Josh Kurtz: Political Notes from All Over

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We still don’t know whether Wes Moore, the author and entrepreneur, is going to run for mayor of Baltimore next year.

But if he does, he should be in good hands on the campaign trail. According to multiple sources, Moore has reached an agreement in principle with well-regarded Democratic strategist Lisa Bianco to run his campaign – if he decides to make the leap.

Bianco worked most recently as chief of staff to Maryland Congressman John Delaney (D) and spent several years with Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer (D), the No. 2 House Democrat. She has close ties to several Democratic factions in the state, and has national political connections as well.

Moore has flirted with a run for months but has only recently begun to publicly acknowledge the possibility – and talk of his candidacy has grown louder since Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) announced on Sept. 11 that she would not seek another term.

Moore is the kind of unconventional, potentially transformational figure that could appeal to many voters, and his election would undoubtedly represent a new direction for the city. But will voters be comfortable with a young political outsider with no governing experience, or will they be looking for a steady hand who knows the ins and outs of government? Does Moore’s celebrity and unique background – as a Rhodes Scholar, paratrooper, and frequent TV talking head – make him too unrelatable to too many city voters?

It is way too early to handicap next April’s Democratic primary, with or without Moore. But former Mayor Sheila Dixon, even with her ethical scrapes, must be considered the nominal frontrunner. She remains popular in significant chunks of the community, but probably has a floor and a ceiling in the Democratic primary – a range of, say, 25 percent to 35 percent.

Whether that’s enough to win depends on the number of candidates running, how much money they raise, and the types of campaigns they put together.

State Sen. Catherine Pugh and City Councilman Carl Stokes are both running again. They’re competent public servants but they feel like yesterday’s news.

Two young City Council members, Nick Mosby and Brandon Scott, are also contemplating the race. Both are appealing and relatively fresh faces. The prominence of Mosby’s wife – State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby (D) – no doubt lifts Nick Mosby’s name recognition, and quite possibly, his prospects. Voters will have to decide whether they’re comfortable having a married couple in the city’s two most important offices.  

And then there’s Moore…Presumably, if he’s serious about becoming a candidate, we’ll know soon.


House Speaker Mike Busch (D) last week rounded out his top staff in the wake of the news earlier this month that Chief of Staff Kristin Jones would be leaving in mid-October.

As first reported by Center Maryland, Alexandra Hughes, Jones’ deputy, will be taking over the top job. Hughes previously worked for Martin O’Malley when he was mayor of Baltimore, and has also worked for the city’s public schools.

“Alex has strong relationships with members of both parties and other stakeholders in Annapolis,” Busch said in a statement.

Senior Legislative Counsel Jason Weintraub, who has worked for the General Assembly for seven years, will have an expanded portfolio, with a specialized focus on economic and tax issues.

Mary Pat Fannon, who has worked in the Baltimore city government affairs office under several mayors, will come to Annapolis to be Busch’s deputy legislative officer.

Peter Baron will be director of member services and legislative counsel.

Just as significant – in a development that has not yet been publicly reported – there is a change in management at the Department of Legislative Services in Annapolis. Warren Descheneaux, who has been there for years and worn a number of hats, including as the legislature’s chief budgetary adviser, is becoming executive director.

Descheneaux will be taking over from Karl Aro, who has worked for the General Assembly for 36 years – the last 17 in the top job. Aro will remain with the legislature as director of administration at DLS until he retires sometime in 2016. He’ll also spend the next year as staff chairman at the National Conference of State Legislatures – the top advisory role for a legislative staffer with the national group.

“I look forward to learning more about legislative operations while continuing my involvement in legislative fiscal and policy analysis,” Descheneaux said in a post on his Facebook page. “I pledge to bring to my new responsibilities the same rigor and good humor that has carried me so far. All assistance appreciated.”


This is hardly the opening bell in the 2018 Democratic primary for governor, but it’s worth noting: term-limited Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker (D) is holding a fundraising cocktail hour this week – outside of Prince George’s County.

Baker’s fundraiser is Thursday evening, at The Hotel at Arundel Preserve in Hanover – near BWI Airport in Anne Arundel County. Baker’s people point out that it won’t be the first time he has raised money outside of the county. It’ll cost a minimum of $250 to attend.

As of mid-January, Baker had $69,000 in his campaign coffers – but was carrying a debt of $168,000.


In the long, tortured history of the proposed Purple Line transit project, the major political opposition has been centered in legislative district 18, which takes in Chevy Chase, home to major, well-funded opponents, including the all-powerful Columbia Country Club.

So it was not insignificant last week when Del. Jeff Waldstreicher (D), who represents Dist. 18, came out in favor of the east-west transit line that runs through key communities in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

Waldstreicher said his top priority is ensuring that mitigation for the communities affected by the rail line is handled properly. He also said he became convinced that the project would be an economic driver for the region – and handled in an environmentally sound way.

“With full funding nearly secure and shovels hitting the ground this spring, my support provides me a seat at the table to fight on behalf of my constituents from across Montgomery County,” he said in a statement.


Former Del. Neil Quinter (D) just got a new gig. Quinter, who represented Howard County in the legislature from 2003 to 2007, had worked for several years on Capitol Hill for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the last six as her chief counsel.

But Quinter recently joined Brownstein Hyatt Faber Schreck, a powerhouse K Street law and lobbying firm. Marc Lampkin, Brownstein’s government relations department co-chairman and managing partner of the firm’s Washington office, told The Hill newspaper that Quinter’s combination of legal and political knowledge is a boost toward our vision for the comprehensive services we offer our clients.”

After a term in Annapolis, Quinter briefly sought the open 3rd district congressional seat then held by Ben Cardin, who was running for Senate. But he bowed out of the crowded Democratic race and tried to seek a second term in the House, but wound up finishing out of the money in the Democratic primary.

Quinter, according to Legistorm, a website that tracks Congress, earned about $146,000 in the 2014 fiscal year working for Feinstein, and will presumably be in line for a nice salary bump.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at . Follow him on Twitter -- @joshkurtznews


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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.