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Election 2022 Government & Politics

Political Notes: Rural State Senate Contests, and a King and a President Visit Annapolis

Former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. (D) officially filed his candidacy papers at the Maryland State Board of Elections early Thursday morning with his running mate, Michelle Siri. A few hours later at the side of the Maryland State House, King listed the core pillars of his campaign: education, economic development and diversity, and addressing climate change. Photo by Elizabeth Shwe.

It’s official: Del. John F. “Johnny” Mautz IV is challenging Sen. Adelaide Eckardt in the Republican primary for the Eastern Shore’s 37th District Senate seat.

Mautz filed his candidacy papers on Wednesday and released a statement on social media, saying he decided to run against the two-term incumbent, who previously served for 20 years in the House, “after a lot of encouragement and deep reflection.”

“Serving in the House of Delegates has been an incredible honor — my focus has and will continue to be the citizens of District 37 — not the Annapolis Establishment,” Mautz said.

“The Eastern Shore is my home, it’s the place I love, and in the Senate I will be a steadfast voice for our values, beliefs, and heritage. As your Senator, I will be clear and forthright, my door will always be open, and I will be committed to every citizen in our district. Nobody will work harder and nobody will care more.”

Mautz also paid tribute to the woman whose political career he’s trying to end.

“I greatly respect and appreciate Senator Eckardt’s 28 years of service to our district but it is time for a change,” he said, reminding his supporters that, “It’s time to change the signs!!”

Earlier this month, Eckardt told Maryland Matters that while she wasn’t happy about Mautz’s anticipated challenge, she was ready to defend her record.

“Whatever it is, it is,” she said. “It’s just politics, and that’s what we all get into.”

Mautz is expected to hit Eckardt for working too closely with Democratic leaders in the Senate — a circumstance she lamented, saying she preferred to “focus on the issues that we all agree on” and not “the extremes.”

Mautz had $153,434 in his campaign account a month ago, compared to $81,370 for Eckardt.

Speaking of Senate races in rural districts…

It’s been more than half a century since voters in Western Maryland’s 1st District sent a Democrat to the state Senate. But the Democrats got a credible candidate this week when Mike Dreisbach, a prominent businessman, entered the race.

Dreisbach and his wife Jan, who live in Frostburg, operate four tourism and hospitality businesses in Garrett County, including the Savage River Lodge, famous for being surrounded by 700 acres of state forestland.

“I have deep roots in Western Maryland and I want to put my decades of experience as a small business owner to work in Annapolis,” the Washington County native said in a statement. “I am running to make sure good jobs come to Western
Maryland through helping small businesses, health care is affordable and accessible, and our environment and natural resources are protected.”

Dreisbach began his career working on the shop floor at Fairchild Industries, before the aircraft manufacturer closed its facility in Hagerstown, and quickly rose into local union leadership, becoming president of UAW Local 842. After that, he was a labor mediator and served as executive director of the Cumberland Area Labor Management organization.

The 1st District, which covers Garrett, Allegany and the western edge of Washington counties, has been represented in the Senate since 2007 by Sen. George C. Edwards (R-Garrett), who also served in the House of Delegates and on the Garrett County Commission. But with Edwards retiring, Del. Michael W. McKay and Allegany County Commissioner Jake Shade are fighting it out in the Republican primary.

The 1st District is tough territory for the Democrats, though former Del. Kevin Kelly (D) represented one of the House subdistricts, in Allegany County, as recently as 2014. He was ousted by now-House Minority Leader Jason C. Buckel (R) by 18 points. And more famously, then-House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D), who hailed from Cumberland, lost his reelection bid in 2002. Former President Trump bested President Biden in the 1st District 73% to 26% in 2020.

King (in Annapolis) for a day

Former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. (D) officially filed his paperwork to run for governor at the Maryland State Board of Elections early Thursday morning with his running mate, Michelle Siri.

“As a former high school civics teacher, it’s very fun to get to the point of actually formally filing,” King said in an interview. Noting that his ancestors were enslaved in Maryland, “there’s something really powerful about being able to be a part of this democracy in this way.”

“It felt momentous,” Siri echoed. “I mean it when I say I really think of this as a public service.”

A few hours later, King and Siri launched their “Promise to Progress Tour,” in which they plan to hold events across the state for the next month to talk with voters. As the state moves closer to the gubernatorial primary election on June 28., King said he wants to continue to send a clear message that his campaign is going to compete everywhere and that he wants to “be the governor for all Marylanders.”

But as King and Siri were about to speak at Lawyers Mall after filing, a rally of several dozen people shouting, “Unmask our kids!” and “Let us breathe!” popped up next to them as lawmakers walked out of the Maryland State House. The King and Siri campaign moved to the opposite side of the State House to announce their tour.

There, King described his progressive goals and listed the three core pillars of his campaign: education, economic development and diversity, and addressing climate change. He remarked on the stark contrast of having served in the cabinet of the first Black president after his great grandfather had been enslaved a century and a half earlier and 25 miles away from where King lives in Silver Spring.

“That’s what’s possible if we create an opportunity society,” he said.

A president honors a president

Freeman A. Hrabowski III, the venerable president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, who is stepping down in June after 30 years on the job, is coming to the State House Monday to pay tribute to an even more famous president — George Washington.

Hrabowski is scheduled to give the state Senate’s annual President’s Day address Monday evening. He’ll do it from the Old Senate Chamber in the State House, where George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental army in December 1783. Word is that Hrabowski will read one of Washington’s speeches.