West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) got headlines this week that former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) could only envy.
Manchin’s announcement that he wouldn’t run for reelection in 2024, all but guaranteeing that Republicans will pick up his seat — and move that much closer to grabbing control of the chamber in the next Congress — was national news. U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney — well known to Marylanders from his time in the state Senate and as chair of the Maryland GOP — is among the Republicans seeking Manchin’s seat, though he’s trailing Gov. Jim Justice in the polls.
But Manchin’s news was also of supreme interest to another Maryland Republican, Hogan, who, like Manchin, continues to promote the idea that a centrist, independent ticket can compete with President Biden and former President Donald Trump in the 2024 White House election. In his videotaped announcement Thursday, Manchin said he plans to tour the country to try to “unite the middle.”
“I believe in my heart of hearts that I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to do in West Virginia,” Manchin said. “… What I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”
Manchin and Hogan have both been associated with the shadowy group No Labels, which has been contemplating running a unity ticket in the presidential race, and are occasionally mentioned as possible running mates. On X, formerly known as Twitter, Hogan retweeted Manchin’s announcement video, and said, “Thank you to my friend Joe Manchin for his years of public service and his commitment to bipartisanship.”
Hogan has upped his public flirtation with a 2024 presidential run over the past few days. On Tuesday, Election Day across America, Hogan’s political committee, An America United, aired a 90-second campaign-style ad that raised political professionals’ eyebrows and was the object of an article on Axios.
The ad leans heavily into foreign policy — not exactly an area of Hogan expertise. It criticizes progressive Democrats for questioning U.S. support for Israel, and hits congressional Republicans for their opposition to sending more military aid to Ukraine.
“Our allies question whether they should still trust us, and our enemies question whether they should still fear us,” Hogan says in the ad, attempting to draw parallels between himself and the late President Ronald Reagan.
Hogan continues to tease the idea that he’ll be an independent candidate for president next year, even while insisting he won’t do anything to put Trump back in the White House. This coming Tuesday evening, Hogan and his former lieutenant governor, Boyd Rutherford, will be part of a “fireside chat” on how to steer away from extreme politics.
The conversation, at the Horowitz Center at Howard Community College in Columbia, is sponsored by the law firm Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny, where Rutherford is working these days. Paul Skalny, the firm’s managing partner, will lead the discussion.
A Jewish group in CASA’s corner
While the immigrants’ rights group CASA is under fire from several Jewish leaders in state and local government and elsewhere, one progressive Jewish group is planning to honor CASA at its big annual fundraising dinner later this month.
The group Jews United for Justice is holding its 25th anniversary dinner on Nov. 19 at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring, and CASA is slated to be one of three recipients of the group’s Heschel Vision Awards, named for the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century.
CASA, the biggest immigrants’ rights group in the Mid-Atlantic, came under fire this week for pro-Palestinian tweets. While CASA leaders have scrambled to apologize and limit the damage, some elected officials have suggested that CASA ought to lose at least some — if not all — of its government funding.
In a brief text Friday, Molly Amster, the Maryland policy director and Baltimore director for Jews United for Justice, confirmed that her organization still plans to present CASA with the award.
Elfreth’s veteran team
State Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel) has assembled a formidable consultant team as she ramps up her campaign for Maryland’s vacant 3rd District congressional seat.
Pat Murray, a Maryland political veteran, will be Elfreth’s campaign manager. He’ll step down from his job as a senior adviser to Frederick County Executive Jessica Fitzwater (D) just before Thanksgiving.
Murray has been chief of staff to Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. (D) and worked for two presiding officers of the General Assembly. He’s been executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party and was campaign manager in the general election when U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) won his first statewide race.
Elfreth is using Baltimore’s Martha McKenna, of McKenna Media, as her media strategist. McKenna has dozens of state and national races under her belt, and she’s a founder of the group Emerge Maryland, which has become a powerful force for launching women into state politics. Elfreth was in the first Emerge Maryland graduating class.
Elfreth is using other consultants with Maryland and/or national experience: Amy Gonzalez, of BluePrint Interactive, for digital media; Morton Brilliant, of the Strategy Group, for direct mail; Allen Nesbitt, of Nesbitt & Parrinello, for opposition research; Ben Lazarus, of TargetSmart, for polling; David Owens, of the Baltimore-based law firm Venable LLC, for legal services; and Colin Buckeridge and Sophia Silbergeld for fundraising. Silbergeld is a partner at Adeo Advocacy in Baltimore, and was the chief fundraiser for Gov. Wes Moore (D), Comptroller Brooke Lierman (D) and Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) in the 2022 election cycle.
Elfreth, the leading candidate in the race from Anne Arundel County, has racked up a series of endorsements from her home turf in recent days — most recently from County Executive Steuart Pittman (D), who called Elfreth “an extraordinarily talented legislator.”
Del. Vanessa E. Atterbeary (D-Howard), the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee in Annapolis, has also joined the race, and Del. Terri L. Hill (D-Howard) has also filed candidacy papers. Hill’s filing was accompanied by a statement from the candidate.
“As a legislator, I have a strong record of delivering for Maryland,” Hill said. “I passed abortion protections into law and helped make prescription drugs affordable for Maryland families. At a time when women’s rights are threatened and families across the country are struggling with rising costs, I’m ready to take that fight to Congress and deliver those same results to Americans across the country.”
Other candidates are expected to follow.
Unconventional Ficker making his voice heard in conventional way
Robin Ficker, the attorney, former state delegate and frequent candidate, began airing the first Republican TV ad of the 2024 U.S. Senate race.
“Establishment politicians fail us time and time again,” Ficker says as the 30-second spot begins.
He goes on to talk about border security, the fentanyl crisis, and inflation, saying Marylanders deserve better and he’s uniquely equipped to deliver.
“When we the people make our voices heard, there’s nothing we can’t do,” he says.
Ficker’s campaign says the ad will air in the Baltimore and Salisbury TV markets through Christmas.
Five candidates are currently seeking the GOP Senate nomination, though none is particularly well known.