Md. Democrats Close Their Eyes and Imagine They’re at the Convention

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke to a Maryland Democratic dinner last fall. She'll be speaking virtually to the Maryland delegation to the Democratic National Convention on Monday. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

In an alternate universe, one not completely upended by COVID-19, the dozens of Maryland delegates to the Democratic National Convention and their families, along with countless Free State politicians, lobbyists and other hangers-on, would be in Milwaukee right now, preparing for the start of the convention on Monday.

They’d already have been to several parties, with a dizzying array of meals, receptions and other social events ahead of them between now and the convention’s Thursday night finale. And they’d be participants in the official convention program.

In the absence of live action, the Maryland Democratic Party is attempting to simulate the convention experience for delegates, donors, politicians and friends. Just as the convention itself has gone all-virtual, there will be daily online activities for Maryland Democrats.

“Although we may not be in Milwaukee as planned, Maryland delegates are energized no matter where we are,” said Maryland Democratic Chairwoman Yvette Lewis.

Beyond the evening convention spectacle — which has effectively become a nationally televised show over the past several decades, with very little formal business being transacted — some of the most important events for Maryland pols during a traditional convention week are the daily delegation breakfasts. The speakers’ program, the schmoozing, the stolen conversations in private corners, all reveal something about what the political landscape in the state will look like in the next election cycle — when most state and local offices are up for grabs.

This year, some of that jockeying and conspiring will be evident online.

Party leaders are touting the list of national celebrities scheduled to speak at the virtual delegation breakfasts this week. The roster includes U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a Baltimore native; U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2016; and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the fourth-ranking House Democrat and a rising star in the party.

“We are excited to have an exceptional group of our nation’s political leaders join us for a week of activities leading up to the historic nomination of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next President and Vice President of the United States,” Lewis said in a statement.

During convention week, the Maryland delegation is also hosting a talent show, a silent auction, nightly convention watch parties, and a nightly post-convention wrap-up — all online. The state party’s Facebook page currently lists a full menu of convention-themed cocktails, like the Kamala Kooler (bourbon, ginger beer, strawberry liqueur and lemon juice) and the Ridin’ With Biden (tequila, grapefruit soda and lime juice).

But the politics will be heaviest at the virtual daily delegation breakfasts. All are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Here’s what they will look like, according to information provided by the Maryland Democratic Party:

On Monday, the breakfast is being sponsored by the Blair Family Foundation. The scheduled speakers are Pelosi; U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), a member of “The Squad” of progressive women of color who were elected to the House in 2018; Maryland Reps. Jamie B. Raskin and John P. Sarbanes, and David Blair, the Montgomery County businessman and philanthropist who ran unsuccessfully for county executive in 2018 and is considering another run in 2022.

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) will also be speaking to the delegation. Official House portrait
The breakfast Tuesday is being sponsored by Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), whose political future is already the source of rampant speculation. Scheduled speakers are Kaine, Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume, state Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), and Karine Jean-Pierre, a Biden campaign adviser who is currently a top aide to Harris.
Scheduled speakers at Wednesday’s breakfast are Jeffries, former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, and Maryland Reps. Anthony G. Brown, and C.A. Dutch Ruppersburger. Brown is seriously contemplating a second run for governor in 2022.
The Thursday breakfast program is sponsored by Emergent Biosolutions, a Gaithersburg-based pharmaceutical company. Scheduled speakers are U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Maryland Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Maryland Rep. David J. Trone. The latter is a potential candidate for governor in 2022.

“These prominent Democratic leaders reflect the diversity, strength and character of our party and our nation,” Lewis said. “We are thrilled they will be part of Maryland’s convention celebration.”

[email protected]

(Disclosure: The Blair Family Foundation and the David and June Trone Family Foundation are financial supporters of Maryland Matters.)