Howard County Executive Ulman a Possible Gubernatorial Contender in 2014

Ulman, a 38-year-old Howard County native, is the youngest contender in the hypothetical gubernatorial race.


Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS - Howard County Executive Ken Ulman attended the Democratic National Convention last month for the fourth time in his career, and the second time as a delegate.

While the convention's purpose was to re-elect President Barack Obama, Maryland Democrats spent a lot of time talking about another important upcoming race - the one to replace term-limited Martin O'Malley as governor. Ulman's was one of four names swirling around the rumor mill of potential Democratic candidates in the 2014 race.

"I've heard the rumors and I'm doing nothing to dissuade them," Ulman said. "I'm honored that people mention my name ... to me it means that people think we've done a good job in Howard County."

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was one of the delegates who noticed the discussion.

"The past couple of days it seems like the campaign for 2014 has already started," Kamenetz said, at the convention in Charlotte.

Ulman said the convention provided a great opportunity to network with some of the other state officials he normally wouldn't interact with.

"It has been great to spend more time with my colleagues from Maryland ... getting to know folks better," Ulman said.

Ulman, a 38-year-old Howard County native, is the youngest contender in the hypothetical gubernatorial race. He began his political career in 1994 with an internship in the Clinton White House, and then worked for former Gov. Parris Glendening in 1997.

"That really started this political odyssey for me," Ulman said.

In 2002, he ran for a seat on the Howard County Council at age 28 and won. Four years later, Ulman ran for county executive, won and was re-elected in 2010.

But Todd Eberly, professor of political science at St. Mary's College of Maryland, questions whether Ulman may be out of his league when competing with big-name candidates like Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown or Attorney General Doug Gansler.

"He's young, he's a very dynamic and fresh-faced person who I think has a decent amount of appeal along that I-95 corridor," Eberly said. "But I wonder if he's going to be the one who's facing the greatest amount of pressure saying 'You know what, it's not your time yet, it's too soon'?"

Eberly thinks that because all the other candidates are older, more seasoned veterans of the political system, Ulman might get pushed out of the race early.

Blair Lee, a political columnist for The Gazette newspapers, agrees with Eberly and said the only reason Ulman is aiming for the governor's seat is because he is unable to keep his current seat as county executive.

"I think in the end Ulman is not going to run for governor," Lee said. "If he was not term limited, he would be running for county executive again."

But Ulman is confident his rich family history within the state will be an asset that will draw voters to him. He is proud to be a former Terp and a Baltimore Ravens fan.

"I am a product of the region. I am a product of Maryland," Ulman said.

Besides Ulman, Brown, Gansler and Comptroller Peter Franchot are often mentioned as potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

In an August press release, O'Malley tacitly endorsed Brown.

"...I urge Anthony to continue his public service and pursue the greatest level of public responsibility," O'Malley said, in the statement. "More than any other public official, Anthony Brown has my complete trust in his ability to serve the best interests of Maryland."

Lee said Ulman will be at a disadvantage against some of the other big-name candidates.

Ulman comes from a, "fairly small county ... that doesn't have a whole lot of votes," Lee said. "(Ulman) doesn't have a whole lot of statewide name recognition."

In addition to Howard being one of the smaller counties, Lee said that because both Gansler and Franchot are white and from Montgomery County, Brown will have an edge because he is the only black candidate and the only candidate from Prince George's County.

"If you have two white guys from Montgomery and one African-American from Prince George's ... it really increases the odds of the single African-American winning," Lee said.

Lee said there is, "tremendous pressure ... to elect an African-American to statewide office," in Maryland, a state with a large African-American population.

"How long can white Democrats say to African-Americans, 'It's not your turn yet,'" Lee said. "Anthony Brown may be the tipping point."

Ulman remains confident.

While he commends the work of the other potential candidates, Ulman is sure that his position as county executive provides him with the right tools to succeed at the state level.

Since he began as county executive, Ulman has headed several projects designed to better Howard County. The two biggest are "Healthy Howard," a wellness initiative encouraging healthy behavior in schools, restaurants, workplaces and recreation and faith communities, and a broadband expansion that will connect all statewide public agencies on one elaborate network.

Ulman said his success with these programs and in his current role will surge him to the forefront of the race in 2014.

"I am the only person I know of (among the potential contenders) who has governed, who has balanced budgets and managed complex agencies and created complex solutions to problems," he said.

He is confident that neither his age nor his experience level will do anything to hinder his chances at a gubernatorial win.

"I never do anything to lose. I haven't lost an election, yet. I'm a pretty competitive guy," he said.

This is one of five stories on potential gubernatorial candidates in Maryland.

Polly October 22, 2012 at 11:11 AM
I like Doug Gansler. Ulman is dreaming.
Candace October 22, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Let the games begin.
Greg G. October 22, 2012 at 12:10 PM
I will never vote for Ulman or any of his buddies again and I am a Democrat. He sold out to all the "Over"- developers in Howard County. Columbia was supposed to be preserved from this kind of thing. What makes it even worse is that they did nothing to properly support the infra-structure such as an increased police department. You can see the results immediately from the increased violence in the crimes of HoCo. They like to use all sorts of cute euphemisms but a mugging is a mugging. It used to be you watched your back in Anne Arundel. Now you cant go to Columbia mall without a flak jacket.
Dan Jenkins October 22, 2012 at 01:00 PM
In his role as County Executive Ken Ulman made an executive decision -- without going through the County Council and without soliciting input from the broader community -- to drastically change the parking situation in the historic district of Ellicott City by installing meters on Main Street. When 50 of the 60 or so business on Main Street signed a petition asking the meters not to be installed, the issue was put to a vote by the Council, who voted for the meters 4-1 in an baseless act of blind party allegiance -- or was it that the money had already been spent? The new parking plan will send hundreds of thousands of dollars to a company in California while cutting the wages of Howard County parking enforcement employees. The majority of the expected revenue will not return to Main Street businesses, and will be generated by parking tickets, not by meter fees. Thus, local businesses will be harmed thrice -- first, the meters will be an additional barrier between customers and shopping, second, meter money will not return to the community, and third, many ticketed individuals will not likely return. Note, too, that despite public outcry there is still no plan in place for Main Street residents. Neither Ulman's administration nor the Council have yet approved of parking permits for residents, despite the fact that this is standard practice in such mixed-use areas elsewhere in the region. This is how Ulman has behaved as County Executive. What he would do as Governor?
Dan Jenkins October 22, 2012 at 01:10 PM
I like Gansler, too. Gansler doesn't just pay lip service to Democratic values. He was the first to suggest that Maryland recognize gay marriages and civil unions from other states. When the NRA lobby made moves to weaken Maryland gun-control laws, he stepped up in defense of the idea that Marylanders should have a compelling reason to carry a concealed firearm (the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the Woollard case this Wednesday!). Gansler IS the man. But my like for him doesn't nearly rival my distrust of Ken Ulman.
MG42 October 22, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Eh, it's pretty hard to screw up Howard County, but I wouldn't say that Ulman has done a great job. There has been an unsolved murder (Halloween shooting in 2009) that occured on his watch. Addionally, the Healthy Howard Access Plan that he and Beilenson started was a giant waste of tax dollars just to get Ulman's name on the national stage. The broadband initiative was really just a giant federal government bailout, and not one that has made any noticable difference to anyone despite costing over $100 million.
Brook Hubbard October 22, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I was with you until you mentioned "weakening" gun laws. Anyone who believes that Maryland's requirement of a "good and substantial reason", as judged by a singular State employee, is proper gun control not only doesn't understand the issue but also doesn't understand Constitutional Rights. That being said, I would still prefer Gansler over Ulman... but I would like someone who understands rights for ~all~. LGBT rights are no more or less covered by the Constitution than Gun Owner rights.
Greg G. October 23, 2012 at 01:53 AM
I'm with Dan. Ulman has utter disregard for the community and caters to the money that will later on line his coffers. I had the displeasure of sitting at a "Town Meeting" with Calvin B. present concerning something as simple as speed bumps after multiple children had been injured by speeding cars. Their authority on streets was trying to argue that there was ample length for cars to stop. I had to point out that their math was faulty and was the result of a perfect lab study. The point is they were trying to cut costs based on faulty information that put children's life at risk. Ken Ulman and his group constantly make decisions based on "Balancing" the budget in their favor and not the public. If he does this on a state wide basis we will be in serious trouble.
anon October 23, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Ulman said: "I'm honored that people mention my name ... to me it means that people think we've done a good job in Howard County." Ulman has obviously not been listening very carefully to the context in which his name is being mentioned. Greg G - You are totally on point again.
George Young October 25, 2012 at 06:30 PM
I just wish they would come up with a good Candidates for Governor for a change. So far I don't see much in that respect.
anonomous November 01, 2012 at 11:33 PM
YUP Ulman sold us all out.. he will never get my vote.. I have seen him so much harm to howard county as he went back on his word to so many.. ad just supported the people the big bucks.. we dont need a traitor..
anonomous November 01, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Julie Baughman, You really are a bigot.. its a shame that you are aloud to even write for any publication.. geez.. whats wrong with you..
Polly November 02, 2012 at 09:52 AM
do you realize she was quoting Blair Lee? those weren't her comments. smh
Don Oliver November 03, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Forced Mower Works to close... Taxes up in a declining housing value market... and now his Water Sept is threatening to turn off water services simply for failing to call and make an appt to replace water meter transmitters within two weeks. I can't print the words I have for that man.
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