Dems Nominate Baltimore Attorney to State Board of Elections

Election
The Maryland State Board of Elections office in Annapolis. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

With Democratic state elections board member Patrick J. Hogan’s term set to expire at the end of June, the Maryland Democratic Party has nominated Baltimore attorney Justin A. Williams to replace him.

Williams, a land use attorney and partner with the business law firm Rosen Martin Greenberg LLP, isn’t new to government service: He worked for Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) when she was mayor of Baltimore, and was appointed by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) in 2016 to serve on the Maryland Board of Professional Engineers.

Williams more recently chaired an audit workgroup as part of Baltimore City Comptroller Bill Henry’s (D) transition team.

Williams’ staff page on the Rosen Martin Greenberg website describes him as an expert in real estate law who represents developers, as well as commercial and industrial property owners. According to the website, the lengthy government resume “allows him to provide unique professional insight in zoning and building code matters and gives him credibility with local governments.”

He also happens to be the nephew of Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County).

Williams said he grew up in Baltimore County, and has been a resident of Baltimore City for 11 years since returning from law school at Georgetown University.

On Monday, Williams said it was an “honor” to have been nominated to the State Board of Elections. Although he hasn’t worked directly on elections, Williams said he has followed election law and ballot access issues closely as a private citizen.

Ensuring all eligible voters have equitable access to the ballot will be among his top priorities on the board, he said.

“It’s something I care about,” Williams said.

Maryland Democratic Party Communications Director Zachary Holman confirmed that the party’s executive committee had nominated Williams to sit on the state elections board. The five-member State Board of Elections is currently composed of three Republicans and two Democrats, since state law dictates the majority party on the board be based on the governor’s political affiliation.

When a State Board of Elections member leaves the panel, their respective political party recommends a replacement to the governor, who must then appoint that nominee, according to state election law.

Williams said he was initially recommended as the Democratic nominee by Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) — who, according to three sources, did not know Williams was related to Jones at the time.

Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Gov. Hogan, said the governor’s appointments office received the party’s recommendation, but added that a changeover likely won’t take place until P.J. Hogan’s term expires on June 30. The two Hogans are not related.

P.J. Hogan is a former state senator who was elected as a Republican but later switched parties and became a Democrat. He has been on the State Board of Elections since 2014, and is leaving the panel because of term limits. Hogan said Monday that he doesn’t know Williams, but wishes him the best as the board prepares for the 2022 election and redistricting.

Two Republican board members, Board Chair Michael C. Cogan and Kelley A. Howells, recently left the panel before their terms expired. Gov. Hogan appointed Republicans Severn E.S. Miller, the former chief counsel of the Federal Transit Administration, and T. Sky Woodward, an attorney at the national law firm Bradley, to fill those vacancies.

Because the General Assembly is out of session, Williams would be subject to confirmation hearings in the Maryland Senate next year. Miller and Woodward were both confirmed by the Senate during Maryland’s 2021 legislative session.

Marylanders who want to learn more about the elections board nominee will have to look no further than ABC’s game show “Jeopardy!,” on which Williams is set to appear as a contestant this Friday. Williams is described on the Rosen Martin Greenberg website as a trivia buff — and was a contestant on the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” in 2015.

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