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Brown plus Ulman equals frontrunner for governor

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown plans to name Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as his running mate in the race to become the Democratic nominee for governor, shaking up a crowded field of primary hopefuls.

The addition of Ken Ulman ‘solidifies’ Anthony G. Brown’s primary chances, one political observer says.

The official announcement will be made Monday morning in Columbia, according to an email circulated among Annapolis lobbyists. David Nitkin, director of communications for Howard County, confirmed Wednesday that an announcement would be made on Monday about the 2014 election, but would not confirm the substance of that announcement. A message left at Brown’s campaign headquarters was not returned.

Ulman’s decision to join Brown’s camp has been rumored for weeks. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s lieutenant became the first person to officially announce his candidacy for governor this month and has some name recognition after serving as O’Malley’s No. 2 since 2007.

Several political onlookers say the move clouds the political future of Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who has indicated strong interest in running for governor but has not officially announced his candidacy. A Brown and Ulman ticket would make Gansler’s path to Government House difficult, those sources say.

“The strange thing I’m noticing is people are really beginning to feel the sense that Brown is a frontrunner,” said David Moon, a Democratic political consultant who writes the “Maryland Juice” blog. “I think that’s not without consequences. … I think it’ll leave people scrambling to catch up.”

Donald F. Norris, chairman of the Department of Public Policy for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said Ulman’s joining with Brown makes the Democratic primary “very interesting.”

“Brown is going to do very well in Prince George’s County and in [Baltimore] city, two of the big three jurisdiction,” Norris said. “Ulman will help him out in other areas of the state … which leaves Gansler to Montgomery County.

“I think this solidifies Brown’s chances of winning the primary, and that is tantamount to winning the governorship … unless you run a really bad campaign.”

Other possible Democratic contenders include U.S. Rep C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger and Del. Heather R. Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat. Registered Maryland Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.

Mizeur’s challenge will be raising enough money to mount a competitive campaign, Moon said. Ruppersberger, if he decides to enter the race, could occupy a middle political ground that would earn him votes in some parts of the state.

The entrance of either, however, could further diminish Gansler’s prospects.

“In a three-way race, with a new majority minority population in Montgomery County, [and] a strong liberal bent, I think you can easily see multiple scenarios where Gansler doesn’t carry Montgomery,” Moon said, adding that Gansler should officially announce his candidacy sooner, rather than later.

Gansler, the early money leader with $5.2 million in his campaign account as of January, could be challenged for that advantage now that Ulman’s $2.1 million can be added to Brown’s $1.6 million. Ulman had been considering his own run for governor, but Norris said the 39-year-old county executive was unable to find a viable path to the governor’s mansion.

But his youth could allow him to seek the nomination after serving two full terms with Brown, Norris said, assuming the lieutenant governor wins.

More complicated is Gansler’s future. Norris and Moon both said the attorney general would need to find a way to pick up votes in parts of the state now being claimed by Brown and Ulman.

“What would one advise Gansler to do? Find a female African-American from Baltimore city or Prince George’s County who can counteract Brown in those two jurisdictions,” Norris said, but added earning the Democratic nomination would still be an “uphill battle” for Gansler.

Republican hopefuls include Harford County Executive David R. Craig (who plans to announce his candidacy Monday), Del. Ronald A. George of Anne Arundel County, former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino (who lost a U.S. Senate bid last year), Larry Hogan (a former cabinet secretary for Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who now runs Change Maryland) and Blaine R. Young, president of the Frederick County commissioners.