Tuesday, November 30, 2004

As goes Maryland...

I'm not sure if the parallel will hold, but the race for the head of the Maryland State Democratic Party has some interesting similarities to the race for the national chair (link):

The race for Maryland Democratic Party Chair has proven surprisingly competitive, with three announced candidates taking each other to the mat over the future of the state party. Party Treasurer Gary Gensler, former Howard Dean state political director and congressional candidate Terry Lierman, and former Glendening staffer Dan Ruppley are vying for the office, whose current holder, Ike Leggett, is stepping down most likely to run for Montgomery County Executive.

Gensler maintains a home in Baltimore County, though his main residence is Montgomery County. He has been the treasurer of the national Democratic Party and has a proven record as a fundraiser. Gensler appears to have been the initial frontrunner but is facing a staunch challenge from Lierman, a resident of Maryland's Eighth Congressional District, whose fundraising skills are also considerable -- he was the national finance co-chair for the Dean campaign. It is expected that a Lierman chairmanship would result in more grassroots Democratic activism, as his work with Dean demonstrates; Gensler seems to be the choice of the older, more entrenched party bosses.

The two candidates are waging an extremely low-profile pitched battle for votes inside the several-hundred-member Democratic State Central Committee, which decides the next party chair. A third candidate, Dan Ruppley of Frederick, has a record of experience in former Gov. Parris Glendening's political campaigns. However, a party insider and Lierman supporter who asked not to be named told me that Lierman has been endorsed by Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty, which would seem to put quite a damper on Ruppley's hopes.

The divisive race highlights the many divisions among a party still smarting from its 2002 gubernatorial defeat at the hands of then-Rep. Bob Ehrlich. One high-profile Democrat, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, has already announced he is challenging Ehrlich in 2006; another Democrat, Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, also is gearing up for a run. The party is also split along urban/rural lines, with Eastern Shore and Western and Southern Maryland residents feeling passed over in favor of heavy Baltimore and D.C.-area representation.

The similarities:

1) One candidate (Gensler) represent the "more entrenched party bosses" and another (Lierman) represents upstart "grassroots Democratic activism". Not sure how Ruppley fits into this, but this report suggests he may not have much impact.

2) The battle lines appear to be drawn over the direction the party will go (status quo vs. reform)

3) The party is still reeling over a significant electoral loss (the governor's race in 2002) which could seriously influence the final result.

4) There is a growing sense of frustration on the part of non-urban residents over a lack of representation within the party apparatus.

Sounds familiar doesn't it?


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