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Climate Politics Almanac: July 19 Maryland primary preview
We continue our primary previews with a look at the federal and state primaries in Maryland on Tuesday
MD-Gov: Since we last wrote about the crowded race for Maryland’s open governor’s seat in February, a clear Democratic frontrunner has not materialized, with all candidates agreeing on a reasonably strong baseline for climate action.
Former Obama Education Secretary John B. King, whose ancestors were enslaved in Maryland, is campaigning on a Green New Deal for Maryland, and has picked up the enthusiastic backing of Maryland’s Sierra Club chapter and Sunrise Maryland.
However, he appears to be trailing the frontrunners in the race, Peter Franchot, Wes Moore, and Tom Perez.
Several polls have shown Comptroller Peter Franchot, who refused to back climate hawk Ben Jealous in his 2018 campaign against outgoing Republican governor Larry Hogan, with a slight lead. Over the weekend, Franchot—who is stumping in favor of the oil-company giveaway of a gas tax suspension—was quoted affirming a New York Times narrative about voters being indifferent to climate change even “as the planet cooks.”
Wes Moore, the former head of the poverty-fighting Robin Hood Foundation, has led the field in fundraising and has sought to occupy both the progressive and establishment lanes in the race, with endorsements spanning from climate hawks like Jealous and his former running mate Susie Turnbull to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Moore, who has also touted an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey, has been criticized for embellishing his ties to Baltimore in his memoir.
Former DNC Chair and Labor Secretary Tom Perez has pointed to his own record of being confirmed by the Senate and vetted as a potential vice presidential candidate. Perez has won predictable establishment backing from labor unions, Speaker Pelosi, the Baltimore Sun, and the Washington Post, but also from progressives like Del. Robbyn Lewis and Minnesota AG Keith Ellison, whom Perez defeated in the 2017 race for DNC Chair. After accumulating a progressive track record as an Obama official, Perez considered running for governor in 2018, but was pushed by Obama to defeat Ellison instead, and went on to an uninspiring tenure leading the DNC, which included undermining a presidential climate debate in 2019.
Moore and Perez both have strong climate plans, although they do not go as far as King’s. Moore’s plan places an emphasis on environmental justice, while Perez pledges to divest the state pension fund from fossil fuels.
MD-AG: In the open seat race for Attorney General, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (LCV) have endorsed Katie Curran O’Malley, a former Baltimore judge and first lady of Maryland, for her aggressive climate agenda. O’Malley reportedly pushed her husband Martin O’Malley to embrace marriage equality during his eight years as governor, though there is no word on whether she was also behind his expansion of offshore wind and other climate accomplishments.
O’Malley’s opponent, Rep. Anthony Brown, has some progressive endorsements, though mostly from current and former congressional colleagues such as Keith Ellison and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. On his website, Brown lays out his case for why he needs more enforcement authority so that the AG can still go after environmental violations whenever Maryland has a Republican governor. Maryland has a Republican governor right now in part because Brown ran a very mediocre campaign in 2014, failing to defend against Hogan’s prodigious attacks against an O’Malley Chesapeake cleanup measure as a “rain tax.”
MD-Comptroller: In this race, Maryland has the potential to replace Franchot with a real climate hawk, thereby fulfilling the important objective of embedding climate policy into the mission of states’ chief financial officers. Delegate Brooke Lierman has a progressive track record in her seven years representing Baltimore’s 46th legislative district, and is endorsed by the Sierra Club and CCAN. Lierman has pledged to undertake a climate risk and resilience assessment of the state budget. Her Democratic primary opponent is Bowie Mayor Tim Adams.
MD-01: The Democratic primary in this district is between former Foreign Service officer Dave Harden and former Del. Heather Mizeur, who championed a fracking moratorium during her progressive 2014 gubernatorial campaign and eight years representing Montgomery County in the legislature. Mizeur won endorsements from Maryland power players and from Sierra Club and LCV, and raised significant money when it looked like Maryland Democrats had successfully drawn a competitive district to target Rep. Andy Harris, a bombastic opponent of democracy and the only Republican in the Maryland congressional delegation. That map was struck down, and MD-01 voters in the map that replaced it favored Trump by a fairly wide margin. Still, Mizeur is moving forward with her attempt to defeat Harris, who was recently revealed by the Jan. 6 Commission to have attended a coup-plotting meeting between Trump and Republican Members of Congress.
MD-04: In 2008, Donna Edwards won a seat in Congress with a surge of progressive Netroots support and outrage over incumbent Al Wynn’s votes for Bush administration oil subsidies and the Iraq war. During her eight years in the House, Edwards became known as the foremost champion of campaign finance reform after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Edwards’ climate record has also earned her endorsements from LCV and Sierra Club. After current officeholder Anthony Brown announced his campaign for AG, Edwards got in the race to succeed him and quickly raised major money through progressive enthusiasm and steadfast support from Speaker Pelosi. In recent weeks, Edwards has faced an onslaught of negative ads from AIPAC, a right-wing pro-Israel organization funded by Republican billionaires. AIPAC has spent about $6 million attacking Edwards and boosting former Prince George’s County prosecutor Glenn Ivey, the endorsed candidate of corporate Democrats. The fossil-fueled Democratic Majority for Israel PAC is also spending to support Ivey, while the moderate pro-Israel advocacy group J Street Action and the progressive Working Families Party have spent more modest sums to support Edwards.
There are a number of competitive primaries for Maryland Senate, where Democrats currently hold a 32-18 majority that they are expected to maintain. CCAN has identified Baltimore County’s open SD 10 as one of five “key races,” and they’re supporting Del. Ben Brooks over Del. Jay Jalisi, who has one of the worst environmental records among Maryland Democratic legislators.
In Montgomery County’s SD 18, Silver Spring activist Max Socol has won some progressive groups’ support in his challenge to Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, who he accuses of climate complicity in a legislature that has been “capitulating to utilities” and also supported Hogan’s Beltway expansion plan. CCAN has endorsed Waldstreicher, however.
Sunrise Baltimore is backing Jill P. Carter for SD 41.
Meanwhile, in the House of Delegates, where Democrats hold a 99-42 majority, there are about a dozen competitive primaries for these 42 three-member districts. In Frederick County’s HD3, there are two open seats. CCAN has endorsed incumbent Del. Ken Kerr to take one of them, while NIH scientist Billy Reid, former Frederick alderman Josh Bockee, legislative staffer Kris Fair, child welfare advocate Karen Simpson, attorney Stephen Slater, and NAACP VP Tarolyn Thrasher compete for the other two. While Bockee highlights a “climate emergency” on his website, progressive groups seem split multiple ways in this race. The Working Families Party has endorsed Reid, Our Revolution has endorsed Fair, and Sunrise Frederick has endorsed Reid, Thrasher, and Simpson.
Another one of CCAN’s “key races” is in Baltimore County’s HD 11B, where they’re supporting House Environment and Transportation Chair Dana Stein to win one of the two spots over fellow Delegates Lisa Belcastro and Jon Cardin.
In Montgomery County’s HD 15, CCAN-endorsed Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo, dubbed a “leading climate warrior in Annapolis,” will join with fellow incumbents Linda Foley and Lily Qi in facing a primary challenge from former Del. Saqib Ali.
CCAN has also identified Del. Marlon Amprey in Baltimore City’s 40th HD as a “key race” incumbent worth protecting, as he and fellow incumbents Frank Conaway Jr. and Melissa Wells seek to guard against challenges from lawyer China Boak Terrell and a few other, less well-funded candidates.
In another Baltimore City race, in HD 43A, CCAN is backing Del. Regina Boyce and former Baltimore mayoral candidate Elizabeth Embry, while Sunrise Baltimore is backing Reginald Benbow and Logan Endow.
In another Baltimore district, HD 46, several candidates are competing to join climate hawk Robbyn Lewis in the seat being vacated by Brooke Liernan. CCAN has endorsed attorney Mark Edleson over former schoolteacher Vince Andrews, former congressional staffer Sean Burns, and political operative Augusta Christensen.
The Sunrise Baltimore slate also includes Ashley Esposito for Baltimore City Board of Education. Sunrise Frederick has also made local endorsements for County Executive and County Council and Frederick Board of Educaiton.