Notebook: Obama Backs Jealous, Controversial Sheriff Coming to Town

A controversial conservative icon is coming to Maryland later this week. Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., a vocal law-and-order politician famous for his cowboy hats and full-throated support of President Trump, will be the headliner Friday evening at a fundraiser for Liz Matory, the Republican challenging eight-term U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D). Clarke and Matory will be appearing together during the $50-a-head fundraiser Friday evening at the Boumi Shriners Temple in Baltimore. Jimmy Mathis, the conservative talk radio host, will serve as master of ceremonies.  Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke will help Republican congressional contender Liz Matory raise money on Friday evening.  After 24 years as a Milwaukee police officer in the city of Milwaukee, Clarke, 62, became sheriff of Milwaukee County in 2002 and served until 2017. Although he was a Democrat, his views often aligned with conservative Republicans. He has worked closely with the National Rifle Association, criticized Planned Parenthood and Black Lives Matter, and became a high-profile surrogate for Trump during the 2016 White House election. Clarke stepped down as sheriff last year when it appeared he would be in line for a top job at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Instead, he became a senior adviser to America First Action, a political action committee aligned with Trump. Matory has undergone an interesting political journey over the past few years. She ran unsuccessfully for a House of Delegates seat from Montgomery County in the 2014 Democratic primary. She then attempted to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 8th Congressional District in 2016, first as an independent, then as a Republican. This year, she moved to the 2nd District to run against Ruppersberger, a former Baltimore County executive and local prosecutor, and won the GOP nomination. Just as significant, Matory wrote a self-published book about her political conversion called “Born Again Republican.” So her alliance with Clarke is unsurprising. “We are proud to be Americans,” says a page on Matory’s campaign website, touting Clarke’s forthcoming appearance. “All the more reason we need more U.S. representatives who will not turn their backs on our country. Hear from the one of the most impactful and outspoken leaders of our cause, Sheriff David Clarke as we get ready to unseat a longtime establishment politician.” The Big O. Make no mistake, President Obama’s decision to endorse Democratic gubernatorial nominee Benjamin T. Jealous is a very good thing for Jealous’ campaign. At a minimum, the Jealous campaign can now print literature with Obama’s picture on it – and better yet, pictures of Obama and Jealous together. Moreover, Jealous’ literature now can feature nice quotes from Obama, such as this one that the campaign was circulating Monday, which among other things referred to Jealous as “a social impact investor.” “Ben Jealous is an accomplished civil rights leader, businessman, and advocate for working people,” Obama said in a statement. “His exemplary work as national president of the NAACP and as a leader in Maryland fighting for the DREAM Act, marriage equality, voting rights, and the abolition of the death penalty make him the best candidate for governor.” Words matter, especially Obama’s words. But nothing gins up Democratic voter turnout like an Obama rally – whether it’s Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, or the two of them together. Whether that can happen between now and Election Day – Nov. 6 – is very much an open question. The former president at this point has endorsed dozens of Democratic candidates across the country. Close to home, in addition to endorsing Jealous Monday, Obama also bestowed blessings on Jealous’ running mate, former Maryland Democratic Chairwoman Susan W. Turnbull – who runs on the same ticket as Jealous, so her fate is tied directly to his – House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who is favored to win a ninth term, and former Howard County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, who is seeking a competitive seat in the House of Delegates. [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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