Gov. Wes Moore (D) on Monday recommended Ken Ulman, the former Howard County executive, to succeed Yvette Lewis as the next chair of the Maryland Democratic Party.
“For the past 20 years, Ken Ulman has been a leader in our state,” Moore wrote in a letter to party officials. “From 2002 to 2006, he served on the Howard County Council, and was then elected to Howard County Executive, where he served two terms. Ken rightfully earned a reputation for a leadership style that blends innovation and common sense. His consistent north star was providing the most efficient and effective government services possible. During his time in public office, Ken took Maryland’s sixth-largest jurisdiction to new heights in education, healthcare, environmental protection, and economic development.”
Ulman, 49, served one term on the Howard County Council before running for county executive. He served eight years in the position before mounting an unsuccessful primary run for lieutenant governor. That year he joined then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown as his running mate in an ill-fated campaign against Republican Larry Hogan.
Following the campaign, Ulman founded Margrave Strategies. The consultant firm is deeply tied to economic development projects connected to the University of Maryland College Park.
The Maryland College Park Project is a principal client of the firm. Ulman serves as chief strategy officer for economic development at the project and is also president of Terrapin Development Company, which is co-owned by the University of Maryland, according to Margrave Strategies’ website.
Ulman issued a statement after Moore’s recommendation.
“The mission is clear to me: elevate our Democratic leaders across this state at every level of the ballot,” Ulman said. “From local races to President of the United States, the fight for democracy is happening at every level. To do that, we will need to make sure that we engage Marylanders all across this great state. As Governor Moore likes to say, we will leave no one behind. I have every intention of honoring that mandate.”
Ulman did not respond to a request for further comment.
Also on Monday, the governor recommended Charlene Dukes as first vice chair of the state party. Dukes, who holds a doctorate in education, was the first woman to be president of Prince George’s Community College.
Moore wrote that “recommendation to this committee is not something I take lightly. We need service-minded leaders who will work in partnership with our elected officials, party infrastructure, and most importantly, all of Maryland’s Democrats from every corner of this state. As we head into a historic election season, where everything from abortion rights to economic freedoms to public safety will be on the ballot, we need and deserve leaders who are not only up to the task, but excited to take on the challenge and prove once again that Maryland is unafraid to stand on the frontlines in the fight for democracy.”
The state central committee has 60 days from Lewis’ departure to fill the vacancy. An election is scheduled for the committee’s next meeting on Nov. 18.
Moore’s backing of Ulman and Dukes are likely to carry significant weight as he is the figurative head of his party. But his recommendation is not the final word and other candidates may seek the position.
Ed Crizer, a member of the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee, confirmed Monday that he will also seek the nomination for chair.
All candidates must be nominated and seconded by a member of the state central committee.
A spokesperson for the party was not immediately available for comment.
Moore’s recommendations were endorsed Monday by Democratic U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen during a morning call with elected leaders, according to a Moore campaign spokesperson.
“I am thrilled by Governor Moore’s decision to appoint Ken Ulman as Chair and Dr. Charlene Dukes as Vice-Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party,” Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-5th) said in a statement. “I know Ken and Charlene well, both of whom have deep political roots in our state, sharp political instincts, and will be assets for the party. I am excited for the future of the Maryland Democratic Party with these capable leaders at the helm.”
Ulman, if approved by the party, will succeed Lewis, who announced a month ago that she was stepping down from her second stint leading the party.
“As everyone knows, I am someone who cares deeply about our party, which is why I’m so excited by Governor Moore’s recommendations of Ken Ulman and Dr. Charlene Dukes,” Lewis said in a statement. “Both are leaders in their respective communities and are committed to not only firing up our base but also growing our Party. We all know what’s at stake this election. We will require much of our leaders, and I know these exceptional individuals are up to the task. I look forward to working in partnership with them both and thank the Governor for his leadership during this transition.”
This breaking news story was updated.