Political Notes From All Over

With the June 26 primary fast approaching, there’s a lot going on – so much, in fact, that we couldn’t possibly get to all of it. So in an attempt to clear our desk, metaphorically speaking, and to keep you apprised of as many developments as possible, we’re going to try a lightning round political roundup. We may do this a few times between now and the primary. Any resemblance to Politico Playbook or its antecedent, ABC’s The Note, is purely coincidental.

THE KAMENETZ LEGACY

It seems appropriate, somehow, to start with an item of political closure: The family and campaign team of the late Baltimore County executive Kevin B. Kamenetz (D) announced Thursday that they are closing out his campaign account by directing the almost $1.4 million in his war chest to four Baltimore-area charities. The recipients are:

  • Central Scholarship, which will receive $915,000 to support a new college scholarship fund for Baltimore County Public School students.
  • Northwest Hospital in Randallstown, which will receive $250,000 to establish a cardiac care program.
  • The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, which will receive $100,000.
  • The Hippodrome Foundation, which will receive $100,000.

 Kevin B. Kamenetz   “Our family, along with those who knew and loved Kevin, continue to grieve his loss, but are confident that these funds will build upon his legacy and provide significant support to organizations that Kevin thought so highly of and worked hard to promote,” Jill Kamenetz, the erstwhile gubernatorial contender’s widow, said in a statement. Kevin Kamenetz died suddenly of a heart attack on May 10. His absence from the campaign trail has affected the gubernatorial campaign in innumerable ways.

MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE TRAIL 

How do Republicans view the Democratic scrum for governor? Here’s one clue: The Maryland Republican Party on Thursday issued a news release titled “Democratic Civil War” that featured nothing but attacks on one of the frontrunners, former NAACP President Benjamin T. Jealous, by his fellow Democrats. The GOP quoted attorney James L. Shea critiquing Jealous’ single-payer health care proposal; former Montgomery County councilwoman Valerie L. Ervin on Jealous’ character; and state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. on Jealous’ education plan and fundraising practices. Jealous, however, set his sights on Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), characterizing the Hogan administration’s traveling cabinet meeting in Baltimore Thursday as too little, too late. Hogan has held cabinet meetings and related events across the state over the course of his tenure; Jealous pointed out that he had suggested Hogan bring the road show to Baltimore in January, when several public schools had no heat, and in February, when the cabinet traveled to Baltimore County instead. “It’s disturbing that students freezing in their classrooms or rising violence wasn’t enough for Larry Hogan to bring his cabinet to Baltimore,” Jealous said in a statement. “What ultimately brought Larry Hogan here is not concern for Baltimore City or its people, but concern for his own re-election. Instead of more photo ops, Larry Hogan needs to have the courage to meet with real city residents and explain to them why he has been missing in action for four years.” Hogan and his team would no doubt quarrel with that characterization. The governor’s early reelection ads tout his efforts to maintain order in the city after the riots in 2015 that followed Freddie Gray’s death after he had been in police custody.  STATE OF THE STATE (CENTER) Among the things Hogan did in Baltimore Thursday: Announce that the state would seek a new developer – or developers – for the controversial (and stalled) State Center project in midtown Baltimore. The Board of Public Works formally pulled the plug on the redevelopment of the 28-acre complex, home to charmless state office buildings, in 2016, and the project has been the subject of litigation for several years. And abundant political crosscurrents. “After more than 15 years of inaction and failure I am pleased to announce that we are finally able to move forward on the redevelopment of State Center,” Hogan said. “We have been committed to and pushing for this long-awaited and transformative project since day one, and we will not rest until we bring it home for the people of Baltimore.” Hogan said the administration has made a “final offer” to settle the litigation. But a lawyer for the company that previously had the lease to redevelop the area, told The Baltimore Sun that Hogan’s announcement amounted to a “grand distraction” from the developer’s desire to jump-start the project. AND ON THE ENDORSEMENT FRONT Hogan this week endorsed Craig Wolf (R), the departing CEO of the Wine & Spirits Retailers Association and a former Maryland prosecutor, for state attorney general. “Craig isn’t a career politician,” he said. “As a prosecutor, he put child abusers and human traffickers behind bars. As Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee he worked to pass bipartisan legislation to protect the most vulnerable in society. After 9/11, he joined the Army at the age of 40 and deployed to Afghanistan when he was 49. That’s the commitment to public service we need and deserve from our Attorney General.” Wolf returned the compliment.  “He’s shown what’s possible when our elected leaders reject politics as usual and focus on delivering results, and our state is stronger for it,” he said. You’d be hard-pressed to find a political strategist – in either party – who thinks Wolf has much of a chance of ousting Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) at this point. But Wolf is poised to run a real campaign and will argue that Frosh is spending too much time suing the federal government instead of making Marylanders safer. He will be a bur in Frosh’s side at the very least – and Hogan’s endorsement is a reminder that there is no love lost between the governor and the guy who runs the state’s “law firm.” DRIVE FOR FIVE It’s no secret that, after his own reelection, Hogan’s top goal for this election cycle is to flip five Democratic-held state Senate seats. That would make it so much more difficult for the legislature to override Hogan’s vetoes, assuming he wins a second term. To that end, Hogan will headline a fundraiser next month for former Del. Ronald A. George (R), who is running for an open Senate seat in Anne Arundel County’s 30th District. It’s a luncheon at the Annapolis Yacht Club on July 10. Ticket prices start at $100 and go up from there. Two candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination in the race to replace retiring Sen. John C. Astle (D): Sarah Elfreth and Chrissy Holt. Meanwhile, the top Republicans in the state Senate announced this week that they are backing businessman Craig Giangrande in his bid to win the GOP Senate nomination in Frederick County’s 3rd District. That’s hardly a surprise: Republican leaders have thought all along that Giangrande would be a stronger challenger to state Sen. Ronald Young (D) than the other Republican candidate, County Councilman Billy Shreve. But Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings and Minority Whip Stephen S. Hershey Jr. decided to go public this week after reports that Democrats were spending money in an effort to help Shreve win the GOP primary. “Craig Giangrande can win this election and Democrats are so afraid of him that they are spending money to help his opponent Billy Shreve win the primary,” Hershey said. “Republican voters need to support Craig Giangrande because he will stand with us and Governor Larry Hogan.” ALSO ON THE ENDORSEMENT FRONT U.S. Rep. John K. Delaney (D) on Thursday joined the stampede of current and former elected officials endorsing Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) for governor. “Rushern is a deeply good man and brings the perfect combination of experience, vision, optimism, grit, and decency to the job,” Delaney said. [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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