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Local Democrats hear from two who might seek higher office

August 25, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Maryland state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola of Montgomery County is greeted by Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, Thursday, during the annual Washington County Democratic Central Committee picnic in Williamsport.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — Washington County Democrats on Thursday welcomed two potential Democratic candidates for governor and Congress.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, considered to be a possible 2014 gubernatorial candidate, spoke at the annual Washington County Democratic Central Committee picnic.

He was followed by state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola of Montgomery County, the Senate majority leader, who is considering a 2012 bid for the 6th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representives.

About 185 people attended the picnic at the Improved Order of Red Men Tribe 84 near Williamsport, said Elizabeth Paul, the central committee's chairwoman.

Ulman and Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, both hinted openly to the crowd about Garagiola taking on U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., who is running for an 11th term next year.

During his speech at the picnic, Garagiola didn't address that possibility, but acknowledged later during an interview that he's thinking about the congressional seat.

He said the key is what happens in this year's redistricting process, when the state reshapes its eight federal Congress districts after the decennial U.S. census.

Currently, Maryland has six Democrats in the House and two Republicans, including Bartlett.

For a Democrat, "right now, it's not a competitive district," Garagiola said of the 6th District. If Democrats close the gap, "that changes the dynamic quite a bit," he said.

The Maryland General Assembly plans to take up congressional redistricting during a special session in October.

There's been talk of the legislature also passing new taxes then, but Garagiola said the special session should focus mainly on redistricting.

At last week's Maryland Association of Counties conference, Gov. Martin O'Malley brought up the possibility of new taxes in the coming year to help fill a projected $1 billion budget gap. Garagiola said Thursday that more favorable revenue estimates might lessen the need for new taxes, but it's too early to tell.

Garagiola and Ulman encouraged local Democrats to think optimistically about a power shift.

In last year's election, the Washington County Board of Commissioners became all Republican, as the only Democrat lost a re-election bid.

Ulman said a Democratic resurgance happened in Howard County, which was predominantly Republican three election cycles ago. Now, Democrats have a 4-1 advantage on the county council.

"Maybe I'm just an example of some hope," Ulman said. "Stay at it. Keep working. It is possible."

Garagiola said that when he ran for state Senate in 2002, he defeated a Republican incumbent. His territory also included two Republican delegates and one Democrat.

Paul said an extra effort in getting out the vote could make a powerful difference.

"Fourteen thousand Democrats in Washington County did not bother to vote in the last election," she said. "That would have flipped every single race we lost."

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