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Government & Politics

Election just over, lawmakers enter pre-session fundraising frenzy

The days before the General Assembly session begins are marked by dozens of political fundraisers. Most are in Annapolis, but some are in lawmakers’ districts. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) is having one.

So is state Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City).

So are all four standing committee chairs in the Senate and four of the six committee chairs in the House of Delegates. So, for good measure, are Gov.-elect Wes Moore (D) and Comptroller-elect Brooke Lierman (D).

With a three-month ban on political fundraising set to begin for state officeholders at high noon on Jan. 11, the exact moment that the 90-day General Assembly session gavels in, a weeklong frenzy of post-New Year’s Day fundraisers, one of the most unsavory traditions in Maryland politics, is set to begin. At least 45 state lawmakers will be looking to vacuum up campaign cash in the days leading up to the session.

The next general election for state officeholders isn’t for another three years and 10 months, but that’s not stopping lawmakers from stoking their campaign treasuries very, very early. And what better way for special interest groups and their designated State House advocates to curry favor with policymakers than to pony up during the run-up to the first session of the legislative term?

The post-New Year’s fundraising sprint begins with nine events on Jan. 4, starting with an 8 a.m. breakfast for Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard) and wrapping up with a fundraiser on Jan. 11, for Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County), which ends just two hours before the legislature is set to convene.

As usual, the delta between Harry Browne’s and the Governor Calvert House on State Circle and Red, Red Wine Bar on Main Street in Annapolis is seeing most of the action. But some lawmakers are branching out a few blocks further — to venues on West Street or along the Annapolis waterfront. And there are still a few stray fundraisers taking place over the next week outside the state capital, though those are becoming increasingly rare.

The busiest fundraising day appears to be on Jan. 10, the day before session begins, when at least a dozen events are on tap, starting with a breakfast in Millersville at 8 a.m. for House Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Mark Chang (D-Anne Arundel). Two events in Annapolis begin at 8:30 a.m.: fundraisers for Sen. J.B. Jennings (R-Harford) and Del. Marlon Amprey (D-Baltimore City).

Highlights that day include a 9 a.m. fundraiser for Moore at the Calvert House, the annual Maryland Democratic Party luncheon at the Westin Hotel in Annapolis, which attracts scores of donors and elected officials, happy hours for Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair Will Smith (D-Montgomery), House Appropriations Committee Chair Ben Barnes (D-Prince George’s) and House Judiciary Committee Chair Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), and a coffee that’s a joint fundraiser for three members of the House Economic Matters Committee: Vice Chair Brian Crosby (D-St. Mary’s) and Dels. Lily Qi (D-Montgomery) and Courtney Watson (D-Howard).

The action on Jan. 10 ends with an evening reception for the Women Legislators of Maryland Foundation.

Jones’ fundraiser will be held on the morning of Jan. 6 at Latitude 38° in Annapolis, while Ferguson’s will be on the evening of Jan. 9, at Topgolf Baltimore, the sports bar and party venue in South Baltimore.

Lierman, who spent two terms in the House of Delegates and will be sworn in as comptroller on Jan. 16, said in an email to supporters that she is holding a “back to session happy hour” on Jan. 8 at Old Line Spirits in South Baltimore, even though she won’t be a member of the legislature after noon on Jan. 11.

“Even though I will be sworn into a new elected office in two weeks (because of your support!), I am continuing this tradition I truly enjoy,” Lierman wrote.

While most committee chairs will be holding fundraisers in the weeklong period leading up to session, a Jan. 4 breakfast at the Calvert House represents the first fundraiser for Senate Finance Committee Chair Melony Griffith (D-Prince George’s) since she was handed the gavel a week ago; a Jan. 9 evening event for Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Chair Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery) will be his first fundraiser since being named leader of that panel.

Many of the pre-session fundraisers in January are being held by more senior members of the legislature, who may have more sway over policy than average rank-and-file members, including Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery), the chair of the Capital Budget subcommittee, Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery), the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, and a handful of committee vice chairs. But a handful of newcomers have also scheduled pre-session fundraising events, including Sen.-elect Dawn Gile (D-Anne Arundel), Del.-elect Jeffrie Long (D-Prince George’s) and Del.-elect Andrew Pruski (D-Anne Arundel), a former county councilmember. So are two incoming senators whose House terms are winding down: Sen.-elect Ben Brooks (D-Baltimore County) and Sen.-elect Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick).

Campaign finance reports due to be submitted to the State Board of Elections on Jan. 18 will tell the story of the lawmakers’ pre-session fundraising activities — and the size of their war chests at the dawn of the 2026 election cycle.