Political Notes: Booker Rallies Md. Dems, Adams on the Air, and News About Endorsements

Nelita Collins
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker takes a selfie with volunteers of John King’s gubernatorial campaign outside the Maryland Democratic Party gala in Upper Marlboro Thursday evening. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

If you were looking for a Democratic elected official or high-profile candidate Thursday night, chances are you would have found them at the Maryland Democratic Party’s annual gala at the Camelot catering hall in Upper Marlboro.

It was a full-on political schmoozefest with more than 1,000 people attending — a rarity in this age of COVID-19. About half were candidates for governor — well, not really. But New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D), who was the keynote speaker, made note of the size of the Democratic gubernatorial field, which actually has 10 candidates.

“I saw all the people who are running for governor and I thought, the ballot’s gonna be longer than a CVS receipt,” he joked.

Often enough at these affairs, the schmooze is the thing, but speeches are also inevitable, and it was up to Maryland Democratic Chair Yvette Lewis to get the crowd to segue from the schmoozing part to dinners and speeches.

“We are not going to be here till midnight,” she said, like a stern mother.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) spoke first, filling in for Maryland’s other senator, Chris Van Hollen (D), who was supposed to introduce Booker but is recovering from a recent mild stroke.

“Chris is doing something he doesn’t often do,” Cardin said. “He is following the advice of his doctor.”

After paying tribute to Cardin (“a man of faith who knows that faith without work is dead”), Van Hollen (“I’ve come to love him like a brother”) and former Sen. Barbara Mikulksi (“a terrifying woman” who was a tremendous mentor), Booker gave a fiery speech.

He described the U.S. as being “in a storm right now,” and urged Democrats to stand on a metaphorical hill, remain vigilant, and take care of the people who need help the most.

“Some people think we’re the party of JFK or LBJ or FDR,” he said. “No. We are the party of the grass roots. We’re the party of compassion. We’re the party of love.”

Booker’s final message: “Stay faithful, Maryland. Stay faithful.”

But it was hardly the last word. All the candidates for governor were scheduled to speak. And there was a tribute planned for former House Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), who is retiring after 30 years in the legislature.

Adams on the air

Bowie Mayor Tim Adams (D) has taken to the airwaves again in his bid for state comptroller.

Adams this week began airing a 30-second digital ad that focuses on equitable education funding and a minute-long ad that’s airing on Black radio stations focusing on the role of the comptroller’s office.

The digital ad has a Maryland teacher identified as Veronica H. discussing the need for equity in school funding.

“The funding between schools are not the same,” she says. “…If Tim Adams is elected for comptroller, he will make sure the funds are being distributed evenly and equally. Parents fight for it. Teachers fight for it. But it’s as if our voices are not being heard.”

The campaign’s Black radio ad features Adams during a visit to a Prince George’s County barbershop, taking questions from voters about the type of experience a comptroller needs to have, how to make sure wealthy corporations are paying their fair share, ensuring that minority- and women-owned businesses in Maryland thrive, and the importance of investing in education.

The only way the audience knows it’s a barbershop is the consistent hum of an electric razor in the background.

On the question of experience, Adams takes a mild swipe at his Democratic primary opponent, Baltimore City Del. Brooke Lierman.

“The comptroller is the chief fiscal officer of Maryland,” he says. “We need somebody who has that executive leadership and experience who understands how to manage, and how to make the hard decisions of a large organization. It’s not the job of a legislator.”

The ads will run statewide and are a part of a six-figure digital and radio media buy that started last month and will continue through the July 19 primary.

Adams’ latest ad buy triggered a fundraising appeal from the Lierman campaign on Thursday afternoon.

“Our opponent has started running ads and we need to make sure we have the resources to respond,” the email solicitation said. “Unlike our opponent, Brooke is not self-funding her campaign so we need to rely on supporters like you for your help.”

Adams and Lierman will appear together at a virtual forum next Tuesday at 7 p.m. The forum is sponsored by the League of Women Voters Maryland, Maryland Matters, Maryland Reporter, Maryland Nonprofits, Maryland Latinos Unidos and the University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy. Click here to register to watch the forum.

Endorsement watch

Progressive Maryland has endorsed former Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez in the Democratic primary for governor. Larry Stafford, the executive director of the grass-roots group, called Perez “a champion for working families and the change that we need for our state.”

“We feel confident that as our governor, he will successfully pave a new path toward strong union jobs; equitable access to quality public education; and a safe, clean environment for all Marylanders,” Stafford said.

Perez has enjoyed a good week of endorsements, receiving the nod from the AFL-CIO and The Washington Post editorial board in recent days. Progressive Maryland is affiliated with several unions, some of whom have already endorsed Perez.

Meanwhile, a key environmental group, the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, has endorsed U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown in the Democratic primary for attorney general. Club leaders said Brown, who is squaring off against former Judge Katie Curran O’Malley in the Democratic primary, is best equipped to carry on the legacy of departing Attorney General Brian Frosh (D), a longtime hero to environmentalists.

“The climate crisis has disproportionate impacts on communities of color throughout the state, and Anthony Brown recognizes the intersectionality of the environment and many other public health, safety, and justice concerns,” Rosa Hance, chair of the Sierra Club Maryland chapter said. “From his time working with lawmakers and with a variety of diverse stakeholders in local, state, and national arenas, Brown brings knowledge, commitment, and proven ability to prioritize solutions to the greatest challenges we face in Maryland.”

Speaking of Frosh, he took sides this week in two closely-watched Democratic primaries in his home turf of Montgomery County, endorsing County Executive Marc Elrich for a second term and State’s Attorney John McCarthy for a fifth term.

“What I like about Marc is, what you see is what you get,” Frosh said at a recent Elrich campaign event. Elrich is battling businessman David Blair, County Councilmember Hans Riemer, and tech worker Peter James, in the primary. Elrich beat Blair by just 77 votes in the primary four years ago.

As for McCarthy, Frosh noted in a statement that as attorney general, he has the opportunity to work with many law enforcement officials. “John is the leading voice for state’s attorneys across the state,” Frosh said.

McCarthy is competing in the Democratic primary with attorneys Tom DeGonia, Bernice Mireku-North and Perry Paylor.

And Ellen “EJ” McNulty, one of six Republicans seeking to challenge U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) in the 2nd congressional district, announced this week that Baltimore County Councilmember David Marks (R) will serve as her campaign chair. McNulty is a public health policy expert who served in the administration during Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s first term.

“I have known EJ for many years and her involvement in the Greater Baltimore community makes her uniquely qualified to represent the citizens of the 2nd District,” Marks said.

McNulty this week also picked up an endorsement from Nancy Goldring, president of the Northeast Towson Improvement Association, who said “EJ will move heaven and earth to advocate for what she believes is right.”

Earlier this month, McNulty received a check from Maryland Republican Party Chair Dirk Haire — which appeared to be a noteworthy development considering one of McNulty’s primary opponents is Nicolee Ambrose, the Republican National Committeewoman for Maryland and, like Haire, part of state GOP leadership. But it wasn’t an endorsement: Haire has also contributed to Ambrose’s campaign.

An endorsement switch

After initially backing former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Prince George’s County Councilmember Johnathan M. Medlock has switched his endorsement to author and former anti-poverty CEO Wes Moore.

Medlock’s action marks a rare occasion in which an elected official has switched allegiances during the 2022 contest — with two prior such instances ironically working to the benefit of King.

Medlock was named to a vacancy on the Prince George’s County Council this month after two and a half years as mayor of the city of District Heights. His shift to Moore came in late April shortly before his appointment to the council but was not widely publicized at the time.

In a telephone interview, Medlock — who decided to endorse King in 2021 as the gubernatorial contest was getting underway — said he had met King through a friend who was a high-ranking official in the Obama administration’s Education Department.

“John’s a very capable, brilliant guy,” Medlock said, adding that “I believed that as secretary of education he had the necessary qualifications, skillsets and ability” to be Maryland’s governor. He said the Education Department under King “did some great work, and I wanted to continue to support the work they were doing before.”

A view among insiders giving Moore a better chance to win the nine-way July 19 primary did not influence in his shift, Medlock insisted. But he acknowledged political factors had come into play.

Moore “showed up a lot in the city of District Heights when I was mayor, and … championed not only the city of District Heights, but all the 27 municipalities throughout Prince George’s County,” Medlock said. “He has proven to me countless times to be a leader. He talks about loyalty, family and community — and I wanted to support that type of governance.”

Medlock said he was not pressured by Moore or Moore’s most visible Prince George’s backer, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, to change his endorsement.

“No influence from the county executive or anybody else,” said Medlock, who is not seeking a full term on the County Council and will be leaving that body in December. “It was my independent determination as to what direction I wanted to go. I made this pivot because of the quality of service and the type of character that Wes Moore has.”

If Medlock now has defected from the King camp, two other elected officials backing King — Frederick County Councilmember Kai Hagen and Annapolis Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier — jumped to him last year after withdrawing earlier endorsements of Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) in the Democratic race. Hagen’s shift came after Franchot joined with Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) on the Board of Public Works to keep Hogan’s controversial plan to widen I-495 and I-270 on track.

Click here to see a list of endorsements in the race for governor so far.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Maryland GOP chief Dirk Haire has not endorsed a candidate in the 2nd District congressional primary.

Political Notes: Booker Rallies Md. Dems, Adams on the Air, and News About Endorsements

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