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Government & Politics

Political notes: The MACo fundraising circuit, Humane lawmakers, FOP backs Ball, and Bidens head to Md.

The 2022 Maryland Association of Counties summer conference will be held this week in Ocean City. Stock.adobe.com photo by Christopher Boswell.

The Maryland Association of Counties annual summer conference is set to kick off Wednesday in Ocean City, and beyond the official proceedings taking place in the Roland Powell Convention Center and the score of free receptions sponsored by political leaders, lobbying firms and special interest groups, there are at least seven candidate and political committee fundraisers scheduled to coincide with the convention. They are:

  • A fundraiser Wednesday for Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Aloft Hotel
  • A fundraiser Wednesday for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski (D) from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Fontainebleau Hotel
  • A fundraiser Wednesday for Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, the Republican nominee for state comptroller, from 4:30-7 p.m. at Seacrets
  • A fundraiser Thursday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore at the Holiday Inn
  • A fundraiser Friday from 8-9:30 a.m. for the Senate Republican Caucus at Blu Crabhouse
  • A fundraiser Friday for the House Republican Caucus from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Harrison’s Harbor Watch
  • A fundraiser Friday from 4-6 p.m. for House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) at the Aloft Hotel

MACo will also be a bit of a farewell tour for term-limited Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has always been a popular figure at these Ocean City confabs. Traditionally, the governor’s speech is the final event of the four-day conference, on Saturday, but this year the late morning Saturday time slot is reserved for a conversation with four of the six candidates for statewide office: Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick), the GOP gubernatorial nominee; Glassman; Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City), Glassman’s opponent in the general election for comptroller; and U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, the Democratic nominee for attorney general.

Moore, who will doing a variety of events in Ocean City during the week, will not be at the forum, and neither will former Anne Arundel County Councilmember Michael Anthony Peroutka, the Republican nominee for attorney general.

But Hogan still will be a presence around town. He’s hosting a “thank you” reception on Wednesday evening, will speak to the convention on Thursday morning, and also plans to drop by the Taste of Maryland event at the convention hall on Thursday evening, the reception for members of the governor’s cabinet on Friday afternoon, and the crab feast on Friday evening. He also plans to walk the Ocean City boardwalk on Thursday afternoon, and has a series of events scheduled up and down the Eastern Shore this week before and after hitting the OC.

State Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), who is also leaving office in January after 16 years on the job, is scheduled to make at least one appearance in Ocean City this week, at the Taste of Maryland event Thursday.

Personnel notes

Drew Vetter, who recently stepped down as deputy administrative officer in the Baltimore County government, has signed on with Schwartz, Metz, Wise & Kauffman, P.A., the Annapolis law and lobbying firm. He’ll join the firm on Sept. 1.

Vetter served as deputy administrative officer for Olszewski from 2018 until July of 2022. In that role, Vetter was responsible for a portfolio that included policing and public safety, as well as economic development and land use. He also served as the administration’s lead on labor negotiations and labor relations issues.

Previously, Vetter was the director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in Baltimore City, chief of staff and director of government affairs at the Baltimore Police Department, and the deputy legislative officer for former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

“Drew represented best in class service to the residents of Baltimore County, bringing an unwavering work ethic, a keen intellect and an unflappable demeanor to his work every day,” Olszewski said.

In other personnel news, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the largest nonprofit health plan in the Mid-Atlantic, announced Tuesday that Lester Davis is coming aboard as vice president and chief of staff, reporting directly to the President and CEO, Brian D. Pieninck.

The health care giant said Davis will collaborate with the CareFirst executive leadership team, guiding strategic initiatives, leading special projects, and serving as an extension of the CEO’s office.

“As a proven leader with a strategic mind and passion for making a positive impact, Lester has a drive that directly aligns with the difference-maker culture of CareFirst, and his unique skillset will advance our efforts to advocate for a more equitable healthcare system,” Pieninck said. “Lester will play a critical role in leading and expanding our shared efforts to transform healthcare with and for the people we serve.”

Davis comes most recently from SKDK, the national Democratic media firm, where he served as vice president of public affairs. Before that, he spent more than a decade in the Baltimore City government, including as deputy chief of staff for the mayor’s office.

Animal lovers

The Humane Society Legislative Fund, the political advocacy organization for animal protection, released its 2022 Maryland Humane Scorecard on Tuesday. The scorecard grades state lawmakers based on their votes for priority animal protection legislation during the 2022 General Assembly session.

This year, the General Assembly passed several reforms on the animal rights front, including ending wildlife trafficking in the state, requiring shelter for dogs in extreme weather, and banning cat declawing. Several lawmakers in both parties rang up strong grades in the group’s scorecard.

“The Maryland General Assembly continues to make strong progress towards building a more humane society,” said Brad Pyle, political director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

In all, 29 of 47 senators — including one Republican, Chris West of Baltimore County — got perfect 100% scores. And only one senator — Sen. Steve Hershey (R-Upper Shore) — scored as low as 50%.

The situation was a little different in the House. While 105 members rang up perfect scores — including 12 Republicans — some Republicans fared pretty poorly. Del. Robin Grammer of Baltimore County scored zero on the Humane Society report card, and Del. Dan Cox, the GOP nominee for governor, was the next lowest at 17%.

On the Ball

Last week, we reported that several former Howard County law enforcement leaders from Democratic and Republican administrations had endorsed former County Executive Allan Kittleman (R) in his bid to defeat the man who ousted him four years ago, current County Executive Calvin Ball (D).

In so doing, we overlooked that Ball had been endorsed in late June by the Howard County Police Officers’ Association Inc., members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 21. Ball was part of a bipartisan list of 10 candidates the union endorsed at the time for state and local offices.

“These candidates support quality, honorable and effective policing,” the union said in a statement. “They stand with the men and women of the Howard County Police Department and we stand with them.”

Bidens to rally in Maryland

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are scheduled to appear at a “grassroots event” to get out the vote in Montgomery County next week.

The Democratic National Committee is promoting the event, to be held Thursday.

The exact location and time of the event have not been announced, but a signup form indicates it will be held in the 20815 zip code, an area that includes Bethesda, Chevy Chase and a portion of Rock Creek Park east of Silver Spring.

“There’s so much at stake in the upcoming election, and it’s imperative that we elect Democrats up and down the ballot in November. Join us and hear directly from Democratic leadership and special guests, and learn more about how you can do your part in electing Democrats in November,” the invitation states.

Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.