Monday Morning Political Round-up

By Josh Kurtz

Welcome to Maryland Matters, week two!

Remember that what you are reading is an early, no-frills iteration of the ambitious news website that we plan to get going in the months ahead, after we’re fully funded and hire a staff.

We’ve appreciated the response we’ve gotten so far and hope you’ll keep reading and staying in touch. Because we’re a hardy band of volunteers, we’re dependent on you for news, tips, gossip and feedback.

Today’s column is a potpourri of political items. But stay tuned for some hot news and a few fun reads later in the week.

CONTENDERS OR PRETENDERS? If Maryland Democratic leaders were hoping for a quick and easy process to give the state party’s new interim chairwoman, Kathleen Matthews, a an extended term later this spring, they may be disappointed.

At least three individuals are contemplating running for the top job when Democratic central committee members from the state’s 24 jurisdictions get together on May 6 to elect a permanent chair: Former Montgomery County councilmember Valerie Ervin, Baltimore County Democratic Chairman Robbie Leonard, and former Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton, who still serves on the city council.

The three are talking with each other – and with party activists – to discuss their prospects and the future of the party.

“I am being encouraged by some really interesting folks” to run for the top job, Ervin said in an email to Maryland Matters Sunday.

In a commentary on the website The Seventh State last week, Ervin criticized party leaders for running a closed process in their quest to install Matthews as the successor to former state party chairman Bruce Poole, who just resigned. The winner of the May 6 vote will serve the remainder of Poole’s four-year term.

Ervin contrasted the Maryland situation to the prolonged and public fight for the leadership of the Democratic National Committee, which last week resulted in Tom Perez’s narrow election as chairman.

“As the DNC moves forward, the Maryland Democratic Party remains stuck in the remnants of the past,” Ervin wrote.

Ervin, who briefly ran for Congress in the 2016 cycle and is a senior adviser for the national Working Families Party, a progressive group, said people have been encouraging her to run for state chair since her op-ed appeared.

“Most of my encouragement is coming from young Dems, in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties as well as a lot of Bernie supporters,” Ervin, who served as a Democratic National Convention delegate for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders last year, told Maryland Matters in her email.

In an interview, Leonard, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in District 42B in 2014, also criticized the state Democratic apparatus as a top-down operation.

“I think I can turn around this party,” he said.

Leonard said he wanted to talk to Matthews “and hear her pitch” before deciding whether to run against her. But he conceded that it is unlikely that more than one challenger could be successful, which is one of the reasons why he, Ervin and Ireton are planning to stay in touch.

“I want to see where everyone else is,” Leonard said.

Ireton similarly said he’s waiting to see how Matthews conducts herself in her first few weeks in office before deciding what to do. He said that while Democratic leaders have touted Matthews’ potential fundraising abilities, he’s curious how effective she will be spreading the party’s message in parts of the state that have grown more hostile to Democrats.

“The question for me is, does she have a 23-county and a Baltimore city strategy, like Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy, because that’s how you grow the party,” Ireton said.

Party leaders – including Matthews – appear to have anticipated some of the criticism and are trying to be proactive about addressing it. After being selected interim chair last week, Matthews issued a statement pledging “an inclusive and transparent process going forward” and announced that Greg Pecoraro, a longtime Maryland representative to the Democratic National Committee, would preside over the process to elect a permanent successor to Poole.

Pecoraro, a Westminster city councilman who is executive director of the BWI Business Partnership Inc., was government affairs chief for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for many years, and held several top slots at the Maryland Department of Transportation under former Gov. Parris Glendening (D). Pecoraro called Matthews’ outreach effort “unprecedented,” and said he would “do my best to reach out to a variety of constituencies within the party to ensure that every voice is heard and made part of this process.”

One party leader said the Democrats would look for sponsors outside the party orbit to host a forum – or series of forums – for the candidates hoping to lead the party.

And Matthews in her statement sought to remind fellow Democrats that they need to unite to confront the common enemies.

“In this transition, I look forward to working with Democrats across the state to build grass-roots support for policies that protect the wellbeing of all Marylanders, and fight back against dangerous and empty rhetoric coming from President Trump and Governor Hogan,” she said.

BRAVEBOY NEW WORLD…The invitation from former Del. Aisha Braveboy (D) bills her upcoming event as a “FIRST ANNUAL WOMEN’S RECEPTION…Honoring African-American Women Who Were First In Their Position And Have Unselfishly Contributed To Our Community And Beyond.”

That’s a mouthful.

Only after careful reading does one realize that the event, scheduled for March 26 at Camelot by Martin’s in Upper Marlboro, turns out to be is a fundraiser for Friends of Aisha Braveboy.

Braveboy, who lost a bid for state attorney general in 2014, plans to run for Prince George’s state’s attorney next year, when the incumbent, Angela Alsobrooks, is almost certain to run for county executive.

Braveboy’s fundraiser, with tickets ranging from $125 to $1,000 and sponsorships running even higher, will spotlight eight women: Former U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D), a mentor to Braveboy; Charlene Dukes, president of Prince George’s Community College; Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, chairwoman of the American Institute of CPA’s; Hazel Harper, former president of the American Dental Association; J.C. Hayward, former anchorwoman at WUSA-TV; Gloria Lawlah, Maryland’s former secretary of Aging and a former state lawmaker; Jackie Jeter, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO; and LaDoris Harris, former vice president at ABB Service Inc. and a former top official at the U.S. Department of Energy during the Obama administration.

Also eyeing a run for state’s attorney in Prince George’s: Del. Erek Barron (D) and state Sen. Victor Ramirez (D).

Braveboy could certainly stand to prime the financial pump. As of mid-January, Barron reported $90,000 in his campaign account, and Ramirez had $79,000. Braveboy’s last campaign finance statement was filed in January 2015; she had $47,000 on hand at the time. In 2016, her campaign filed notice that she had not raised any money in the previous year, and according to electronic records at the state Board of Elections, she made no filing at all this January.

ANOTHER STEP IN THE JOURNEY Liz Matory’s interesting political journey is due to take another twist in the days ahead, when she is likely to be appointed to fill a vacancy on the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, a source told Maryland Matters.

Matory, readers may recall, ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates as a Democrat in 2014, then turned around and started running for Congress in 2016 – first as a Democrat, then as an independent, and later as a Republican. She self-published a book about her experience and political evolution, “Born Again Republican,” last fall. She has been highly critical of the redistricting process in Maryland and believes Democratic leaders have taken African-American voters – especially women – for granted.

Now Matory is in line to replace Quinn McCord as one of the GOP central committee members in Dist. 18. McCord’s name may be familiar to close followers of the Washington, D.C. journalism scene. He’s a former longtime managing editor of National Journal’s Hotline.

HERE’S THE PITCH… Want more political intel and coverage of state and local government? Please help us. Make a secure, online, tax-deductible contribution. Checks can be made out to the Maryland Matters Fund and sent to Maryland Matters, P.O. Box 11121, Takoma Park, MD 20913. We simply can’t do it without you!

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