In Maryland Politics, a New Beginning
Kendel Ehrlich for Senate?
But isn’t she carrying too much baggage with that husband of hers?
Silly political talk, we know. But ’tis the season thanks to the surprise retirement of Paul Sarbanes, 72, Maryland’s stalwart Democratic senator who served honorably in public office for over three decades.
Suddenly, it’s post time at the track of Maryland electoral politics. The horses, many of whom were scratching in the dirt or still in their stalls, are moving toward the gate.
We Marylanders were all but left out of the ’04 presidential election. With Maryland’s decidedly Democratic plurality in voter registration, never was there a hint that our state could be competitive. (It wasn’t; Sen. John Kerry won with 56 percent.)
It’s typically that way in Maryland Senate races, too, due to the power of incumbency and the historic feebleness of the state’s GOP.
It’s rare, almost once in a generation, when Maryland has an open Senate race with both major political parties competing without incumbency. Not only do we have that open Senate race, but it falls in 2006, when Gov. Ehrlich and state officers stand for re-election.
There’s barely enough space in the paddock for all the would-be contestants jockeying for position.
Expect to see skies dotted with trial balloons in the weeks ahead and fierce politicking, reflecting Maryland’s changing demographics.
If you’re a political contributor, you’d better change your phone number or you might go broke.
For the rest of us, let the fun begin.
First, a word about Sarbanes, who should be mentioned when Maryland counts its blessings.
Often, a career is summed up by recalling a handful of moments. In Sarbanes’ case, he engineered new corporate accounting laws after the Enron scandal. He forced banks to stop red-lining to avoid loaning money in low-income neighborhoods. Long ago he led the charge in Congress to get rid of President Richard Nixon.
Beyond the bullets, Paul Sarbanes has reflected positively on his state with a quiet dignity. He could be a professor in Cal Ripken’s Show Up & Shut Up school of life.
Alas, the United States Senate has become populated in recent years with more than a few small-minded preeners and monied egotists.
As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, he no doubt was offered the keys to the vaults of billion-dollar interests eager to avoid regulation.
But Sarbanes seemingly turned them down, never living large or moving from his Baltimore home.
The so-called phantom senator supplied class and grace to a profession sorely in need of both, and he’ll be missed.
That said, we’re excited about the political season about to begin — and hopeful that over the next 22 months Sarbanes doesn’t do anything to make us sorry for the nice things we wrote about him.