Political Ambition: Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen

How unseemly is it that any politician would entertain the notion of abandoning a seat in Congress after only one year of service to run for governor of Maryland? Hopefully, Rep. John Delaney has put that bad idea to rest. Two of the three Democratic candidates for governor are from Montgomery County as it is, and another Montgomery entrant would do nothing but fragment the county’s vote.

But you never know for sure what’s in someone’s mind until the candidate filing deadline, which is Feb. 25. 

It makes me wonder just how committed Delaney is to representing Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District, after spending freely to win the seat. Apparently he’s just beginning to understand how different Maryland looks, once you drive over South Mountain and approach Hagerstown and points west.

It’s unfortunate that self-financed candidates assume they can buy any political office, anywhere. The words “ambition” and “opportunistic” come to mind. A few recent examples:

CEO Carley Fiorena was a high-profile corporate leader at Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005. Despite a previously spotty record as a voter, she developed a new interest in politics after leaving Hewlett-Packard. Propelled by business fame and money, she ran for U.S. Senate against Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010. Fortunately, Sen. Boxer prevailed.

Scott Brown was an obscure but photogenic Republican member of the mostly Democratic Massachusetts legislature. Following the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, Brown had the funds to win the vacant U.S. Senate seat in 2010. His brief time in the national spotlight ended three years later when he was defeated by Elizabeth Warren.

Now Brown turns up with a house in neighboring New Hampshire. His name recognition and ability to finance a campaign lead to speculation that he’s considering a Senate bid in N.H., which would be more friendly territory for a Republican than Massachusetts.

And then there’s Alex Mooney, former Republican state senator from Frederick County and former chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. I doubt he has anywhere near the deep pockets of the others mentioned above. But he exhibits the same kind of opportunistic ambition. He recently moved across the Potomac River to run for Congress in West Virginia.

By contrast, a less ambitious and more workmanlike public servant, like Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, weighed the possibility of running for Maryland governor, but turned his back on the siren call of ambition.

Ruppersberger has significantly deeper experience than any of the three declared Democratic candidates for governor, and he would have been a formidable contender, but he followed his own lights and decided to continue his work in Congress.

— John Hayden

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