Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown announced his running mate, and a Republican rival announced his candidacy in Maryland's gubernatorial race on Monday -- both more than a year before primary voters will cast their votes.
Brown named Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as his prospective lieutenant governor in Columbia on Monday morning. Ulman became the youngest county executive in Maryland history at 36 in 2006.
Republican Harford County Executive David Craig kicked off a three-day statewide tour by announcing his candidacy in his hometown of Havre de Grace on Monday. In his announcement, he took shots at Gov. Martin O'Malley -- who is considering a 2016 run for president -- distancing himself from the governor's liberal agenda and high visibility on the national stage.
"We have lost focus," Craig said in a news release. "Politicians of late seem to be more like rock stars and celebrities. The best leaders do not seek fame on a stage, they advance ideas that fit the times in which we live."
The announcements come almost 13 months before Marylanders will choose candidates in the June 24, 2014 primary, and a full 17 months before a new governor is elected.
Longtime Maryland observer and political guru Don Norris -- who heads the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County -- said political maneuvers have caused candidates to start campaigning so early in the election cycle.
Democrats moved the primary election date from September 2014 to June 2014, requiring candidates to start campaigning earlier. Additionally, a ban on fundraising during the 90-day regular session of the General Assembly lasting from January 2014 to early April of 2014 gives candidates an incentive to get a jump on raising cash, he said.
Norris said it was smart of Brown to announce in early May and choose Ulman as his running mate. Both are popular, smart candidates who will be able to raise a lot of money quickly, which will discourage others from entering the race, he said.
Craig also has solid bona fides to run on, Norris said. Craig served in the Maryland General Assembly from 1990 to 1999, and then as Harford County executive since 2005. Though Craig's credentials may not be enough to help him win.
"Here's the Don Norris rule, it's something I've been saying for years," Norris said. "A good Democratic candidate running a good campaign beats a good Republican candidate running a good campaign every time. That's because the numbers in Maryland so favor Democrats. But anything can happen."