Political Notes: Kamenetz’s Day, Greens’ Scorecard
By Josh Kurtz
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz (D) made a perfectly conventional announcement for governor on Monday – but that was the point.
Standing in front of the old Baltimore County Courthouse in Towson, flanked by family, supporters and people who gave testimonials about his life and government work, Kamenetz stressed his experience and his “Tell-it-like-it-is” personality as he seeks to take on Gov. Larry Hogan (R) next year.
“I’m Kevin Kamenetz,” he told the crowd. “I’m a lifelong Marylander. I’m a lifelong Democrat. And I am the best Democrat in this race to beat Larry Hogan next year, and take back our state from the likes of Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, and Jeff Sessions.”
Kamenetz hit Hogan for not criticizing the president.
“We can’t afford to have a governor who refuses to stand up to Donald Trump – to protect our values, our communities and our state. We can’t afford to have a governor who takes a poll before taking a stand.”
All seven of the Democratic candidates for governor have excoriated Trump and attempted to link Hogan to the Republican president, whose polling in Maryland is terrible – and runs about 35 points behind Hogan’s own approval ratings.
But Kamenetz is one of the few candidates with a lifetime in public office – a point he sought to emphasize Monday.
Kamenetz began his career as a prosecutor in the Baltimore city state’s attorney’s office. In 1994, he was elected to the Baltimore County Council, where he served four terms. He was elected county executive in 2010.
At least 10 elected officials were present for Kamenetz’s announcement. Baltimore County Council President Tom Quirk (D) introduced him as someone who has “never been afraid to speak up for all of Baltimore County.”
At his announcement, Kamenetz said that the government had invested $1.3 billion investment in school construction during his administration, building 16 new schools and 15 additions and renovations, at the same time the achievement gap between white and African-American students has all but disappeared.
“Marylanders have long valued our commitment to public education, but in recent years we’ve slipped in national rankings. We need new leadership to rebuild aging schools, bring technology to our classrooms, and restore our schools to the best in the nation,” Kamenetz said. “My track record in education is unrivaled, and I will be the ‘Education Governor’ Maryland deserves. Together we can provide the long-term educational investments that the next economy will require of our children.”
In an accompanying written statement, Kamenetz highlighted his experience managing the government in Baltimore County, including:
- Attracting $5 billion in economic investment, adding 28,000 jobs to the local economy and cutting the unemployment rate in half;
- Safeguarding the Chesapeake Bay by spearheading efforts to preserve more than 2,000 miles of streams and watersheds, and 20,000 acres of rural and agricultural land;
- Reducing crime while promoting the implementation of police body-worn cameras; and
- Maintaining a strong credit rating without raising the property or income tax rate.
“Results matter and elected officials should be held accountable for what they promise and what they actually deliver. Not only do I have the right experience, but I also have a track record of results that no one can match,” Kamenetz said. “Throughout my career, I have always fought to protect Maryland values. As Governor, I will continue to fight for what we as Marylanders truly believe in: strong investment in our public schools, combating climate change, growing our economy, promoting thoughtful transportation strategies, and protecting those in need.”
Kamenetz’s announcement did not quite go off flawlessly, however. On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that a high-ranking county official had urged his colleagues in an email to attend the executive’s gubernatorial announcement – a possible violation of state campaign laws. Then his Facebook page on Monday morning suggested he was posting from Iowa.
The Maryland Republican Party took to social media Monday to publicize the email flap and remind voters that Kamenetz is eligible for a six-figure county pension thanks to a quirk in local law — since fixed — that allows a handful of county employees to get an enhanced pension. Republicans are calling it “double-dipping.”
While he wasn’t necessarily acting in direct response to Kamenetz’s announcement, Hogan was busy Monday, announcing that the state was allocating more than $38 million for road projects in all 24 jurisdictions – and that Maryland’s first responders would be getting an upgrade to their communications system.
“Since the beginning of our administration, we have been committed to rebuilding Maryland’s infrastructure and investing in roads and bridges across the state,” Hogan said in a statement.
Democratic Hegemony on the Environment. All but one of the 33 Democratic state senators received a perfect score on the annual report card issued by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters the other day. The exception: Sen. Jim Mathias (D) of the Lower Eastern Shore, who holds one of five Democratic seats that Republicans are targeting in 2018.
Every year, the environmental group issues a scorecard based on lawmaker votes in the previous legislation session. The scorecard included committee and floor votes on issues like hydraulic fracturing, clean energy, pesticides and sustainable oyster harvesting.
The near perfection of Democratic scores in the Senate was noteworthy.
Four Republican senators scored a zero on the LCV report card: Andrew Serafini of Washington County; J.B. Jennings of Baltimore County, the minority leader; Gail Bates of Howard County; and Addie Eckhardt of the Middle Shore.
The top Republican score in the Senate belonged to Bryan Simonaire of Anne Arundel County, a proponent of legislation to ban fracking in the state, whose grade was 71.
“Given the stunning attacks on the environment we are seeing nationally, it is more important than ever than Maryland’s elected leaders work hard to protect our air, land, water, and people,” said Ed Hatcher, the Maryland LCV board chairman. “This year’s legislative session showed that Maryland will not back down protecting our natural resources.”
The trends were similar in the House of Delegates, where all but three Democratic lawmakers racked up perfect scores. The exceptions were Dels. Ned Carey of Anne Arundel County (86 percent); Jay Jalisi of Baltimore County (71 percent); and Sharee Sample Hughes of the Middle Shore (60 percent).
On the Republican side, the top LCV ratings belonged to Dels. Chris West of Baltimore County (83 percent); Andrew Cassilly of Harford County (75 percent); Susan Aumann of Baltimore County and Herb McMillan of Anne Arundel County (71 percent); Christian Miele of Baltimore County (67 percent); and Bob Flanagan of Howard County (63 percent).
Four GOP lawmakers got zeroes: Steven Arentz of the Upper Shore; Mark Fisher of Calvert County; William Folden of Frederick County; and Del. Warren Miller of Howard County.
This year, in conjunction with the release of its report card, LCV honored 10 lawmakers as “Green Champions,” for getting perfect scores this year and throughout their careers. The honorees, all Democrats, were Sens. Cheryl Kagan, Paul Pinsky and Victor Ramirez, and Dels. David Fraser-Hidalgo, Bill Frick, Tawanna Gaines, Steve Lafferty, Clarence Lam, Brooke Lierman and Shane Robinson.
“I am tremendously proud to work alongside of Maryland LCV and represent the great community of District 15 in Montgomery County,” Fraser-Hidalgo said in a statement. “They are an essential resource for all legislators who want to be environmental leaders.”