Yvette Lewis, an effervescent former opera singer with an array of political connections who has served twice as chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, is planning to step down for a second time at the end of next week.
In a letter to “friends and colleagues…the people I admire and respect” Tuesday evening, Lewis wrote that her last day at the party would be Oct. 6.
Lewis’ first stint as party leader spanned from 2011-2015, and she took over again in December 2019 following the resignation of Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who stepped down after a year on the job to run for Congress.
Lewis, who is known to be particularly close to Maryland’s congressional delegation, especially U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5th), has seen highs and lows as party chair. She was there when Republican Larry Hogan upset then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) in the 2014 gubernatorial election, but was also in office eight years later when now-Gov. Wes Moore (D) won a record-setting and history-making victory to succeed Hogan. The entire statewide Democratic ticket broke glass ceilings last year, with a Black governor, an Indian-American woman as lieutenant governor, a Black attorney general and a female comptroller.
In between, Lewis presided over the party’s organizing and political operations during the unique COVID-19 election of 2020, and was generally considered a steady and enthusiastic hand who had solid relationships with Democratic leaders, donors and core constituency groups.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in a position you all entrusted to me,” she wrote in her letter Tuesday evening. “And as I take a moment to reflect on my time as Chair, my heart is flooded with many warm memories that I will never forget.”
Lewis said the party raised about $11.5 million during her two tours — more than $2 million a year. “That has helped elect Democrats up and down the ticket,” she wrote.
Lewis also noted that during her tenure the party hosted panels on the Black Lives Matter movement, HBCUs, climate change, abortion rights, economic empowerment, maternal health, “and a host of other relevant topics with the goal of inviting everyone to have their voice heard and valued. We pushed for that every single day, and we did it together.”
Lewis’ decision to resign now guarantees that the state party’s upcoming BBQ and picnic, scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Alley Pond Park in Bowie, will become a tribute to her.
“It is a bittersweet feeling to step away, but I do so with the knowledge that the Maryland Democratic Party is in fantastic shape and ready to continue electing Democrats across the state,” she wrote. “I will miss each of you, but I have no doubt that what we have built here will last. I am thrilled about that.”
At an executive committee meeting of the state Democratic Central Committee last night, Moore told Lewis, “Your fingerprints are all over our success.”
“Chair Yvette Lewis never shied away from raising her hand to serve,” the governor said in a written statement. “The impact of her leadership over her four terms has been nothing short of transformative.”
Hoyer was even more effusive in his praise.
“Under her exceptional leadership, the Maryland Democratic Party has ushered in a new era of success and focus,” he said in a statement. “Over the past decade-plus, Yvette has been a guiding light in our state and has worked tirelessly to ensure that our Party keeps its eye on the needs and aspirations of our people.”
When Lewis’ resignation takes effect, Everett Browning, the party’s first vice chair who, like Lewis, hails from Prince George’s County, becomes acting chair for a maximum of 60 days. The party must select a permanent leader in that timeframe — and several Democrats said over the past few days that Browning is a likely candidate to try to replace Lewis. It’s entirely possible that other candidates will emerge as well.
Browning is a business and civic leader who unsuccessfully challenged state Sen. Joanne C. Benson in the 2018 Democratic primary, finishing third in that race with 16% of the vote. A Navy veteran, Browning owns an IT and financial services consulting company. He is also co- founder and chair of the Coalition of Minority Business Owners and vice president of the group 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County.
In his written statement, Moore said he would make his recommendation for a new chair to the party’s executive committee soon. Meanwhile, Lewis teased in her letter, “I will let you know my plans for the future in the coming days.”
The market on Patrick Hogans is Corner(stoned)
If you had trouble keeping your Patrick Hogans straight, this probably won’t help.
Patrick N. Hogan, the former state delegate from Frederick County, is heading off to the land of contract lobbying at an Annapolis firm headed by another former state lawmaker with an all too familiar name.
Hogan announced Tuesday that he will leave his position as vice chancellor of government relations for the University System of Maryland at the end of October.
Hogan, the brother of Republican former Gov. Larry Hogan, was appointed to the position in November 2015.
He replaced another Patrick Hogan — Democratic (and one-time Republican) former Montgomery County state Senator Patrick “PJ” Hogan, who held the position from 2007-2015. The former senator left the University System of Maryland to join Cornerstone Government Affairs, a national firm, in its fledgling office in Annapolis.
The former delegate and senator are not related. They do, however, have another similarity in their career arc.
Patrick Hogan is set to join PJ Hogan at Cornerstone, which continues to expand its presence in Maryland, later this year.
Neither Hogan responded to a request for comment Tuesday evening.
This story has been updated to include a statement about Yvette Lewis from Gov. Wes Moore (D).