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Political notes: Former senators honored, Raskin’s fundraising help and a new gig for a Hogan alumnus

Former Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt (R-Middle Shore) receives a First Citizen Award from the Maryland Senate on March 23. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

The Maryland Senate honored two former members Thursday who left their seats after the 2022 election.

Former Sens. Adelaide C. Eckardt (R-Middle Shore) and Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) were presented with First Citizens Awards.

Ferguson referred to the former lawmakers as “two incredible individuals who had just an absolutely unbelievable impact on this state.”

He said they were lured to the Senate chamber to be surprised by the awards Thursday through “conniving and secretive” means.

“I apologize for that,” Ferguson said.

“I really wanted that meeting,” Eckardt laughed, as she addressed the chamber.

Elaine Rice Bachmann, the Maryland state archivist, presented the awards, which have been given out since 1992. The award recognizes people who have committed themselves to public service.

Eckardt was in the Senate from 2015 until earlier this year, when she was defeated for reelection by now-Sen. Johnny Mautz (R) in the GOP primary. Before joining the Senate, Eckardt served more than two decades in the House of Delegates.

Her career as a psychiatric clinical nurse informed her legislative work, which also focused on economic growth, community revitalization, education and environmental stewardship.

She was known for working across party lines on those issues and others.

She thanked the chamber for their continued work and the quality of debate among senators on important issues.

“I’d walked through the Senate a lot of times and thought, ‘Gosh, it would be nice to leave something here,’” Eckardt said after she was honored.

Paul G. Pinsky, director of the Maryland Energy Administration, served seven terms in the Senate and two terms in the House of Delegates. He was honored with a First Citizen Award on March 23. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Pinsky, who left his post leading the Senate’s environment and education committee to join the Moore administration, had served in the chamber since 1994, after 7 years in the House of Delegates. As a former educator and teachers’ union organizer, he was a major player in the development of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform plan. In his final year in the Senate, Pinsky sponsored the sweeping Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022, which he is now helping implement in state policy as head of the Maryland Energy Administration.

“I never thought I’d serve seven terms here in the Senate. It never occurred to me,” Pinsky said. “…But this was a great place to learn about politics and policy. You learn a lot in committee about policy, about technology, the scientific aspect of your subject matter and also the politics of getting something done.”

“And where else can you cross-examine a witness without a law degree?” he asked. “I think we’ve all had that experience playing lawyer for 90 days. Sometimes cross-examining nicely and sometimes not so nicely.

“I hope I didn’t offend too many people here.”

Raskin gets help from the top

New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the new top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, is helping Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8th) raise money online next week.

The Zoom event Wednesday evening is billed “Democracy Rising.” That’s the name of the summer program for progressive activists that Raskin launched years ago. But it appears from an online invitation as if the event is a fundraiser for Raskin’s campaign committee. Ticket prices start at $100.

Raskin, who is undergoing treatment for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, took over as the ranking member on the House Oversight and Reform Committee in January, and would be in line to become the panel’s chair if Democrats retake control of the House in November 2024 — just as Jeffries would be expected to become House speaker.

New gig for a Hogan alum

Top aides to former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) are still settling into their post-administration gigs.

Ron Gunzburger, who was a senior adviser to Hogan during the governor’s second term but has been formally and informally advising Hogan for decades, told Maryland Matters this week that he is taking a job as chief of staff of StoryCorps. That’s a 20-year-old nonprofit best known for its loose affiliation with both the Library of Congress and National Public Radio that has allowed countless Americans to tell their personal stories and family histories.

StoryCorps has a weekly segment on NPR, has published several books, and has set up an app and other vehicles to help people get the word out about their histories. While the nonprofit is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gunzburger said he’ll be able to do the bulk of his work from his home in Annapolis.

Gunzburger is a veteran political strategist who has worked for both Republicans and Democrats — and first teamed with Hogan when he ran the future governor’s unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1992. Before his latest tour of duty with Hogan, Gunzburger was the counsel and chief spokesperson for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. He worked there during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018.

“After being at the scene of active shooter attacks, and then on the frontlines of responding to a global pandemic, it is nice to be able to have a job that is nice — as in true niceness — and focuses on finding the best in our shared humanity,” Gunzburger said.

On the side, Gunzburger will continue to run the popular website, which he launched in 1997.


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Political notes: Former senators honored, Raskin’s fundraising help and a new gig for a Hogan alumnus