Political Notes: Davis re-elected as state treasurer, Cox loses another vote, Schiraldi gets confirmed
Dereck E. Davis received a near unanimous selection Tuesday to retain his seat at Maryland’s treasurer during a joint session of the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates.
Two members chose to cast their secret ballots for others: Joe Bryce, a lobbyist with the firm Manis Canning & Associates, and the late Chuck Brown, known as the godfather of go-go music in Washington, D.C.
“Chuck Brown, huh? There’s always one,” Davis jokingly said in his first remarks after being sworn in at the rostrum inside the House chamber.
Davis, 55, was first sworn in December 2021 and became the state’s 24th treasurer and second African American elected to the position after Richard N. Dixon. The treasurer not only serves on the Board of Public Works, but two dozen other boards and commissions.
On Tuesday he outlined several priorities for the office that include being “socially responsible and fiscally prudent” with taxpayer dollars, expanding financial literacy in the schools and achieving the 29% goal in the state’s minority business enterprise program, where the figure “routinely” sits around 12%.
Davis (D), who served in the House of Delegates for 27 years, also mentioned the state’s 529 college savings program. The program’s chair abruptly submitted his resignation last month after strong criticism for its recent failings.
“For me, it’s déjà vu all over again. I know you all are looking at legislative fixes and if you decide to abolish the current setup and put it in the treasurer’s, office, like it is in most states, I would ask that you … give me the resources that I need to be successful,” he said. “…If you do that, I promise I will do my very best to get this cleaned up.”
He also warned lawmakers that “I’m not promising to be nice about it and I’m not promising to be polite about it. We tried that for 18 months and it hasn’t worked. Our parents and more importantly, our children deserve better and they’re going to get that.”
No appointment for Cox in Wicomico County
The Wicomico County Council voted almost unanimously Tuesday to not move forward with the appointment of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox as special counsel.
Four of the five councilmembers who voted against Cox are Republicans. Shanie Shields, one of the two Democrats on the seven-member board, joined her colleagues to vote against Cox, who wasn’t present during the council session and currently works as chief of staff to Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R).
Mastriano, who also lost in his bid for governor in the neighboring state, campaigned with Cox. Both were backed by former President Donald Trump.
During public comment, Shields said the majority of those spoke against Cox, a former delegate from Frederick County in the General Assembly.
“I thought it was a slap in the face to the Black community with Mr. Cox’s philosophy. He supported the denial of the election of President Biden. Conspiracy theories. Those things stirred me up,” Shields said in a phone interview after the vote. “I can work with anybody [and] you have to be able to build relationships with people. This is a particular man that came before us you can’t build relationships [with].”
Councilmember Josh Hastings (D) was not present due to health reasons, according to the council office.
Councilmember James Winn (R) cast the only vote in favor of Cox. Winn said a vote should’ve happened after Cox came before council to explain his position.
“This was obviously an organized event by the Democratic Central Committee, and that it’s working on the majority of Republicans,” Winn said. “We need stronger Republicans to stand firm…”
Cox was nominated last week by County Executive Julie Giordano (R) to replace special legal counsel Kevin Karpinksi. She said Karpinski was recently terminated, but she didn’t elaborate.
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus posted a statement on its Facebook page and urged residents to email the council to not move forward to appoint Cox.
“Kevin Karpinski has a long and distinguished career practicing law for local government and would be replaced by a failed, far-right politicians who doesn’t share the same experience or record of success as Karpinski,” according to the organization’s statement. “Dan Cox does, however, have a track record of losing frivolous lawsuits against the state over mandates, election law and other topics.”
Cox did not return a message left at a cell phone number he used while serving as a state delegate.
The Maryland Senate on Tuesday confirmed Gov. Wes Moore’s pick to lead the Department of Juvenile Services over Republican objections.
The confirmation of Vincent Schiraldi by a 33-14 party-line vote was the last of Moore’s two waves of cabinet appointments. He is the only selection so far to not receive a unanimous vote.
“I do believe governors have the right to pick their people and it’s our job to vet those nominations but I will be voting no because I believe we haven’t seen the message we have to get serious about what’s happening on crime, especially dealing with juveniles in this state,” said Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll and Frederick) and Senate minority whip.
Ready was one of three Republicans on the Senate Executive Nominations Committee who voted last week to not recommend Schiraldi for confirmation — another vote that fell along party lines.
Schiraldi has a long career in criminal and juvenile justice issues.
Most recently he was a senior researcher at the Columbia School of Social Work. He was also co-director of the New York-based Columbia Justice Lab.
Prior to that he led the New York City Department of Corrections. While there he attempted to close the notorious Rikers Island jail complex and end solitary confinement at the facility.
Prior to that appointment, Schiraldi served from 2014-2015 as a senior adviser to the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on criminal justice issues. He also served as a commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation.
In 2005, he was the director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services in Washington, D.C.
Many Republicans including Ready and Sen. Steve Hershey (R-Upper Shore), the leader of the Senate Republicans, felt Schiraldi’s policies were “too progressive.”
“The concern that I have and many of us have expressed in the past here, as we’ve talked about this particular nomination is it seems that the focus of this nominee and of our criminal justice policy in the state has more and more become all about making sure we’re not being too tough on the offender,” Ready said. “It’s all carrots. And no sticks. What about the victims of crime? What about the communities that have been ravaged?”
Schiraldi, during his confirmation hearing, faced difficult questions from Republicans on how he would balance punishment with restorative justice practices.
Sen. Will Smith (D-Montgomery), chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, praised Schiraldi’s past work calling him a “blend of both vision and technocratic skill.”
But Smith called on Schiraldi to fix a juvenile justice system that is failing.
“Now I’m supporting this nominee, but I do have words of caution for this department and for this nominee,” said Smith. “A lot of our reforms and the success of those reforms and the continued reforms that we’re looking at this session are contingent on the successful operation of this department. And this department is not functioning the way it should and let’s just say it plain and let’s read it into the record: This department faces major challenges and the success of the reforms that we’re looking at in committee right now depend on this secretary performing and performing at a high level.”
Senate Democrats who supported Schiraldi said the efforts to reduce violent crime including cases involving juveniles cannot be strictly about incarceration. Long-lasting solutions, they said, require time to implement.
“I don’t know that that’s a satisfying strategy,” Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said when asked about Ready’s carrot-and-stick comment. “That might be a tagline, or hashtag but I don’t think it’s a strategy for actually solving the problem. What we know is that you can’t have any stick whatsoever if you don’t have an arrest, if you don’t have evidence if you don’t have a prosecution and found complicit in juvenile cases or are found guilty in the in the adult cases. This idea that it’s all about just not having enough penalties … is factually untrue.”
Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.