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Government & Politics

Political Notes: Kelly gets Senate nod, Cassilly nom withdrawn, smooth sailing for Treasurer Davis, new gigs for Hogan vets, and lobbyists honor lobbyists

Del. Ariana Kelly (D-Montgomery) spoke at a press conference about legislation to expand abortion rights protections in Maryland. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

Legislative dominoes will fall once again in Annapolis after the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee voted Tuesday night to nominate Del. Ariana Kelly (D) to the District 16 vacancy in the Maryland Senate.

The committee voted 24-0 to nominate Kelly to the role in one round of balloting. One member of the central committee, Arthur Edmunds, abstained.

Two others sought the nomination: Scott Webber, a real estate agent and technology consultant; and Jason Woodward, a home builder.

A letter with Kelly’s nomination was expected to be sent to Gov. Wes Moore (D) later Tuesday evening, committee Chair Saman Qadeer Ahmad said at the conclusion of the committee’s public meeting.

Moore will have 15 days to make the appointment, according to the state constitution. At that time, the process to fill Kelly’s vacancy in the House of Delegates would begin.

The Senate vacancy was created after Moore nominated Susan Lee, who had represented the district in the Senate since 2015, for secretary of State. Lee’s resignation was effective Jan. 18. She was confirmed to her Cabinet post Monday night.

Kelly has represented District 16, which includes parts of Bethesda and Potomac, in the House since 2011.

Cassilly nomination withdrawn

The Harford County Council started its meeting out of order on Tuesday night, rearranging the agenda to allow for a guest speaker: former State’s Attorney Joseph Cassilly.

Cassilly, who was disbarred in 2021, had been on a list of nominations – made by his younger brother, County Executive Robert Cassilly (R) – to the county’s Ethics Commission.

He was recognized by Council President Patrick Vincenti (R) before the council took up votes on a series of executive appointments.

The elder Cassilly said he was withdrawing his name from consideration for the role, though he had wanted to serve to help his brother create an administration of honesty and integrity.

“After sitting through the council meeting last week and listening to some of the statements that were made during the public comments section, I realized that … it’s very easy to make unsubstantiated claims regarding someone’s motives and their principles,” Cassilly said.

He also said he realized he’d have trouble reaching unbiased opinions, if appointed to the board.

“I looked at the fact that if I were on the Ethics Commission, I might be called upon to deal with a complaint regarding the county executive or some member of his team,” Joseph Cassilly said. “And knowing that my brother’s ethics is courage and serving the citizens, I have to say honestly that I could not be impartial in dealing with such a complaint. My instinct would be to pull out my big rubber bullcrap stamp, stamp it on there and send it back. That would probably not be the best thing to do.”

Councilmember Aaron Penman (R) commented on the decision.

Penman said that, having spent 12 years of his law enforcement career on the Harford County Narcotics Task Force, he knew “firsthand” the impact that Cassilly had in keeping the community safe.

“You always remained professional, ethical and honorable in all aspects,” Penman said.

Cassilly served as the county’s top prosecutor from 1983 to 2019. He was disbarred by the Maryland Court of Appeals in 2021.

In a 104-page opinion, Maryland’s highest court concluded that Cassilly intentionally did not disclose exculpatory evidence to John Norman Huffington, who he helped convict for murder, for more than a decade. The court also concluded that Cassilly discarded evidence, sought to have other evidence destroyed, lied to judges and defense attorneys about the exculpatory evidence and, while he was being investigated for disbarment, did not comply with a subpoena to testify under oath.

Huffington was pardoned last month by outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

Four more years (almost guaranteed) for state treasurer

A legislative committee to vet and interview candidates for state treasurer met late Tuesday afternoon, and it was a tidy affair: After less than half an hour, the nine members of the panel who were present voted to recommend that the incumbent treasurer, Dereck Davis (D), receive a full term.

Davis’ fate will now be decided in a joint session of the House and Senate, scheduled for Feb. 21. He is almost certain to win approval for another four years.

Davis, who spent 27 years in the House of Delegates before being elected to his current job in December 2021, called his time as treasurer, managing the disbursement of state funds, government investments and insurance, along with service on important boards and commissions, “the honor of a lifetime.”

The treasurer is appointed every four years by the General Assembly and is meant to represent the legislature on the 25 boards and commissions on which he serves.

“I take my role as your voice, watching over the public dollars, very seriously,” Davis told the senators and delegates serving on the Special Joint Legislative Committee to Select the State Treasurer. “My job is to make sure we get full value for every last one of our taxpayer dollars.”

Davis noted that he is currently managing an investment portfolio of almost $22 billion. In 2021, it was about $19 billion, he said, and in 2019 it was about $12 billion. He attributed the rise to a significant increase in personal income and tax receipts, along with greater federal funding since the pandemic hit almost three years ago.

“We’re doing well,” Davis said.

The legislative panel forwarded its recommendation to the full legislature with no discussion and following a secret ballot. The only other candidate for the post was Blessing Oluwadare, a customer service agent at the state Motor Vehicles Administration, who told lawmakers she was interested in “moving up a little bit.”

Some Hogan officials land

Top officials from former Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration are steadily finding their post-state government jobs.

Hilco Redevelopment Partners, the real estate redevelopment unit of Hilco Global, an international development concern, will announce Wednesday that Hogan’s former chief of staff, Amelia Chassé Alcivar, is being hired for the newly-created position of executive vice president of corporate affairs.

Alcivar, the first woman to serve as chief of staff to a Maryland governor, will lead Hilco Redevelopment Partners’ external affairs and communications efforts, managing the company’s strategic initiatives across government relations, community and media relations, and stakeholder engagement. She will be based in Old Town Alexandria, Va., where HRP has a major project underway to sustainably redevelop the former Potomac River Generating Station (PRGS) site into a mixed-use development. The company has also worked on the Tradepoint Atlantic industrial redevelopment site in Baltimore County.

“Adding Amelia to our executive team at HRP will greatly enhance our ability to work collaboratively with our public sector partners toward our shared goals and to communicate our progress across all platforms,” said HRP CEO Roberto Perez. 

In addition to her time as Hogan’s chief of staff, Alcivar served as his communications director, held the same role for the Republican Governors Association, and was press secretary for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R). 

Alcivar said she was looking forward to working for a company dedicated to doing “big things” and to “tell the story of how these projects can set a new standard for redevelopment that is defined by economic, community and environmental sustainability.”

Meanwhile, Womble Bond Dickinson announced this week that Allison Mayer is joining the law firm’s Baltimore office as a senior adviser in the Capital Markets group. Mayer most recently was Hogan’s deputy chief of staff and infrastructure director. She was also managing director of marketing and communications at the Maryland Department of Commerce, and previously led strategic communications and global marketing activities at the South Carolina Department of Commerce for former Gov. Nikki Haley (R). ​Earlier in her career, Mayer was responsible for public relations and community affairs for the South Carolina Ports Authority.

“Her extensive experience in government relations, public affairs, and economic development will have a tremendous impact on our firm and the clients we serve,” said Capital Markets Practice Group Leader Merrick Benn.

And Ellington Churchill, Hogan’s former secretary at the Department of General Services, has landed at Lewis Contractors, a construction management and general contracting firm in Owings Mills, where he is vice president for administration. This in fact is Churchill’s third stint at the company: He started there in 1994, when he became a contract manager.

Lobbyists saluting lobbyists

Annapolis lobbyists celebrated some of their own earlier this month at the annual awards dinner of the Maryland Government Relations Association (MGRA).

Michele Douglas, who recently retired as a partner at the firm Public Policy Partners, and Pegeen Townsend, a veteran health care lobbyist who just retired as vice president of government affairs at MedStar Health, were awarded the George N. Manis Lifetime Achievement Award, named for the late co-founder of the firm Manis Canning & Associates, who died in 2014 at the age of 85.

Sushant Sidh, a principal at the firm Capitol Strategies, LLC, was given the association’s Outstanding Colleague Award, and was cited for mentoring many younger government relations professionals.

“Our profession is quite unique and hard to explain to even our own families. That can make it even harder for folks to ‘break in’ and get opportunities in this space, particularly if you don’t have much experience already,” MGRA said in a statement.

The 2023 Community Service Award went to Ashlie Bagwell, senior government relations specialist with Harris Jones & Malone, LLC.

While Bagwell belongs to several organizations that promote women’s rights, she was hailed by her colleagues for her work with the Girls State Program, which helps female high school rising seniors learn about the political process and run a mock state government.

“She works to ensure that the next generation of women are fully aware of their significance and their civic responsibility, something that will have widespread benefits for all of society,” the MGRA said.

Sean Looney, who retired in late 2021 as vice president for government relations with Comcast, was given a special MGRA “Trifecta Award,” because his colleagues determined that after 32 years in the business, he could have qualified for any of the three regularly handed-out prizes.


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Political Notes: Kelly gets Senate nod, Cassilly nom withdrawn, smooth sailing for Treasurer Davis, new gigs for Hogan vets, and lobbyists honor lobbyists