Sheckels Speaks on MD Political History and the O’Malley, Ehrlich Rivalry

On Thursday, Oct. 21, Theodore “Ted” Sheckels gave a lecture in the Glendenning Annex on his book “Maryland Politics and Political Communication, 1950 – 2005” and the Maryland gubernatorial race between Governor Martin O’Malley and former governor Bob Ehrlich.

Sheckels began the lecture by saying that mid-term elections favor incumbents but how sometimes “there comes along those years when there is very pronounced anti-incumbent sentiment.” Sheckels went on to say that 2010 was one of ‘those years.’

Sheckels said that Maryland is not subject to this sentiment as much as other states, partly because O’Malley and Ehrlich are both considered incumbents.

Sheckels categorized the candidates as acting “entirely predictable… [and] following the script perfectly.”

Sheckels then spoke of how Maryland is not “as blue a state as people think.” He then suggested Maryland must be examined region-by-region. Sheckels described the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland as “very red.”

He described Southern Maryland as “the most volatile part of the state” but generally red. The “Big Three” counties of Montgomery, Prince Georges, and Baltimore City are safely blue, and the “Big Five” counties of Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Carroll, and Anne Arundel are “where the winner is decided.”

Sheckels had some advice for both candidates. He said Ehrlich should come across as a moderate, argue that Maryland’s business climate is “bad”, and be “…the kind of Republican Marylanders will elect.”

Sheckels said O’Malley should, like Ehrlich, come across as moderate, emphasize his four years of hard work, and “emphasize quality of life issues…[like] education,” freezing college tuition, and the environment.

Sheckels concluded his lecture with some thoughts on the candidates’ characters. He said, “With O’Malley, there’s an aloofness that comes across,” and Ehrlich comes across as “mixed.”

First year Griffin Canfield, when asked what he thought of the lecture, said, “… [it was] very interesting. It’s cool to see the insight from other perspectives..[and] knowing areas each candidate has to win or lose.”

Fevzi Bilgin, Assistant Professor of Political Science, said he “…found [the lecture] very informative…filled with anecdotes and surprisingly detailed from someone living in Virginia.”

Todd Eberly, Acting Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy and Professor of Political Science, said he “…thought it was a great talk…the idea of bringing someone here whose specialty is rhetoric is a refreshing change.”

Eberly had some thoughts on each candidate as well. He said O’Malley has the “advantage” in this race and that Ehrlich needs to “stray from the script” and “mix things up.”

Ehrlich Visits Political Science Class, Answers Questions

On Sept. 24, 2010, former Governor and current candidate for Governor Robert Ehrlich met with students in Professor Grogan’s Parties and Elections class before meeting with small business owners in Daugherty-Palmers Commons (DPC).

Ehrlich began his question and answer session with student by introducing his staff, which included the parents of a prospective student. Among Ehrlich’s campaign staff was Doug Mayor who graduated from St. Mary’s in 2004.

Mayor, a Political Science Major and lacrosse player, interned on Capitol Hill, researched for Rudolph Giuliani’s Presidential Campaign, and worked for the Republican National Committee before joining Ehrlich’s campaign as a researcher. Ehrlich joked with Mayor about a poor grade he received in Grogan’s class. “It was a well deserved grade,” said Mayor.

“It is a well defined race,” said Mayor, “the undecided [voters] will make the difference and, lucky for us, the undecided [voters] are swinging for us.”

During an informal question and answer session on topics ranging from the budget to constitutional conventions, Ehrlich discussed the difference between this campaign and the 2006 campaign. “[This campaign is] completely different,” he said, “when times are better, it’s more of an issueless environment. When times are more difficult, [the election] lends itself to more substance.”

Junior Brooks Von Schandelmeier asked, “what would you do to get spending under control?”

“[Get] off our addiction to federal stimulus,” Ehrlich responded, “we have a very dangerous situation where we have taken stimulus dollars and not spent them on one time expenditures.” In addition to one time sources of funding, Ehrlich said he would address the “three drivers of state budget: pensions, Medicaid and people.”

Sophomore Alex Walls asked, “first thing, day one, what would you be dealing with?”

“The first is the budget,” said Ehrlich. After the budget, he said, “my major focus, day one, will be a home run. A corporate headquarters. A big project…something that says we are pro-business here in Maryland.” Ehrlich added, “in politics like in anything, like in football, momentum counts.”

“I want you all to stay in Maryland. You’re going to stay in Maryland for a variety of reason, family, marriage but one of the major reasons is ‘does Maryland have the job I want?’ So that’s my focus next to the budget,” Ehrlich said.

When asked about current Governor Martin O’Malley’s biggest failures, Ehrlich said, “I am not here to politic…but if you look at almost every major issue…we disagree.” According to Ehrlich, that disagreement allows for a good, substantive campaign.

Ehrlich concluded the class with some advice to students: “regardless of what direction you’re going in, learn to write well…if you can’t write, you’re not going to impress anyone.”

After Ehrlich left students, he joined a group of twenty small business owners in DPC. Also at the roundtable were Dan Burris, County Commissioner, Steve Waugh, Candidate for State Senate, and Anthony O’Donnell, House of Delegates.

The conversation revolved around State bureaucracy and taxes that act as an impediment to small business growth. “The federal component to our economy creates a false sense of security in Annapolis”, said Ehrlich, “[they think] we can be as anti-business as we want to be.”

Small business owners expressed frustration over dealing with state agencies. “The bureaucracy that is jacking you around, is meant to get you to give up,” said Ehrlich, “this, by the way, is directly related to who the governor is.”

Former Governor Ehrlich’s visit to campus was arranged by Todd Eberly, Acting Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy. Eberly said, “[Ehrlich’s visit] was a great opportunity for students and a chance to build a bridge with the county.”

According to Eberly, Governor O’Malley has been invited to visit the school and his campaign “has expressed an interest in coming down to visit.”
See the full question and answer session and roundtable on

Candidates for 5th Congressional District Discuss Economy in Pre-Primary Forum

Collins Bailey, Republican Primary Candidate for U.S. Congressional District 5. (Photo by Dave Chase)
Collins Bailey, Republican Primary Candidate for U.S. Congressional District 5. (Photo by Dave Chase)
Tuesday, Sept. 7, candidates for the Democratic and Republican 5th Congressional District met in St. Mary’s hall for a forum hosted by the Center for the Study of Democracy and the St. Mary’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The forum came just one week before the primary.

Democrats Andrew Gail, Sylvanus Bent and Republicans Charles Lollar and Collins Bailey attended. Incumbent Democrat Steny Hoyer did not attend the forum but sent a statement saying, “unfortunately, I received this invitation in late August and was unable to reschedule previous obligations so that I could attend.” Republicans Chris Chafee and Chris Robins also did not attend the event.

Hoyer won the Democratic nomination on September 14th and Lollar won the Republican nomination.

Todd Eberly, acting Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy and Professor of Political Science, explained that each candidate would be given three minutes for an opening and closing statement and 90 seconds to respond to each question from the audience. Eberly also introduced Wayne Scriber, President of the St. Mary County’s chapter of the NAACP.

“I hope that this forum will help you make an informed decision,” said Scriber. The NAACP is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates.

The candidates explained their exigence for running during their opening statements. Based on a coin toss, the Democrats begin in alphabetical order. Sylvanus Bent, a veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars, said, “I am and American and America comes first.” A conservative Democrat, Bent focused on “jobs, jobs, jobs” and said, “we need to make capitalism work again.”

Andrew Gail, a school teacher, said, “I want to make as much positive change as possible.” In his late 20’s, Gail said, “I am just a little younger than the other candidates.” Gail added, “the fundamental problem [with our government] is the role of money in politics.”

Collins Bailey, the Republican nominee in 2008, said he would bring three things to Washington, “common sense, business sense and sense of duty.” Baily added, “when you don’t read the bill, that violates common sense.” Bailey also promised that if elected, he would take no salary and serve only two terms.

Charles Lollar, winner of the September 14th Republican Primary, said, “as a Marine officer, I understand that we are facing too many problems in this country.” Lollar added, “we need to start talking about the issues as average Americans.”

Questions from the audience were reviewed by a three person panel comprised of NAACP representatives and ranged from national issues like immigration reform to local issues like the importance of Pax River Navel Air Station.

Lollar and Bailey agreed on most issues including opposing health care reform, opposing stimulus spending and maintaining the Bush tax cuts.

Gail and Bent agreed on a few issues but disagreed on just as many issues. Most notably, Gail supported health care reform and the stimulus package while Bent opposed both. Bent also argued for small business incentives to create jobs while Gail argued for infrastructure projects to create jobs.

Each candidate also agreed that Congressman Hoyer had been in office for too long. Baily said, “Hoyer can’t even come out to speak to his constituents, that violates my sense of duty.”

The audience, consisting of students, professors and community members, also agreed, cheering at several jokes about Hoyer’s tenure. The audience also seemed less receptive to Gail’s issue proposals, booing his support of health care reform, the stimulus package and immigration reform.

“It’s awesome to have local politicians out to discuss issues even at such a small school,” said Junior Amir Reda. First-year Adam Hall, who said fixing the economy as central to this election cycle, added, “it was really helpful to get a sense for what folks were saying [about the economy].”

The Center for the Study of Democracy, NAACP and the League of Women Voters will host another Candidates forum on October 25th for Congressman Hoyer and Charles Lollar.

VIDEO: George Owings, Candidate for Maryland Governor

On Wednesday, Feb. 3, George Owings III, a candidate for the upcoming gubernatorial Democratic primary, visited the College. After a lunch with a small number of professors and students, Owings spoke to students in the 300-level political science course Maryland State and Community Politics, fielding questions about Maryland politics and the Maryland budget.

Above is an excerpt from Candidate for Maryland Governorship Visits Campus

George Owings – Part 1


George Owings – Part 2


George Owings – Part 3


Candidate for Maryland Governorship Visits Campus

George Owings III provided insight into Maryland politics and the Maryland budget during his visit. (Photo by David Chase)
George Owings III provided insight into Maryland politics and the Maryland budget during his visit. (Photo by David Chase)

On Wednesday, Feb. 3, George Owings III, a candidate for the upcoming gubernatorial Democratic primary, visited the College. After a lunch with a small number of professors and students, Owings spoke to students in the 300-level political science course Maryland State and Community Politics, fielding questions about Maryland politics and the Maryland budget.

Owings previously served for 17 years in the Maryland House of Delegates representing Southern Maryland, eventually becoming the majority Whip, and he later served under Governors Robert Ehrlich (R) and Martin O’Malley (D) as Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs from 2004-2007. Before his work in state government, he served in the Marine Corps from 1964-1968, and fought in Vietnam from 1965-1968, receiving multiple awards for valor. He was also a mortgage banker, and is currently a member of the Calvert County Democratic Club.

Owings began his talk by pressing the importance of the right to vote.

“I take that right very seriously,” he said, and came prepared with voter registration forms for any student in the class not yet registered to vote.

Owings spoke about the power that the Maryland governor has over the state budget. The Maryland budget is often called the “gubernatorial budget” because the only way in which the legislature can influence the budget is to cut the funds that the governor has allotted. Owings called the power to decide the budget “the single most powerful thing” that a governor could do, excepting redistricting and reapportionment of districts.

After a quick budget overview, Owings then took questions from the class. When asked about why he wanted to become governor, Owings said that while he liked Governor O’Malley on a personal level, he was worried about some of the policies that O’Malley had enacted. Owings was especially worried about Maryland jobs, and criticized O’Malley for looking to bring in workers from outside the state. He also proposed the consolidation of government agencies and criticized the governor for taking “already inflated salaries…and increas[ing] them by some $6,000.” He positioned himself as a more conservative option within the Democratic party, and his Web site advocates fiscal responsibility and a return to center-right positions.

Still, Owings said, “I am a Democrat.”

“The Democratic tent is so big, all are welcome underneath,” he said. He distinguished himself from Republicans by adding, “The Republican party was always for big business. I still represent the working people.”

Owings also provided his positions on a variety of issues when asked by the students.

For example, Owings said that he is a supporter of oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay, but he disliked the way in which the restoration would be implemented under the current administration. He said, “Before you do it, shouldn’t you let the watermen know?…They read it in the paper.”

When it came to Owings’ economic solutions for the state of Maryland, he said that raising taxes and cutting spending were not either-or propositions.

“You cannot just cut a budget and make things work,” Owings said. “You have to have a combination of both…You have to raise taxes.” Maryland law requires that the state balance its budget every year; Owings said that as a lawmaker, “you might not like it, but if [the budget]’s balanced, you vote for it.”

Owings also said that he has “always been a supporter of slots,” and saw firsthand the revenue that they could generate when he lived in North Beach in Calvert County. He also said that while he supported slots, common sense had to be used in their placement. Slots in the inner harbor in Baltimore would be a “terrible idea,” but in areas like Laurel, and Pimlico with its racetrack, slots could bring in revenue and also help the horse-racing industry.

When asked about social issues, Owings expressed conservative points of view. Regarding same-sex marriage, he said, “A marriage is between a man and a woman. That is the law in this state,” however, he is a supporter of domestic partnerships, both for people like his brother, who needs medical help that domestic partnerships can allow a healthy partner to provide, but also for loving same-sex couples looking for the closest alternative to marriage.

On abortion, Owings said that he has “come down on the pro-life side” on budget issues regarding abortion funding. Although he supports Roe v. Wade as law, he said, “Personally, I’m a pro-life believer.”

On education, Owings said that “you are entitled in this state and in this country to a free education,” referring to levels K-12, and pointed to the “historic levels” of K-12 funding by the state of Maryland under Governors Glendening and Ehrlich. He said that he “supported charter schools under Glendening, under Ehrlich.” He also supports community colleges, having attended Prince George Community College. In addition, he believes that the No Child Left Behind Act has failed, saying that “When you teach to a test, you’re not teaching basics.”

Political science professor and Director of Public Policy Studies Todd Eberly, who teaches the Maryland State and Community Politics Class, was pleased with the way the talk went.

“He was enthusiastic and engaged and willing to take any question,” Eberly said. “And he was willing to express his opinions, not gloss over them like many who seek public office.”

Eberly added that the fact that Owings is a “Blue Dog Democrat” added to the experience for students.

“Conservative Democrats were crucial to the Democratic party becoming the majority party during the New Deal up through the Johnson administration,” Eberly said. “If the Democratic party wants to maintain its control of Congress, the White House, and the majority of our State Houses, it needs to find a way to balance the demands of liberal, moderate, and even conservative voices within its coalition.”

Eberly added that Governor Martin O’Malley was also invited to speak at the College, but his office declined the invitation but will be sending Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough in O’Malley’s place later in the semester.

Chris Rodkey, a senior in the class, described Owings as “a fiery candidate who definitely has the potential to stir things up in the Democratic primary.”

“He energized me to follow the upcoming campaign and make an informed decision when I vote,” he added.

The Maryland Democratic gubernatorial primary will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010. More information about George Owings III can be found on his Web site, .