Josh Kurtz: What a Brown Administration Might Look Like

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By: Josh Kurtz 

The last three Democratic governors of Maryland – Martin O’Malley, Parris Glendening and William Donald Schaefer – were chief executives of major jurisdictions when they were elected. So they came to Annapolis with a well-established cadre of aides and advisers.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) is something different. If he’s elected governor next week, he’ll be making history – not just as Maryland’s first African-American governor, but as the first lieutenant governor ever given a promotion by the voters.

As lieutenant governor, Brown has a small staff that reflects the miniscule official portfolio that comes with the office. Before that, he served in the General Assembly, where his staff was even smaller.

So we don’t know exactly what kind of team he’ll put together if he’s able to hold off Republican Larry Hogan on Election Day. Heck, in the tightly-controlled world of the Brown campaign, we’re not even sure who he seeks advice from or listens to.

But that hasn’t stopped an endless stream of speculation about who will serve in what roles if Brown is elected. The anticipation, it’s fair to say, is greater for Brown at this point than it is for Hogan – not because the idea of Hogan winning is so far-fetched, but because in a heavily Democratic state, there is a greater pool of operatives and policy experts and political wise guys and gals for Brown to naturally draw from.

And it’s fair to say that at present, there are more people imagining themselves landing in a Brown administration than there are hoping to end up in a Hogan administration. It’s pretty apparent that if Hogan pulls an upset, lobbyist Bruce Bereano will serve as his de facto appointments secretary – a role Hogan himself had under the last Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich, whose election in 2002 was aided greatly by the ubiquitous Bereano.

Brown has said he won’t rule out looking outside of Maryland for talent. And if the Democratic bloodbath on Capitol Hill is as bad next week as it’s shaping up to be, there will be plenty of worthy staffers out of work.

Another unknown: How many people will Brown tap who work for or are loyal to his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D), who has a great many talented aides on his payroll? When Annapolis insiders are asked to envision the personnel in a Brown administration, what they often give you instead is a hypothetical Ulman administration.

If they are elected next week, the Brown-Ulman relationship will be the source of endless fascination in the years ahead. But that’s a conversation for another day. Nevertheless, Ulman should be a big player in the administration, regardless of what formal duties he’s given.

Over the past two weeks, I talked to more than two dozen smart people – state officials and campaign advisers, politicians, lobbyists and other keen observers of Annapolis – to get their take on what a Brown administration might look like. What follows is a combination of insider knowledge, credible rumors and informed speculation.

2nd floor

It’s clear that Maia Estes, the chief of staff in the lieutenant governor’s office, will have a critical role in the Brown administration. She’s a no-nonsense, loyal gatekeeper who speaks to Brown several times a day. The question is whether she’ll get the chief of staff title; Brown may be pressured to put a more seasoned person in that role.

If that’s the case, Earl Adams could get the call. Adams is a former Brown chief of staff who’s now a lawyer and lobbyist at DLA Piper. Even if he doesn’t rejoin state government, he’ll be a key adviser to the new governor.

One fascinating rumor over the past month or so that has yet to completely dissipate has House Environmental Matters Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh (D) being tapped to be Brown’s chief of staff. McIntosh still aspires to be speaker – even if that window may soon be closing – and chances are she’ll remain in the legislature, where she’ll be one of Brown’s top allies.

Other more senior people mentioned as possible chiefs of staff: Leonard Howie, a veteran of state government who is currently O’Malley’s secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, and Gerard Boden, chief of staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Both, like Brown, are military veterans – and Boden grew up in the same town on Long Island as Brown. Both could be in line for other top jobs as well.

One dark horse for chief of staff: Len Foxwell, who serves in that role for Comptroller Peter Franchot (D). Though Franchot under Foxwell’s management has often been at odds with the O’Malley administration and the Democratic establishment, Foxwell is well regarded by many Brown, Ulman and O’Malley allies. If the chief of staff job goes to someone else, he could be offered other roles in the Brown administration: Liaison to the Board of Public Works? Secretary of Transportation, if that job becomes available?

It’s also clear that Quincey Gamble, Brown’s charismatic deputy campaign manager will be offered a prominent role in the administration. Justin Ross, the former Prince George’s legislator turned lobbyist and one of the most strategic guys in Annapolis, could also be in line for a top job. But is he interested?

It would be wise for Brown to choose someone who is close to either House Speaker Mike Busch (D) or Senate President Mike Miller (D) – or both – to be his legislative liaison. The list of possibilities includes Jeremy Baker, a former Busch aide who then went to work for Ulman and is now a top campaign operative; Pat Murray, a former aide to both Miller and Busch who is now lobbying for Johns Hopkins; Kristin Jones, Busch’s current chief of staff; Alex Hughes, Busch’s deputy chief of staff; and Brian Shepter, a former lobbyist now serving as a Brown campaign adviser. Baker will get an important job in the administration for sure, even if it isn’t this one. He could wind up as Ulman’s chief of staff.

Three current members of O’Malley’s legislative lobbying team – David Stamper, Drew Vetter and Shanetta Paskel – are also well respected around Annapolis and could stay in their current roles, or get different jobs.

Many people assume that David Nitkin, the former Baltimore Sun reporter and editor now working for Ulman, will wind up as communications director. He could alternately snag a policy role. Matt Verghese, who has worked for Brown in the LG’s office and on the campaign, and for the state Democratic Party, should land in the press shop. Alex Hughes could be in the mix here as well.

Cabinet:

The most important cabinet decisions Brown will have to make are at the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Business and Economic Development, and the Department of Transportation.

At DBM, Eloise Foster, who has served for the entire O’Malley administration and had the same job for the last three years of the Glendening administration, is preparing next year’s state budget, and could be persuaded to stay for another year or more. But there are several other intriguing names in the mix – starting with Vicki Gruber, Mike Miller’s chief of staff. She could be in line for other positions as well.

Also mentioned: Len Howie; state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D), who years ago was a staffer for the legislative fiscal committees; Del. John Bohanan (D), whose reelection prospects seem shaky; Chad Clapsaddle, who worked at DBM under three administrations and is now the senior budget director at Hopkins; and David Romans, the wonky director of the state Health Services Cost Review Commission (HSCRC).

There is a long list of potential contenders for DHMH secretary. In alphabetical order: Peter Beilenson, Howard County’s health chief who held a similar role in Baltimore city; Debbie Chang, currently a vice president at Nemours Children's Health System and once a deputy secretary at DHMH; current DHMH Deputy Secretary Laura Herrera; John Hurson, the former state lawmaker who is chairman of the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission and executive vice president of the Personal Care Products Council in Washington, D.C.; John O’Brien, director of health care and insurance at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and a former deputy at HSCRC; Glenn Schneider, an official at the Horizon Foundation in Howard County who has also worked for the county government and the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative; Diane Stollenwerk, a longtime public health professional who is Maggie McIntosh’s spouse; and Ivan Walks, the former chief health officer for the District of Columbia who now runs a consulting business in Silver Spring.

DBED could see an organizational shake-up, depending on recommendations to be issued in December by a legislative task force examining the state’s business competitiveness. It is widely assumed that Martin Knott, co-owner with his brother Owen of Knott Mechanical and Wye River Technologies, can have the secretary’s job if he wants it.

In addition to his private sector success (and also his role as the Brown campaign’s finance chairman), Knott has the business credentials – he’s chairman of the Maryland Economic Development Corporation, an effective counter to the often- cumbersome bureaucracy at DBED, and is also chairman of the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board. But he might prefer to stay in those roles – so he can also continue to have a hand in O’Malley’s presidential campaign.

If Knott does not wind up at DBED, Terry Lierman, the former state Democratic chairman, is a leading candidate. Secretary of State John McDonough is another possibility – though he could stay in that job or get another in the administration. If Brown wants to flex some bipartisan credentials, he could turn to outgoing Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman (R), who used to work with Ulman in Howard County.

At MDOT, it would not be surprising to see the current secretary, Jim Smith, stick around for a while. If that’s the case, there could be some movement in other management positions. Frank Principe, the current MDOT chief of staff who worked for Smith in Baltimore County government, could become deputy secretary.

Looking to some other agencies, there is a vast pool of potential candidates to lead the state’s two conservation agencies, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Adam Ortiz, who heads the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment and used to work for Brown, is a frontrunner for the MDE job, though the current secretary, Bob Summers, is well regarded.

Also mentioned for this job: Anne Arundel County Councilman Chris Trumbauer (D), a former riverkeeper; Takoma Park City Councilman Tim Male, who has worked for Defenders of Wildlife and other national environmental groups; Queen Anne County Commissioner David Dunmyer; and Matt Mullin, who is Chesapeake Bay director for the Environmental Defense Fund.

At DNR, Secretary Joe Gill has his fans, but if there’s a changing of the guard, Eric Schwaab, a former DNR official who has also worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is currently chief conservation officer at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, is a prime candidate. So is David O'Neill, vice president of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Trumbauer and Male could rate consideration for this post as well.

At the Maryland Energy Administration, Abby Hopper is a rock star, and she could be in line for any top job in the Brown administration. But it would not be surprising to see her jump to a top federal position or the private sector. In that event, possible candidates to replace her include Devon Dodson, the agency’s chief of staff, Fred Hoover, another top MEA official who has run the place before, and Geoff Oxnam, vice president of operations at Easton Utilities.

At the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, the director, Stephen Martino, is a universally respected professional. But given Mike Miller’s ongoing interest in the state’s casinos, some insiders see Vicki Gruber as a candidate to run that agency. Jackie Lichter Vincent, the agency’s chief of staff who has had a variety of roles with the state and with organized labor, could also be on that list – or could wind up in a top position elsewhere in state government.

State Sen. Roger Manno (D) has been touted as the next DLLR secretary if Howie leaves that job. But Manno, who wants to run for Congress some day, will probably stay in the legislature for now. Given her ties to labor, political strategist and fundraiser Colleen Martin-Lauer is seen as an out-of-the-box pick, but she would probably prefer to keep her business going – and is no doubt more valuable to Brown if she stays out of state government. Former Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D), with a long history of working in the labor movement, would also be a top contender for that job, and so would Scott Jensen, the current deputy.

Other possible cabinet leaders: Asuntha Chiang-Smith at the Department of Housing and Community Development. She’s currently chief of staff at the agency, and spent several years working closely with Brown as executive director of the state’s BRAC subcabinet. Howard County Councilman Calvin Ball (D), who served on the faculty of Morgan State University, is seen as a possible head of the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Miscellaneous

There are several talented young people who could wind up in important roles for the Brown administration. Tyler Patton, a vice president of the Maryland Broadband Cooperative and a Democratic stalwart on the Eastern Shore who has worked for several top state elected officials, is a possible candidate for deputy secretary of MDE or other roles.

Mollie Byron, the deputy director in O’Malley’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; David Sloan, a former O’Malley and state party operative who ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in Prince George’s County; and Chuck Cook, the state party’s current political director, could all be assets to Brown as well.

Two useful veterans of state government that Brown might want to keep around are Jeanne Hitchcock, O’Malley’s appointments secretary, and Bill Goddard, a Mr. Fix-It who is currently Howard County fire chief but has had a variety of state jobs. Another politically wily fellow, Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin, has been mentioned as a possible secretary of State if McDonough does something else, or he could wind up as state Democratic chairman.

Brown may want to take care of several Democratic politicians who are out of office or are leaving office soon, including Dels. Aisha Braveboy, Steve DeBoy and Shawn Tarrant, Del. Mary-Dulany James if she loses her bid for a state Senate seat next week, Charles County Commissioner Ruben Collins, and former Del. Sue Kullen if she loses her comeback bid. It would not be surprising to see DeBoy, a former Baltimore County cop, going to the Department of Public Safety and Correction or the Department of General Services.

Last – but certainly not least – there is outgoing Del. Heather Mizeur, who finished a surprisingly strong third in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. Mizeur has yet to reveal what she wants to do next. She generated a lot of enthusiasm and good will on the campaign trail, and did so without ever disparaging Brown. She is a self-described policy wonk, and her name has been mentioned in connection with a stunning array of cabinet jobs: DNR, MDE, DHMH, DHCD and Agriculture.

Would Mizeur want to join the Brown administration in any capacity? Would Brown want someone with star power and unbridled ambition to join his team? He might want to recall the immortal words of LBJ, explaining why he decided to renominate the troublesome J. Edgar Hoover to another term as FBI director: “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.”

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.


But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.


The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.


In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.


Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.