Steven, Clarksville: Are [Gov.-elect Martin] O'Malley and [House Speaker Michael E.] Busch going to get slots approved in Maryland? This is really important as it will make the horse breeding industry robust and improve racing quality in Maryland.

Nitkin: Gov.-elect O'Malley is a supporter of slot-machine gambling to protect racing industry jobs, particularly those at Pimlico in Baltimore. But slots was not a major campaign issue, and I don't foresee O'Malley spending much political capital to get an authorizing bill passed. Busch continues to be personally opposed to slots, and, more importantly, leads a chamber that appears to be opposed to slots, even after the election. The bottom line is that slots approval is not likely in the next year.

Theresa, Baltimore: Many of the deputy director and secretary positions were appointed positions under Ehrlich's administration. For example, DHR Office of Community Services has so many deputy directors with only one or two employees in a unit. How does a transition team evaluate the effectiveness of keeping many of these former political appointees and/or if some of the state offices need to be dismantled or collapsed with other departments? How does a transition team work?

Nitkin: There are many lines of communication between state agencies and the O'Malley camp. Many of those close to O'Malley have a good idea of how many state agencies are functioning, and where they want to make changes. Expect nearly every secretary position -- the head of the agency -- to change quickly. After that, changes at the deputy level will take place over time. Part of how the transition team will operate will be to reach out to previous state agency managers who have kept in close contact with their former workplaces to get the ground-level intelligence of how Ehrlich appointees are operating.

Pat, Baltimore: David, a comment thread in a blog I read suggested the following: That if [Gov. Robert F.] Ehrlich [Jr.] and [Lt. Gov. Michael S.] Steele had changed the offices they ran for, the outcome might have been different. Black city and Prince George's County residents may have been comfortable voting for Steele for governor as a protest to the O'Malley term as mayor. Steele would not have gotten bogged down with many of the national issues which had little bearing on the governor's race. As for Ehrlich, many Baltimore County voters (Reagan Democrats) seemed to come home to [Sen.-elect Benjamin L.] Cardin. Ehrlich had already won running for a national office in Baltimore County, and those Reagan Dems may have been more likely to vote Republican with a candidate they were familiar with. Don't know if this is true or not, but would be interested to hear your opinions as a political observer.

Nitkin: I don't know if the outcome would have been different, but I do know this: Gov. Ehrlich seems to prefer (and function better) in the legislative branch of government; and Lt. Gov. Steele used to talk often about running for governor in 2010, in the years before Paul S. Sarbanes announced his retirement. So, sure: Ehrlich would have loved (and may still love) to be a senator, and Steele would have liked to be governor.

Steele has no natural base of support, having never been elected to office on his own, so I don't think he would have had a good shot at beating O'Malley for governor. Any strong Democrat will carry Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George's counties by wide margins. O'Malley won this year because he ran evenly with Ehrlich in Baltimore County. It's highly unlikely that Steele would have done better than Ehrlich in Baltimore County.

Ehrlich may indeed have been a strong candidate for Senate, but he would have had a hard time overcoming the national winds pushing Democrats in state after state.

Gary, New York, N.Y.: Does rail transit for Baltimore seem more likely now under an O'Malley administration? Do you think he will appoint a more transit-friendly transportation secretary?

Nitkin: The short answer is yes, rail transit for Baltimore is more likely in an O'Malley administration. I would not be surprised if the next transportation secretary is more inclined to support rail transit, but it will probably remain a low priority overall.

Steven, Fallston: Given the issues of questionable ethical actions and decisions, is Sheila Dixon really a viable candidate for mayor?

Nitkin: Based on what we know today and given that she will be mayor for nearly a year after O'Malley is sworn in, Sheila Dixon will be a viable candidate for the office during next year's election.

Ira, Owings Mills: Do [Rep. Roscoe G.] Bartlett and [Rep. Wayne T.] Gilchrest retire in disgust in 2008 now that they are in the minority? Are [Del. Patrick L.] McDonough, [Sen. Andrew P.] Harris, and [Sen.] E.J. Pipkin the frontrunners to succeed Gilchrest, and [Sen. Alex X.] Mooney the frontrunner for Bartlett?

Nitkin: I have heard no scuttlebutt yet that Bartlett and Gilchrest have plans to retire, but anything is possible in politics. The names you mention would all be viable candidates for Congress.