HAVRE de GRACE, Md. (AP) -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 (ryns PREE'-bus), 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 announced his candidacy last month. On Monday, Brown also picked up the endorsement of Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings.
"Anthony Brown and Ken Ulman are the best team to build on our successes and make Maryland a better place for all of our families,'' Cummings said in a written statement.
Attorney General Doug Gansler, a former Montgomery County state's attorney who reported more than $5 million in campaign funds in January, and Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, are planning to run in the Democratic primary. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a former Baltimore County executive, also is considering a bid.
O'Malley is supporting Brown. More Republicans also are expected to enter the race.
Delegate Ron George, R-Anne Arundel, has scheduled a formal announcement for Wednesday in Annapolis.
Brian Vaeth, a retired firefighter from Baltimore County, already has filed to run.
Blaine Young, president of the Board of County Commissioners in Frederick County, may seek the GOP nomination. Larry Hogan, who was a member of Ehrlich's cabinet, has been mentioned as a possible candidate.
However, in a telephone interview Monday, he said that while he hasn't ruled out running, he is focusing now on speaking out against O'Malley's policies.
Charles Lollar, who lost a race against U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer in 2010, is considering a bid. Another potential candidate is Meyer Marks, a political activist from Montgomery County.
Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who lost his race last year against Cardin, had been considering a run for governor, but he has decided to run for Congress instead.