Friday, January 28, 2022

Political Notes: Novotny v. Hester, Neuman’s Team, Dueling Endorsements in CD-4 and More

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Del. Reid Novotny (R-Howard). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Although his candidacy had been rumored for some time, Del. Reid J. Novotny (R-Howard) made it official Tuesday: In an email to supporters, he announced that he plans to challenge Sen. Katie Fry Hester (D) in November.

Novotny cast his decision to run as a protest against Democratic gerrymandering.

“It should not shock a single voter that the Majority Party has Gerrymandered the district I currently represent to keep the incumbent Democrat Senator,” Novotny wrote in his email. “This is not just my opinion; it is a widely held fact.”

Under the General Assembly’s proposed legislative district map, which lawmakers will consider over the next few weeks, District 9, which currently includes roughly the northwestern half of Howard County and part of southern Carroll County, would lose Carroll County and instead include part of northern Montgomery County, potentially shoring up Hester’s bid for a second term.

Hester, who will be one of the most targeted Democrats in the legislature this election cycle, upset then-Sen. Gail H. Bates (R) in the 2018 general election by just 1.7 points. Earlier in the year, Bates fended off a primary challenge from Novotny by almost 8 points. Novotny, a military veteran and cybersecurity entrepreneur, was appointed to the District 9A House seat a year ago.

“This election in November of 2022 will be a clear choice for the voters of District 9,” he told his supporters in his campaign email. “They can choose the status quo which will lead to further lock downs, virtual schooling, demoralizing police while being soft on criminals, with out-of-control spending or the complete opposite. I suggest we all take a new direction.”

State Sen. Katie Fry Hester (D-Howard)

In a statement provided to Maryland Matters, Hester didn’t directly address Novotny’s challenge, but said, “For the last three years, I have had the honor of serving my constituents in the Maryland Senate. Together, we have brought critical care to families and businesses fighting COVID, expanded access to education, and fought to make our communities safer, our environment cleaner, and our systems fairer and more equitable to more Marylanders. I am right now focused on the upcoming legislative session, and fighting for my constituents on the critical issues facing our communities.”

Through last January, Hester reported $112,598 in her campaign account. Novotny at the time had $13,526, but he had just been appointed to the House seat. New campaign finance reports showing fundraising and spending activity between mid-January of 2021 and Wednesday are due to be filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections on Jan. 19.

Meet Team Neuman

Former Anne Arundel County executive Laura Neuman entered the Democratic race for governor with a bang Monday, releasing a powerful biographical video that outlined her stormy youth and rise to success in politics and the business world.

That ad was produced by Left Hook Strategy, a national media firm that has been retained as Neuman’s media consultant. The campaign has released the names of several individuals and consulting firms that are working to get Neuman through the June 28 primary.

Left Hook’s partners Rachel Ostendorf, Justin Barasky, and Raghu Devaguptapu are leading media strategy for the campaign. Left Hook helped Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly flip a Republican-held seat in 2020, and closer to home guided Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. (D) through his primary. Barasky served as the 2018 campaign manager for Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) and was a senior adviser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2020. Devaguptapu has more than two decades of campaign experience, including running independent expenditures for the Democratic Governors Association.

Takoma Park-based Victoria Research is handling polling for the Neuman campaign. Donna Victoria worked for Montgomery County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D) during his seven-way primary in 2018, and polled for now-state Treasurer Dereck E. Davis (D) and the Maryland House Democratic Caucus.

Wildfire Contact is overseeing the campaign’s direct mail and voter contact programs. Partner Emily Parcell has spent more than 20 years working on campaigns. Her resume includes serving as President Obama’s Iowa Caucus political director and as a senior adviser for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. Managing Director Tia Nearmyer worked for several campaigns across the country, including for then-Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and his campaign for governor, before joining the firm.

Break Something is running digital fundraising for the campaign, led by Eric Goldman, the campaign manager for Gretchen Whitmer’s successful 2018 campaign for governor of Michigan.

Kelly Roberts is serving as the campaign manager for Neuman. Roberts managed Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright’s 2020 re-election, outperforming President Biden by 8% and becoming one of the only House Democrats to hold a seat in a Trump district. She previously worked for Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris’ presidential campaigns, spent a number of years working for the Democratic National Committee, and served as senior staff on Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s 2018 campaign to unseat Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner.

Dueling endorsements in CD-4

Two of the Democrats seeking to replace Brown in the 4th District congressional seat rolled out several endorsements Tuesday.

Del. Jazz M. Lewis (D-Prince George’s) announced that 42 current and former elected officials have endorsed him — many within the congressional district along with leaders from around the state. The list includes former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend; former Maryland Democratic Chair Susan W. Turnbull; former Maryland Secretary of Aging Gloria Lawlah, who is a former Prince George’s County senator; Anne Arundel County Council Chair Lisa Rodvien; four state senators, including Ronald L. Watson of Prince George’s; 15 state delegates, including Benjamin Barnes, Geraldine Valentino-Smith and Faye Martin Howell of Prince George’s; 11 mayors and councilmembers of Prince George’s municipalities; Prince George’s Clerk of Courts Mahasin El Amin; and two members of the Prince George’s Board of Education, Shayla Adams Stafford and Pamela Boozer-Strother.

“Our campaign is modeling the type of inclusive, progressive coalition needed to win this election and lead on issues that affect this district in Congress,” Lewis said in a statement. “I am thankful that so many leaders in our community share our vision and our conviction to create a world where we don’t pass systemic inequities on to the next generation. We are on track to not only win on election day, but also build a movement that will carry the people’s voice to Capitol Hill.”

One of Lewis’ Democratic primary opponents, former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey countered with endorsements from four Prince George’s county councilmembers — Tom Dernoga, Mel Franklin, Rodney Streeter and Jolene Ivey, the candidate’s wife — along with Councilmember-elect Edward Burroughs.

“Now more than ever, it’s important that our federal representatives have strong relationships with our local elected officials,” Glenn Ivey said. “These leaders know that they can count on me to work with the President, our County Executives, and County Councils across the region to ensure we get the resources we need to get through this pandemic.”

Former Del. Angela Angel (D-Prince George’s) is also competing in the congressional primary. The district as drawn by the congressional map the legislature adopted last month takes in more than half of Prince George’s County along with pieces of Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties.

For whom the bell Toles

Speaking of Prince George’s, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) on Tuesday appointed former County Councilmember Karen R. Toles to a House seat in District 25. She was nominated by the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee after being endorsed by the district’s senator, Melony G. Griffith (D) for the vacancy left by the departure of Dereck E. Davis to become state treasurer.

Incoming Del. Karen R. Toles (D-Prince George’s).

“I am confident that Ms. Toles will represent the citizens of Prince George’s County well in her new role as delegate,” Hogan said in a statement.

Toles served on the council from 2010 to 2018. She is currently the director of community affairs, as well as legislative affairs adviser, for Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha N. Braveboy (D), who previously represented District 25 in the House. She also has a policy consulting business, Paramount Policy Partners, LLC.

With Toles’ appointment, the legislature now has a full complement of 188 members.

Slater’s new gig

Former Maryland Transportation secretary Greg Slater has a new gig. 

One day after he formally left the Maryland Department of Transportation, the Tampa Hillsborough County Expressway Authority (THEA), an independent state agency in Florida, announced that Slater has come aboard as its new executive director and CEO. 

He will start on Feb. 1. 

Slater’s move ends the Maryland chapter for the career of one of Hogan’s most high-profile cabinet members. His decision to leave MDOT, after more than 20 years there, took observers by surprise. He was helping to shepherd several massive projects — including the expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel, the completion of the beleaguered Purple Line, and the Interstate 495/I-270 toll-lanes proposal — for a governor who still has a year remaining in office.

Slater was immensely popular with state lawmakers and local leaders, even those who clashed with Hogan on transportation policy. Officials regarded him as thoughtful, collaborative and responsive. 

Although he will have a much smaller portfolio in Florida, Slater’s move will put him in close contact with companies working to develop autonomous vehicles. 

In a statement, Slater said: “THEA is an organization known for its financial strength and community involvement and is known in international circles for its dedication to the ACES (Automated, Connected, Electric, and Shared) technologies that will build a foundation for the next generation of transportation.” He did not respond to a request for comment on his departure from Maryland. 

“His commitment to customers, his leadership and vision, and his drive to find creative solutions will help THEA prepare for the future,” said Vincent J. Cassidy, the agency’s chair. “As our region looks for innovative transportation solutions to address the needs of our growing population, we will be fortunate to have a leader of Greg’s caliber, intellect, and experience on the team driving change.”

Hogan has tapped James F. Ports Jr., who has served as executive director of the Maryland Transportation Authority, to serve as Slater’s replacement, pending state Senate confirmation. William Pines, MDTA’s chief engineer, moves up to take Ports’ old job. 

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