By William F. Zorzi
Baltimore Councilman Brandon M. Scott, who at 33 is already considered a rising star in the city, stepped up onto the Maryland political stage Thursday, when Democratic gubernatorial hopeful James L. Shea formally named him as his running mate.
Surrounded by members of his extended family, the second-term councilman was introduced by Shea in the spartan tasting room of the Old Line Spirits distillery and warehouse in Southeast Baltimore, part of the 2nd Council District that Scott represents.
“We have a generation here in Maryland, a younger generation, full of leaders,” Shea said in presenting his pick for lieutenant governor. “They’re talented, they’re dedicated to their communities and to the state. They’re tired of the same-old same-old, and Brandon Scott is first and foremost among those leaders.
“He is a tireless worker, he is dedicated to his community and to service. He takes on the tough issues with wisdom and courage and integrity,” he said. “He’s exactly what Maryland needs.”
For his part, Scott said he was “honored and truly humbled” to be picked as Shea’s candidate for lieutenant governor.
“I’m a lifelong Baltimorean. … Baltimore has given me and my family so much. If you ask the folks standing behind me, I knew from the moment I could talk that I wanted to be in politics, because I wanted to make things better,” Scott said.
“Our state is the greatest state in our union, but it needs help. Our city is truly the greatest city in America, but it needs help,” he said. “I know I can do more.”
Since being first elected in 2011, Scott has risen from near obscurity to being the prominent chairman of the city council’s Public Safety Committee at a time when the Baltimore Police Department has come under scrutiny in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death and a series of corruption scandals.
Though he has been critical of the police department at times, Scott received the endorsement in his 2016 reelection bid from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 in Baltimore City.
Shea, 65, is easily old enough to be Scott’s father, a fact that was not about to be ignored Thursday by the councilman, who was just 27 when he was first elected to the city council in 2011.
“I know there may be some today who are perplexed by Jim and I becoming a team. Yes, Jim is a little more seasoned than I am,” Scott said, as the room erupted in laughter. “And yes, we come from two different worlds. But that is not, and will not be, our weakness; that is our strength.
“Marylanders are tired of the status quo, and we need leaders like Jim who are willing to bridge the generational and ideological divides in order to make a better Maryland for all,” he said.
It is clear that his selection as a candidate for lieutenant governor has not only elevated his profile but has, perhaps, even provided a stepping stone for higher office further down the road.
But in an interview after the announcement, Scott said he was not looking any further into the future than the June 26 Democratic primary for governor in which six candidates other than Shea are vying for the nomination to face Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan (R) in November.
“The only thing I’m thinking about is that our state is not where it needs to be,” Scott said.
In briefly discussing budding political leadership in Baltimore City, Scott mentioned five other young leaders, all colleagues and members of the citywide BEST Democratic Club: Councilwoman Shannon C. Sneed, 37, of East Baltimore’s 13th District; Councilman John T. Bullock, 39, who represents the 9th District in West and Southwest Baltimore; Councilman Kristerfer A. Burnett, 32, of West Baltimore’s 8th District; state Del. Antonio L. Hayes, 40, of West Baltimore’s 40th District; and state Del. Cory V. McCray, 35, of East Baltimore’s 45th District.
Hayes is running this year in the 40th District for the Senate seat held by Sen. Barbara A. Robinson, 79, while McCray is challenging Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, 71, the Senate president pro tem, for his 45th District seat. The two lawmakers are sacrificing their House seats to take on the veteran senators.
“We don’t always agree, but we’re all about change and our state and our city being progressive, pushing the envelope and letting folks understand that the average citizen in our state is tired of the status quo and they want new, bold-thinking ideas to move our state forward,” he said.
Shea, of Baltimore County, is somewhat of a political outsider, yet is by no means a fly-by-night candidate. He is the former chairman of Venable LLP, the largest law firm Maryland, as well as former chairman of the University of Maryland System’s Board of Regents.
He has also been a leader in the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, Empower Baltimore Management Corp. and Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.
“I think we need, and should have, a first-class public education system, a statewide transportation plan that focuses on mass transit … a robust economy and … safe communities where the communities trust the law enforcement.”
In short, Shea said, “That is my message.”
The traditional thinking that has evolved for a gubernatorial race in Maryland is that the candidate and running mate be from different areas of the state — an effort to make the most of capturing the Baltimore-area vote, as well as a significant portion of the Washington suburban vote.
“Well obviously geography doesn’t play much of a role for me. It doesn’t generally. My own experience is all across the state,” Shea said. “I have an excellent core team, and we will be strategic about where we will be concentrating our greatest effort. I’m confident that we will get the vote out in the areas that we will need to win.”
Other Democratic candidates for governor are: Maryland Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., vice chairman of Senate Budget and Taxation Committee; Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz; Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; Benjamin T. Jealous, former president of the NAACP; Alec Ross, technology policy expert and former adviser to Hillary Clinton; and Krishanti Vignarajah, former policy director to Michelle Obama.
So far, the only candidate other than Shea who has named a running mate is Jealous, who picked former Maryland Democratic Chairwoman Susan W. Turnbull as his lieutenant governor choice.