Starting Sept. 3, Maryland voters will be able to cast their votes in the primary election for local and statewide candidates. This is the first time Maryland has allowed early voting and the submission of absentee ballots for convenience, providing more opportunities to vote and more access to voting for eligible voters.

This is not, however, the first time the AFRO has made endorsements.

During each election season, the AFRO reaches out to the candidates in the races of most interest to the African-American community and those that most impact their lives. We start by sending a questionnaire and then, based on the answers and any additional issues or controversy surrounding the various races, bring candidates from select races, that completed the questionnaire, in for an interview with the publisher, Jake Oliver, and members of the editorial department.

Our endorsements are made based on this information.

This exercise is usually daunting for us, and this year was no exception. Without fail, we enjoy meeting the candidates, find them interesting and informative, and leave each meeting liking something about each one. With that in mind, please know that we endorse the candidates we believe will do the job, to the best of their ability and for the good of their constituency.

We then wait to watch what you, the voters, decide on Election Day.

The following are the AFRO's endorsements for the 2010 Primary election in Maryland and Prince George's County.

Martin O'Malley
Democrat, Governor, State of Maryland

Gov. Martin O'Malley has grown as a public servant during his four years in office, developing into a strong, effective leader for the state.

O'Malley took office and immediately addressed the dire budget issues of the state, just ahead of the extreme downturn of the economy. His fast action to correct the state's structural deficit has kept Maryland from falling as far other states and has positioned us near the front of the recovery.

Under his administration, college tuition at state universities was frozen, health care was expanded to cover over 200,000 additional Marylanders, and the investment in public education has increased. He also worked tirelessly to implement strategies and provide assistance for families facing foreclosure, and worked to change Maryland law to provide the help families need to save their homes.

While we still call on O'Malley to reinstate the Supreme Court mandated protections for HBCUs against "Duplication," which have eroded over the last four years, his effectiveness in a wide variety of other areas make him the candidate of choice.

The AFRO endorses Gov. Martin O'Malley to be the Democratic candidate for the office of the governor of Maryland.

Peter Franchot
Comptroller, State of Maryland

Peter Franchot has no Democratic challengers in the 2010 primary. This speaks to his effectiveness as comptroller.

Franchot took office four years ago and has stayed true to his promise to be an independent advocate for the citizens of the state and not just a rubber stamp for the governor on the Board of Public Works, one of the things the {AFRO} found appealing. He has done this without being an obstructionist, making him an integral part of the effectiveness of the Board and the state.

He has shown his commitment to protect the middle class of the state by closing tax loopholes on businesses and wealthy, ensuring everyone is paying their fair share of taxes. He has maintained the efficiency of tax reporting, collection and refund issuance, and continues to make sure Maryland's dollars are spent appropriately.

Because he has kept his promises, the AFRO is proud to again endorse Peter Franchot as the Democratic candidate for the office of Comptroller.

Douglas Gansler
Attorney General, State of Maryland

Attorney General Douglas Gansler has been like a breath of fresh air in the state of Maryland. He has not shied away from dealing with issues, both important and controversial.

During each of his four years in office, he rendered no less than 90 opinions designed to make the laws of the state more clear. This year, he rendered an opinion showing Maryland may recognize the same-sex marriages performed and recognized in other states. He issued a letter of advice indicating it's not unlawful for a private citizen to videotape an interaction with the police.

He is also at the forefront of quality of life issues. This year he joined with 16 other attorney generals calling on craigslist to remove the Adult Services section from the website, as it is a "hot spot for prostitution ads."

Gansler's esteem is national, as evidenced by his election to the position of vice president of the National Association of Attorneys General this year.

His dedication and involvement in improving the quality of life of Marylanders, are probably why no one stepped up to oppose him. We think that is a good choice, and again endorse Gansler as the Democratic candidate for the office of Maryland attorney general.

Gerron Levi
County Executive, Prince George's County

In the Democratic primary for Prince George’s County Executive, where two of the candidates have been given an exorbitant amount of attention, the {AFRO} believes a third candidate is the best choice for the position. Despite the media attention received by former Del. Rushern L. Baker III and Prince George’s County Sheriff Michael A. Jackson, the AFRO is endorsing Del. Gerron Levi for the position.

The county made huge strides under County Executive Jack Johnson with the development of the National Harbor and Woodmoore Town Center. There was also a record drop in crime, among other achievements.

However, the harsh reality is that Prince George’s has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, one of the most underachieving school systems in Maryland, a crime rate that paints the county as Washington’s twin and lacks any real commercial tax base.

As county executive, we feel Levi will have the focus to address these issues and move the county away from the status quo. We are impressed with her 10-step plan that focuses on improving the county schools, lowering the crime rate, creating jobs and building a commercial tax base.

As a legislator, Levi fought for funding to assist municipalities with public safety. She sponsored the Maryland Gang Prosecution Act signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley, which strengthens punishments for offenders committing crimes associated with gang activity, and created a program for young people looking for alternatives to college. She also sponsored legislation with consequences for children and their parents for truancy.

Levi’s critics will say she’s ine