From the Gazette.net Maryland Community News
Published: Thursday, August 2, 2012
Young begins to make mark on state Republicans
Ryan Marshall Staff writer
Marylanders won’t elect a new governor for more than two years, but Blaine R. Young — the sometimes combative president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners — has already started to attract attention on the Republican side of the race, according to some political observers.
Young, who has set up a gubernatorial exploratory committee, has developed a fairly impressive reputation within state Republican circles, said Don Murphy, a former state delegate who served as chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee and has worked on numerous campaigns, including U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential effort and state Sen. David Brinkley’s unsuccessful 2012 congressional primary bid.
“He’s getting noticed, that’s for sure,” Murphy said of Young.
Part of the political buzz around Young has been generated by his appearance at the J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Crisfield on the Eastern Shore on July 18.
The event is considered one of the most important annual political gatherings for Maryland politicians and potential candidates, and Young showed up with about 80 supporters.
Murphy said a respectable showing for a candidate two years before the election would be between 20 and 40 supporters. He said he’d never seen a turnout like the one Young produced nearly two years before the party primary is held in June 2014.
Mike McKay (R), president of the Allegany County Board of Commissioners, who went to the clambake with Young’s supporters, said the people in T-shirts touting Young’s campaign caused a stir among the 2,000 or so attendees as they moved through the crowd.
“It did get a lot of buzz there,” McKay said.
If you can’t put on a good show at Tawes, it can be taken as a signal that you’re not quite ready for prime time, Murphy said.
The appearance put Young on the radar in some political circles around the state, assuring that, at least for now, he would be mentioned regularly as a possible GOP gubernatorial candidate.
“This was an opportunity for him to burst on the stage, if you will,” Murphy said.
Travel has become a way of life for Young as he moves throughout the state trying to gather support and the money to take advantage of it.
“It’s all about raising money right now,” Young said.
He has formed a committee to raise money for a gubernatorial campaign, but has not officially filed as a candidate.
Young, who hopes to raise between $300,000 and $500,000 by the end of the year, said he’s raised about $150,000 so far from events in Frederick and Montgomery counties, and on the Eastern Shore. He has an event scheduled in Cambridge in mid-August, he said.
He expects it will take about $1 million to run a statewide primary campaign.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) spent nearly $14 million on his 2010 re-election campaign, while Republican challenger and former Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. spent more than $8 million on the race.
Finding a strategy The rural counties on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland could be crucial if Young wins the Republican nomination, said state Sen. Joe Getty (R), who represents parts of Carroll and Baltimore counties, and served as the political director for Ehrlich’s successful 2002 campaign.
He said Young faces some of the same challenges Ehrlich did that year.
The Republican candidate will likely lose heavily in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and in Baltimore city, and will have to make up those votes in the rest of the state, Getty said.
Getty said he doesn’t know Young well, but thinks he has seized on some tax and economic issues that have broad appeal, such as a desire to rein in spending and reduce regulation.
“That’s where I see the campaign in 2014 heading,” he said.
Del. Michael J. Hough (R-Dist. 3B) of Brunswick said he thinks Young has a compelling story to tell voters as the owner of a small businesses, Interstate Mobile Advertising Inc. and Yellow Cab of Frederick, Brunswick and Mount Airy.
Hough said he thinks Young’s history as a fiscal conservative will add to his popularity.
Young and his fellow commissioners have cut government spending and laid off county employees, showing that he’s not afraid to make unpopular decisions to reduce the size of government, Hough said.
Along with overperforming in the rural counties, Young would likely have to win in Baltimore County and woo disenchanted Democrats and independents who are looking elsewhere after eight years under O’Malley, Getty said.
In 2002, Ehrlich, who grew up in Arbutus and served the area as a congressman, won the state by 66,000 votes, and captured Baltimore County by 65,000 votes, Getty said.
He said Ehrlich was able to capitalize on voters who were searching for alternatives after eight years of Gov. Parris Glendening (D).
“There was definitely a Glendening fatigue,” Getty said, noting that he senses some of the same sentiment with O’Malley now.
Getty said he is not currently supporting any potential candidate, and will wait to see how the Republican race develops before deciding if he will choose a side.
Harford County Executive David Craig and Annapolis real estate developer Larry Hogan, who served as Ehrlich’s appointments secretary, have also been mentioned as being among the possible candidates for the Republican nomination.
Matthew Verghese, a spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party, said the party wouldn’t comment on the record of any unofficial candidate.
Divisive figure Young has been a vocal critic of what he sees as excessive taxes and regulation in Maryland, and has vowed to veto any tax or fee increases if he’s elected governor.
In February, the commissioners passed a controversial ordinance proposed by Young to make English the official language of all county business.
If elected, Young would be the fifth Frederick County resident to occupy the governor’s mansion, but the first since 1854, according to the The Historical Society of Frederick County.
Young was active in the 2011 founding of the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition, an alliance including Allegany, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick and Washington counties aimed at increasing its members’ collective voice in Annapolis and countering the influence of more populous counties, such as Montgomery, Prince Georges and Baltimore.
Along with the bully pulpit that comes with the commissioners’ presidency, Young is also host of “The Blaine Young Show” on 930 WFMD. The radio show has been the source of ethics complaints against Young, but the Frederick County Ethics Commission has ruled the forum does not present a conflict of interest.
He would have to give up the show if he officially declares as a candidate, which Young said is contingent on meeting his fundraising goals of at least $300,000 by the end of the year.
If he does declare, an announcement wouldn’t come until the summer or fall of 2013, although he said he hasn’t settled on a definitive date.
Whatever happens, Young’s sometimes abrupt political style has won him both fans and critics.
Supporters see him as a “straight shooter,” said Washington County Commissioner Jeff Cline (R).
But his opponents see him as sometimes unreceptive to the opinions of others.
“I don’t think he listens to or intends to listen to any points of view other than those who agree with him,” said Myrna Whitworth, chairwoman of the Frederick County chapter of the Democratic State Central Committee.
Young seems aware that he can be a divisive figure.
At the recent opening of a county park in Urbana, a speaker discussed how parks and playgrounds are often where children first learn to interact with one another.
During his own remarks, Young joked that perhaps he should visit the newly opened playground to work on learning to play well with others.
McKay said he thinks Young has what it takes to win over voters and mount a successful campaign.
“There’s an energy there,” he said.
© 2012 Post-Newsweek Media, Inc./Gazette.Net