Political Notes: Health Care Pledge, TV Ads, Nearby States

Five of the six leading Democratic candidates for governor have, as of Tuesday night, committed to supporting the so-called health insurance down payment if they’re elected in November. The Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative has been promoting the idea of a down payment – meant as a Maryland replacement for the individual health insurance mandate that Congress and President Trump recently stripped out of the Affordable Care Act – for months. The measure to set up a fund to expand the state’s health insurance pool did not get far in this year’s General Assembly session. But advocates are collecting pledges from candidates for state offices for another push next year. The pledge that the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative asks candidates to sign says they will support legislation “that would replace the federal individual mandate with a Maryland plan to enroll the uninsured into coverage whenever possible, turning federal financial penalties into down payments that consumers can use to buy health insurance.”  Vincent DeMarco  Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said that as of Tuesday evening, five of the Democratic candidates for governor – Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, former NAACP president Benjamin T. Jealous, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., tech entrepreneur Alec J. Ross and attorney James L. Shea – have signed the pledge. DeMarco said all candidates for governor, regardless of party – and that includes Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) – are being asked to sign the pledge by the end of this week. The group will hold a news conference with advocates and the candidates who have committed to the down payment on May 23, at the Episcopal Diocesan Center in Baltimore.

Jealous-y

Maryland Republicans wasted no time Tuesday attacking the first campaign ad that Democratic gubernatorial contender Jealous began airing this week in the Baltimore media market. The 60-second ad is a basic biographical spot, followed by a quick survey of a handful of issues Jealous is emphasizing on the campaign trail. “I’ve spent my life overcoming challenges that most thought impossible,” Jealous says in the ad. “Maryland, it’s time for bold victories and new leadership.” But the Maryland Republican Party issued a news release focusing on something that is only mentioned for a split second in the ad: Jealous’ proposal to bring a single-payer health care system to Maryland, which he labels “Medicare for All.” The GOP says the ad highlights the former NAACP president’s “far-left, tax-and-spend credentials,” and outlines the start-and-stop efforts to bring single-payer to Vermont and California. “Ben Jealous’ high-tax health care scam is not only wrong for Maryland but has already been proven wrong for states across the country of all shapes and sizes,” said Maryland Republican Chairman Dirk Haire. “Wherever this has been attempted it has failed. It’s time for Ben Jealous to stop hiding behind pie-in-the-sky proposals and start being real with the people of Maryland about the realities of his scheme – this will be nothing more than a massive tax increase on the hardworking people and small businesses of this great state.” Jealous has argued that up-front expenses associated with devising a system to provide health insurance to all Marylanders will pay off with significant cost savings in the end. Miller Time Del. Aruna Miller, one of eight candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the 6th congressional district, launched her first two TV ads of the campaign Tuesday. Miller’s ads – (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OM406FgLvCE&feature=youtu.beand https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxh4wZxeO7U&feature=youtu.be)  – highlight her legislative experience.  Del. Aruna Miller  “Almost every law I write comes from listening to people’s stories,” Miller says in one of the ads. Miller becomes the third candidate in the Democratic race to hit the airwaves. Physician Nadia Hashimi began airing an ad last week that spotlights her medical background and looks forward to the day when fewer men are “mansplaining” health care in Congress. Businessman David Trone, who has the most money to spend on the race, has been up with ads for several weeks. Not surprisingly, the ads Miller and Jealous began running this week describe the candidates as uniquely equipped to take on President Trump. Hogan’s Peeps Three quick updates about people associated, at one time or another, with Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R): –Hogan cut a 10-second video this week reiterating his endorsement of state Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr. (R) for Baltimore County executive. Hogan had publicly endorsed Redmer when the latter first announced his candidacy last fall, so this short message serves as a reminder ahead of the June 26 primary – and a subtle push for money with the latest fundraising period ending Tuesday night. Redmer is squaring off against state Del. Patrick L. McDonough in the Republican primary, as three Democrats vie for their party’s nomination to be Baltimore County executive. –Hogan’s preferred candidate in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial election, state Sen. Scott Wagner (R), won a three-way Republican primary Tuesday night with 44 percent of the vote. He’ll take on first-term Gov. Tom Wolf (D) in a race that the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates as “lean Democratic” – more competitive than its rating for Hogan’s reelection, which it deems “likely Republican.” Hogan caught some criticism from Maryland Democrats last summer for headlining a Wagner fundraiser in York, Pa.  Wagner, a wealthy businessman, has, among other positions, questioned climate science, supported hydraulic fracturing, denounced Obamacare, and sponsored anti-abortion measures in the legislature. He was also accused of making an anti-Semitic tirade against liberal megadonor George Soros. — In case you were wondering what happened to Ryan M. Reynolds – Hogan’s short-lived campaign manager who spent less than three months running the governor’s reelection campaign last year – he’s alive and well and working in West Virginia. Reynolds, who came to the Hogan campaign from the governor’s polling firm, WPA Intelligence, is now the campaign manager for West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), who won the Mountaineer State’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate last week. Reynolds had previously done some consulting work for Morrisey. Morrisey is now involved in a top-tier race against U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a leading Republican target. Manchin remains popular in West Virginia despite the fact that President Trump carried the state by 42 points in 2016. Manchin at home has a brand separate and distinct from national Democrats — not unlike Hogan and his separation from national Republicans in Maryland. [email protected]

Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading 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 later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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