By Josh Kurtz
As Jim Shea prepared to step down as chairman of the powerhouse Venable law firm on Feb. 1, he wasn’t quite sure what he’d do next.
He’d always heard the calling of public service, serving in many high-profile appointed and civic positions through the years. But he began to wonder whether there was “a chance to make an even bigger difference” in the current volatile political climate.
“The circumstances that we’re in right now make it a perfect time to do so,” Shea said in an interview last week. With Donald Trump as president, Shea told himself, “I can’t stay on the sidelines and make it happen.”
That’s how Shea, 64, began exploring the possibility of seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 – as Maryland Matters first reported last week. Although Shea remains affiliated with Venable as the firm’s chairman emeritus, his exploration process has accelerated since last month.
“Governor’s the only option I’m looking at,” he said.
Shea has been traveling around the state, talking to people and studying up on the issues. Having served as chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and as chairman of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, education and transportation are, he said, “things I care about and know a lot about.” So he’s trying to become equally fluent on other topics.
Shea has put together a kitchen cabinet, but said he isn’t yet ready to identify any of the members. “I need their unvarnished, uncomplicated advice,” he said.
Shea also said he isn’t ready to critique the job performance of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), in part because he feels it wouldn’t be fair to tee off on the governor until he figures out whether he will seek his job.
“I have a generalized impression and I have some thoughts,” he said.
But Shea telegraphed a line of attack – one most Democrats are already employing – by suggesting that Maryland leaders ought to be speaking out against the Trump agenda.
“I think everybody – the governor included – needs to take a position,” he said. “It’s not something we can be tepid on.”
Shea said he has no fixed timetable for deciding whether he’s going to run, but figures it would be a good idea to ramp up by early summer. He also hasn’t set a fundraising goal. Asked if he’d be willing to self-fund, he replied, “I’d think about it.”
And asked if the strength of the ever-growing possible Democratic field would be a factor in his decision about whether he’d ultimately decide to run, Shea said, “Not really.”
“I’m not doing this trying to measure myself against anybody else,” he said. “I’m trying to figure out how I can contribute.”
A RUSH(ERN) TO BALTIMORE Speaking of the fledgling Democratic gubernatorial primary, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker (D) has a full day scheduled in Baltimore today.
First, he’ll appear back-to-back on radio talk shows hosted by former colleagues of his from the General Assembly – “The Larry Young Morning Show” on WOLB-AM, followed by “The C4 Show” on WBAL-AM. Then he’ll co-host an interfaith dialogue on religious tolerance sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council. He’ll finish the swing at the annual high school financial summit and case competition at Morgan State University’s Graves School of Business and Management.
Baker is definitely ramping up his out-of-county travel. A week and a half ago, he spent the day on the Eastern Shore.
MAKING HIS MARC We regret that we weren’t able to attend the campaign kick-off Sunday evening for Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich (D), who is running for the open county executive job in 2018. Our spies tell us that more than 200 people crowded into the Barking Dog bar and grill in Bethesda.
There will be plenty of time to write seriously and analytically about the race to replace County Executive Ike Leggett (D), which for now is likely to feature Elrich’s fellow council members, George Leventhal and Roger Berliner, state Del. Ben Kramer, businessman David Trone, and possibly others, on the Democratic side, and Robin Ficker and God knows who else on the Republican side.
For now, we’ll provide a photo of the event and note – with all due respect – that it’s one of the very few times we’ve seen Elrich in a suit.
BUSY DAY IN BALTIMORE COUNTY May 10 will be an interesting and busy day for political fundraisers in Baltimore County. On that evening, two of the three likely Democratic candidates for county executive – former Del. John Olszewski Jr. and County Councilmember Vicki Almond – are having fundraisers. On the same night, the Baltimore County GOP is having its annual Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner.
Johnny O and Almond’s events are both running from 6-8 p.m. The former’s is at The Lodge at Nine Mile Circle in Catonsville. Ticket prices are $40 for seniors and young people, $250 and up for others.
Almond’s fundraiser is at the Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills. “Community supporters” can pay $25, guests can pay $50 and up.
The GOP affair is at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium, and runs from 6-10 p.m. General admission tickets are $100. It begs the question: Will Baltimore County Republicans run a credible, competitive candidate for county executive in 2018? Who might it be?
BUSY DAY IN ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY Similar to Baltimore County on May 10, there are three noteworthy political fundraisers on tap for Republicans in Anne Arundel County next Wednesday, April 5. That morning, County Councilmember Derek Fink, who is termed out but could run for a legislative seat in District 31, is hosting a breakfast fundraiser at Blackhall Hitch in Annapolis. Ticket prices start at $250.
That evening, at 5:30 p.m., Fink’s council colleague, Jerry Walker, who is also termed out, is hosting a fundraiser at Blue Dolphin Seafood Bar & Grill in Gambrills. Walker is planning to run for a House seat in District 33. Ticket prices start at $75.
And at roughly the same hour, beginning at 6 p.m. back at Blackwell Hitch, former Del. Ron George (R), a candidate for the Dist. 30 state Senate seat, is raising money. Ellen Sauerbrey, the two-time Republican nominee for governor, will be the featured speaker. Tickets start at $85.