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Government & Politics

Maryland’s Power Couples

This article originally appeared on Feb. 14, 2019

It’s Valentine’s Day — hope you have already bowed to the floral and confectionary gods and have paid suitable tribute to your loved ones.

It’s often said that power is an aphrodisiac. We’ll leave it to those with real power to tell us whether that’s really true.

True or not, every Valentine’s Day, our thoughts turn not just to romance, but to Maryland power couples.

This is by no means a definitive list. We’re certainly guilty of sins of omission. And our definitions of power may not line up neatly with everyone’s.

Because we live as Trappist monks in the world of Maryland politics, particularly in and around the State House, we have a limited worldview, so our bias leans heavily toward those who spend most of their days in Annapolis — an incestuous town by any standard. But we try to see beyond the confines of State Circle and Church Circle every now and then.

We’ll start our 2019 power couples list with that rarity — households with two political officeholders. So step up, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby (D) and state Del. Nick Mosby (D-Baltimore City). Hello, Del. Jay Walker (D-Prince George’s) and Prince George’s County Councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker (D). Keep on trucking, state Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick) and Del. Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick).

Here’s another rarity — or at least a curiosity. The chairs of the Maryland Democratic Party and the Maryland Republican Party are each married to elected officials. On the D side, that would be Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, married to Congressman Elijah Cummings. On the R side, Dirk Haire is married to Anne Arundel County Councilmember Jessica Haire. The Haires also work together at the same Washington, D.C., law firm.

Plenty of Maryland elected officials have powerhouse spouses. We’ll start at the top of the food chain and list Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and first lady Yumi Hogan.

Not every first lady is automatically a power player. And a couple of years ago, we might not have included Yumi Hogan on this list. Whereas her four most recent predecessors were lawyers and/or political operatives, Yumi Hogan is an artist and teacher. But she has quietly asserted her influence on state policy and has begun highlighting causes that are near and dear to her heart.

The Hogans’ immediate predecessors, former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D) and Baltimore City District Court Judge Catherine Curran O’Malley, also rate a place on the list — because he still exerts some influence on Democratic politics and policy debates at home and around the county, and because she’s a judge.

And speaking of judges, all rise for Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Laura Ripken and her mate — fella by the name of Cal Ripken Jr.

Here are more power couples, where one half is an elected official and the other is a player of some note, in alphabetical order (State House edition):

— Del. Ben Barnes (D-Prince George’s) and Caitlin E. McDonough, a lawyer and lobbyist with the powerhouse Harris Jones Malone (more on that firm later).

— House Environment and Transportation Chair Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery) and Maureen Quinn, a member of the state Workers Compensation Commission.

— House Economic Matters Chair Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) and Monica Whittington Davis, an assistant superintendent of schools in Anne Arundel County.

— Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard) and Joshua Feldmark, executive director of the advocacy group Bike Maryland.

— Senate Majority Leader Guy Guzzone (D-Howard) and Susan Lawrence, senior government affairs specialist at the University of Maryland Baltimore.

— Senate Minority Whip Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (R-Upper Shore) and Wendy Hershey, land conservation liaison at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

— House Ways and Means Chair Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery) and Nancy Lineman, staff attorney at Montgomery College.

— Del. Sara Love (D-Montgomery) and James Brochin, former Baltimore County state senator now working as a contract employee to the Hogan administration. We will resist any further mention of the delegate’s holiday-appropriate surname.

— State Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s) and Sheilah Kast, host of WYPR’s “On the Record.”

— State Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) and Camille G. Fesche, a lobbyist with Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC.

And more in this category (local edition):

— Montgomery County Councilmember William Jawando (D) and Michele L. Jawando, head of Progressive Engagement and Strategic Partnership counsel at Google.

— Baltimore City Councilmember Sharon Greene Middleton (D) and Glenn Middleton, a top AFSCME official in the state.

— Baltimore County Executive John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr. (D) and Marisa Olszewski, exhibits and special projects specialist at Robinson Nature Center in Howard County.

— Gaithersburg City Councilmember Laurie-Anne Sayles (D) and Julian Haffner, an attorney currently working as chief of staff to Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery).

The Hogan administration has plenty of officials who are part of a powerful team. Among them:

— Press Secretary Shareese Churchill and General Services Secretary Ellington E. Churchill Jr.

Julianne Fiastro, director of analysis and reporting at the Maryland Lottery Agency, and John Fiastro, a lobbyist for Greenwill Consulting Group in Annapolis.

— Deputy Chief of Staff Allison S. Mayer and Douglass V. Mayer, the former Hogan spokesman now a partner at Strategic Partners & Media, an Annapolis consulting firm.

— Health Secretary Robert R. Neall and Marta D. Harting, a lobbyist at Venable LLP.

— Health Department Chief Operating Officer Dennis Schrader and Deputy Planning Secretary Sandra B. Schrader.

Key Worcester, deputy director of the Division of Finance & Administration at the Maryland Department of Budget & Management, and Julia Pitcher Worcester, a lobbyist and president of the Maryland Government Relations Association.

The real power brokers

And speaking of lobbyists like Julia Worcester (whose dad is also a lobbyist), as anyone who follows Annapolis knows, it’s the lobbying class that really holds the power. Governors come and go, but State House lobbyists never leave.

Several in the business are half of a powerful personal tandem. Some are married to other lobbyists; some are even in business with their spouses who are lobbyists.

Take Lisa Harris Jones and Sean Malone, the principals of Harris Jones Malone, which has high-profile clients in Annapolis and Baltimore.

Or Hannah Garagiola and Robert J. Garagiola. He’s a former state Senate majority leader and she, like so many Annapolis lobbyists, is a former aide to long-serving Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). They both worked at the powerful firm Alexander & Cleaver, and they both broke away last summer to hang their own shingles.

Isaac Meyer, who works for Hannah Garagiola’s new firm, Compass Government Relations Partners LLC, is married to Ashley Meyer, director of government and business relations for Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D).

At the Annapolis firm Capitol Strategies, partner Robert Johnson is married to Karen White, one of the top union leaders in the country (she’s deputy executive director of the National Education Association). Another partner, David Carroll, is married to Darcy Christhilf Carroll, a financial adviser who is chair of the board of WYPR.

Another Capitol Strategies lobbyist, Erin Appel, is married to Travis Martz, who lobbies for the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association.

Michele Douglas, a partner in the “white hat” lobbying firm Public Policy Partners, is partners in life with Laura Howell, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Services.

Joseph F. Bryce, another top-earning lobbyist, with the firm Manis & Canning — and another former top aide to Miller – is married to Kristin Jones Bryce, vice president of external affairs and system integration at the University of Maryland Medical System. She’s a former chief of staff to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).

Thomas Lewis, another former Busch chief of staff — who was also chief of staff to Busch’s predecessor, Casper R. Taylor Jr. — is now vice president for Government and Community Affairs at Johns Hopkins. He’s married to another former Miller chief of staff, Victoria L. Gruber, who is executive director of the Department of Legislative Services. She may be the most powerful unelected official in Annapolis.

And then there are these random powerful couplings, in no particular order:

Ashley Valis, director of community engagement and strategic initiatives at the University of Maryland Baltimore, and Jim Gillis, chief of staff at the Baltimore Police Department.

William H. Cole IV, president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corp., and Michelle Cole, an administrative law judge.

Richard S. Madaleno Jr., the former state senator and erstwhile gubernatorial contender who is now Montgomery County’s budget director, and Mark Madaleno Hodge, the assistant chief operating officer in the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.

Melissa Einhorn, chief of staff to state Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt (R-Eastern Shore) and Patrick O’Keefe, executive director of the Maryland GOP.

Manervia Riddick, a member of the Maryland Stadium Authority, and Major F. Riddick, back in government as temporary chief administrative officer of Prince George’s County.

Nik Sushka, service learning coordinator at Montgomery College, and David Kunes, former chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and chief of staff to County Councilmember Tom Hucker (D).

Maria Harris Tildon, the senior vice president of public policy and community affairs at Care First Blue Cross Blue Shield in Baltimore, and Charles G. Tildon III, vice president for government relations and strategic partnerships at United Way of Central Maryland.

Karen Polet Doory, the development director at the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and Brian Doory, a Democratic operative (and son of former Baltimore City delegate Ann Marie Doory).

Emily Hollis, director of intergovernmental relations at the Maryland comptroller’s office, and John Gontrum, the assistant state comptroller, in charge of the comptroller’s Board of Public Works portfolio.

Elizabeth Edsall Kromm, vice president of population health and advancement at Howard County General Hospital, and Jonathan Kromm, vice president of strategic market research and product development at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

Beth Levine, vice president of KO Public Affairs in Baltimore, and Brian Levine, vice president of government relations at the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Amanda Brown Lierman, who just left her gig as political director at the Democratic National Committee, and Kyle Lierman, CEO of Civic Advisors and CEO of the advocacy group When We All Vote.

Gustavo Torres, executive director at CASA de Maryland, and Sonia Mora, director of the Montgomery County Latino Health Services Initiative.

Krishanti Vignarajah, the erstwhile gubernatorial candidate who was just hired to be CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and Colin O’Mara, president and CEO at the National Wildlife Federation.

Lastly, we leave you with Sam Zwerling, a top aide to Speaker Busch, and Josh Kurtz. No – not Josh Kurtz, your favorite Maryland Matters scribe, but the younger, smarter and handsomer Josh Kurtz, the director of policy development at The Nature Conservancy. If Josh the younger is able to avoid the misdirected hate mail generated from today’s Valentine’s Day feature, he’s doing all right.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all who celebrate!

Who did we miss? Let us know! It’s never too early to begin the research on our 2020 list.


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Maryland’s Power Couples