Analysis: Why the Jim Shea-Brandon Scott Ticket Makes Sense

The rollout – in the form of a busted embargo late Wednesday night that certain media outlets and bloggers chose to ignore – was less than ideal.

But in the end, Jim Shea, a tyro candidate with a wealth of legal and civic experience who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, went for a running mate with youth and energy but also governing experience and a combination of street smarts and political savvy.

Baltimore City Councilman Brandon M. Scott

Shea, a Baltimore attorney, will officially announce Thursday afternoon that he has selected Baltimore City Councilman Brandon M. Scott as his candidate for lieutenant governor. They’ll appear together at Old Line Spirits, a year-old whiskey distillery in the Highlandtown neighborhood.

With or without the whiskey, it’s probably a good move for both men.

It’s a Baltimore-centric ticket, of course, and that’s not ideal. But with seven Democrats fighting for the nomination, that kind of microtargeting may make a certain amount of sense.

The ticket has a 65-year-old white guy and a 33-year-old African-American guy. Shea does not get anyone’s pulses racing, but he’s thoughtful and knowledgeable in smaller settings, and most people come away impressed.

Scott is an instinctual politician who grew up in the Park Heights neighborhood and has not forgotten where he came from. As chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, he has kept crime – and policing – at the top of his agenda, and has emerged as a sharp critic of the city’s past two mayors.

Shea and Scott will complement each other and appeal to different segments of the Democratic electorate. When average voters finally tune into the election, Scott’s will be a welcome fresh face.

But there’s also some status to his selection.

There’s widespread speculation that the Democratic gubernatorial candidates have been unable to convince officeholders to run with them – a sign of Democratic weakness, the thinking goes, against popular Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan (R). This choice dispels that storyline – though it must be pointed out that Scott, who won a second term in 2016, is not in cycle this year, as so many state lawmakers and local officials are.

Scott is just the second lieutenant governor candidate tabbed by the gubernatorial contenders. Former NAACP president Ben Jealous selected former Maryland Democratic Chairwoman Susan W. Turnbull in November. The other candidates have until the Feb. 27 filing deadline to announce their running mates.

Scott’s governing experience will probably help Shea hone his message on the campaign trail.

Shea is lagging in the polls, but he has more money to spend than many of his Democratic opponents, and that could boost his standing. As for Scott, just about every dollar the Shea campaign spends between now and the June 26 primary is a downpayment on a future mayoral run – perhaps as early as in 2020.

At first glance – and at second and third glance – this ticket, even if it falls short four months from now, is the very definition of a win-win.

Josh Kurtz
Founding Editor Josh Kurtz is a veteran chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He was an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, for eight years, and for eight years was the editor of E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill. For 6 1/2 years Kurtz wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz regularly gives speeches and appears on TV and radio shows to discuss Maryland politics.


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