The State Houses – What’s At Stake in 2010

Thirty-nine states will be electing a governor during the 2009-2010 election cycle. Of these, eighteen races will not include an incumbent and four incumbents who will be running were not elected to their current position. The recession and huge budget deficits threaten to undercut the power of incumbency for governors running for reelection.

The Current Line-Up

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Jun
29

MD: When the Trains Don’t Run on Time

By · Jun, 29 2010

Local politicos often get the blame when basic government services get disrupted, even if they have little or no control over the circumstances that led to the failure. Mayoral and gubernatorial elections can turn on these ‘quality of life concerns.’ A failure to quickly and efficiently remove snow, collect the garbage or make commuter trains run on time can end a political career.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley knows this and senses a potential political headache growing because of declining service on the MARC commuter trains serving Baltimore and DC workers, who have been plagued by extensive delays in recent weeks.

To show he “feels” commuter pain, O’Malley boarded a train to apologize face-to-face with commuters who were stranded for more than two hours early last week in 100-degree temperatures.

Riders on Thursday complained to O’Malley about the heat on the train on Monday, the dearth of restrooms and a lack of water. Some said they were told if they got off the train they would not be allowed to get back on.

O’Malley has received a letter of apology from the head of Amtrak, which provides train crews and maintenance to the Maryland Transit Administration under a $40 million annual contract. Amtrak also owns the tracks where Monday’s incident occurred.

“There were people so concerned and so focused on figuring out a piece of the mechanical puzzle that they lost sight of the customers,” O’Malley said.

“My goal is to let the citizens know that this kind of service failure is unacceptable. There will be mechanical breakdowns from time to time, but we want to do a better job of starting communication between the command center in Philadelphia (and the operators).”

Bob Ehrlich’s campaign seized upon the incident as a political opportunity. If anyone from the governor’s office had bothered to attend MARC’s advisory council meetings  O’Malley would’ve been aware of riders’ concerns about declining service, overcrowded trains and limited parking, the Erhlich team argued.

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