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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Political notes: Trump qualifies for Md. ballot, plus waving the flag, Senate updates and personnel news

Maryland Secretary of State Susan C. Lee at an Annapolis news conference in November 2022. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Maryland will not follow two other states that are attempting to bar former President Donald Trump from appearing on the 2024 presidential ballot.

Trump is one of two Republican candidates, along with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who will be on the May 14 Republican primary ballot in Maryland.

Secretary of State Susan Lee qualified Trump and Haley, saying in a letter to state elections officials Monday that the two generally met the qualifications for candidates who “generally advocated or recognized in the news media throughout the United States or in Maryland.”

The letter also qualifies President Biden, Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, and author Marianne Williamson for the Democratic primary contest in the state.

In December, the Colorado State Supreme Court disqualified Trump, citing the “insurrectionist ban” in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Maine followed soon after.

The Colorado ruling is subject to a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A judge in Maine sent a decision by that state’s secretary of state pending a decision by the Supreme Court on the Colorado case. That ruling is currently under appeal.

A new flag for Howard County

Fifty years with one flag is enough.

So says Howard County Executive Calvin Ball (D), who announced last week the formation of a 19-member commission that will lead the search for a new design.

“The Howard County flag is one of the few official symbols that reflect our government and our community as well as each of our individual aspirations and goals,” said Ball. “It should inspire us and be recognizable to all. After 56 years the time has come to update and modernize Howard County’s flag design to align it with our realities and present values.”

Howard County’s current flag was designed by Jean O. Hannon. It was selected from among 40 entries in a 1968 contest. That was the same year Howard County adopted charter government.

Hannon’s design “incorporates part of the Maryland flag — specifically the Crossland arms. On the upper left corner, a sheaf of wheat in gold symbolizes the agricultural heritage of the County. In the bottom right quarter, a green outline of the county is set in a triangle of gold symbolizing the unique position of Howard in the future development of the eastern seaboard,” according to a county statement.

“Recognizing our past while acknowledging that times have changed and that history is always clear in hindsight is not always easy,” said Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard and Anne Arundel). “Oftentimes this can generate challenging discussions but important ones as well as heart-to-heart reckoning.”

Ball said the search for a new flag will ask the public “to reimagine” the county’s central symbol.

“Symbols like flags are important,” Ball said. “They convey meaning. They inspire. Our next flag will tell a story of where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re going.”

The commission plans to begin accepting submissions in the spring. From that, three finalists will ultimately be selected. Each will receive an honorarium for their efforts. A final design will be picked in 2025.

Senate update: Sarbanes backs Alsobrooks, Trone to wait tables

U.S. Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-3rd) on Monday joined the ever-growing collection of Maryland elected officials who have endorsed Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) in the May 14 Democratic Senate primary.

Sarbanes, one of the leading political reformers in Congress, called Alsbrooks a champion of democracy in a statement.

“Her qualifications for the job are unsurpassed, but what is most inspiring is the personal, values-driven commitment she brings to lifting up Maryland families in every community,” he said. “She is a champion of all that makes our democracy strong and will be in the vanguard of fighting voter suppression and big money corruption. I am mindful that today’s announcement comes as Americans mark the fourteenth anniversary of the tragic Citizens United case, which unleashed the flood of big money pouring into our politics. Angela understands the frustration so many Marylanders feel about the undue influence of special interests in Washington and she will fight for critical reforms to empower the many, not the money.”

That statement goes straight to the heart of the argument for Alsobrooks’ chief Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th), who has said that his ability to self-fund his campaign means he won’t be beholden to special interests if he is elected to the Senate.

“I have been inspired by Congressman Sarbanes’ leadership advocating for Maryland families, and his groundbreaking work to strengthen our democracy because our elections are not for sale,” Alsobrooks said Monday.

Meanwhile, Trone on Tuesday is joining the ranks of Maryland politicians who have waited tables for an hour in solidarity with tipped wage workers who are seeking a wage.

The congressman will join servers, workers, and restaurant owners for an event hosted by the advocacy group One Fair Wage in Baltimore. The event will be held at Mera’s Kitchen Collective in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood from noon to 1 p.m.One Fair Wage has hosted “Server for an Hour” events throughout the nation, giving lawmakers an opportunity to hear directly from servers about their financial plight.The tipped wage provides a lower minimum wage for workers who earn gratuities in addition to their base pay. In Maryland, workers earning the tipped wage are only paid a minimum wage of $3.63 per hour, despite the state’s minimum wage being codified into law at $15. If they don’t earn a full $15 an hour with tips, the employers are responsible for making up the difference.

Personnel news

Jason M. Stanek, who spent five years as chair of the Maryland Public Service Commission until last June 30, has a new gig. He’ll be taking his wonkery for the arcana of utility regulation to PJM, the regional operator of the electric grid, where he’ll take on the new role of executive director-governmental services.

Stanek will report to Senior Vice President Asim Haque, whose department has been renamed Governmental & Member Services, focusing on the importance of state and federal governments to PJM. Haque was just in Annapolis earlier this month testifying before a state Senate committee. PJM’s state government policy and state solutions teams will now report to Stanek.

“Jason brings a wealth of experience to PJM that will benefit both PJM and its stakeholders,” Haque said. “He was a thoughtful, knowledgeable and independent regulator who will further bolster the depth and breadth of our engagement.”

Stanek led the Maryland PSC from 2018 to 2023, appointed to the job by former Gov. Larry Hogan (R). Before that he served as senior energy counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. He also served as branch chief for electric power markets for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from 2014 to 2017, and regulatory counsel and policy adviser at FERC from 2001 to 2014.

PJM is the grid operator for 13 states in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, including Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

“PJM’s work with states has been critical to helping states preserve reliability of the system as we move forward through the energy transition,” Stanek said. “I look forward to building on this solid foundation with some insight into what states need to succeed.”

In other personnel news, Matthew Pipkin Jr. is taking over as government and community affairs manager at the Maryland Multi-Housing Association (MMHA), which represents apartment building owners and managers. Pipkin will advocate for MMHA at the state and local level across Maryland and will work to promote relations between MMHA members and their tenants.

A lifelong Annapolis resident and cousin to former Maryland Senate Minority Leader EJ Pipkin (R), Pipkin most recently served as government relations representative for the Maryland Judiciary. He also worked as a legislative assistant to former Anne Arundel County Councilmember Jessica Haire (R).

Editor’s note: The story has been updated to better describe how the state’s minimum wage for tipped workers is designed to work.


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Political notes: Trump qualifies for Md. ballot, plus waving the flag, Senate updates and personnel news