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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Political notes: Dunn ad calls Elfreth friend of GOP, Mikulski blesses Alsobrooks, House GOP blasts protesters, plus personnel news

Photo from the Architect of the U.S. Capitol.

State Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel) probably never imagined that she’d be referred to as a MAGA candidate.

But that’s exactly what one of her opponents in the 3rd District Democratic congressional primary is doing.

In his latest TV ad, which began airing this week, former U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn in a quick 30 seconds tries to lay out the case that Elfreth, one of his 21 opponents in the Democratic primary, is aligned with conservative Republicans. The ad features arresting graphics and pictures of former President Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (R-1st).

“There’s a lot of choices for Congress,” a female narrator says at the top of the ad, as pictures of all 22 Democrats flash on the screen. “Sarah Elfreth is getting millions of dollars in ads paid for by a right-wing super PAC funded by Trump donors. Why would Trump donors support a Democrat?

“Maybe because Elfreth voted 44 times with Republicans. She opposed safeguards against police misconduct, helped protect an insurrection supporting Republicans’ seat, and was the only Democrat who voted to make it harder to vote by mail. Trump donors made their choice for Congress. Who’s yours?”

There’s a lot to unpack here. The ad is referring first to the support Elfreth is getting from the United Democracy Project, a super PAC affiliated with the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, which is running a seven-figure independent expenditure campaign to support her. Some, but not all, of AIPAC’s donors are Trump supporters and conservative Republicans, and the group has supported Democrats and Republicans through the years.

The second part of the ad, with citations flashed in small letters at the bottom of the screen, refers to various Elfreth votes during her six sessions in the state Senate — though not all the allegations are backed up with citations. The “insurrection supporting” Republican the ad refers to is Harris. It cites a 2021 article from Slate that used unnamed sources to suggest Elfreth was actively lobbying against a congressional redistricting plan that would have targeted Harris by making other districts more competitive.

Whether this attack ad begets more between now and the May 14 primary remains to be seen. Early voting begins on Thursday.

Elfreth, meanwhile, began airing a new TV ad of her own this week, which takes a more subtle swipe at Dunn. The ad mostly features Elfreth speaking to the camera, interspersed with footage of her in the legislature and campaigning.

“I’ve spent my career getting things done, like securing abortion rights, stemming gun violence and growing Maryland’s economy,” she says in the ad. “My top priority is delivering for this community. That’s why I’ve been endorsed by firefighters, teachers, Sierra Club and [the League of Conservation Voters], labor unions and families across this district.”

The ad then features quick testimonials from a couple of supporters, including one woman who says, “We love her.” Elfreth then returns to the screen.

“We need a fighter from this community, and that’s why I approve this message,” Elfreth says, offering a reminder that Dunn does not live in the 3rd District.

Elfreth also picked up the endorsement this week of former Gov. Parris Glendening (D), who is a resident of both the 3rd congressional district and Elfreth’s Senate district.

“I’ve known her for a number of years,” he says in a video. “She’s a very effective legislator.”

Dunn this week won the endorsement of Taking the Hill PAC, which supports veterans and their family members seeking office.

“Harry’s bravery and sacrifice were on display for everyone to see on January 6th, 2021,” said Patrick Murphy, a former Pennsylvania congressman and founder of Taking the Hill. “But just as important has been his dedication to raising the alarm about the threat our democracy still faces. His decision to speak out, despite the target on his back, showcases his commitment to our American values and is the reason we know he is the right choice to represent the people of Maryland.”

The PAC is the second that supports candidates who are military veterans that is backing Dunn over three combat veterans in the 3rd District primary: Del. Mike Rogers (D-Anne Arundel), attorney Don Quinn and businessman Juan Dominguez.

Another candidate in the District 3 scrum, state Del. Terri L. Hill (D-Howard), was endorsed this week by a colleague, Del. Jen Terassa (D-Howard), by Howard County Councilmember Liz Walsh (D), and by Higher Heights for America PAC, an organization that works to elect Black women.

“She is brilliant and often recognizes and tackles hard issues before most people realize there’s a problem,” Terassa said. “In a field of otherwise qualified people, this is what makes her stand out.”

Mikulski for Alsobrooks

Perhaps it should be no surprise that Maryland’s first and only woman U.S. senator, Barbara Mikulski (D), is backing the candidate trying to become Maryland’s next woman U.S. senator this year, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D).

Then-U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) speaks during a press conference to urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, on Capitol Hill April 1, 2014. Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images.

“Now we have the opportunity to send another woman back to the United States Senate from Maryland because, for Angela, it’s not only about gender, it’s about the agenda,” the 87-year-old icon said at an event in Baltimore Tuesday evening. “She’s got the right stuff.”

The endorsement was touted by EMILY’s List, the organization that boosts Democratic woman candidates who support abortion rights. Mikulski earned the group’s very first endorsement, back in 1986, and EMILY’s List is backing Alsobrooks in her Democratic primary run against U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) and others.

House GOP weighs in on Gaza protests

Members of the Republican caucus in the House of Delegates Thursday criticized ongoing protests on the campus of Johns Hopkins University as “anarchy” and anti-Semitic.

Pro-Palestinian protesters entered their third day of occupying an open area of the Baltimore university campus. Students have called on the university to divest all of its investments in Israel.

“While we recognize and support students’ First Amendment rights to express themselves on issues where we strongly disagree, including the right to peacefully protest on campus, this does not include the right to engage in hate speech, to advance antisemitic tropes and dangerous rhetoric, or to participate in any form of unlawful, violent, or threatening behavior towards other students, administrators, or the public,” the 39-member caucus said in a statement. “What is occurring at Johns Hopkins and other universities across the country has escalated from peaceful protest to dangerous anarchy and full-blown antisemitism.”

The protests on the university campus mirror those at other colleges and universities around the country including Columbia University in New York. The pro-Palestinian protests are in response to an ongoing conflict in the Middle East following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists that killed 1,200 people. Another 250 were kidnapped.

Since then, Israel’s military response has killed 34,000 Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, according to a statement from the Gaza Health Ministry.

The GOP caucus statement stops short of demanding any specific action.

In an earlier statement, Four Republicans representing Carroll County called on the university to reject the list of demands and enforce the campus’ curfew.

In an earlier statement Wednesday, four Republicans representing Carroll County in the General Assembly called on the university to reject the list of demands and enforce the campus’ curfew.

Moore’s team

Five members of Gov. Wes Moore’s administration were sworn in on Wednesday after being confirmed by the Maryland Senate earlier this year.

Five members of Gov. Wes Moore’s administration were formally sworn in to their positions on Wednesday evening. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

Included in that list were two interim appointments who head high profile agencies.

Sanjay Rai was appointed by Moore in April 2023 to round out his cabinet. As an interim appointment, Rai served as acting secretary of the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Now he’s dropped the acting title.

Will Tilburg was appointed the first director of the Maryland Cannabis Commission May 2023, where he oversaw the state’s move to legal adult-use recreational cannabis sales. Prior to that, Tilburg spent five years at the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission first as director of policy and later as executive director.

Moore also swore in three others:

Usherla DeBerry, director, Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; Greg Rogers, chief information security officer; and Wallace Sermons II, chief procurement officer.

Saying farewell, for now, to a son of Maryland

Tyler C. Patton, a fixture in the Maryland political scene for over 15 years, is leaving the state.

Patton, who is currently the director of state government and community affairs for Verizon, has lined up a new gig as head of external affairs for the Fayetteville Public Works Commission in North Carolina. The commission, which provides power and water to 125,000 customers in the vicinity of Fayetteville (population 208,000), is one of the 50 largest municipally-owned utilities in the U.S.

Tyler C. Patton

In his role, Patton will lead the company’s communications and community relations division, and will be
responsible for branding, communications, community relations, public policy, and government and sponsorships.

It will be hard to imagine a large Maryland political gathering or a campaign season without Patton. He’s held a variety of jobs in government and politics, counseled many leading Democrats, formally and informally, and he’s been a keen observer of the state political scene.

Before going to Verizon, he spent 11 years at the Maryland Broadband Cooperative Inc., as vice president (later senior vice president) of public affairs. He was the public information officer for the Queen Anne County’s Sheriff’s Department. And he also worked for the late Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D) and for former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and for former U.S. Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-1st).

Fayetteville is famous for being home to Fort Bragg (now known as Fort Liberty), the giant U.S. Army base. It’s where the Golden Corral restaurant chain was founded and where the Putt-Putt mini golf franchise was born. And if Patton ever gets homesick for Maryland, Fayetteville has a historic house named for Edgar Allan Poe — a local turn of the 20th century business and political leader, not the famous author of the same name who is buried in Baltimore.


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Political notes: Dunn ad calls Elfreth friend of GOP, Mikulski blesses Alsobrooks, House GOP blasts protesters, plus personnel news