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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Political notes: Ferguson hits back at county executives, Elfreth poll has good news for Elfreth

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City). Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

County executives who criticized lawmakers for a reluctance to pass a plan to close a corporate tax loophole drew a fiery response from the leader of the Maryland Senate.

The back and forth between Democrats at the state and local level is adjacent to a growing battle over taxes in the 2024 legislative session. Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said comments made by Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich — both Democrats — crossed a line.

“There was an article today in which a number of county executives across the state questioned the motives of the members of this body,” said Ferguson. “I just remind them that it is often that we have policy differences here and there. But when they come down and continuously ask for help over and over, and then decide to do a press conference, questioning the motives of the members of this chamber, I would encourage them to really rethink that approach.”

Elrich and Pittman spoke in Annapolis Wednesday in support of Senate Bill 766 and the companion House Bill 1007.

The bill would implement combined reporting for corporations doing business in Maryland, which treats a parent corporation and its subsidiaries as one entity for state income tax purposes.

It would also raise taxes on people whose income is $1 million a year or more and reverse a 2014 estate tax exemption and reinstating a $2 million exemption. It would also add an additional 1% surcharge on capital gains.

Supporters of the bill say it will generate $1.6 billion annually — once fully phased in — and pay for a tax credit for low-income workers.

Ferguson and Senate Budget and Taxation Chair Guy Guzzone (D-Howard) said the bill would not move forward in the Senate.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D). Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Elrich and Pittman implied that the bill was stuck because of lawmakers beholden to corporate special interests and their campaign donations.

“Legislators survive on a diet of campaign contributions to get into office and to stay there,” said Pittman. “The largest donors tend to be the very interests lobbying for loopholes and opposing a fair distribution of the tax burden.”

Elrich added: “Those checks do not come without strings. Nobody should be confused. You’ll hear people say these are our friends. Yeah. OK. They’re friends and the friends will come with asks.”

And while some might see the rare public Democrat-on-Democrat criticism as speaking truth to power, Ferguson and others saw it very differently.

Ferguson issued a not-so-veiled caution.

“It’s hard to get what you want when things happen, and you question the motives of the members of this chamber,” said Ferguson. “So, we’ll see how that plays out for them in the long run.”

A second poll emerges in CD-3

A poll taken recently for the congressional campaign of state Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel) shows her with a narrow lead in the crowded 3rd District Democratic primary over Harry Dunn, the former U.S. Capitol Police officer and hero of Jan. 6.

Elfreth’s pollsters suggest the 22-way open-seat primary will ultimately come down to a contest between Elfreth and Dunn.

Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth (D) represents a portion of Anne Arundel County in the Maryland Senate. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

The poll, obtained by Maryland Matters from a source not connected with the Elfreth campaign, showed the senator taking 16% of the vote in an initial test of the candidates. Dunn, a high-profile political novice, was second with 11% of the vote. Rounding out the field: Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard and Anne Arundel) with 9%, Del. Mark S. Chang (D-Anne Arundel) and Del. Terri L. Hill (D-Howard) with 4% each, Del. Mike Rogers (D-Anne Arundel) and businessman Juan Dominguez at 2% each, and attorney Michael Coburn with 1%.

Thirteen percent of poll respondents favored other candidates, while 39% said they were undecided.

The poll of 400 likely Democratic primary voters was taken Feb. 20-22 by TargetSmart, a Democratic polling firm. It had a 4.9-point margin of error.

“Elfreth is the only contender in this primary who has a real base of support,” TargetSmart pollsters wrote in a memo. “She is tremendously popular in Senate District 30, registering an impressive 58 percent favorable among the Democratic primary voters she represents in the Maryland Senate.”

The pollsters also note: “Lam’s favorable rating sits at just 29 percent in his home district, Senate District 12. Dunn also lacks a regional base of support, managing just a 14 percent favorable rating in both the Anne Arundel and Howard County portions of the district.”

The poll memo says Elfreth’s lead grows over most of the rest of the field “after poll respondents are introduced to each of these candidates in a balanced message exercise.” It could not immediately be determined what biographical information the pollsters supplied the survey respondents, but in that round of polling, Elfreth took 28%, Dunn took 25%, Lam had 15% and Coburn 13%. Ten percent went to other candidates and 8% of the poll respondents remained undecided.

The pollsters wrote that Elfreth “has a clear path to victory. As the only viable female candidate running in a primary that will be overwhelmingly comprised of female voters, women are poised to propel Elfreth to the nomination. This data suggests that women will move in Elfreth’s direction when they hear her message that centers female representation and Elfreth’s track record of fighting to protect reproductive freedom. As the only candidate in the race who has a history of winning tough elections in a swing district, Elfreth is poised to run a fierce campaign and emerge victorious from this primary.”

Elfreth’s poll is the second released this week about the Democratic primary to replace departing U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D). A poll taken by the organization U.S. Term Limits also showed Elfreth slightly ahead in an initial sounding. She took 9% to Dunn’s 7%. Rogers was next with 6%, followed by Dominguez and Coburn at 3% each, Lam and Chang at 2% each, Hill and labor attorney John Morse at 1% each, “someone else” at 13%, with 51% of voters undecided.

The poll of 423 likely voters was conducted Feb. 19-26 by RMS Research. It had a 4.8-point error margin.

But the poll was designed to boost Dominguez, who has embraced a call for term limits for members of Congress. So the poll asked voters how they would choose if Dominguez was the only candidate in the primary who favored term limits. He shot ahead with 27% of the vote, followed by Dunn and Elfreth at 5% each.

Eighty percent of the survey respondents said they favored imposing term limits on members of Congress.

“Voters are calling for change and I am committed to bringing that change to Congress,” Dominguez said.


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Political notes: Ferguson hits back at county executives, Elfreth poll has good news for Elfreth