Curtain up. Lights. Sound. Cue music. Here we go.
Think of this as something of a second volume of an epic fantasy tale. If you didnâ€™t read Volume 1 (“A Game of Senators”?), you are at a bit of a disadvantage, but Iâ€™ll try to remedy that if I can.
Like any good fantasy author, Iâ€™ll start with a summary of what you missed. You can also read my Facebook posts, but there are a lot of them and so Iâ€™ll try the Spark Notes version here.
March 2: the Mikulski Moment. Senator Barbara Mikulski, U.S. senator for thirty years and a congresswoman for 10 more before that, announces her intention to retire at the conclusion of her term in 2016. Put simply, this is a once in a generation bombshell announcement.
Almost immediately, speculation begins. Who will seek the Senate seat? Focus quickly centers on the seven Democratic congresscritters of the state. All but one of them (Steny Hoyer is already the #2 Democrat in the House) are rumored to have some interest in the Senate vacancy.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen announced his intention to run on March 5. Congresswoman Donna Edwards did the same on March 10. Thatâ€™s the state of the race right now. John Delaney? John Sarbanes? Congressmen still thinking about it. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake of Baltimore? Less so, but still some interest. Former Delegate and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur? Keeping her counsel but the signs are out there. Congressman Elijah Cummings of Baltimore? Increasingly appears interested in the race of late.
While the Senate is the marquee race, the most fascinating effect of the Mikulski moment may be the spillover effect to the congressional seats. Already, the Eighth District race (I live here) has drawn a large crowd of interested contestants: State Senator Jamie Raskin, State Delegates Ariana Kelly and Kumar Barve, Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen, former Councilmember Valerie Ervin, and perhaps most intriguingly, Kathleen Matthews, former WJLA Channel 7 news anchor and current vice president of Marriott. Oh, and sheâ€™s also married to Chris Matthews. I suspect youâ€™ve heard of him.
If John Delaney runs for Senate, his Sixth District congressional seat will open up. Purportedly gearing up for that opportunity is another list of Montgomery County elected officials, including State Senators Roger Manno and Brian Feldman, State Delegates Bill Frick, Aruna Miller, Kirill Reznik and Andrew Platt, and Councilmember Craig Rice.
In the Fourth Congressional District, which comprises parts of Prince Georgeâ€™s and Anne Arundel Counties, Donna Edwardsâ€™ Senate run has created yet another opening. The actual or rumored candidates thus far: former Lieutenant Governor and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown, State Delegates Joseline Pena-Melnyk and Jay Walker, former Prince Georgeâ€™s County Stateâ€™s Attorney Glenn Ivey, and Prince Georgeâ€™s County Councilmember Ingrid Turner.
So OK, thatâ€™s whatâ€™s happening. Whatâ€™s my role in this, you may ask? Good question. Starting the day of the Mikulski Moment, and not with any grand design or plan (really, I swear), I decided to write a few Facebook posts about all the jockeying and rumors and innuendo that began swirling within minutes of Senator Mikulskiâ€™s announcement. People liked what they read, so I did more of them. And I started putting out feelers to people I knew, asking (quietly) “what do you know? Whoâ€™s doing what? Keep me in the loop when you hear something.” It wasnâ€™t any big deal at first, just trying to make sense of the chaos.
The more I did, the more people seemed to like it. And they asked for more. So I tried to give it to them. I set up Google alerts, I reached out to more people, I hired someone to help me with research. And the weird thing is, people started reaching out to me without me asking. A detail here, a story there, a rumor confirmed or denied or amended. The information I was learning got more interesting, and so too did the updates I was able to give. In the past few days, I made the decision to create a platform for this project, which has grown far bigger than anything I remotely thought of even 10 days ago.
So here we are, a new website and a new name: Maryland Scramble. Itâ€™s a little bit of a pun, of course - the most literal scramble is the scramble for power, for a seat in the Senate or the House in 2016, and the potential spillover into state and local offices in 2018. But “scramble” also makes sense because I donâ€™t just want to write about rumors and whoâ€™s running for what. That story will resolve itself in the next few months, and the 2016 primary is only a little over a year away. I have my own “scramble” of ideas I want to write about, a hash of state and local and national political issues, and even some non-political stuff. My holy trinity of interests beyond politics is books, food and travel. I used to be a maniacal sports fan - Iâ€™m still a fan, just less maniacal in my old age. Iâ€™d like to occasionally talk about all these things, and more.
Most importantly, I am not doing this to simply hear myself talk. Some of my friends may be shocked by that statement, but itâ€™s true. The most gratifying aspect of the last 19 days has been the conversation - back and forth, sometimes between me and someone, and sometimes between two or three or five or 10 other people, debating something I said or taking it to a different level. Yes, the ego gratification of being complimented didnâ€™t hurt either. I can accept that. I think I have something useful to say, but Iâ€™ll let each of you be the judge of that.
The other important aspect of a conversation is that, as interesting as some of what Iâ€™ve written has been, Iâ€™ve been wrong. I missed Kumar Barveâ€™s entry into the CD8 race completely. Iâ€™ve been slow to recognize other things as well. I do not claim perfection - I will mess up again. And again. Etc. I want a conversation because thatâ€™s the best way to ultimately get the best answers, whether the question is whoâ€™s running in CD6 or whereâ€™s the best place for a steak in Montgomery County or how do we tackle racism and income inequality and the achievement gap in Maryland.Â Anything that scrambles up what we think we know is welcome here. (Didja see what I did there? I am so witty.)
As for who I am, I suspect most of the people reading this initially have a pretty good idea. For those that truly come in late, I will, soon, post an “About Me” page for this site. But if you Google my name and spell it correctly, youâ€™ll find all sorts of stuff. If you have questions, ask me. But please, be part of the conversation. The only rules for commenting are (1) you have to register and use a real name; (2) no threatening language or libel (Iâ€™m a lawyer, I canâ€™t help it), and (3) as I admonish in almost every post on FB lately, play nice. Politics is supposed to be fun. I say that a lot too.
Thatâ€™s it. Been a quiet day, not so many rumors flying, so itâ€™s allowed me to get this website ready and write this initial post. Almost nothing else I write will ever again be this long, I am fairly certain. Thanks for reading.