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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Political Notes: Endorsements in U.S. Senate race, discord in state House, advocates plan march, former Veterans secretary remembered

A Maryland state flag flies outside the State House in Annapolis. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Rep. David Trone’s campaign for U.S. Senate got a potential boost from a major political force on Thursday: the state teachers union.

Trone (D-6th) was recommended for endorsement by the Maryland State Education Association’s representative assembly. The state teachers’ union, which doesn’t formally vote on federal elections, will forward Trone’s name to the National Education Association. The group’s political action committee council is scheduled to vote this month.

Maryland teacher’s union president Cheryl Bost said in a statement her group appreciates Trone’s “strong record” in advocating to bring resources for educators, students and schools.

“David Trone is willing to roll up his sleeves and do the hard work to deliver for our educators, but most importantly, he’s ready and willing to hear our concerns and take action to help us at a moment’s notice,” Bost said.

The support for Trone comes after the union, which has more than 75,000 members in the state, held its annual convention in Ocean City.

If elected, Trone said in a statement he would push to expand federal investments toward items such as school construction and special education and seek to increase per-pupil funding.

“As the child of a public school teacher, I’ve seen the sacrifices that our educators make firsthand,” he said. “I understand the passion and commitment that they bring to educating a new generation of Americans and empowering them to live their dreams.”

The same day Trone received the teachers union’s support, the campaign of Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) released a round of endorsements from former chairs of the state’s Democratic Party.

Those individuals are Yvette Lewis, Kathleen Matthews, Michael Cryor, Terry Lierman and Peter Krauser. Other former chairs, Susan Turnbull and former Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, attended a rally for Alsobrooks in New Carrollton when she announced in May.

Lewis, who stepped down as chair last month, attended a rally for Alsobrooks Oct. 23 in Baltimore where Gov. Wes Moore (D) announced his support for the county executive.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of these Maryland leaders who themselves have a track record of getting things done on behalf of the Maryland Democratic Party and the state,” Alsobrooks said in a statement. “I want to ensure that all Marylanders have what I want for my own family, safe communities, access to a quality education, jobs and economic opportunities. Marylanders are deserving of these securities, and I believe together we can make that a reality.”

One other Democratic candidate, Anne Arundel County businessman Juan Dominguez, sent out a campaign email Thursday that promoted an interview on WUSA-9 TV to highlight his background as a military veteran and push for a $30 an hour “living wage.”

“I’m working hard to give all Marylanders – regardless of zip code, income or ethnicity – a voice in this race and a leader they can trust in the Halls of Congress,” he wrote in his newsletter.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate John Teichert released a statement Thursday that he signed a U.S. term limit pledge.

“Despite the unpopularity of Congress and the dysfunction that has become commonplace, Americans still vote to send politicians back to Washington every two or six years,” said Teichert, a retired brigadier general in the Air Force. “That’s why I’m committed to voting in support of legislation that imposes term limits; because we need transformative change if we want to see leaders, not politicians, work on our behalf.”

Trone, Alsobrooks and Dominguez are slated to appear Friday at the 2023 Eastern Shore Democratic Summit. The reception and forum in Cambridge will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The two-day conference is called “How We Win” and will include a straw poll in the Senate race.

‘So disrespectful’

A disagreement that became public in May resurfaced on social media Wednesday.

Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes (D-Lower Shore), who also serves as speaker pro tem and second in command in the House of Delegates, posted a message for House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) on X, the site previously known as Twitter.

Sample-Hughes posted a screenshot of a flyer that promotes a reception to join Jones on Dec. 5 at the Blackwall Barn and Lodge in Gambrills.

The fundraiser with ticket prices starting at $250 each is to support the House Democratic Caucus. Some of the Democratic delegates on the flyer include Judiciary Committee Chair Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), Ways and Mean Chair Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard County) and Rules and Executive Nominations Committee Chair Anne Healey (D-Prince George’s).

Sample-Hughes’ name isn’t listed. She tagged Jones in a post relaying her disappointment.

“This is so disrespectful and wrong on so many levels,” Sample-Hughes wrote. “I am still the Speaker Pro Tem. But as you said, because I voted in the 2023 Legislative Session for the citizens of D37A, then my TEAM membership is revoked?”

Sample-Hughes didn’t respond to text messages Thursday for comment. Jones couldn’t be reached for comment.

The discord happened this year when Jones announced changes in leadership, including nominating Del. Dana Stein (D-Baltimore County), a white man, to become speaker pro tem when the General Assembly convenes in January. Both Sample-Hughes and Jones are Black.

CASA plans 5-day march for health care

Immigrants’ rights group CASA is planning a 5-day march from Baltimore to Annapolis, as immigrant Marylanders, to advocate for accessible health care for all Marylanders, regardless of citizenship or employment status.

Dubbed the “March of The Uninsured: Healthcare for All,” the 50-mile trek will occur from Jan. 5 through Jan. 10, when members of CASA and other residents will support legislation that  reintroduces the “Access to Care Act” from the 2023 legislative session.

The announcement occurred at a press conference at the Multicultural Center in Hyattsville, with Spanish and English translations.

“CASA and our partners and so many people who are uninsured are going to march beginning in Baltimore, our beautiful city of Baltimore, to Annapolis,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA in a written statement.

CASA advocates held signs of support: “Sickness does not discriminate,” “Dignity and respect for immigrants,” “No podemos espererar” and “La salud es un derecho.”

During the past legislative session, the Access to Care Act would have expanded health care access to undocumented immigrants. The bill passed in the House of Delegates but was not voted on in the Senate. CASA advocates are hoping the march will encourage Maryland lawmakers to consider the bill again in the upcoming 2024 session.

George W. Owings, former Veterans secretary, dies at age 78

George W. Owings III, a fixture in Southern Maryland politics who spent 16 years in the House of Delegates and served two separate stints as secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, died of cancer Tuesday at the age of 78.

Owings, a conservative Democrat from Calvert County, was the son of a state lawmaker, George W. Owings II, and followed in his father’s footsteps after serving in the Marine Corps and seeing combat duty in Vietnam, earning several medals. He worked as a mortgage broker professionally and tried unsuccessfully to break into politics for a time, losing two races for a seat on the Board of County Commissioners. Gov. William Donald Schaeffer (D) eventually appointed Owings to fill a vacancy in the House of Delegates in 1988, and he then won four terms outright.

In an era when conservative Democrats often held sway in Annapolis, Owings was very much in the political mainstream, and he spent a decade as House majority whip. He was a prime architect of the bill to create the Department of Veterans Affairs, fought for veterans’ rights and better pay for first responders, and also promoted legalizing gambling. He was one of the funniest and most iconoclastic members of the General Assembly, though he also had an argumentative streak and grew crankier and more isolated as the Democratic caucus moved to the left.

Owings left the legislature in 2004 after Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) named him Veterans secretary — a position he held through the Ehrlich administration and into the first five months of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration.

Owings grew so disenchanted with O’Malley’s liberal policies that he briefly launched a Democratic primary challenge to the governor in 2010, but abandoned the effort due to health problems. He attempted a political comeback in 2014, running for a seat on the county commission, but lost in the general election, with Calvert trending ever more Republican.

When Republican Larry Hogan — who had served with Owings in Ehrlich’s cabinet — became governor, he returned Owings to the Veterans secretary job, and Owings served there for the entirety of Hogan’s eight-year tenure.

“As a sergeant in the Marine Corps who served our country in Vietnam, George’s commitment to those who have worn our nation’s uniform was unwavering,” Hogan said in social media posts this week. “His leadership and dedication to our veterans and our state set a high standard for all who follow in his footsteps.”

But under Owings’ watch, conditions worsened at the state-operated Charlotte Hall veterans’ home in Southern Maryland, and the administration of new Gov. Wes Moore (D) has been scrambling to make improvements there. Nevertheless, Moore’s Veterans’ Affairs secretary, Anthony C. Woods, paid tribute to his predecessor this week.

“George, in many ways, embodied what Veterans can do after they’ve completed their time in uniform and become leaders in their communities and across the state,” Woods said. “It’s safe to say that few people have had a greater impact on Maryland veterans than Secretary Owings.”

Funeral arrangements for Owings were not immediately available Thursday, and neither was a full list of survivors. Owings was divorced and had one son, George W. Owings IV.

Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.


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Political Notes: Endorsements in U.S. Senate race, discord in state House, advocates plan march, former Veterans secretary remembered