Western Maryland Democrats may get a preview of the 2014 gubernatorial race Saturday as the likely contenders for the party's nomination converge on the Rocky Gap resort in Allegany County.
While much of the official agenda is focused on this November's election, all of the most-mentioned hopefuls to succeed Gov. Martin O'Malley will have speaking roles at the Western Maryland Democratic Summit.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler, Comptroller Peter Franchot, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur -- all of whom have signaled an interest in a State House run -- will each get a chance to impress Democrats from one of the most heavily Republican parts of the state. Also on the program is former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, who continues to sit on a campaign war chest of more than $500,000 though he hasn't been on the ballot since 2006.
Other speakers include U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a heavy favorite for re-election this year, and 6th District congressional challenger John Delaney, who embodies Western Maryland Democrats' hopes of knocking off Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. After a redistricting that brought in a good chunk of Montgomery County, those dreams are looking realistic than in past years.
Democrats have had a rough go of it in Western Maryland in recent elections -- particularly at the county level in 2010. They can, however, point to some success in state Sen. Ronald Young's defeat of Republican incumbent Alex Mooney that year. With the help of creative mapping, they continue to hold on to delegate seats in districts centered on the cities of Frederick and Hagerstown, Meanwhile, Del. Kevin Kelly continues to defy the odds against a Democrat retaining his Allegany County seat by voting like a Republican most of the time.
There is a straw poll listed on the summit schedule, but don't get your hopes up for an early insight into the 2014 race. Robert Kresslein, chairman of the Frederick County Democratic Central Committee, said it will be limited to 2012 ballot questions.
"We're not going to put the potential gubernatorial candidates through that until next year," he said.