Frosh first, but Frick far from finished

Del. C. William "Bill" Frick, D-Montgomery (Photo: Maryland State Archives)

In a small sampling of likely Democratic voters, a couple of Montgomery County lawmakers have emerged as the top contenders to replace Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh — with the apparent support of much of Annapolis’ Democratic establishment — has been considered the frontrunner for months. But Del. C. William “Bill” Frick — who shares the 16th legislative district with Frosh — garnered 54 votes to Frosh’s 70 in a straw poll at the Western Maryland Democratic Summit last weekend.

Frick, who at 38 is 30 years Frosh’s junior, had raised $60,000 in campaign cash to Frosh’s $390,000 as of January. But Frick said Monday he is emboldened by his respectable showing out west, and has put together a team that is raising money across the state.

“I’m very serious,” Frick said, adding that he would not officially declare his candidacy unless Gansler announces he won’t seek another term as attorney general. Gansler told The Daily Record last week that such an announcement would probably come this fall.

Until then, Frick said he’d try to raise his profile outside of Montgomery County. Like Frosh, Frick says he’s excited about potentially enforcing some of the laws he’s helped the General Assembly craft.

“We have a lot of good, democratic legislation,” Frick said. “It’s the place you can give the kind of enforcement our laws deserve in the areas of consumer protections, and workers rights and be a champion of our businesses.”

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Prison scandal to greet returning O’Malley

Gov. Martin O’Malley can’t be looking forward to his return from an eight-day trade mission to Israel.

O’Malley, who has spent the last week meeting with dignitaries and trying to build relationships with foreign businesses, will have a sprawling city jail scandal awaiting his attention when he returns on Monday, highlighted by evidence that a gang leader manipulated and impregnated female prison guards as part of an intricate operation revolving around drugs, money and sex at the Baltimore Detention Center.

Gary D. Maynard, appointed by O’Malley to run the state Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, has taken responsibility for the lack of oversight at the city’s jail, and has moved his office to the facility as part of an investigation into the scandal, which has led to the indictment of 13 female correctional officers.

The House of DelegatesJudiciary Committee has already scheduled a hearing to address issues at the jail, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. is calling for a blue-ribbon commission to study the state prison system.

O’Malley, who has now acknowledged he is considering a run at the White House after years of unconfirmed speculation, now must address the prison scandal while dodging grenades thrown by his political enemies.

Larry Hogan, a former cabinet secretary for Maryland Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., mounted the first attack this week, criticizing O’Malley for being out of the country as details of the scandal unfolded.

“It is unacceptable for the governor to go missing in action while inmates are apparently free to threaten the public’s safety from behind bars,” Hogan said in a statement center by Change Maryland, the anti-tax group that he chairs. Hogan also called for O’Malley to dismiss Maynard “for gross negligence.”

The governor’s first public appearance is scheduled on Tuesday, when he is expected to speak on healthcare in during a conference held by the American Society of Anesthesiologists at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington.

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U.S. Senate’s sales tax vote tied to Maryland’s gas tax

The gas price sign for the Royal Farms Store on Russell Street in Baltimore on Jan. 30, 2012. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

If states are given more authority to collect sales tax from online purchases, the cost of a gallon of gas in Maryland won’t rise as high as state fiscal analysts have predicted.

The U.S. Senate is poised to hold a procedural vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act on Monday, legislation that would enable states to enforce the collection of sales tax from people who buy merchandise on the Internet. U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, is among the bill’s sponsors.

Maryland’s multimillion dollar plan to pay for transportation projects by increasing the gas tax would impose a 5 percent wholesale tax on fuel by 2016, unless Congress approves the online sales tax measure.

If President Barack Obama then signs the sales tax bill, Maryland’s wholesale gas tax would stay at 3 percent under the state transportation legislation. White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Monday that Obama backs the sales tax bill.

Without the Marketplace Fairness Act’s approval, Maryland gas prices would probably increase by 20-cents a gallon in mid-2016.

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Here’s a few government and politics headlines for Monday:

Frosh claims victory over NRA

Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee (File Photo)

Sen. Brian E. Frosh says the National Rifle Association‘s decision to fight Maryland’s yet-to-be-signed gun control law in court rather than at the polls shows the pro-gun organization knows state voters would uphold the law.

In an email sent from his campaign account on Friday, Frosh wrote that “overwhelming support for the new common sense safety measures convinced opponents to abandon their petition campaign.”

Frosh, as chairman of the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee, guided Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun control legislation through the Senate during the recently-adjourned General Assembly session.

The Montgomery County Democrat is also mulling a run for Maryland attorney general, a role that would put him in position to defend the constitutionality of the Firearm Safety Act in court.

“We already know that the Firearm Safety Act is constitutional,” Frosh wrote. “It has been thoroughly examined by me and my legislative colleagues, the attorney general, Governor O’Malley’s legislative office, and the Department of Legislative Services.

“The NRA will waste its time and money finding out what we already know: the new law does nothing to infringe the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.”

No O’Malley administration ‘brain drain,’ expert says

Gov. Martin O’Malley has lost three top aides and three department secretaries in the last year, but a University of Maryland, Baltimore County political scientist says that’s not a big deal.

“It all depends on the replacement,” said Donald F. Norris, chair of the Department of Public Policy at UMBC. “If the replacements are qualified, there’s no brain drain.”

Matthew D. Gallagher, O’Malley’s chief of staff, became the latest departure Thursday when he announced plans to take over as CEO of the nonprofit Goldseker Foundation. Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin will replace Gallagher.

Joseph C. Bryce — the administration’s top lobbyist in the General Assembly — joined Annapolis-based Manis Canning & Associates last November and Rick Abbruzzese, the governor’s director of public affairs and perhaps his closest adviser, joined Annapolis-based Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver LLC as a partner last December.

Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Christian S. Johansson left in January to join Baltimore-based Laureate Education Inc., Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez departed last May to become Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s chief of staff and Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley resigned last July and was then named president of the Union Station Redevelopment Corp.

“This is not at all unusual for the second half of the second term of a term-limited governor,” Norris said.