By Josh Kurtz
Maryland Working Families, the progressive, labor-affiliated advocacy group, will announce this week that it is endorsing Del. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City) in his bid to oust Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden (D) in the upcoming Democratic primary.
The organization’s support will bring independent expenditures on McCray’s behalf, “boots on the ground” – and significant attention from the national Working Families Party, according to Charly Carter, executive director of Maryland Working Families.
“Cory is someone who nationally Working Families talks about,” she said. “He’s the model of the kind of leader that Working Families tries to promote. He’s from the community, he’s young, and he’s dedicated to lifting up working families.”
McCray, who is finishing his first term in the House of Delegates, has been waging an aggressive campaign to defeat McFadden, the Senate president pro tem who has served in Annapolis since 1995 and spent five years on the Baltimore City Council before that. He has been running both a generational and ideological campaign against the incumbent, arguing that the 45th District in East Baltimore would be better served by someone who is younger (McCray is 35, McFadden 71), more progressive, and more in touch with the community.
Carter said that McFadden is too close to entrenched leadership in Baltimore and in Annapolis and “takes his cues” from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert).
“Baltimore City, especially the 45th District, has a lot of problems and needs new leadership – someone who can stand up to Mike Miller and the status quo,” she said.
Baltimore Beat reported earlier this year that Nicole Hanson, an advocate for the ex-offender organization Out for Justice, accused McCray of growing angry and throwing a chair during a meeting in his office last year following a discussion about the root causes of poverty. McCray denied doing anything to put Hanson in harm’s way and apologized for the incident – inadequately, in Hanson’s view. The House did not take any formal action against him.
Carter said the Working Families board considered the incident before deciding to endorse McCray, and hoped that it amounted to “a learning moment” for the lawmaker.
“Everybody on my board certainly takes seriously any accusations like that against any leader, particularly in the era of #MeToo,” she said. “It didn’t factor into our endorsement because everybody on my board has a longstanding relationship with Del. McCray…The board felt very comfortable that this is not the person they have come to know.”
McCray said the Working Families endorsement is part of “a strong foundation” that his campaign has been building – and that he looks to accelerate his effort between the April 9 end of the General Assembly session and the June 26 primary.
Through mid-January, McCray had $128,000 in his campaign account compared to just $31,000 for McFadden. Miller’s political operation is likely to pour some money into McFadden’s reelection effort.
So far this election cycle, Maryland Working Families has endorsed former NAACP president Benjamin T. Jealous for governor, state Sen. Roger Manno in the 6th District Democratic congressional primary, and attorney Sheldon Laskin, who is waging a longshot bid against Senate Judicial Proceedings Chairman Robert L. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) in the 11th District Democratic primary.
Zirkin raised the ire of some progressive groups by voting against paid sick leave during the 2017 General Assembly and opposing the Trust Act, a measure designed to protect immigrants from federal law enforcement raids.
Carter said Working Families leaders have yet to determine how many races the group will play in this year – and that the final outcome of certain policy fights in Annapolis will help guide their strategy.
The McCray endorsement, she said, “is just the beginning. This is a year when we can really make a significant change in our legislature.”