Kopp Gets Thumbs-Up From Panel Vetting Treasurer Candidates

State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp

State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp moved closer to securing a full fifth term Tuesday evening, winning overwhelming support from a legislative committee vetting the three candidates who applied for the job.

Following interviews that lasted a little over an hour in total, eight of the lawmakers voted to recommend that their colleagues in the General Assembly give Kopp another four years as treasurer. One of the lawmakers on the special panel voted for William Campbell, a two-time Republican nominee for state comptroller, and another legislator voted for Elliott M. Reed, a former federal employee and contractor from Prince George’s County.

The individual lawmakers’ votes were kept confidential. The full General Assembly is scheduled to take its treasurer vote on Feb. 19.

The committee session amounted to a home game for Kopp, who has been treasurer since 2002 and served in the House of Delegates for 27 years before that.

The sparsely attended hearing also featured one of the most bizarre and memorable spectacles in recent Maryland politics: A candidate for treasurer, Reed, sitting through his job interview with a gurgling infant in his lap.

The hearing began with Campbell, a former Amtrak CFO who has also held high-level financial jobs with the federal government, talking about his experiences managing large agencies with billion-dollar budgets and thousands of employees.

“Amtrak never made money, but they lost less with me than they ever lost before,” he said.

Campbell suggested the treasurer’s office is spending too much money on investment advisers – an assertion that piqued the interest of some lawmakers – and vowed to serve in a bipartisan fashion, even as a Republican representing a heavily Democratic General Assembly. Campbell has twice run for comptroller against incumbent Peter V.R. Franchot (D).

Kopp, who has been aggressively courting legislators since the new year, talked about her background, the office’s portfolio, and her hopes for the future – which included maintaining the state’s AAA bond rating, fully funding the state’s pension obligations, girding for the continued fallout from the federal tax cuts of 2017, and confronting climate change.

“It is an awesome office and it has been a great, great opportunity to serve the public and to serve you,” she said.

Kopp said new technology would help her office become more efficient and would reduce some of the costs associated with managing the state’s investments.

Reed, who sat in the back row of the hearing room while the other two candidates were interviewed, with his baby in his lap, then brought the baby with him to the front of the room when it was his turn to talk to the lawmakers.

“I apologize,” he told the 10 legislators. “My assistant is a bit talkative. I hope you’ll listen to what I have to say.”

Reed, who ran for a seat in the House of Delegates last year but withdrew from the Democratic race before the primary, told the committee about his time with the federal government and his ability to work equally with spreadsheets and with people.

He also touched indirectly on an issue that has hovered over the entire process: Whether there’s sufficient diversity among the three members of the Board of Public Works – the governor, the comptroller and the treasurer. Leaders of the Legislative Black Caucus have openly debated whether an African-American should be serving as treasurer – though their efforts to recruit one of their own to challenge Kopp fell short.

“Does this body look representative of our great state?” Reed said, referring to the Board of Public Works. “Does our next generation feel like they have a seat at the table?”

As Reed tried to make his case while bouncing a baby on his knee, Sen. Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore County) observed, admiringly, “We see that you can multi-task.”

It was not enough for the majority of lawmakers on the panel to abandon the tried and true, however.

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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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