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Election 2022 Government & Politics

Political notes: Pittman’s takes on a newly-friendly McMillan, plus fundraisers and personnel news

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) announcing an eviction relief package for tenants in 2020. File photo by Bennett Leckrone.

It would be a stretch to call it a bromance.

But you might want to say it’s a reminder that politics breeds strange bedfellows. Or that in politics, as in life, the enemy of my enemy is often my friend.

That’s about the best way to describe a level of admiration now being expressed between former state Del. Herb McMillan, who lost a Republican primary for Anne Arundel County executive earlier this year, and the man he had hoped to defeat, Steuart Pittman, the Democratic incumbent.

Earlier this month, McMillan penned a commentary in The Capital/Gazette newspaper that was harshly critical of County Councilmember Jessica Haire, who defeated McMillan in the GOP primary for county executive. McMillan and Haire clashed bitterly during the primary, and McMillan used the op-ed to take Haire to task for accepting $250,000 in campaign contributions from different entities connected to one development company and then saying she didn’t know the developer was looking to build a rubble landfill in Anne Arundel County. He also offered a harsh assessment of Haire’s campaign tactics and tried to compare them to Pittman’s.

“Integrity matters,” McMillan wrote. “A county executive who is untrustworthy and dishonest cannot lead. This leaves many Republicans and independents with a difficult choice. Alexander Hamilton faced a similar dilemma when he backed Jefferson over Burr in 1801. Just as Hamilton disagreed with Jefferson, I disagree with every policy Steuart Pittman supports; but like Jefferson, Pittman has principles; and like Burr, Haire has none, other than self-interest. Republicans must choose between draining the swamp, or simply feeding their party’s alligators.”

Pittman’s campaign, unsurprisingly, started blasting McMillan’s kind words out in campaign literature and online messages. One text message from the campaign said, “I’m reaching out to make sure you saw Herb McMillan’s op-ed in the Capital Gazette last week. Herb is a principled Republican, and represented Anne Arundel County for 3 terms in the House of Delegates. He’s speaking out to protect our County from Jessica Haire.”

In an interview, Pittman said his campaign has been pushing out that message to Republican voters in particular.

“I was kind of shocked when I read his column about me,” he said. “I can’t deny it’s helpful.”

OK, fair enough. Two guys of utterly different ideologies with a common enemy — Haire — admiring each other’s principles.

Of course, this is taking place as a super PAC that is supporting Pittman is running an ad asserting that Haire is a closet “MAGA Republican” — even though McMillan was far more closely associated with the MAGA movement than Haire was during the GOP primary. She has occasionally been called a RINO — Republican in Name Only — by right-wing critics.

What’s more, Pittman has privately disparaged McMillan and his supporters in the past. A text exchange from the summer between Pittman and a prominent Anne Arundel County resident, obtained by Maryland Matters, showed Pittman saying at the time, “I don’t know Herb very well but I’ve not heard much good about his character.”

When an angry incident involving apparent McMillan supporters was relayed to Pittman by the Haire supporter, he wrote, “Sounds like McMillan gets his supporters from the bars he hangs out in. They should sober up before they open their mouths.”

Asked about the texts, Pittman noted McMillan’s “reputation” for having “a very difficult personality,” which often gave the late state House Speaker Michael Busch (D), who shared a district with McMillan, fits.

“I’m not in a position to speak to his character,” Pittman added. But he sought to contrast McMillan’s reputation for candor with Haire, suggesting that his Republican challenger is not always forthright with voters.

“He’s a hard-driving politician and feels strongly about what he says,” Pittman said.

Doug Mayer, a senior adviser to Haire’s campaign, weighed in on Pittman’s texts.

“If Mr. Pittman spent less time trying to emulate Karl Rove and more time actually running the county, maybe he wouldn’t be losing,” Mayer said. “Either way, calling tens of thousands of your own constituents ‘drunks’ is one heck of a way to end a campaign.”

Pittman and Haire are scheduled to debate in Annapolis on Tuesday evening at an event sponsored by the Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce.

The Clinton-Moore ticket

We’ve already lost track of all the fundraisers Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore is having this fall, but one upcoming event stood out: He and Hillary Clinton are scheduled to participate in an online conversation on leadership on Oct. 25.

The fundraiser doesn’t directly benefit Moore’s campaign, but it will raise money for the Maryland Democratic Party for its turnout operation for Democrats up and down the ballot. Ticket prices start at $100. A $5,000 contribution gets the donor into an online VIP reception with Clinton and Moore.

Dueling fundraisers in Harford County

One of the most competitive legislative races this fall is in Harford County’s District 34, where two former delegates, Christian Miele (R) and Mary-Dulany James (D), are vying for an open state Senate seat. On Thursday evening, they’ll be raising money at exactly the same time.

Miele has an event scheduled with the man he hopes to replace, state Sen. Robert Cassilly (R), who is the overwhelming favorite to be elected Harford County executive next month, and with former Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R). Tickets for the fundraiser, which is taking place at Miele’s home in Bel Air, start at $100.

James, who was defeated by Cassilly in the 2018 and 2014 Senate elections, is raising money with state Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) at Coakley’s Pub in Havre de Grace. Tickets for that event begin at $50.

In a conservative district in an election cycle that seems to be trending the Republicans’ way nationally, Miele is probably the slight favorite. But he’s also relatively new to the district, having represented Baltimore County in the House of Delegates before losing a Senate race there in 2018. He has since moved to Harford, where his wife grew up.

James served in the House from 1999 to 2015, and her father is the late state Senate president and state treasurer William S. James.

Personnel notes

Several prominent Maryland organizations have announced key hires in recent days:

The Greater Baltimore Committee is bringing on Mark Anthony Thomas as its new president and CEO. Thomas comes to Baltimore from Pittsburgh, where he currently serves as president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA), a 10-county regional business organization for Southwestern Pennsylvania.

He has also worked for economic development organizations and public-private partnerships in New York and Los Angeles, among other places.

Thomas will serve as the GBC‘s first CEO since the organization’s merger last spring with the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore (EAGB). He replaces Don Fry, a former state legislator who helmed the organization for two decades.

“At the outset of this process, we merged two organizations to work together intentionally, strengthening our communities and the region’s economy,” said Calvin Butler, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of Exelon and GBC‘s board chair. “Our next milestone was to secure a dynamic leader to define a new vision for inclusive economic development and growth. Mark’s proven experience, leadership and collaboration with stakeholders across business, government, nonprofit organizations, academia and the broader community will be critical to advancing the initiatives building the region’s assets.”

Meanwhile, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, the health care company, announced that it has hired Charlene MacDonald as senior vice president, Public Policy & Government Affairs following an extensive executive search.

Most recently, MacDonald served as senior managing director, Head of Healthcare and Life Sciences at FTI Consulting, where she led a team of professionals who represented health systems, trade associations, coalitions, and corporate clients. But she has also worked as the senior health policy adviser to U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

“Charlene’s time on Capitol Hill was centrally focused on policy efforts to protect and expand access to care. She has a sterling reputation as a leader in health policy and has considerable depth on the issues important and relevant to the communities and people we serve,” CareFirst President and CEO Brian D. Pieninck said. “…This experience, paired with her background in the private sector and trade associations, gives her the policy skills, political know-how, relationship equity, and enterprise-wide view to lead our mission-aligned function for CareFirst.”

And another local political veteran is also latching on with a regional trade association.

The Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington (AOBA) is adding Brian Anleu to its government affairs team as vice president of Government Affairs for Maryland. Anleu will represent the organization and its members before the General Assembly and the Montgomery and Prince George’s County Councils.

Most recently, Anleu served as chief of staff to the Montgomery County Planning Board. He was also deputy chief of staff to Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker (D) for five years.