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Election 2022 Government & Politics

Political Notes: Women’s Caucus Golden Anniversary, Comptroller Race Poll, Endorsements and More

Dozens of members of the Women’s Caucus of Maryland posed on the State House steps in their Maryland Day finery. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

It was a tough General Assembly session for the Women Legislators of Maryland, which experienced partisan tension and the (possibly temporary) resignation of its Republican members. But the caucus still released a celebratory video recently marking its 50th anniversary, featuring both Democrats and Republicans.

Using interviews with current and former caucus members and archival photos and headlines, the 10-minute video outlines how the 12 women serving in the General Assembly at the time, led by the late Del. Pauline H. Menes (D-Prince George’s), organized around policy issues and simple amenities, like the absence of women’s bathrooms in close proximity to the legislative chambers.

“These women were isolated,” former Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah (D-Prince George’s), who served in the legislature from 1987 to 2007, says in the video. “They couldn’t play poker with the guys and smoke cigars.”

Del. Anne Healey (D-Prince George’s), who just ended her term as women’s caucus president, recalls that the House speaker at the time, Thomas Hunter Lowe (D-Talbot), presented Menes with a fur-lined toilet seat and told her she could be chair of the Women’s Restroom Committee.

“I’ve never forgotten that story,” Lawlah says. “I think every woman who’s elected to the legislature should know that story.”

The video then turns to current House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), who is a two-time pioneer: the first woman and the first African-American to serve as a presiding officer in the General Assembly. In the film, Jones talks about her commitment to installing more women’s bathrooms around the legislative complex, in addition to lactation stations.

Next, the video quotes members about some of the legislative battles the caucus has waged, and the celebration in 2020 for the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. Jones then recounts a visit to Capitol Hill, where she met U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who had been the first Black woman to serve as the speaker of a state House, and trailblazing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“That really hit me that this is a small club there,” Jones says.

Healey says that when she joined the legislature in 1991, she felt “the weight of history,” but now believes that women can soon be the majority in the General Assembly. Currently, 82 of 188 members are women.

Jones, at the video’s end, echoes that sentiment: “I’d like to encourage women to consider going into public office.”

Jealous gets the headline but Charles County endorsements also significant

It was hardly surprising that Ben Jealous, the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor, endorsed author and former nonprofit CEO Wes Moore in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. Jealous and Moore are longtime acquaintances, and Jealous has been advising Moore since the latter began exploring a run.

Some of Jealous’ hard-learned lessons from the 2018 election could be vital to Moore this time around, particularly if Moore becomes the Democratic nominee. Republicans are already signaling that they plan to run a “who is this guy?” campaign against Moore, much as they did with Jealous — who, like Moore, had never held elective office before.

“Wes is a once-in-a-generation leader who can build the coalitions we need to win in November and deliver the economic progress working families need across Maryland,” Jealous said in a statement.

Equally significant, Moore this week rolled out endorsements from House Economic Matters Committee Chair C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) and Charles County Commissioner Thomasina Coates (D). Those are significant because Charles, which is now majority-Black, is occasionally seen as an extension of Prince George’s County, and former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is also seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

“While others say what they will do, Wes Moore has shown us what he’s done as a public servant; not as a career politician,” Wilson said.

So far, Baker has not nabbed any endorsements of elected officials in Charles County. But Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) has support from five local officials. And former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez has the backing of Reuben M. Collins III, the president of the Charles County commission.

For a list of prior endorsements in the race for governor, click here.

Schulz gets backing of Kent County Commissioners

Former Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz (R) has the backing of the Kent County Commissioner in the gubernatorial primary — including a county leader who earlier withdrew an endorsement from Franchot.

Commissioner Ron Fithian had endorsed Franchot earlier this election cycle, but withdrew support after the comptroller said he would phase out the state’s wild oyster fishery in favor of aquaculture in an interview with The Star Democrat.

In 2018, Fithian was among a list of Democrats in the state supporting Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s re-election campaign; last year, the formerly lifelong Democrat switched his party affiliation to the GOP.

He will be joined by the other members of the county commission — P. Thomas Mason and Robert N. Jacob Jr. — in endorsing Schulz.

“The unanimous endorsement of the entire Kent County Board of Commissioners is representative of the strong support that our campaign is receiving across the state,” Schulz campaign spokesman Mike Demkiw said in a statement. “Marylanders are extremely proud of the Chesapeake Bay and individuals whose livelihoods depend on our world-class seafood industry know that Kelly Schulz is the only candidate who is committed to a clean Bay and protecting their way of life.”

Adams poll shows most voters undecided in comptroller race

Bowie Mayor and Democratic comptroller candidate Timothy J. Adams released a poll on Thursday showing the vast majority of voters remained undecided in the comptroller race.

In a survey of 504 likely Democratic primary voters commissioned by Adams and conducted by the firm HIT Strategies, 75% said they were undecided. Adams led the poll with 15% of those polled supporting him and 10% supporting his primary opponent, Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D).

The pollsters noted, however, that 4% of voters were “very certain” Adams voters — equal to Lierman’s 4%. Pollsters found that favorability for Adams, the first Black mayor of Bowie and the founder and CEO of the multimillion-dollar defense contracting firm Systems Application & Technologies, increased when voters were given more information about his background.

The poll, which was conducted between March 17 and March 23 via phone dialing and text-to-web using voter files, had a 4.5% margin of error.

Lierman scores environmental endorsement on Earth Day

Environment Maryland, an environmental advocacy group, rolled out an Earth Day endorsement of Lierman.

“With the effects of climate change right in front of us, we can’t afford to go back,” Emily Scarr, a senior advisor at Environment Maryland, said in a release. “Lierman has a strong record as a leader on environmental issues including transportation, energy, and waste reduction in the State Legislature, so we can trust, and be excited by, the vision she will bring to the office of Comptroller.”

Lierman was endorsed last year by the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club.

Lierman has said she wants to use the comptroller’s position on the board of Public Works to procure more energy efficient buildings and vehicles.

For a list of prior endorsements in the race for comptroller, click here.