Make no mistake: U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s decision to endorse Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker (D) for governor, at an event Friday in Landover, is good news for Baker. Van Hollen is a terrific “get” for any candidate and is the biggest Democratic name in Maryland politics to have expressed a preference in the gubernatorial election so far.
It also isn’t terribly surprising: Baker endorsed Van Hollen in last year’s Senate race over then-Rep. Donna Edwards (D), his fellow Prince Georgian – a move that was not without risk for Baker, who has backed white candidates in statewide primaries three times over their African-American opponents from Prince George’s.
Van Hollen’s move is a classy thank-you.
“I have known and worked with Chris for nearly 30 years and am proud to call him not only a colleague but a friend,” Baker said in a statement. “Chris’ sterling reputation as a budget and policy wonk is only matched by his compassion and dedication to his constituents in Maryland.”
No doubt Van Hollen’s decision to endorse Baker is a disappointment to another Democratic contender for governor, state Sen. Rich Madaleno, who represents the same legislative district in Annapolis that Van Hollen did for a dozen years.
But the bigger question is whether other top-tier Democrats follow Van Hollen’s lead and start gravitating toward Baker – or anyone else, for that matter.
One of the unusual – and exciting – things about this gubernatorial election is how wide open it is, and how the herd of Democratic pooh-bah’s has hung back when it comes to anointing a nominee. Surely Baker is the kind of candidate that the Mike Millers, Steny Hoyers and Ben Cardins of the world would feel comfortable with, but the fact that they’re not expressing a preference so far says something.
Hogan Supports John Adams!
Also in the realm of interesting but not surprising: That Gov. Larry Hogan (R) plans to stump for Virginia GOP gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie and the rest of the Republican ticket on Saturday morning in Springfield, Va.
“I think he’s a great leader in the Republican Party,” Hogan said of the former Republican National Committee chairman during a news conference in Annapolis Thursday. “I’m looking forward to doing what I can to see that he wins next Tuesday.”
According to the Gillespie campaign, Hogan and Carly Fiorina, the erstwhile presidential contender and corporate executive, will be headlining a rally for Gillespie, lieutenant governor nominee Jill Vogel (who runs separately from Gillespie), and attorney general nominee John Adams at the Accotink Academy Preschool. Polls have shown all three races close; Democrats have small but penetrable leads, and political operatives are sensing momentum for Gillespie in his race with Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D).
Naturally, Maryland Democrats pounced on the news that Hogan was aiding Gillespie, highlighting the Republican’s TV ads, which raise the specter of Salvadoran gang violence and stoke anti-immigration fears.
“Next time Governor Larry Hogan tries to tell you he’s a moderate, remind him that he crossed the river to headline a rally for Ed Gillespie, whose Trumpian campaign is one of the most divisive we’ve ever seen,” said one of the eight Democrats seeking to unseat Hogan, policy consultant Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.
It’s true that Hogan and Gillespie aren’t too far apart ideologically. And it isn’t surprising that Democrats are trying to draw parallels between the two.
What Democrats – nationally and in Maryland – really ought to be paying attention to is whether Gillespie’s harsh ads lead him to victory next week. If Gillespie wins – even if he doesn’t, but comes close – you can expect Republicans from coast-to-coast to try to frighten voters with the specter of Salvadoran gangs, loose borders and crime run rampant. It’s a potent message, it has worked before – and it’s hard to parry.
A Rose By Any Other Name …
Speaking of Rockeymoore Cummings, what’s in a name? When you’re trying to break out of the pack in a crowded gubernatorial field, apparently a lot.
The newest of the eight Democratic candidates was known professionally in Washington, D.C., as Maya Rockeymoore. But now she’s Rockeymoore Cummings, evidently hoping to profit politically from her marriage to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) – who is beloved by regular Democratic primary voters.
The candidate’s Twitter feed tells the story: In September, she was Maya Rockeymoore, based in Washington, D.C., where her consulting office is located. Now she’s Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, based in Baltimore.
It’s hard to say whether anyone begrudges her this switch. Most political professionals wonder why she didn’t do it sooner.
Speaking of Marylanders heading to Virginia for the election, a few progressive Democrats who want to work the polls there Tuesday may be waylaid in Rockville, where the Montgomery County Council has scheduled a vote that day on the proposal to raise the county’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Will the absence of certain liberal activists from the Council chamber sway the vote? Will the absence of certain Maryland activists working the polls across the river sway any races?
Probably not. But it’s upsetting some folks just the same.
Asked why Council President Roger Berliner (D) would schedule the vote to coincide with the Virginia election, Sonya Healey, a spokeswoman for the Council, replied, “Since the Council has been reviewing issues associated with the minimum wage for some time now, the Councilmembers have a clear sense of where individuals stand on this issue. If individuals can’t attend the Council meeting, it is carried live on County Cable Montgomery (Channels 996 and 6 on Comcast, Channel 1056 on RCN, and Channel 30 on Verizon). In addition, interested individuals can also stream the meeting from the County Council’s web site:https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/OnDemand/index.html.”
The Wages of War
Speaking of the MoCo minimum wage vote, Ben Shnider, a civic activist who is challenging County Councilman Sidney Katz in the District 3 Democratic primary, has been circulating a petition in an attempt to pressure Katz to vote for the measure – and restore its original timeline, which was recently extended two years in a Council committee.
Shnider argued that a family of four must earn $91,200 to live in Montgomery County.
“As I meet with community members across District 3, I hear time and time again from folks who are struggling to get by in our community — many stretching multiple jobs across multiple family members to piece together a living. These families can’t wait seven years for a $15 minimum wage,” Shnider said. “I respectfully urge Councilmember Katz to do the right thing and support the original timeline.”
Will Katz be swayed by his aggressive young opponent? We’ll know Tuesday – probably before we know who the next governor of Virginia is going to be.