“It’s going to be smoother in places like Maryland where governors are working to implement it rather than fight it. (Applause.)” — President Barack Obama, Sept. 26, 2013
Again, I remind you, Maryland was among the most prepared states in the union for Obamcare.
Now, Maryland is having a gubernatorial race to replace Gov. Martin O’Malley, who put his state all in for Obamacare as soon as it passed in hopes of parlaying the law’s success into fuel for his presidential aspirations. The Democratic Party in this (nearly) one-party state is holding a gubernatorial primary, which features O’Malley’s lieutenant governor, who oversaw (and I use the word lightly) the Maryland exchange build, that attorney general who got caught on Instagram partying with high-schoolers, and State Delegate Heather Mizeur who has yet to distinguish herself with a screw-up warranting national news coverage. How does she expect to get her name recognition up?
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown declined to apologize for the exchange’s failed launch, and the state has opted to keep running its own exchange instead of sending Marylanders to HealthCare.gov.
Douglas Gansler, the Instagram keg-party guy, is now hitting Brown on the decision not to use the federal site (Politico Pro $):
Gansler has been attacking his Democratic rival Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown over his role in the state’s implementation.
“The Affordable Care Act was a great accomplishment, and Maryland should have led the way in implementing President [Barack] Obama’s legacy legislation,” Gansler said in a statement. “But in the nearly four months since the website launched, most Marylanders still are unable to use it to buy insurance.”
“It’s unfortunate that we have yet to hear any viable solutions proposed by Lt. Governor Brown to help uninsured Marylanders who can’t purchase coverage because of the broken website,” said Gansler’s running mate, Jolene Ivey. “We’re waiting for an explanation from him about how he spent $170 million in taxpayer dollars on a broken website,” said Ivey.
Four months into this debacle, Gansler is betting even a deep-blue electorate’s patience is running out:
Now, as O’Malley and his appointees have scrambled to get the state exchange back on track, Gansler has laced into Brown over the performance of the state exchange, arguing that it has “failed miserably” and given “fodder for Republicans” who want to scrap the ACA altogether. Having spent months mocking Brown as an empty suit, Gansler points to the health care mess as a case in point.
“Brown and others were so boastful about Maryland leading the country, [but] here we are behind such states as Nevada and Kentucky, let alone California and states like that,” Gansler said, emphasizing that while he is a supporter of the president and the ACA: “I think it’s certainly appropriate for Democrats to question what has gone on in individual states regarding people’s ability to enroll in an exchange.”
In some respects, the Maryland race is a unique one: No other state on the 2014 map features an open-seat contest for the heart of the Democratic base between two major candidates, one of whom was directly tasked with implementing a state health care exchange. For health care reform critics, Gansler is an obviously imperfect messenger, a combative politician who replaced his campaign manager last week in an effort to steady his listing bid for governor.
Even still, the success or failure of Gansler’s biting message could reveal just how frustrated — or how serenely patient — rank-and-file Democrats may be with the progress of a law that was supposed to cement a new era of activist government. There’s little chance of a competitive general election in Democratic Maryland, but success by Gansler could also presumably cheer Republicans who have put the ACA’s implementation woes front and center for their 2014 message.