The news was anticipated, but now it’s official: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is becoming chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, at least temporarily. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) made the assignment Wednesday.
In a statement Wednesday, Cardin said he accepted the position “with great humility.”
“I have long said that ‘America is stronger when we speak with one voice on foreign policy issues.’ Defining that voice requires active, bipartisan engagement by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and I look forward to working with Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and all our members as the committee tackles the most important challenges facing our nation and the world. I intend to continue my longstanding work to ensure that human rights, anti-corruption and good governance are woven into America’s foreign policy. We have much work ahead of us.”
Cardin takes over for New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D), who was indicted last week on multiple corruption charges.
Menendez pleaded not guilty to bribery and corruption charges in a New York federal courthouse Wednesday morning. He was released on a $100,000 bond and had to surrender his personal passport, though he can still travel abroad on official government business. He is also barred from contacting any co-defendants except his wife, Nadine.
Menendez has been defiant in insisting that he’s innocent. But his support appears to be eroding in the Senate Democratic Caucus.
At first only Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) called for Menendez to resign from the Senate, but over the past few days the chorus has grown louder, and now the total number of Democrats favoring his departure has topped 30. Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) joined that list Wednesday.
While acknowledging Menendez’s “hard work on behalf of the people of New Jersey,” Van Hollen said the charges against him are too grave to ignore.
“Now, as he faces serious, specific, and deeply concerning criminal charges, he is entitled to the presumption of innocence and due process,” Van Hollen said. “However, as a public servant, he has a duty to uphold the standard of public trust and to protect the integrity of the institution of the Senate and, for those reasons, it is best that he step down.”
U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th), who is seeking to replace Cardin in the Senate in 2025, called for Menendez’s resignation on Tuesday. Cardin on Friday, the day Menendez was indicted, spoke of his colleague’s impact on U.S. foreign affairs and said he “has a right to respond aggressively in court to the current charges.” But he has not elaborated since.
Schumer said Wednesday that Menendez will address his Democratic colleagues in a closed-door meeting Thursday “and we’ll see what happens after that.”
Regardless of what Menendez ultimately does, it’s entirely conceivable that Cardin could hold the gavel on the panel for the rest of this Congress.
Crews-ing for the Senate seat
While much of Maryland’s political community was on the Eastern Shore Wednesday for the annual J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake, a tech executive was at his alma mater in Takoma Park, joining the 2024 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
Marcellus Crews, a 51-year-old political novice who lives in Upper Marlboro, aims to bring his expertise as a tech entrepreneur and government contractor to the campaign trail — and ultimately, to the Senate. At a small but boisterous rally on the campus of Washington Adventist University, Crews said he wants to create a new Silicon Valley in Maryland, and said fluency with technology is essential for creating an education system where everyone succeeds.
“You get your education right, you get your economy right,” he said. “You get your economy right, you start pulling people out of poverty. And when you pull people out of poverty, you get your crime problem right.”
Crews said he favors the state issuing professional certifications to people as early as seventh grade, so they can get jump-start careers that don’t necessarily require college education.
Washington Adventist appears to be all-in on its alumnus’ candidacy. The college band played before he spoke, a freshman sang a Gospel-inspired version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” the Acro-Airs gymnastics team performed after the announcement, and Washington Adventist President Weymouth Spence introduced Crews to the crowd.
“He has made a lot of smart decisions in his life,” Spence said — starting with finishing his undergraduate work at Washington Adventist University.
With a preacher’s cadence and passion — his speech included several call and response lines — Crews wander the stage and talked about how he would be a different kind of candidate. While many Adventists often eschew direct involvement in politics, but Crews said he reads the church’s teachings differently, noting its emphasis on community service.
“It’s time for us to take our place on the world stage,” he said.
Although Crews conceded he doesn’t have a lot of political experience, he said his business, Crewsing Technologies, has put him in thousands of Maryland homes and institutions, doing construction work, installing technology, and talking and listening.
“My skill set is meeting people,” he said in an interview.
Crews said he has already begun traveling the state meeting voters, and while he seeded his campaign recently with $15,000 from his own pocket, he has received numerous commitments from friends and supporters to host fundraisers.
Asked what he sees as his path to victory in a growing Democratic field that includes Trone, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando, Crews replied that he plans to appeal especially to young voters and business owners.
“I believe our base is a moderate one,” he said. “I think people are hungry for someone that has a rooted connection to something.”
Around the Cornerstone
Maryland Matters reported Wednesday morning that Patrick N. Hogan, vice chancellor of government relations for the University System of Maryland, was leaving his job to join Cornerstone Government Affairs, a national lobbying firm with a robust presence in Annapolis — where another Patrick Hogan currently works.
That development is significant in and of itself. But we missed half the story.
The lobbying firm formally announced Wednesday that Hogan and Tiffany Harvey, the former vice president of government and regulatory affairs at Comcast, are coming aboard as principals. The firm noted that Hogan and Harvey together possess more than four decades of government relations experience, and will focus on clients in Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.
Previously, Harvey served as director of state and government Affairs for Verizon, and before that, she worked for the Prince George’s County executive’s office and for the attorney general’s office.
“Tiffany and Patrick are very well known in these markets and will help us continue to serve our clients for years to come,” said Cornerstone Government Affairs President Campbell Kaufman.
Jennifer Shutt of States Newsroom contributed to this report.