A couple days ago a letter came out, signed by 20 of the 24 State’s Attorneys in Maryland, that defended Frank Kratovil from the charges Andy Harris leveled about his conduct as Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney. Among the signatories of the letter from the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association was Wicomico County’s Davis Ruark, who took the additional step of endorsing Frank Kratovil – Ruark’s first endorsement for political office in his career. (The letter itself was only to defend Frank and was not intended as an endorsement.)
While I know Davis to some extent and would consider him a friend, I think he’s in the wrong here. To me he’s allowing professional courtesy to stand in the way of an question which does need to be resolved. I’ve not seen this as a question of being “soft on crime” as the MSAA letter suggests, but more of a question of judgment.
When Frank Kratovil went into this race, he had to assume that his record as a prosecutor would be fair game, just as his side has pored through every vote Andy Harris has made in the State Senate to find ones which could be shown to be politically unpopular. Obviously some cases Kratovil’s office pursued were going to stick out as ones which weren’t resolved in a manner that served the public as well as they could have. However, the appearance of impropriety comes when contributors to Frank’s campaign have cases plea-bargained down to greatly reduced punishments for the perpetrator.
My question is whether it would not been more proper for Frank to refuse or return the contributions from those who practice on the other side of the courtroom in Queen Anne’s County, simply to avoid any of the smell or accusation? It’s a very small percentage of the contributions he’s received, so the coffers wouldn’t be drained all that much. Instead, he’s kept every penny insofar as I know and certain cases which involved those defense attorneys have been pled down. Perhaps it was to get a bigger fish, but once again the trouble could have been saved had Frank Kratovil placed his campaign coffers off-limits to those he could reasonably ascertain would be opposing him in court. This would be a non-issue.
Having said that, though, I’d like to bring up another point I touched on last night.
One of the major controversies in this months-long slog of a campaign has been whether Frank Kratovil said “solve” or “solved” during an appearance at Salisbury University back in October, referring to whether the bailout fixed our economic problems. At first, the Daily Times wrote it as “solved,” only retracting after Harris came out with a commercial quoting the original Daily Times article. (There is dispute whether the Daily Times either corrected or retracted the original article, part of the confusion may be from a follow-up story. So I’ll rescind the original statement as shown; however the point remains that the “solve” controversy has obscured what my next paragraph leads to.)
What’s being missed though are all the other things that Frank is on record saying from his own website, radio interviews, and other sources, but then later changing his tune to suit the audience. We’ve seen him shift on a number of issues like offshore drilling and health care, drop the endorsement of him by Governor O’Malley like Martin was a bad habit, and tone down his left-wing rhetoric from the primary – such as his call for fighting global warming with the “same effort as going to the moon” or reconciling his current energy plan with his thought that Americans “waste a lot” from that same forum cited previously.
While Frank attempted to paint Andy Harris as a “finger in the wind” politician, the game plan for Frank is and has been that “what people wanna do is say what people want to hear.”
Let’s put aside the claims and counterclaims. I can tell you that I’ve met both candidates, at least briefly, and neither is the ogre the other makes them out to be. Frank Kratovil seems like a decent enough guy, but I believe he’s completely and utterly wrong on the majority of the issues. I can also tell you that there’s something wrong with our system of government when even a campaign that involves being one of 435 members in a body (which means one vote’s not going to make much of a difference 98% of the time) makes me cringe at the depth it’s descended to on both sides. I guess absolute power, or even the quest for the little bit involved here, does corrupt absolutely.
Despite all that, the decision needs to be made on what the First District thinks will be the voting pattern of each candidate. From the beginning, I’ve seen this as a race between a person who will vote in a conservative, prudent manner and has been proven to do so for ten years in the Maryland State Senate (even against a Governor of his own party at times) against a person who may or may not do so depending on how much intestinal fortitude he has to stay “independent” when his party has bankrolled his campaign to the tune of nearly $2 million and other special interests have chipped in six figures as well. Frank Kratovil could begin in the middle like Wayne Gilchrest finished, but the trend among all but the most conservative members of Congress is to drift leftward as the years in Washington go by. Do we want to take a chance on an entrenched Ted Kennedy-type representing us in 10 or 12 years? And if Barack Obama wins the White House, do we want someone to embrace his change toward socialism or fight it tooth and nail?
These are the questions voters who haven’t already cast their ballot need to ask themselves.