Bill Would Extend Deadline for Gubernatorial Candidates to Pick Running Mates

Maryland House Environment and Transportation Committee Chairman Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

Maryland gubernatorial candidates could choose their running mates after the primary election instead of designating them when they file to run for governor, if the Maryland General Assembly and voters approve a proposed change to election law.

Del. Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery) presented the bill to the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday.

Under current law candidates for governor and their picks for lieutenant governor must appear together on ballots  in primaries. Critics say this narrows the potential pool of candidates for lieutenant governor because many potential officeholders don’t want to give up seats they already hold in the race for governor. 

If gubernatorial candidates could wait until they secure the nomination, they could choose a running mate from candidates who were not nominated. The nominee would have 21 days after the primary election to select a running mate. 

Barve said this is why he introduced the bill.

After seeing a photo of two gubernatorial candidates from 2018 — former state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. and former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III — he told the committee he thought, “One or both of them is not going to be running for higher office.” 

This photo of then-state Sen. Richard Madaleno (right) and then-Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (left) inspired Del. Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery) to introduce legislation changing the way candidates for lieutenant governor are selected. Madaleno and Baker ran against each other for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Former Montgomery County Councilman George L. Leventhal is in the middle.

“This is the image that inspired me to put in the legislation,” Barve said as he showed the photo to the committee Thursday. 

Barve said that Benjamin T. Jealous, the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor, would have had the opportunity to pick a state senator or county executive as his running mate, if the law allowed a candidate to pick their running mate after the primary. 

“Ben Jealous had no political background, it could have been to his advantage,” Barve said. 

Barve said the change would be an advantage for Republicans, too. 

Maryland is among eight states — including Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio and Utah — in which the lieutenant governor is chosen by the gubernatorial candidate before the primary, to run on a single ticket. If the process is changed, Maryland would join 10 other states in which the governor’s running mate is selected after the primary election. 

Other states nominate their lieutenant governor in a separate election, or the position does not exist, or the lieutenant governor is a member of the legislature. 

Barve said not only would the bill allow both parties to build the best team possible, but it would make the process more civil. 

“If you knew you might be picked as a running mate, you might watch yourself and not get as nasty,” Barve said. 

Barve introduced a similar bill in 2019, but the legislation never progressed, because then-House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D) didn’t want to pass any constitutional amendments until the year they would be on the ballot — this year. 

“This is the perfect time to do it,” said Jared DeMarinis, director of Candidacy and Campaign Finance at the Maryland State Board of Elections. “Because there’s a two term limit, the next gubernatorial election will have open seats for both parties.”

Voters must pass a constitutional amendment in order to change the process, so the bill needs to pass during this session in order to authorize a ballot question in time for the November general election. Additional legislation will be needed if the voters approve the proposition. 

“There would be some necessary changes to the election law article, because everything was designed as if it were on a single ticket,” DeMarinis said. 

DeMarinis said legislators would have to revisit campaign finance laws, including how campaign contributions would be combined when a candidate joins a ticket after the primary. 

“It would also help clarify some of the quirks in the primary election law,” DeMarinis said. 

In 2018, Kevin Kamenetz, the Baltimore County executive and a Democratic candidate for governor, died suddenly during his campaign. His running mate, Valerie Ervin ran in his place. DeMarinis said that, under the new process, Kamenetz would be removed from the ballot and nobody would replace him or fill in. 

Dels. Julie Palakovich Carr (D-Montgomery) and Dana Stein (D-Baltimore County) are co-sponsors on the bill.