Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) will enter the 2020 General Assembly session with a new chief legislative officer — but he has tapped someone with ample legislative experience.
Hogan announced Wednesday that Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. will take over next week for Christopher B. Shank, who held the job since June 2016 and is leaving the administration to work in the private sector.
Mitchell, 52, is a member of a prominent family of Baltimore politicians and civil rights leaders. He has held the post of senior adviser to the governor since the start of the Hogan administration.
One of the most prominent Democrats working for the Republican governor, Mitchell spent four years in the House of Delegates and eight years on the Baltimore City Council, and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2007. When Hogan walked the streets of Baltimore in the immediate aftermath of the riots that followed the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, Mitchell was by his side.
“Keiffer Mitchell’s whole life has been about fighting for the people of Baltimore City and Maryland, and he is deeply respected and admired by elected leaders in both parties,” Hogan said in a statement. “Keiffer’s experience bringing people together and working across the aisle makes him an outstanding choice to be our new chief legislative officer.”
Mitchell is taking over Hogan’s legislative operation at a time when the General Assembly is set to pass a sweeping and costly education reform blueprint that Hogan has criticized — and at a time when the Legislative Black Caucus, of which Mitchell used to be a member, is at odds with the governor over funding for the state’s historically black colleges and universities.
“I am honored and humbled by the trust that Governor Hogan has placed in me to help enact his bold legislative agenda,” Mitchell said. “The governor has always been willing to reach across party lines to get things done, and with new presiding officers in both chambers, we have the opportunity to come together to address violent crime, education, and the big issues facing the state.”
Shank, who is also a former state lawmaker, is leaving the administration to do lobbying and business development in Maryland for SAS, a data analytics and software company.
Shank worked in Annapolis for more than 20 years, first as a legislative aide, then as a Republican member of the House of Delegates representing Washington County from 1999 to 2011. He served in the state Senate from 2011 to 2015, resigning to become Hogan’s deputy chief of staff and to head the state Office of Crime Control and Prevention.
A year later, Shank was tapped to be Hogan’s legislative director after the previous person to hold the job — Joseph M. Getty, another former Republican lawmaker — was nominated to serve on the Maryland Court of Appeals.
Shank called his work for the Hogan administration “the honor of a lifetime.”
Because he is a member of the executive branch, Shank is not required to abide by the one-year “cooling off” period that limits state legislators’ ability to lobby immediately after they leave the General Assembly.
“I default to the ethics statute which precludes my participation in cases, matters, contracts that I’ve had a significant involvement in (deals mostly on procurement situations),” Shank told Maryland Matters in an email. “Pursuant to that, I’ve excluded myself to not having any involvement in administration bills or departmental bills I’ve been working on.”