Perez to Become a Partner at Venable But That Won’t Affect His ’22 Deliberations

Tom Perez, who is contemplating a run for governor in 2022, during his time as U.S. Labor secretary. Labor Department photo.

When the powerhouse Baltimore-based law firm Venable LLP announced Thursday that former Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez was coming aboard as a partner, the Maryland political world was puzzled.

Did Perez’s new and presumably remunerative job mean he wasn’t planning to run for governor in 2022?

Apparently not. A source said late Thursday that Perez is continuing to deliberate whether to join the Democratic field, will likely make a decision by July 4, and will only be working at Venable part-time.

According to the firm’s website, Perez will advise clients in internal investigations, legislative and government affairs, labor and employment, litigation, OSHA counseling and litigation, political law and health care.

“When assisting clients with legal, legislative, and regulatory matters across a broad range of subject matter areas, Tom Perez brings to bear decades of experience leading government organizations at the federal, state, and local levels,” the firm said. “He served as secretary of labor and assistant attorney general for Civil Rights in the Obama administration. He served as a senior adviser to Senator Edward Kennedy, and secretary of labor, licensing, and regulation in Maryland under Governor Martin O’Malley. He was the first Latino elected to the Montgomery County Council in Maryland.”

Most of the other Democratic candidates for governor also have day jobs.

Peter V.R. Franchot has been state comptroller for 15 years. Former attorney general Douglas F. Gansler, who formally joined the race earlier this week, is remaining at his law firm, Cadwalader — in fact, his office in Washington, D.C., is exactly three blocks from Venable’s D.C. outpost, where Perez will be based.

Jon Baron, who created an exploratory committee, continues to be affiliated with Arnold Ventures, a solutions-based philanthropy. Former Prince George’s County executive Rushern L. Baker III runs an institute at the University of Maryland College Park that trains local elected officials, and has been doing advocacy for an Alzheimer’s organization and teaching at Bowie State University. And former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain works as a program officer for the National Kidney Foundation.

Of the declared or likely Democratic candidates, only Wes Moore, the author and former nonprofit executive, is completely out of a job. Moore stepped down as CEO of the New York-based Robin Hood Foundation earlier this month. Former U.S. Education secretary John B. King Jr. announced in late April that he would take a leave of absence from The Education Trust to focus on the campaign. Similarly, Baltimore tech executive Mike Rosenbaum has stepped back from running the two companies he owns for now.

On the Republican side, the leading candidate for governor, Kelly M. Schulz, is also gainfully employed — as secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce. The other declared candidate, Robin Ficker, retains his law practice.

Even with multiple gigs, Perez — who is also a paid commentator at CNN — is keeping politically active in Maryland. Last week, he attended a reception at the office of CASA, the immigrants’ rights organization that he once served as board president, in honor of newly elected Latino municipal officials in Prince George’s County. He also spoke to an annual conference in Montgomery County on affordable housing. Next week, he’s headlining a fundraiser for Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker (D).

A Venable spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment Thursday on whether the firm’s partners are permitted to run for political office.

Venable’s former managing partner, James L. Shea, unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2018, immediately after stepping down as the firm’s leader.

In other gubernatorial election news, Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) told The Washington Post late Wednesday that she would seek re-election in 2022 rather than run for governor, echoing earlier comments. She said she “knows there will be opportunities to serve on a higher level” in the future.

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Josh Kurtz
Founding Editor Josh Kurtz is a veteran chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He was an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, for eight years, and for eight years was the editor of E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill. For 6 1/2 years Kurtz wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz regularly gives speeches and appears on TV and radio shows to discuss Maryland politics.