, everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you.”

The mystery robocaller was mostly right. O’Malley walloped former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich by a 14-point margin, the largest reported in polls leading up to the election.

You can listen to the robo call in the player below:

Cordish nears victory in Anne Arundel County

With just three precincts left to report, developer David Cordish looks to have won the high-profile, multimillion-dollar contest to build a casino in Anne Arundel County.

Nearly 56 percent of voters said “Yes” to the zoning Cordish needs to move forward with his plans to build a slots parlor with 4,750 games next to the Arundel Mills shopping mall, and 44 percent voted against it.

The actual totals, with 98.5 percent of the precincts in, were 103,263 in favor and 82,008 against.

Md. General Assembly races yield few surprises

With all the upsets on the national level, Maryland’s General Assembly races offered little in the way of surprises and upsets.

Republicans repeatedly labeled Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch a top target, but the longtime legislative leader held on to his seat in Annapolis. His district will, however, be more Republican in 2011, with former Del. Herb McMillan leading Del. Virginia Clagett, a Democrat, and Del. Ron George holding on to his seat.

The Eastern Shore district of Del. Norm Conway, the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, saw a similar shift. Conway held his seat but appears to be headed to the State House sharing the district with a Republican.

And in Western Maryland, Democratic Del. Kevin Kelly is in a tight race with Republican Mary Beth Pirolozzi.

At least two incumbent senators appear to have close contests on their hands. Sen. Alex Mooney, who represents pieces of Frederick and Washington counties, trailed in early returns. And Democrat Roy P. Dyson, of Southern Maryland, was leading, but locked in a tight race with Stephen M. Waugh.

Democrats appear to have a chance to pad their majority on the Eastern Shore, where Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus is retiring. Del. Jim Mathias, a Democrat from the same district as Conway, was leading Republican Michael James at midnight in the contest to replace Stoltzfus.

At the top of the tickets, the returns in the governor’s race have tightened from their early, hefty margins. Gov. Martin O’Malley, who gave his victory speech about 90 minutes ago, leads former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. 55 percent to 44.