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Government & Politics

Political notes: 6th District updates, personnel moves, Black Caucus members discuss issues at forum

The Maryland State House. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

The first candidate forum for Republicans seeking to replace U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) has been scheduled for the evening of Sept. 20 in Germantown.

It’s being sponsored by the Upper Montgomery Republican Women’s Club and will take place at the BlackRock Center for the Arts.

David Bossie, the confidant of former President Trump who is president of the conservative group Citizens United and is Maryland’s Republican National committeeman will serve as moderator. Nicole Beus Harris, the chair of the state GOP, is also scheduled to speak.

While it isn’t clear yet how many of the candidates are planning to appear, the declared GOP contenders for the House seat so far are Woodsboro Burgess Heath Barnes, retired police officer Chris Hyser, grocery store clerk Todd Puglisi, Air Force veteran Mariela Roca, Navy veteran Tom Royals, and former state Del. Brenda J. Thiam.

Former Del. Neil C. Parrott, the GOP nominee against Trone in 2020 and 2022, has created an exploratory committee ahead of a possible third bid.

Trone is giving up the seat, which covers most of Western Maryland and part of western Montgomery County, to run for U.S. Senate in 2024. A full slate of Democrats is also running, though the fields in both parties are expected to grow.

The 6th District is almost certain to be the only competitive House race in Maryland next year.

Congressional candidate running as “Forward Democrat”

A 6th District Democratic candidate has aligned with the Maryland Forward Party.

Stephen McDow, a businessman from Frederick County, said this week that he remains a registered Democrat, but aligns with the legislative priorities and values of the Maryland Forward Party.

The Forward Party was founded in 2021 by Andrew Yang, the 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidate.

The Forward Party is operating as a volunteer-run nonprofit social welfare organization while seeking official party status in Maryland.

The party’s platform includes several key election reform strategies including support for ranked-choice voting, nonpartisan primaries and independent redistricting commissions.

“We hear a lot about Patriots in today’s political environment. Team McDow believes real Patriots listen to the people, work for the people, and solve for the people – You know, the bottom-up approach,” Tre Schumacher, a spokesperson and campaign advisor said in a press release. “…We are excited about working with Forward Maryland to make fundamental changes to the way we vote, how we vote, and for whom we vote for.”

Matthew Beyers, Maryland Forward Party chair, said the organization is looking for more affiliates that support the party’s priorities.

McDow is among a large field seeking the seat being vacated by Trone. Others who have filed or launched campaigns in the race include 2022 gubernatorial candidate Ashwani Jain, Del. Lesley Lopez (D-Montgomery), Hagerstown Mayor Tekesha Martinez, military veteran Mia Mason, former State Department official Joel Rubin, Montgomery County Councilmember Laurie-Anne Sayles, Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery), former federal program manager Destiny Drake West, and frequent candidate George Gluck.

Personnel news from all over

Michelle Daugherty Siri, who has spent the past nine years as executive director of the Maryland Women’s Law center, is taking a new gig. On Oct. 30, Siri will become executive director of the Maryland Legal Services Corporation.

“Michelle’s expertise in both the civil legal aid system and advocacy landscape in Maryland makes her an excellent choice to lead MLSC,” said Debra Thomas, chair of the Maryland Legal Services Corporation board.

Siri takes over at MLSC for Deb Seltzer, who is leaving the state soon.

Siri has been a mainstay in the push to expand abortion rights in Maryland and in legislative fights to protect victims of domestic violence, promote gender equity, and more. She was also a candidate for lieutenant governor in the 2022 Democratic primary, running on a ticket headed by former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. (King has since moved out of state to become chancellor of the State University of New York system).

Prior to joining the Women’s Law Center, Siri worked for the Social Security Administration, the Maryland Attorney General’s office and in private practice.

“My work at the WLC has been profoundly rewarding,” Siri said. “It has allowed me to grow personally, professionally, and intellectually over the past nine years in unexpected measure. I am excited to now bring my skillsets and passion for justice to MLSC, where the team has done a tremendous job in fulfilling MLSC’s mission.”

Meanwhile, the Maryland Hospital Association is losing its vice president of government affairs. Brian Frazee is leaving the job to become president and CEO of the Delaware Hospital Association in Dover.

Dr. David Tam, president of the Delaware association, cited Frazee’s “tremendous experience and energy” in announcing the hire.

“With a proven track record of engaging key leaders and stakeholders, Frazee is poised to lead DHA into a new era of innovation, collaboration, and excellence,” the association said in a statement.

Prior to joining Maryland Hospital Association in 2015, Frazee worked as director of public policy for the Maryland Association of Community Services. He has also worked for the General Assembly, for Annapolis lobbying firms, and for political campaigns in the state.

“I am ready to work with DHA’s members, policymakers, and stakeholders to tackle the complex challenges facing healthcare and advance the well-being of Delaware’s communities,” he said.

Frazee for the past two years has also been president of the Maryland Government Relations Association. With his departure for the First State, Frazee will be replaced at the MGRA by Eddie L. Pounds, an attorney and lobbyist with the Annapolis lobbying firm Perry, White, Ross and Jacobson, who had been the association’s first vice president.

“MGRA is in good hands with Eddie,” Frazee said.

No word yet who will get Frazee’s old job at the MHA. He starts his new gig on Oct. 2.

Speaking of Annapolis lobbyists, the firm Public Policy Partners announced Wednesday that it is bringing on Jocelyn I. Collins as a senior government relations associate. Collins most recently has been associate director for legislative affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, where she led the organization’s federal domestic health finance and appropriations, workforce, privacy, maternal health, and health equity advocacy efforts. Before that, she served as the government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, where she led the organization’s work in Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.

She ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the House of Delegates from Prince George’s County in 2022.

‘Without your support’

Sen. Michael Jackson (D), left, speaks at a town hall Sept. 6 hosted by Prince George’s County state lawmakers with the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland. Del. Nick Charles (D) listens. Photo by William J. Ford.

The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland’s Prince George’s County members held a town hall Wednesday to summarize legislative triumphs during this year’s 90-day General Assembly session.

Before a near standing-room-only crowd at Bowie State University, caucus members listed top five priorities as Black wealth, justice reform and cannabis, health, housing and education.

One bill signed into law this year was House Bill 1219, also known as the Maryland Educator Shortage Act. It includes several provisions such as expanding stipends for new teachers and diversifying the state’s educator corps by publicizing information about the Teacher Fellows for Maryland scholarship at the state’s historically Black colleges and universities. The bill was requested by the administration of Gov. Wes Moore (D).

Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery), chair of the Black caucus, said the 66-member group, which represents the largest legislative Black caucus in the nation, works well with three of the state’s top leaders who are also Black: the governor, Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) and state Treasurer Dereck Davis (D).

“We’re here to say that we will seize this opportunity and make sure that we are not only [in these] positions [and] in these roles, but that we are bringing … true wins for black Marylanders,” Wilkins said.

Even with the passage of at least two dozen caucus-supported bills, such as House Bill 809/Senate Bill 334 (which extends policies regarding the state’s Minority Business Enterprise program), state lawmakers said there remain challenges to address.

Del. Nick Charles (D-Prince George’s), who chairs the Prince George’s House delegation, said state agencies continue to not contract or hire Black businesses. More specifically, agencies do not meet a goal for those firms to receive 29% of state contracts, with the rate remaining below 15%.

“We are not winning contracts and that’s a problem,” he said. “What happens when you see more African American representation and ownership winning contracts? You now see folks hiring from withing a community that’s been neglected for years. That’s what we’ve been pushing, [but there’s] still so much work to do.”

Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George’s), a member of the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee that worked on the state’s $63 billion budget approved in April, had a message for attendees.

“We need to see you in Annapolis. We can’t do this by ourselves,” she said. “A new day, a new time is on the horizon, but we can’t do it without your support.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correct a reference to the Maryland Legal Services Corporation. 


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Political notes: 6th District updates, personnel moves, Black Caucus members discuss issues at forum