As He Seeks the Pole Position in the Progressive Lane, Madaleno Hits Hogan Aggressively

By Bruce DePuyt

Sen. Rich Madaleno (D) speaks with confidence when he touts his record of accomplishment as a progressive-minded state legislator. But when he takes on Maryland’s sitting governor, the Montgomery County lawmaker kicks into overdrive.

“There is one Larry Hogan that the people see when the cameras are turned on, and there is a completely different Larry Hogan when the cameras are turned off,” Madaleno told Maryland Matters after launching his 2018 campaign for governor on Monday.

“Time and time again he has made proposals to reduce mandated funding. He has tried to cut funds for people living with developmental disabilities. He has tried to cut funding for our school systems, targeting especially Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore city. He has tried to limit access to medical assistance. Fortunately the legislature has stopped that over and over. But the public doesn’t realize what Larry Hogan is trying to do because we’ve had a brake on [all] that.”

To drive home the point, Madaleno held his gubernatorial kickoff news conference in a new building on the campus of the Universities of Maryland at Shady Grove, a building the lawmaker says wouldn’t exist — despite the lobbying of business leaders pressing for skilled workers — were it not for the legislature’s insistence.

“The governor wanted to put [the funding for this building towards] a jail.  I want to make sure that we put our money into jobs, not jails.”

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Madaleno, who has represented Kensington and other down-county communities in Annapolis since 2003, has long been vocal in his criticism of the Republican governor, who in turn has aimed rhetorical fire back. But now it comes as the lawmaker rolls the dice on an uphill bid for his party’s gubernatorial nomination.

Hogan’s spokesman, Douglass Mayer, hit back at Madaleno generally and at some of the Democrat’s specific criticisms of the governor.

“Since taking office, Governor Hogan has helped transform Maryland’s economy, has held the line on spending while providing tax and toll relief, increased our investment education to record levels and taken extraordinary steps to protect the Chesapeake Bay and reduce carbon emissions below even the levels called for in the Paris Accord,” Mayer said. “Convincing Marylanders that we should abandon this incredible progress won’t be an easy task. Good luck.”

Mayer added that Hogan included some funding for a jail in his capital budget at the legislature’s request and was surprised by the subsequent criticism. He argued that another Montgomery County state senator, Nancy King (D), deserved credit for the Shady Grove funding, rather than Madaleno. And he said that Madaleno blasts Hogan for certain education funding formula deficiencies that he generally did not criticize former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) for.

Madaleno comes by his admitted wonkery honestly, having served as a House Appropriations Committee staffer during Del. Pete Rawlings’ days as chairman, then as a lobbyist for Montgomery County when Sen. Barbara Hoffman (D) was chair of the Budget and Taxation panel. On Monday he called both Baltimore pols mentors.

A bid for governor is not the path many assumed Madaleno would take. At just 52, and popular in his district, he is well-positioned to influence where state funding goes for some time. He’s vice-chairman of B&T, with a real chance to assume the gavel when the panel’s 72-year-old Chairman Ed Kasemeyer (D) retires, a move that would surely benefit Madaleno’s home county.

Nonetheless, he says he’s determined to remain in a primary contest that could draw an all-star field of sitting county executives, a former NAACP head, a member of Congress, a tech industry CEO, and perhaps a former state attorney general.

“It’s up or out,” Madaleno told reporters. “I’m in this to win it.”

He certainly has his work cut out for him. He isn’t very well known outside his district and the halls of Annapolis. To have a presence on television, he’ll have to raise enough money to buy ad time in not one, but two expensive media markets. In addition, no state legislator in the modern era has become governor through the popular vote. And no one from Montgomery County has ever been elected governor.  (The only openly gay person to ascend to the top job in any state is the current governor of Oregon, who is bisexual.)

To get to Hogan, Madaleno knows he’ll have to convince progressive voters that he can be more effective in the State House than civil rights activist Ben Jealous, who announced in June and whose candidacy got a boost when he received the endorsement last week of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

But Madaleno, a Silver Spring native raising two children with his husband Mark, is ready to engage. He touts his work on K-12 funding, school construction money, marriage equality, the DREAM Act, the minimum wage and food stamps eligibility for seniors.

“I’ve been in the forefront of progressive victories in the state of Maryland,” he said.

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