HAVRE de GRACE — Michael Steele, the former Maryland lieutenant governor who later had a bumpy tenure as Republican National Committee chairman before becoming a political analyst at MSNBC, said Monday he may run for governor in 2014.
Meanwhile, Harford County Executive David Craig officially announced that he is seeking the GOP nomination for the state’s top job. And Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who must still win his party’s nomination, chose Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as his running mate.
The announcements came about a year before voters from both parties will nominate candidates and about a year and a half before Maryland’s 2014 election. More hopefuls are expected to join the race from both parties and potentially create crowded primaries, which are scheduled for next June.
Asked if he was weighing a gubernatorial campaign, Steele told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Monday, “We’re looking at it.” He pointed to tax increases pushed through in recent years by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is limited to two terms.
“I think we can move the state in a different direction,” said Steele, who served as Maryland’s lieutenant governor from 2003 to 2007.
He said he plans to make a decision by the end of the year.
Steele ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2006, losing to Democrat Ben Cardin.
Steele had a troubled tenure as RNC chairman before he was successfully challenged in 2011 by Reince Priebus, who said he inherited a $24 million debt from Steele. However, Republicans did recapture the U.S. House while Steele was chairman.
Craig, who has served as Harford County executive since 2005, said he is also concerned about the tax increases and fees imposed during O’Malley’s tenure. He said he wants to give Maryland voters a choice in a state government dominated by Democrats.
“It’s not working for us,” Craig told supporters near his home in Havre de Grace. “It’s not working for our cities, our towns, our counties, our farmers, our small-business people. It has forgotten us. Meanwhile, there is a political monopoly in Annapolis, and it makes government work for itself.”
Craig, who also has served as a state senator and state delegate, told reporters after his announcement that he would like to cut the state’s 6 percent sales tax to “at least 5 percent.” He also said he would like to eliminate the estate tax. Craig said Maryland taxes are driving residents away and scaring off businesses.
Republicans in statewide Maryland races face a tough challenge, because Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin.
Steele acknowledged as much while talking about a possible run. When he ran on Republican Robert Ehrlich’s ticket in 2002, Ehrlich became the first Republican to win the governorship in Maryland since Spiro Agnew 36 years earlier.
“Maryland is a tough state,” Steele said. “There are a lot of challenges there.”
Steele was elected the state’s first black lieutenant governor that year, and a contest between him and Brown in 2014 would likely lead to the election of Maryland’s first African-American governor.
In Columbia, Brown moved swiftly to name a running mate. Ulman, who is term limited as Howard County executive, had been running for governor but decided instead to pursue the No. 2 spot under Brown, who officially an-nounced his candidacy last month.