Archive for May, 2013

Say it ain’t so Ken: Why Brown-Ulman just may not be “the ticket”

May 31, 2013


I was sad to see the announcement in the Baltimore Sun this morning that Howard County Executive Ken Ulman had decided to accept the lieutenant governor’s slot on Anthony Brown’s ticket since I believe Ulman has a much better chance at winning the race for governor.

Despite Brown’s closeness to the current governor, (without some kind of miraculous “remake”)  his lack of a body of work recognizable statewide by African Americans, and a more cordial “quantifiable” relationship across all economic levels in Black communities statewide, he is opening the door for Montgomery County’s David Craig. The truth of the matter is, Ulman has greater immediate rapport, comes across as a much warmer person even when you meet him for the first time, and a record of service and access that will work “virally” in his favor.

Brown despite his intellect, bright smile and exuberance has yet to emerge beyond Governor O’Malley’s shadow, or the shadow of the “800 lb. gorilla” that enters every room with the governor particularly in Baltimore, and across Maryland; That “800 lb. gorilla” being the perceived negative impact of his elections as mayor of Baltimore, and Governor of Maryland on the lives of African American men.

What the governor’s “people” have failed to either share with him or address is the perception that there has been a systematic removal of “strong, articulate, unbiased and un-bought” African American male voices from positions of power, or visibility in both of O’Malley’s mayoral and gubernatorial offices, and thus from African American communities in Baltimore and across the state of Maryland. This many believe has created the “climate of consent” for increased domestic violence in particular, an increase of gang activity on the streets, and the erosion of Black male role models to intercede in their own homes and communities.

Add to this the continued decline of financial support for Community Base Organizations (CBOs), in Baltimore, the loss of Community Development Block Grant Funds, high unemployment among Black males in particular in Baltimore and across the state of Maryland, and the fact that O’Malley’s record will be parsed and scrutinized more given his political aspirations for 2016. All of the above has the potential to encumber Brown, as he spends more time in the “public eye”. His closeness to O’Malley and the collateral value of it is yet to be quantified.

Ulman has enjoyed a great ride as Howard County Executive, as a native son of the county he has legions of volunteers who will work for him, and an excellent record of fiscal responsibility, constituency response, an “out of the box” approach to healthcare, lowering unemployment rates, and  a county with a relatively low crime rate. However, it is not loss on anyone that several of O’Malley’s key people (Enright, Beilenson, etc.) became key players on Ulman’s staff in Howard County. If he is perceived to be a “game saver” for O’Malley’s legacy and a “gatekeeper” for Brown his luster will fade in eight years.

The assumption is that Brown will be a “shoe in” just because he’s the governor’s choice, is a Democrat, is Black, an attorney, served in the Iraq war, was “given” responsibility by Governor O’Malley to work on several issues such as education, healthcare reform, and veteran related affairs; and Democrats outnumber Republicans in Maryland by almost three to one.

The problem remains that he is most known for standing (“at attention”) behind the governor.  “Brothers” and “sisters” may know the face, but they don’t know “the man”.

Ulman has had the opportunity to be closer to all facets of the African American community in Howard County, and he has seized it; his rapport with other county executives is well known, as is his efficiency as a manager of his constituent’s assets and “trust”. While many know little other than the fact that he is Howard County Executive his “viral street cred” is the “buzz” statewide. You can’t do “GOOD” and get away with it.

By the time the filing deadline to run for governor comes around there will no doubt be several other “hats in the ring”.  While a Brown-Ulman ticket might seem like a stroke of political genius almost two years out, should it become framed as a ploy to leave the O’Malley mark on politics in Maryland, and model in place for 24 years there could be a problem.

Many Howard Countians (myself included) had expected Ulman to run for governor, not lieutenant governor, now that he has taken a “back seat” to Brown many of us have gone from a “sure thing”, back to our political shopping list. This does not mean “Brown-Ulman” isn’t on the list; just that neither name may not be at the top of it by election time.