Maryland History in Politics: Governor Theodore McKeldin interviewed on Longines Chronoscope in 1951

Maryland History in Politics: Governor Theodore McKeldin interviewed on Longines Chronoscope in 1951

Maryland Governor Theodore McKeldin is interviewed by Henry Hazlitt and Karl Hess in his first year in office. Gov. McKeldin explains how he was able to cut $7 million from the state budget, balance the budget and have Maryland be only one of two states to not raise taxes.

From Maryland Archives:

Maryland Gov. Theodore McKeldin

“In 1946, McKeldin was for a second time his party’s choice to become Governor of Maryland. As in 1942, he lost again, being defeated by William Preston Lane, Jr., by approximately 47,000 votes, though Maryland did not follow the national lead in switching to Republican leadership for the first time in sixteen years.

“When his first term as Mayor had ended in May of 1947, McKeldin did not seek re-election. Instead, he returned to his law practice, continued his speaking engagements, and prepared for the 1950 gubernatorial election. The year 1950 was one of the Republican successes both in Maryland and throughout the nation. In Maryland, the Democrats had engaged in a bruising party primary in which Governor Lane failed to receive a popular majority, even though he had defeated his challenger, George P. Mahoney, in the unit vote. The Democrats were unable to hind up their wounds. McKeldin waged an aggressive campaign against Governor Lane, capitalizing on the unpopular sales tax with its slogan ‘pennies for Lane.’ Nationally the Democrats were in trouble because of the unpopular Korean War, the issue of communists in the federal govern- [p. 287] ment, and the party’s long tenure in office. All these national issues affected the conduct of the campaign in Maryland. On November 7, 1950, McKeldin defeated Lane by over 93,000 votes, one of the largest majorities any Governor had received up to that time. The Sun described his victory as ‘a personal one to an unusual degree.’1 The paper attributed Lane’s defeat primarily to the sales tax ‘because it is so ubiquitous; people are reminded of it every day and do not necessarily see—perhaps they do not want to see—the connection between the tax and the benefits received.’2

“McKeldin took office on January 10, 1951, pledging his administration to a program of cost-cutting and ridding the State of what he termed ‘wasteful undertakings.’3 He also called for a closer examination of the expansionist plans of the Princess Anne branch of the University of Maryland, and a firmer control over the finances of the University of Maryland. He insisted on a review of Governor Lane’s road-building program and a reorganization of the State government, together with a civilian defense program, new school construction and the improvement of institutions for the mentally defective, the tuberculous and the mentally ill.

“During his two terms, the State made significant advances in many fields. In 1953 he presented his Twelve-Year Program by which Maryland’s highways were to be modernized by 1965. This program also recommended the control of access on new roads, on bypasses around cities and towns, and a study of new toll roads. He also visualized the John Hanson Highway between Washington and Annapolis, the leveling of hazardous mountain roads, the building of beltways around Washington and Baltimore, a tunnel under the Patapsco River and the improvement and dualization of roads in the two metropolitan areas. He financed the program by new bond issues, an increase in the gasoline tax, and an increase in the motor vehicle registration fees. When he left office, many of these projects were a reality, or were well underway, so that for the first time in many years, Maryland had one of the best highway systems in the nation.

“During his first administration, Governor McKeldin appointed the Commission on Administration Organization headed by Simon E. Sobeloff, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, to examine the State’s administrative structure and procedures and to make recommendations to increase its economy and efficiency. The Commission submitted a series of reports which recommended the overhaul of the State’s antiquated budget system. more home rule to incorporated municipalities and the improvement of local government financial reports to the State. The Legislature subsequently enacted most of the Commission’s proposals.

“Governor McKeldin made other significant accomplishments during his first term. He began the construction of the new State Office Buildings both in Baltimore and Annapolis. He expanded the State system of hospitals, inaugurated advanced methods of treatment for mental illness, tuberculosis, and other chronic ailments and established new clinics for alcoholics.

[p. 288] “During his first term, Governor McKeldin received nationwide fame, when at the Republican National Convention held in Chicago in 1952, he delivered the address placing in nomination the name of Dwight D. Eisenhower for President of the United States. Previous to the convention, McKeldin had to quell an attempted party revolt to make sure that General Eisenhower received the bulk of the State’s votes, even though a majority of the delegation favored Senator Robert A. Taft for the nomination. Because of that speech, McKeldin was considered for the vice presidency, but in the end, Senator Richard M. Nixon of California received it.

“In 1954, McKeldin declared his intentions of seeking a second term, which no Republican had been able to win up to that time. In addition, because McKeldin represented a minority party, he had to get along well with the opposition party and to overcome an overwhelmingly Democratic voter registration majority. McKeldin qualified on all these points, even though he had to face the same problems as his Republican predecessors.  MORE

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