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September 07, 2022

Political notes: Senate GOP seeks distance from Cox, Raskin vows action against Trump, and more

Credit: Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz

State Senate Republicans on Tuesday laid out their strategy for picking up seats in the fall election.

Notably, it did not include working closely with Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick), the GOP nominee for governor.

During an online news conference, the Republicans said they would spotlight Democratic policies and proposals on the campaign trail in an attempt to argue that Democrats are out of step with average Marylanders and causing harm to their pocketbooks and well-being.

“Democrats have made Maryland more expensive, more violent and more extreme,” said Senate Minority Leader Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel). “Therefore, Senate Republicans are offering an alternative to the Democrats’ far left agenda with our pledge to make Maryland more affordable, more secure, and more balanced.”

Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready (R-Carroll) said the party has “a strong and motivated team of candidates throughout the state that are putting in the work to reach voters.”

But the reality is, the playing field of competitive legislative districts is shrinking, with Republicans on offense in a couple of districts and on defense in a couple of others. It would take a major national Republican wave in the fall to jeopardize the Democrats’ supermajority in the Senate, which currently stands at 32 seats to Republicans’ 15.

Asked whether Cox, who is perceived to be trailing in the general election against Democrat Wes Moore – though there has been no public polling since the July 19 primaries – could be a drag on their Senate candidates, the Republicans noted that popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan didn’t especially help GOP candidates when he was running for reelection in 2018.

Pressed by reporters, Simonaire said he met recently with Cox, an ally of former President Trump, and while they agreed broadly on some of the top issues facing Maryland voters, they did not plan to campaign together or pool resources.

“We said, ‘look, we need to focus on our own races,’” Simonaire recounted.

A Republican candidate in a highly competitive Senate race, Del. Sid Saab (R-Anne Arundel), has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday afternoon in Annapolis to add both a teacher and a parent member to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. Saab is in a jump-ball race with attorney Dawn Gile (D) to replace state Sen. Ed Reilly (R), who is retiring.

Democrats are so bullish on Gile that Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) is headlining a fundraiser for her next Tuesday evening at Cafe Mezzanotte in Severna Park.

Raskin’s Cinderella story

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) on Tuesday sought to reassure Democrats who fret that former President Trump will never be held accountable for his incendiary and possibly illegal acts.

“I understand people’s concern about that,” Raskin said.

Speaking remotely early Tuesday to a very friendly online audience – members of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Democratic Club – Raskin promised that the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has “at least two more blockbuster hearings” scheduled, with the first likely to take place before the end of this month.

Raskin likened Trump to a “mob boss” who wakes up morning plotting new ways to subvert the law.

“Donald Trump is like a one-man crime wave,” he said. “He’s a man who’s always in the middle of a crime spree.”

Raskin also compared the 45th president to the cartoon character “Richie Rich,” who is always bailed out of trouble by powerful friends and lawyers. But Raskin expressed confidence that Trump would be brought to a measure of justice.

“He’s no match for the Jan. 6 committee,” he said.

But Raskin conceded that the panel needs to work quickly, because by statute it will go out of existence 30 days after it issues its final report on the Jan. 6 insurrection and hasn’t been reauthorized for the next Congress – and won’t be, assuming Republicans take control.

“We’re kind of like Cinderella,” he said.

Raskin’s talk generally was about ways to fortify American democracy at a time of great political upheaval in the nation. But answering questions from the audience, he also weighed in on several other topics:

— Raskin expressed admiration for Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the Jan. 6 panel who recently lost her bid for reelection in a Republican primary, but said, “I can’t wait to start disagreeing with her in public again.”

— Raskin offered a withering assessment of Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick), the GOP nominee for governor, but said he was torn about the Democratic Governors Association decision to attempt to prop Cox up in the Republican primary. He conceded “it might be playing with fire,” and asserted, “I wouldn’t do it, because I believe in karma.” But he added: “I don’t know if that’s fundamentally unethical. Our fundamental job is to keep these people from being elected.”

— Raskin reminded the audience that Cox had been his opponent when he was first elected to Congress in 2016.

“Everything that Gov. Hogan has said about him is correct,” Raskin said. “He’s deranged. There’s something fundamentally wrong with him – not just his politics, but the way he interacts with others as a human being.”

— Raskin, who endorsed Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich late in the Democratic primary, suggested the Elrich, who won by just 32 votes, needs to do more to reach out to a broader range of people. “I love him even for his flaws, too.”

— And Raskin gave a full-throated endorsement of ranked-choice voting, saying it has “produced some very positive benefits in the places where it’s been adopted” – most recently in Alaska, where a Democrat was just elected to the U.S. House for the first time in half a century.

Defenders of democracy

Speaking of Raskin, six members of Congress from Maryland, including Raskin, were awarded perfect scores in the latest “Democracy Scorecard” issued Tuesday by Common Cause, the political reform organization.

House members were graded for their votes on 18 measures, and senators on 15 votes. From Maryland, Raskin and Reps. Anthony Brown (D), John Sarbanes (D) and David Trone (D) rang up perfect scores. Both senators – Ben Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D) – did as well.

Maryland’s three other Democratic House members – Reps. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, Kweisi Mfume and Dutch Ruppersberger didn’t get perfect scores, but they came close: Mfume voted with Common Cause on 14 of the 18 key votes; Hoyer and Ruppersberger voted with the good government group 16 of 18 times. Rep. Andy Harris, the state’s lone Republican in Congress, only voted once in alignment with Common Cause.

In all, 101 members of Congress attained perfect scores – a significant increase from the 58 who aligned with the government watchdog group two years ago.

“It’s further proof of the growing momentum for improving our government,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause.

Dog bites man in comptroller’s race

This hardly comes as a surprise, but it’s still worth noting: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Tuesday endorsed Harford County Comptroller Barry Glassman (R) for comptroller.

“I can’t think of another leader in Maryland who has done a better job at watching out for the taxpayers and representing everybody, whether they are Republicans or Democrats or independents, than Barry Glassman,” Hogan said. “I know he will work across the aisle and look out for the taxpayer above all else. I could not be more proud to fully and enthusiastically endorse Barry Glassman to be our next comptroller.”

Glassman, competing in the general election against Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City), is running as a Hogan-style Republican willing to work across party lines, and has sought to distance himself from Cox and Michael Anthony Peroutka, the arch-conservative GOP nominee for attorney general. In fact, Glassman has donated $500 to Moore’s gubernatorial campaign.

“Marylanders don’t want or need the chaos that comes with the partisan extremes on both sides of the aisle, they just want a strong, independent watchdog for their tax dollars,” Glassman said.

Stepping down at the bar

The Maryland State Bar Association announced Tuesday that Victor Velazquez, who has served as executive director for the past five years, will step down at the end of October to take a job at an undisclosed corporation.

“When Vic was brought on board he was tasked with modernizing our then-120-year-old organization, to enhance its relevance to the profession, and to make it more resilient in responding to the challenges and opportunities of the future,” said Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Harry Storm, a former state bar association president. “Vic achieved the goals set out for him and delivered on both relevancy and resilience.”

The bar association is putting together an Executive Director Transition Committee to help find a replacement for Velazquez. MSBA Chief Operating Officer Anna Sholl will serve as acting director in the interim.