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Election 2022 Government & Politics

Political notes: A new gig for Kelly Schulz, an update on the Jessicas, a counter to Hillary, and MoCo Planning Bd. finalists

Kelly Schulz, the former Maryland Commerce secretary and erstwhile gubernatorial contender, is going to head the Maryland Tech Council. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

There was never any doubt that Kelly Schulz, the former Maryland Commerce secretary and state lawmaker, was going to land on her feet after losing a bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in July. The question was, where?

Now we know the answer. The Maryland Tech Council, the technology and life sciences trade association, announced Monday that Schulz, who has owned a small cybersecurity business, will become its new CEO.

Before running for governor, Schulz, who lives in Frederick County, served as secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, the state’s primary economic development agency, from 2019 to 2021. She previously served as secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor from 2015 to 2018, and spent four years in the House of Delegates before joining Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s cabinet in early 2015.

Schulz succeeds Marty Rosendale, who will step down as CEO of the tech council after four years.

“As a technology business partner, lawmaker, and economic development leader, Kelly possesses a rare combination of skills that make her an outstanding choice to lead the Maryland Tech Council,” said Todd Marks, president and CEO of Mindgrub Technologies and chair of the Maryland Tech Council. “Kelly’s success in both the private and public sectors will be key to helping our members succeed and continuing our organization’s growth.”

The Frederick-based organization is in a period of growth. The tech council recently secured nearly $5 million in state and federal funding to launch BioHub Maryland, a life science initiative to meet the industry’s workforce development needs. The council this year also launched regional chapters in the Baltimore region and in Prince George’s County.

“I am honored that the Maryland Tech Council has put its trust in me at such an exciting time for tech and life science innovation,” Schulz said. “As MTC rapidly scales its BioHub Maryland workforce development initiative and launches new regional chapters across the state, I am honored to lead the organization through this next growth phase. We will remain laser focused on leveraging Maryland’s world-class innovation assets to help our members succeed.”

Schulz was popular with her colleagues in Annapolis, on both sides of the aisle, and Hogan, her former boss, tweeted his congratulations on Monday, calling Schulz “a tremendous leader.” But with the Democrats favored to win back the governor’s mansion, and the General Assembly likely to maintain their Democratic supermajorities, putting a visible Republican at the head of the tech council is a noteworthy move for an organization that may be seeking more recognition in the State House in the years ahead, Schulz’s qualifications and stature notwithstanding.

Haire’s closing argument

Anne Arundel County Councilmember Jessica Haire, the Republican nominee for county executive, started airing a new TV spot Monday that she’s billing as the closing argument of her campaign against the Democratic incumbent, Steuart Pittman.

The 30-second ad is entirely Haire, getting out of a car and then walking toward the camera.

“The biggest difference between Steuart Pittman and me? He can’t run on his record, so he makes up stories about mine,” Haire says at the top of the ad. “He calls me an extremist, but my primary opponent called me too moderate. What’s real?

“I’m just like you — more focused on solutions than politics. We’ve seen what Steuart Pittman’s passive leadership brings: Taxes. Crime. Kids who can’t get to school. My promise: proactive leadership that’s focused on solving local issues.”

The ad ends with Haire asking viewers for their vote.

Pittman began airing his closing argument over the weekend — a 30-second spot that compared his current job to his prior job as a horse farmer, and featuring a cameo from Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore, leading a horse.

Toasting Fitzwater

Frederick County Councilmember Jessica Fitzwater (D) took her campaign for Frederick County executive to the Checkerspot Brewery in South Baltimore Monday evening, where she was toasted by several leading Democrats.

State Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County), Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr. (D), Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D) and House Judiciary Chair Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) were listed as the chief sponsors of the fundraiser. The listed co-hosts were Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City), Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), Elizabeth Embry, Democratic nominee for a House seat in District 43, Del. Robbyn Lewis (D-Baltimore City), Del. Ben Brooks (D-Baltimore County), Del. Dalya Attar (D-Baltimore City), and Baltimore County Councilmember Cathy Bevins (D).

Fitzwater is locked in a tight race with state Sen. Michael Hough (R) to replace County Executive Jan Gardner (D), who is termed out after eight years in office. Hough has accused Fitzwater of wanting to turn Frederick into “Montgomery County North,” and went to town when he learned she’d be holding a fundraiser at a brewery in Silver Spring. Who knows what he’ll do with the news that she was in Baltimore City Monday night?

MoCo Planning Board finalists

The Montgomery County Council on Monday evening released the names of the 11 finalists it will interview for the five vacant positions on the Montgomery County Planning Board. All five members of the board resigned under fire earlier this month after a variety of scandals and controversies at the planning agency were made public. These new appointees will serve for an unspecified period.

The finalists are:

  • Raj Barr‐Kuma, an architect
  • Cherri Branson, a former county council member
  • Francoise Carrier, a former Planning Board chair and land use attorney
  • Norman Dreyfuss, a developer and former Planning Board member
  • Barbara Goldberg Goldman, a longtime Democratic activist and donor and affordable housing advocate
  • David Hill, a former member of the Rockville Planning Commission
  • William Kirwan, an architect and former member of the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission
  • Vincent Napoleon, a business attorney
  • Roberto Pinero, a former federal housing official who unsuccessfully sought a Planning Board seat in the past
  • Amy Presley, a former Planning Board member and Upcountry civic activist
  • Jeff Zyontz, the county council’s former land use attorney

The council is scheduled to interview all the candidates beginning at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday. It isn’t clear when the council is going to vote on the new members, but they’re expected to be sworn in as soon as Thursday. You can see the finalists’ resumes here.

The council received 128 applications for the five vacancies. No more than three of the five choices can be from the same political party.

Countering Hillary

Hillary Clinton, as we’ve reported before, is participating in an online fundraiser Tuesday night for the Maryland Democratic Party with Wes Moore, the Democratic nominee for governor, on the topic of leadership. Republicans have now come up with some counter-programming.

At exactly the same time Tuesday, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) will be participating in a Zoom fundraiser for Nicolee Ambrose, the Republican National Committeewoman from Maryland who is challenging 10-term U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) in the 2nd District.

Noem, a possible candidate for president in 2024, was supposed to headline the Maryland Republican Party’s annual fundraiser last month, but had to drop out due to medical issues.

“Don’t miss this chance to chat with one of the country’s most popular freedom-loving governors!” an online invitation from the state GOP says. “Not only will you be able to ask the governor and former congresswoman questions, but you will be supporting a new congresswoman for Maryland!”