The Annapolis Players production of “Will Nancy Kopp Get Re-elected Treasurer of Maryland?” came to an abrupt close on Tuesday.
Spoiler alert: The finale lacked for drama.
With the legislature meeting in joint session in the House of Delegates chamber, Kopp was the choice of 134 members of the House and Senate. Forty-nine cast ballots for other candidates, including two who participated in the formal vetting process, former Amtrak official William Campbell and former federal contractor Elliot M. Reed. Several state lawmakers received write-in votes, among them Deputy House Majority Whip Benjamin T. Brooks (D-Baltimore County), who came in second with 24 votes.
In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s balloting, several members of the Legislative Black Caucus made it known that they would prefer a person of color in that position.
As treasurer, Kopp serves on the Board of Public Works, an influential panel that approves state contracts and conducts oversight of state spending. Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) fill the other two positions on the board, making it an all-white entity.
Black caucus efforts to build support for an alternative to Kopp were unsuccessful, in part because lawmakers made it clear the right candidate had to want the post, be eminently qualified and — in the best-case scenario — be a woman of color. As Maryland Matters first reported last week, Brooks decided to enter the race for treasurer but missed the deadline for doing so.
In brief remarks, Kopp made no direct reference to the campaign to locate a viable alternative.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this great indication of trust and support, and swear to you again to serve diligently, honestly and faithfully, as long as you will have me as your state treasurer,” she said.
She thanked lawmakers for the opportunity to meet with them in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s vote, and she noted “the disparity of access and of benefits and of wealth across the state, exacerbated by the problems of environmental challenge and climate change.”
She then quoted a mentor – and the most powerful African-American ever to serve in the legislature, the late House Appropriations chairman Howard P. “Pete” Rawlings (D-Baltimore City): “We are fiscally prudent and socially responsible, and one without the other is not worth pursuing.”
House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch (D-Baltimore City), the first black lawmaker to publicly suggest last summer that his colleagues ought to consider an alternative to Kopp, received three write-in votes for treasurer even though he was not an announced candidate. He said afterward he was “very delighted” with the outcome, though he noted that the Board of Public Works “is not a diverse panel.”
“Down the road, hopefully, that’ll change. But given the state and the climate we’re in right now, and the candidates that we had running against her, she was the best, and we had to take note of that,” Branch said. “Certainly the black caucus was hoping that some candidate would surface, but we didn’t see one, so the next best thing is to go with what works.”
Kopp is second longest-serving treasurer in state history. She served 27 years in the House of Delegates prior to assuming the post in 2002.
Hogan attended Kopp’s swearing-in; Franchot, who is feuding with the General Assembly [see related story], did not.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) reminded his colleagues about the importance of the treasurer’s job.
“In the late 19th century, a treasurer got off the rails and there were some bank stocks missing and things of that nature,” he said. “It was very embarrassing. But since that time, we’ve had nothing but honest people in the office.”