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Political notes: Kelly joins Senate, a pledge to move primary day, Stadium Authority nominee goes prime time, and personnel news

Ariana Kelly is sworn in as the newest senator from Montgomery County on Monday night, filling the vacancy created when Sen. Susan Lee was appointed secretary of state. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Ariana Kelly was back in Annapolis on Monday, but in a different seat in the State House.

Kelly (D), who served more than 12 years in the House of Delegates, was sworn in Monday evening to the Maryland Senate, where she will represent District 16 in Montgomery County. She replaces Secretary of State Susan Lee, who left the Senate to join the Moore administration.

“I ran for office to support women, children and families. I’ve partnered with so many of you doing exactly those things. And I’m really excited to continue that work in the Senate,” Kelly said from the Senate rostrum shortly after completing her oath of office.

In the House of Delegates, Kelly has been a leading voice on reproductive rights; during last year’s General Assembly session, a bill to amend the Maryland Constitution to protect abortion rights stalled in the Senate.

In an interview, Kelly said she chose to pursue the Senate appointment — and leave a House leadership post as vice-chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee — because she hoped to influence debate in the Senate chamber.

“I loved working in the House of Delegates, it was wonderful, my heart was complete. And I knew that if left the House of Delegates there would be a lot of people there to champion the issues I care most about,” Kelly told Maryland Matters. “And when I looked at the Senate, I realized there was more space for leadership on the issues that I care most about. And so I’m really looking forward to partnering with the people in the Senate who’ve been fighting that same fight I have been in the House.”

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee will begin the process of filling Kelly’s House seat as soon as they get official notification of the new senator’s swearing in. Party leaders’ tentative goal is to name a replacement around March 21.

Unlike Kelly’s appointment, there is no consensus candidate emerging for the House seat. Montgomery Democrats believe the field of applicants could hit a dozen or more.

Changing elections calendar

Maryland’s legislative leaders said Monday they will support legislation to move the 2024 primary election date.

Currently scheduled for April 23, 2024, the scheduled primary coincides with the first day of Passover.

“The first day of the Passover holiday is a particularly holy day — no work is to be done on those days, much like the High Holidays in the fall (and each Shabbat). Voting would be prohibited under Jewish law,” Delegates Dalya Attar and Samuel I. Rosenberg (both D-Baltimore City) wrote in a letter to Maryland Election Administrator Linda H. Lamone last week.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D) and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski (D) followed with a joint letter of support for the move.

On Monday, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said they would support a move.

“As State leaders and as legislators, we have been intentional in our effort to pass election laws and create policies that remove barriers to voting,” the leaders said in a joint statement. “A primary election date that unintentionally coincides with the Passover holiday would prevent thousands of Marylanders from engaging in their fundamental right to vote. We will work with the State Board of Elections and local election officials to find a more appropriate date.”

A bill to change the date was introduced in the House on Monday night by Attar in the House and Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County).

The legislation suggests moving the primary a week earlier, to April 16, which would allow early voting without conflicting with the Easter holiday, which will be the last weekend in March next year.

A good sport

Craig Thompson, Gov. Wes Moore’s pick to become chair of the Maryland Stadium Authority, at his confirmation hearing Monday. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

A top adviser and mentor to Gov. Wes Moore (D) appears to be on a glide path to confirmation to lead the powerful Maryland Stadium Authority.

Craig Thompson, who served as Moore’s campaign chair and is a partner with the law firm Venable LLP had a quick confirmation hearing before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee on Monday evening, earning a unanimous vote and praise from the lawmakers on hand, including Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City).

“I think the Moore administration made a great selection here,” he told his colleagues.

Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County), who formally introduced Thompson to the committee because he lives in her district, said Thompson’s demonstrated “ability to do complex deals” makes him well-suited to become chair of the Stadium Authority as “they undertake very complicated projects.”

Thompson did not specifically address any of the items on the Stadium Authority’s multi-faceted agenda, nor was he asked about them. The Stadium Authority not only is responsible for M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens play, and Camden Yards, where the Orioles play, but it is also in charge of several school construction projects in Baltimore City and economic development projects and studies throughout the state, and it is involved in the effort to rebuild the Pimlico and Laurel Park horse racing courses.

High costs of three-year delay complicate efforts to move forward on Pimlico, Laurel Park redevelopment

Thompson said that as a partner in one of the region’s biggest laws firms, “I’m actually aware of the structures and needs of operating a multimillion-dollar agency.”

He said that if confirmed, “I pledge to serve with unassailable integrity and excellence,” and added that he has already begun seeking advice from state ethics officials to ensure that his work at Venable wouldn’t come into conflict with the Stadium Authority agenda.

Thompson added that he’s a sports fan – who lettered in baseball and basketball in high school and who was born on Jan. 12, 1969 – the date of Super Bowl III, when the Baltimore Colts were upset by the New York Jets.

“I was born into an environment that literally had a buzz surrounding a Maryland sports franchise,” he said.

Thompson’s nomination is expected to get a full state Senate vote on Friday. If confirmed, as expected, Thompson would replace Thomas Kelso as chair. Kelso happened to be the campaign chair for Moore’s predecessor, former Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

As the Annapolis lobbying world turns

Powerhouse lobbying firm Evans & Associates on Monday expanded its team adding Alejandra Ivanovich and Rev. Derrick L. Green to its advocacy corps.

Ivanovich hails from Baltimore County and has been recognized for being a key link for information and services for the Latino community. In addition to consulting on a number of political campaigns, Ivanovich served on the transition team for Gov. Wes Moore.

Green, an ordained Elder in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, is a veteran of two gubernatorial campaigns including Moore’s.


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Political notes: Kelly joins Senate, a pledge to move primary day, Stadium Authority nominee goes prime time, and personnel news