Sandra Olivetti Martin
The Odd Chance
In 2002, a Maryland dark horse named Magic Weisner came within a half-length of stealing the Preakness Stakes from front runner War Emblem. Local small-scale trainer Nancy Alberts believed in Magic, who she named for the vet who saved the magically resilient foal’s life. That horse could run.
Cheering with the rest of Maryland, I followed the story to Laurel Racetrack, where I interviewed Alberts and Magic.
Odd chance has been again exerting its fascination this week, with the selection of Laura Neuman as Anne Arundel County Executive. Just as Magic inspired admiration beyond Maryland, her dark-horse victory has the attention of a wide pool of politics watchers.
The back story — former executive John Leopold’s News of the Weird-worthy crime and punishment — is entering the specialized legendry of politicians gone wrong. As a foil, it makes the ascendancy of this bright blonde from out of town a brighter, odder chance.
There’s a certain logic to Neuman’s selection on the Anne Arundel County Council’s fourth round of voting.
That the new executive is a blonde adds a neat allusion to Leopold’s rumored preference for blondes.
Not that the Councilmen had a wide field of brunettes, redheads and ebony-tressed choices. Both women in the 16-person field are blondes — the other being Kendel Ehrlich, Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s wife and Maryland’s first lady from 2003 through 2007. Familiarity may be why Ehrlich is not Anne Arundel’s county executive, simply because the former prosecutor and her husband are well defined by what they’ve done and said — in Government House and as outspoken radio hosts on WBAL radio.
Blonde or not, Laura Neuman was a dark horse. Her employment as CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority showed management experience. It also kept her a county away. That’s as good as unscathed by the politics of Anne Arundel’s recent past and anticipated future.
Among the 14 men who threw their hats into the pool, most had hopes or a record. From perennial county executive candidate Tom Angelis to hopeful future county executive Steve Schuh to acting county executive and former county CEO John Hammond, many would-be’s were part of another story. In other cases, the story was desire to hold office — any office. In still other cases, there was no story and no experience.
Not that a dark horse needs experience on the field of sudden victory. Especially when the field is politics. Cinderella stories aside, Magic Weisner would not have galloped to fame the first race he stepped hoof on track. But in politics, lack of experience triumphs all the time, both in the voting booth and at the replacement table.
To wit: Back in 2004, Calvert County Democrats voted to replace retiring political old-timer George Owings, then a delegate to the House of Representatives with Sue Kullen, a political neophyte. (Kullen, incidentally, is blonde.)
For further proof, look no further than the Anne Arundel County Council. All seven of its members held no political office before they were elected or, in Pete Smith’s case, appointed, to the Council.
Calvert County’s Board of Commissioners is much the same, adding depth of community involvement.
(John Leopold, on the other hand, was a two-state veteran at running for and wining political office.)
What’s the take away, beyond the fact that citizen government flourishes in Chesapeake Country?
My take is that odd chance is a force to be reckoned with in politics, horse races and life. You can’t count on coming out a winner when you put yourself out in the world. But maybe is a real and thrilling possibility.
Stay home, on the other hand, and fortune has to look harder to find you.
Laura Neuman put herself out there. Odd chance favored her. Now we can all hope she does well for us.
Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher
Read the fascinating story of Magic Weisner at bayweekly.com/old-site/year02/issueX22/leadX22.html. The fleet gelding never got to try his speed in the Belmont Stakes. In the stables before the big race, he was an early victim of West Nile virus. He recovered, but never regained the speed of champions.