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Political Notes: Some 4-1-1 on a Pro-King PAC, Endorsements for AG, a Surprise in MoCo, and a Firestorm Over a Name

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Political Notes: Some 4-1-1 on a Pro-King PAC, Endorsements for AG, a Surprise in MoCo, and a Firestorm Over a Name

Jun 22, 2022 | 8:45 pm ET
By Josh Kurtz
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Political Notes: Some 4-1-1 on a Pro-King PAC, Endorsements for AG, a Surprise in MoCo, and a Firestorm Over a Name
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Jim Shalleck, a Republican candidate for attorney general, greets a voter at a Republican event in Severna Park this week. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

PAC for the People, a political action committee set up to promote Democrat John King’s candidacy for governor, is up with a new 30-second TV ad in the Baltimore market. The PAC reported spending $130,000 on media last week.

The ad, which contains footage of King at work and meeting with voters, has a female narrator, who begins by saying, “John King is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. Perseverance is in his blood. President Obama saw the strength of his character when he asked John to serve as his secretary of Education.”

The ad then features a brief clip of Obama and King together, with Obama calling King “an exceptionally talented educator, Dr. John King.” The two embrace, and the narrator resumes.

“John is a public school parent with progressive values. He has a record of fighting for civil rights and equality. As Maryland’s next governor, John King will build a better future for our kids and grandkids.”

PAC for the People has largely been funded by progressive philanthropists and education reform groups. It has raised $306,028 since launching last fall, according to campaign finance reports. The biggest donors are Michelle Boyers, a leader of education philanthropies based in San Francisco, who donated $100,000; Merryl Tisch, the former chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents and wife of a major New York philanthropist, who gave $100,000; and Douglas Jaffe, a senior fellow at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who donated $50,000.

The PAC is being run by Jerid Kurtz, a veteran national Democratic strategist whose Maryland resume includes serving as U.S. Rep. David Trone’s campaign manager in 2018 and as communications director for Anthony Brown’s gubernatorial run in 2014.

Hogan backs Shalleck for AG

Gov. Larry Hogan has endorsed fellow Republican Jim Shalleck’s bid to become Maryland’s next attorney general.

A Montgomery County defense attorney who served as a federal prosecutor before entering private practice, Shalleck is one of two Republicans running in the July 19 primary.

It isn’t surprising that Hogan is backing Shalleck: The other candidate, former Anne Arundel County Councilmember Michael Peroutka, has vowed to prosecute the state and local leaders who enacted and enforced COVID restrictions. He launched his campaign in January, about five months after Shalleck entered the race.

According to The Washington Post, Peroutka favors the dismantling of public education, which he has called “a plank in the Communist Manifesto.”

Some GOP strategists have privately worried that Peroutka as the nominee for attorney general could be a drag on Republicans up and down the ticket.

In a Facebook post this week, Hogan said Shalleck “will hold violent criminals accountable and keep Marylanders safe.”

“Jim has the experience and integrity to get the job done,” the governor added.

Shalleck served until recently as the Hogan-appointed chair of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

The winner of the GOP primary will face the winner of the Democratic contest, which pits Rep. Anthony Brown against former Baltimore City District Court Judge Katie Curran O’Malley.

LCV for O’Malley

Speaking of O’Malley, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters on Wednesday endorsed her bid for AG. The group praised O’Malley’s judicial and courtroom experience, which includes 20 years as a judge and a decade as an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore County.

“In her interviews with Maryland LCV, Katie O’Malley demonstrated a commitment to enforcement related to climate change, environmental justice, and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland LCV Executive Director Kim Coble.

Maryland’s other major statewide environmental group, the Sierra Club, is backing Brown in the Democratic primary for attorney general. This marks the second time that LCV and the Sierra Club have diverged on a statewide race this election cycle: LCV is supporting Wes Moore for governor, while the Sierra Club is backing John King.

In a statement, O’Malley said that if elected, “I will fight to make clean air, clean land, clean water, and clean energy the environmental legacy we leave our children and grandchildren.”

Her top three priorities, she said, “will be to protect the environment, including the Chesapeake Bay, and public health for all Maryland citizens; hold polluters accountable; and ensure that Maryland meets and exceeds its commitments for emissions reductions and clean energy production.”

Click here for endorsements in the election for attorney general

Castelli joins Annapolis firm

The Annapolis and Baltimore lobbying firm Rifkin Weiner Livingston is adding  William A. Castelli as a partner in its Government Relations and Lobbying group.

Castelli has 25 years of experience in government relations, most recently as senior vice president of Government Affairs for the Maryland Realtors, one of the largest trade associations in the state. He is also a past president of the Maryland Government Relations Association.

Castelli got his start in Maryland politics working as a legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D).

Political Notes: Some 4-1-1 on a Pro-King PAC, Endorsements for AG, a Surprise in MoCo, and a Firestorm Over a Name
Lobbyist William Castelli.

“I’ve known Bill for nearly 30 years and he has always been an engaged, hardworking, and effective leader,” Hoyer said. “Bill started working in my office in 1989 as an intern, and quickly rose through the ranks to become Legislative Assistant. He has an impressive career in both the public and private sector, and I believe this perspective, as well as his talents and capability, make him an excellent addition to Rifkin Weiner Livingston,” Hoyer, who is now the House majority leader on Capitol Hill, said in a statement.

The co-chairs of RWL’s Government Relations Group, Camille Fesche and Brad Rifkin, called Castelli “a strategic and pragmatic problem solver.”

Castelli will work out of the firm’s Annapolis office and becomes the eighth member of the RWL lobbying and government relations team.

“I am very pleased to be affiliated with a law firm of RWL’s stature in the legal and government relations fields,” he said.

Firefighters’ union douses attempt to change name

Members of the Maryland State Firemen’s Association have voted to keep the organization’s current name instead of making it gender inclusive.

Association President Joel McCrea said the measure for a name change did not pass at the union’s annual convention in Ocean City this week because members were resentful of outside pressure over the issue. Forty-one percent of the convention delegates supported the name change.

State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) had been urging the union for weeks to change its name at its convention, saying it was “past time.” Leading up to the convention, she called the current name “sexist” and “inaccurate,” noting that the fire departments in three of Maryland’s largest counties — Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Prince George’s — are led by women.

Kagan expressed disappointment with the outcome. She noted that 44 state firefighter unions have already changed their names.

“Changing MSFA’s name from Firemen’s to Firefighters’ was labeled by many as a ‘no-brainer,'” Kagan said.

Sen. Kramer for Elrich in Montgomery Co.

The late Montgomery County Executive Sid Kramer (D) was a favorite of the business community during his tenure in Rockville, and in many ways helped chart the county’s current growth. Current Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) isn’t very well-liked among many county business leaders, especially Chamber of Commerce types.

So it was somewhat surprising to learn that Kramer’s son, state Sen. Ben Kramer (D-Montgomery), had endorsed Elrich’s reelection bid.

“County Executive Elrich has been a national leader on managing the pandemic and protecting our citizens through this very challenging time,” Kramer said in a statement. “He has worked diligently to improve the business climate here and to help businesses thrive and grow.”

Elrich in turn called Kramer “a consistent, great partner at the state level.”

Even though they may have been on opposite sides of Montgomery County’s pro-growth/slow-growth divide, Elrich and Sid Kramer were known to have a good and respectful relationship. What’s more, Elrich and Ben Kramer are both fairly tight with Gino Renne, head of MCGEO, the Montgomery County employees’ union.

Matt Small of Maryland Matters news partner WTOP News contributed to this report.