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Election 2022 Government & Politics

Political notes: Crossing party lines in Frederick, the NRCC’s new view of Md., plus personnel news

Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City) speaking on a panel about police reform policy at the Maryland Association of Counties Convention. Photo by Hannah Gaskill.

One current and two former Democratic lawmakers are lending state Sen. Michael Hough (R) a hand as he campaigns for Frederick County executive against County Councilmember Jessica Fitzwater, the Democrat.

Hough, who has spent a dozen years in the General Assembly, is circulating campaign literature featuring endorsements from state Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City), who serves with Hough on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, former Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), who chaired the panel before leaving the legislature in 2019, and retired Del. Joseph Vallario (D-Prince George’s), who chaired the House Judiciary Committee when Hough served there. All three provided the campaign with statements saying Hough serves in a bipartisan fashion.

Carter’s endorsement is the most noteworthy and perhaps the most surprising. Zirkin is a longtime friend and ally of Hough’s, and Vallario grew increasingly out of step with Democrats in the legislature and in Prince George’s County as his long tenure wound down.

In her statement on Hough’s campaign literature, Carter says, “I am a Progressive Democrat, so we disagreed on a number of issues. But we found common ground on certain matters of justice and fundamental fairness. I can say from personal experience, Mike Hough puts people and principles above party labels. Hough was a leader on justice reinvestment and helped pass laws to end over criminalization and over incarceration which disparately impact black and brown people across Maryland. Under Mike Hough’s leadership, I believe all the people of Frederick County will flourish. I urge my fellow Democrats to do as Hough does — put people above party labels and Vote for Mike Hough.”

It’s hardly a wonder that Hough would tout these endorsements. But what’s in it for Carter? She has run for mayor of Baltimore and has run for Congress in the past and is thought to still have ambitions beyond the state Senate. Will endorsing Hough, whose day job is chief of staff to a MAGA member of Congress, endear her to her fellow Democrats?

Carter, who is nothing if not a maverick within the Democratic Party, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery), chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, dismissed the idea that the Hough endorsement would hurt Carter within the caucus, noting that she has campaigned this fall for fellow Democratic senators and Senate candidates.

“Jill Carter has been a great help to our senators,” Zucker said. “I think she has a longstanding friendship with Mike Hough.”

Hough and Fitzwater raised roughly the same amount of money between Aug. 24 and Oct. 23, but the Republican had considerably more in his campaign war chest at the end of the two-month reporting period.

Hough reported raising $279,951 in the late summer and early fall, compared to Fitzwater raising $242,031. He spent $486,040 during that period and she spent $250,129. But because he began the fundraising period with so much more in the bank, he reported $227,853 on hand as of Oct. 23 compared to $110,597 for Fitzwater.

Are CD-2 and CD-3 in play?

As Republicans become more and more bullish about their prospects for big wins in U.S. House and Senate elections next week, the National Republican Congressional Committee has put two GOP candidates in Maryland, Republican National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose in the 2nd District and former WBAL radio personality Yuripzy Morgan in the 3rd District, on a list of emerging races the campaign committee is watching.

Morgan and Ambrose have been added to the NRCC’s list of “On the Radar” candidates, a subset of its “Young Guns” program. “Young Guns” is a longstanding NRCC initiative that has helped Republicans flip seats formerly held by Democrats for several election cycles running. But the “On the Radar” candidates are a little further down the priority list, and it isn’t clear that the new designations for Ambrose and Morgan amount to anything more than something to brag about for the Republican challengers and a little chest-thumping for the NRCC.

The NRCC is pouring money into other blue districts around the country in the final days of the election, but not in Maryland. And The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter, a nonpartisan political tip sheet, moved 10 House races in blue districts into more perilous territory for Democrats to hold onto. The Cook report still rates Maryland 2 and 3 as “safe Democratic.”

Still, Ambrose, who is challenging 10-term Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D), and Morgan, who is taking on eight-term Rep. John Sarbanes (D), were happy with the new recognition from the NRCC.

“I am grateful to the NRCC for recognizing that our campaign has what it takes to be successful,” Morgan said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Ambrose’s campaign, in partnership with the Maryland Republican Party, began airing a radio ad Tuesday attacking Ruppersberger and accusing him of voting for congressional legislation to defund the police.

Gary Collins, a campaign adviser to Ambrose, cited Ruppersberger’s vote in favor of HR 1280, the George Floyd Policing Act, a sweeping police reform bill that passed the House in 2021 but stalled in the U.S. Senate. While the legislation did carry some provisions that were seen as controversial, it did not contain any measures to defund the police.

The 60-second radio ad mostly features a woman from the Baltimore area named Denise Green, whose son was shot to death on the streets of the city.

“Dutch tell the truth about your record to defund the police,” Green says in the ad. “The truth will set you free.”

On the personnel front

Natasha Mehu, who has just stepped down as director of government relations for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D), is joining Manis Canning & Associates, the Annapolis lobbying firm.

Nick Manis, the firm’s managing partner, hailed Mehu’s “credibility, her integrity and her teamwork … We know she’ll deliver superior results.”

Prior to her time in Baltimore, Mehu was legislative director for the Maryland Association of Counties. Before that, she was a project manager for the Home Owners Preserving Equity program within the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Division of Neighborhood Revitalization.

“As the director of the Mayor’s Office of Government Relations, Natasha has absolutely delivered for the residents of Baltimore City by helping to establish and maintain productive and purposeful relationships with legislators locally, in Annapolis and down to Washington, D.C.,” Scott said. “Natasha is an intelligent, collaborative and innovative leader who thrives on finding solutions that allow people to live and work in the most efficient and effective way possible.”

Also on the personnel front, the Maryland State Bar Association announced that Anna Sholl is taking over this week as its new executive director. Sholl, a lawyer, has worked for the bar association since 2018, most recently as chief operating officer.

“We are beyond pleased that the next chapter of the MSBA will be led by Anna Sholl, a proven leader with an exceptional knowledge of this association and an excellent track record of delivering results, strategic thinking, collaboration with stakeholders, and inspiring her team,” said David Shapiro, the bar association’s president.


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Political notes: Crossing party lines in Frederick, the NRCC’s new view of Md., plus personnel news