Josh Kurtz: The Daughter Also Rises

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By: Josh Kurtz 

Brooke Lierman looks like the girl next door.

The question is whether it’s the girl next door in Baltimore City, where she lives, or in Bethesda, where she grew up, or in her parents’ native Midwest.

The answer, quite obviously, is yes.

Yet Brooke Lierman can only run for office in one place, and she’s doing that boldly and quite skillfully in Baltimore, where she has chosen to live, work, raise a family – and stake a political claim.

Lierman, a lawyer and the daughter of former Maryland Democratic Chairman Terry Lierman, a ubiquitous, friendly and plugged-in figure in both state and national politics, seems well on her way to winning a seat in the House of Delegates. Yet by seeking office in District 46, which takes in neighborhoods like Canton, Fells Point, the Inner Harbor, Federal Hill and Locust Point, rather than in Montgomery County, Brooke Lierman can’t be accused of running on her father’s name – though some of his connections, no doubt, have helped her build a robust war chest.

But it’s her warm personality and an Energizer Bunny spirit that is fueling her Happy Warrior campaign (these she inherited from her dad), as she goes from neighborhood to neighborhood, often by bike, and frequently with her young son Teddy in tow. As the South Baltimore Little League parade wended its way from Federal Hill Park to the baseball diamond in Locust Point a couple of Saturdays ago, past yuppies sipping mimosas on their stoops and a more blue-collar crowd along East Fort Avenue, Lierman, marching with most of the rest of the District 46 team at the front of line, darted to the sidewalks, offering greetings and stickers.

“Is there any place better to be on a day like this than the city of Baltimore?” Lierman said. You could tell she meant it.

Thanks to the relatively compact nature of the district and the endless array of row houses, Lierman, raised on suburban campaigning, marveled at how easy it has been for her and her campaign volunteers to hit thousands of doors.

Her standing in the Democratic primary is no doubt aided by the fact that she’s been endorsed by the three District 46 incumbents seeking reelection this year: Sen. Bill Ferguson and Dels. Peter Hammen and Luke Clippinger. (Lierman says one of her biggest challenges on the campaign trail, especially in blue-collar precincts, is assuring voters that she isn’t trying to take out six-term Del. Brian McHale, who has chosen to retire.)

But it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship. Lierman is boosted by the local pols, but they get to associate themselves with a dynamic young woman. Each has different backgrounds, different geographic bases, and different strengths.

If Lierman wins, two of the four District 46 seats will be held by people who grew up in Montgomery County rather than in Baltimore (Ferguson is the other). Somewhere, and not too far away, George Della is crying.

Of course, the 46th District has undergone a tremendous transformation in recent years, far faster than any other in the city. All those radio ads in the Washington, D.C., area urging hipsters and young families to consider Charm City’s charms and cheaper real estate has brought about real change, and there has been major development throughout the district.

In Montgomery County and, to a lesser extent, Prince George’s, candidates do not need to be lifelong residents or have lived in the same neighborhood as multiple generations of their forebears to prosper. Increasingly, in Baltimore’s District 46, Brooke Lierman and Bill Ferguson are no longer rich, young interlopers – they’re right at home.

A handful of City Council districts overlap with the 46th. Could any of those incumbents fall victim to the same sort of demographic shifts in 2016? Stay tuned.

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Among Lierman’s many assets, she is a graduate of the first class of Emerge Maryland, the group that was set up a couple of years ago to help elect Democratic women across the state. Lierman in fact is one of 23 alumni of the first two Emerge Maryland classes to be seeking political office this year – everything from legislative and County Council seats to positions on school boards and Democratic central committees.

The list of candidates includes Wendy Royalty, who is in a hard-fought primary for a Howard County Council seat; Beth Daly, who is making several at-large members of the Montgomery County Council nervous; Makeda Scott, who is trying to oust Baltimore County Councilman Ken Oliver (D); and Angela Angel, running in a crowded primary for a House seat in District 25 in Prince George’s.

But there are some surprising places where women aren't doing as well as they ought to be.

Only two of the Emerge candidates are from Baltimore County – Scott and Carin Smith, daughter-in-law of former County Executive Jim Smith, who is seeking a seat in the House of Delegates. And only two are from Montgomery – Daly and Wendy Cohen, who is running for a seat on the Democratic Central Committee.

These are two counties in serious need of more female representation. The Baltimore County Council has five men and two women, and the county’s legislative delegation, under the current district lines, is 23 men and six women.

The Montgomery Council has six men and three women, and the legislative delegation has 20 men and 12 women. As I’ve written before, in Montgomery County’s most liberal corner – Silver Spring and Takoma Park – all five candidates running for a vacant County Council seat are men, and in the 20th legislative district, eight of nine candidates are men (the only woman is Del. Sheila Hixson, who has held the seat since 1976).

The city of Baltimore has its second woman mayor. Washington, D.C., is about to elect its second woman mayor. Courtney Watson is favored to be elected Howard County executive this fall. Anne Arundel County has a dynamic new woman executive (albeit a Republican). Angela Alsobrooks is the early favorite to succeed Rushern Baker as Prince George’s County executive in 2018.

Baltimore County has had 11 county executives -- all men. Ditto Montgomery County's six executives.

Could one of those major jurisdictions elect a woman county executive in 2018 or beyond? We’re still waiting for someone to emerge.

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.