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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Political Notes: Sen. West won’t seek reelection and race to replace him has already started, plus U.S. Senate developments and Hogan’s latest line

Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore and Carroll). Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Three terms in the Maryland General Assembly are enough for Baltimore County Republican Sen. Chris West.

“I was thinking about whether or not I want to stay around Annapolis until I passed my 80th birthday, should I live that long,” West said in an interview this week. “I concluded that I really don’t want to do that. There’s a time to hold them and a time to fold them. I’d rather not be that guy about whom people whisper ‘Oh, he used to be really good, but he needs to retire.'”

West, 73, announced his intentions to retire at the end of his term rather than mount a 2026 re-election effort in a recent letter to supporters. A copy of the letter was provided to Maryland Matters.

West was first elected in 2014 to the House of Delegates. He ran for Senate four years later, succeeding Democratic Sen. Jim Brochin, who opted to run for Baltimore County executive that year.

West, who is in his second term in the Senate, said the decision, in part, was sparked by what is happening at the national level.

There has been national attention in recent months about the age and health of lawmakers.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), 90, and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell (R), 81 and the Senate minority leader, have both faced questions about their age and health.

“I look at Joe Biden basically staggering along like he’s an automaton, unable to speak except with the use of a teleprompter and I don’t want to go there,” said West. “I want to hang them up while I still have everything intact and can spend some time in the winter months going someplace warm instead of hanging around Annapolis.”

In a letter to supporters, West hinted that “it is possible that another opportunity will arise” that might delay his retirement from politics.

West, in the interview, ruled out a run for Congress.

“You couldn’t pay me to get through there. I would want no part of that,” West said. “I want to accomplish things as a legislator, and you can’t do that if you’re fighting on partisan grounds about everything.”

Instead, he said he has considered two possibilities for a political future beyond 2026.

One is challenging first-term Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) in 2026. But West knocked that down saying he is not interested in a statewide campaign. Brown, he said, “is cutting a good role as attorney general.”

A second possibility could be a run for Baltimore County executive.

The incumbent, Johnny Olszewski Jr. (D) cannot run again in 2026 because of term limits. Olszewski is preparing for Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2nd) to decide on his political future and the 2024 campaign.

Ruppersberger, in Ocean City last week, said he has not yet decided about running for a 12th term. Should he retire and Olszewski were to run and win, the last two years of the term as county executive would be filled by an interim replacement.

“As a senior state senator in Baltimore County, it would be a logical thing for me to consider,” said West. “But again, that would mean a countywide campaign. There would have to be a serious reason why I think I could make a positive difference for me to actively consider.”

Del. Nino Mangione (R-Baltimore County). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Mangione all in to succeed West

One potential candidate to succeed West is Del. Antonio D. “Nino” Mangione (R-Baltimore County).

“I’m raising money and I’m campaigning,” Mangione said of a 2026 Senate run. “It’s a two-year campaign for me.”

Mangione is in his second term. Following redistricting, he now represents one of three single member districts that make up the 42nd Senate district.

A super PAC for Alsobrooks

A second candidate in Maryland’s race for U.S. Senate will have a super PAC associated with their effort.

Maryland Together 2024 has formed to boost Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D).

It’s being led by Sheila O’Connell, a top Maryland and national Democratic strategist who was campaign manager to U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen in the Democratic primary during his first bid for the Senate, in 2016. She was also an informal campaign adviser for Alsobrooks in 2018 and did some consulting for the county government during the pandemic.

The PAC, O’Connell said, is mainly set up to run TV ads about the candidate.

“I can’t wait to tell Angela’s story — her record, her vision for the state of Maryland, and her heart,” she said.

The super PAC is under the umbrella of a bigger super PAC called the Save America Fund, which has been set up to elect Democrats to federal office. That PAC is led by Eric Hyers, a veteran Democratic strategist who has run campaigns for Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and for former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) and former Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), who is now President Biden’s secretary of Commerce.

Also associated with Maryland Together and the Save America Fund: Julia Naomi Blue, a Democratic fundraising consultant whose previous clients include Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Pete Buttigieg; and Joe Wolf, another seasoned Democratic strategist who most recently helped elect Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D).

Earlier this month, a super PAC formed called the Maryland Democratic Action Network to aid the Senate bid of Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando (D). The PAC is being led by Bill Burton, a former top adviser to President Obama (Jawando also worked for the Obama administration).

Campaigns and their adjacent super PACs are not allowed to communicate or coordinate their activities. However, a PAC can help amplify a candidate’s message and serve as a vehicle to attack political opponents with a measure of distance for the campaigns themselves.

“The team behind [Maryland Together 2024] is an extraordinarily talented group with deep Maryland experience who knows how to win tough races,” said Dave Chase, Alsobrooks’ campaign manager. “I trust them and am thrilled they’re focused on electing Angela as Maryland’s next senator.”

Trone’s out of town fans

Speaking of the Democratic Senate primary, U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) announced this week that 27 of his congressional colleagues have endorsed his Senate bid.

None of the endorsements come from Maryland members.

Still, it’s an interesting cross-section of Democratic House members, and includes Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead House manager for President Trump’s first impeachment — and a 2024 Senate candidate himself — and Rep. Jonathan Jackson (D-Ill.), son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader.

“For my entire life, I’ve been someone who gets things done for the people I serve,” Trone said in a statement. “From the moment I got to Congress, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work on the biggest issues facing our nation. I couldn’t be more honored to have the support of these progressive leaders. Together, we’ve fought to build an economy that works for every American, protect our democracy, end systemic racism in our criminal justice system, and combat the mental health and addiction crises gripping our nation.”

The Trone campaign’s news release featured statements from Jackson, Schiff, and Reps. Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Colin Allred (D-Texas), Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) and Norma Torres (D-Calif.).

“I’m endorsing David Trone for United States Senate because I’ve seen him rise to the occasion time after time in Congress,” Jackson said. “In addition to working to end the systemic racism plaguing our criminal justice system, David is also cracking down on the fentanyl supply poisoning our communities and addressing our nation’s mental health crisis. I’m confident that David possesses the requisite leadership qualities to push America and the great state of Maryland forward as we seek a more perfect Union.”

Beyond the half dozen members who provided quotes, Trone has picked up endorsements from Reps. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.), Jeff Jackson (D-N.C.), Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.), Greg Landsman (D-Ohio), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.), and Ed Case (D-Hawaii).

So far, three members of Maryland’s congressional delegation have endorsed Alsbrooks, one of Trone’s Democratic primary opponents: U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) and Reps. Steny Hoyer (D) and Kweisi Mfume (D).

Hogan pulls for GOP, continues to float third party presidential campaign

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan isn’t giving up on Republicans picking someone other than Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) delivered a farewell address, standing in front of a statue of George Washington in the Old Senate Chamber in the Maryland State House. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

He’s also not turning his back on a potential third party ticket or his involvement in one.

“We’re not lacking candidates. We have 11 other candidates other than Trump” said Hogan during an interview with CBS News on Monday. “We have six of my former gubernatorial colleagues. I’m not sure why we would need one or two more or what a difference they would make.”

Hogan, a lifelong Republican, said the focus on wooing Trump’s supporters “is not part of the issues the average voter cares about.”

Instead, he said the candidates participating in the first Republican primary debate on Wednesday should focus on the economy, crime, U.S. involvement in Ukraine and education.

“There are a lot of important issues out there,” he said. “What we’re talking about are other things. That seems to be where the focus is with culture warrior stuff and actually talking about Trump indictments over and over again.”

Hogan once considered a run for president as a Republican after two-terms leading a state in which registered Democrats hold a decisive edge. In March, he announced he would not seek his party’s nomination for president in 2024.

But Hogan remains in the mix. As national co-chair of the centrist group No Labels, he’s frequently mentioned and asked about a third-party run.

“I don’t know that they’re going to run anybody,” Hogan said. “They’re only willing to consider this if the nominees are Biden and Trump and 70% of the people in America do not want those choices. That’s just a long way off.”

Hogan said he isn’t focused on a third-party run. He is, however, keeping his options open.

A third-party campaign for president has yet to be successful. No Labels apparently will not offer up a ticket unless Trump and Biden are the nominees of their respective parties and national polling finds that 70% of voters don’t want either as president.

Hogan has been mentioned as a potential candidate along with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat turned independent. In one instance, Hogan and Manchin were mentioned as potential running mates.

“I think that’s all speculation,” Hogan told CBS, adding that it all comes down to whether Biden and Trump are the nominees.

“If they are, then there is a good chance No Labels will try to put a ticket together,” he said. “I think two-thirds of the people in America have said they would consider an independent ticket. I think the idea of a unity ticket with a Republican and Democrat running together is not a bad idea. I think it appeals to a lot of people in America who are completely frustrated and fed up with politics as usual. They’re disgusted with Washington. They really want somebody who’s going to take the country in a different direction.”


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Political Notes: Sen. West won’t seek reelection and race to replace him has already started, plus U.S. Senate developments and Hogan’s latest line