Banner Political Notes: It’s Election Season; FBI Headquarters in Budget; and more

It’s spring the year before an election in Baltimore – which means advisers, elected officials and their potential challengers are quietly maneuvering to identify viable candidates.

Polls are a way for the city’s political class to find out who voters care about. Depending on the number of respondents and the number of questions they ask, surveys can cost up to $40,000. In general, only candidates who are seriously considering running will agree to use their campaign reserves to fund a good poll.

Another thing to keep in mind – politicians who spend the money on polls tend to leak them to the press in hopes of uncovering promising data about their campaigns.

To get this positive data, pollsters sometimes ask questions that put the candidates paying for the survey in a positive light, especially if they have a low profile. A hypothetical example: “Emily Sullivan knows everything about her Remington neighborhood. Knowing that, would you vote for her to be president of the Greater Remington Improvement Association?”

In mid-March, some city dwellers told me they had received a poll asking them if they were likely to run in next year’s Democratic primary. If they answered yes, pollsters asked for their opinion on:

  • Mayor Brandon Scott, who has announced that he will run for mayor again.
  • City Council President Nick Mosby said he would run again for Council President.
  • Comptroller Bill Henry, who has not disclosed his plans for 2024.
  • Former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who hasn’t announced her plans for 2024.
  • Former WBAL reporter Jayne Miller, who hasn’t announced her plans for 2024.

Another interesting survey that I have first-hand information on is currently in the field.

On Thursday, I received a text from McGuire Research that read, “We’d like to hear what you have to say about issues affecting the City of Baltimore,” followed by a link to the survey.

I’ve been asked who I would vote for in the Democratic mayoral election if it were held today: Scott, Dixon, Henry, or Councilman Eric Costello.

I was asked the same question about the candidates for Council President, Mosby and Councilor Zeke Cohen.

I was also asked for my opinion of the same group of public figures in the mid-March poll, as well as Gov. Wes Moore, Del. Stephanie Smith and Senator Antonio Hayes and asked my opinion on the performance of Baltimore Gas & Electric, the Department of Public Works and City Hall in general.

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I was then presented with a series of questions asking me to rate Scott’s work performance, each with a critical framework.

I was then asked a few questions that put Costello in a positive light.

Costello did not respond to calls for comment.

My guess: Costello is thinking about running for something other than his current seat on the Council — and that he’ll use the results of that poll to make his decision.

The house budget includes a placeholder for the new FBI headquarters

Pending a formal agreement between the federal government and the state of Maryland — or perhaps in hopes of one — a House Appropriations Subcommittee recommended that $100 million be allocated to move the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Prince George’s County.

The state has been vying for years to have the nation’s top law enforcement agency move its headquarters to Maryland. The potential new addresses have been reduced to three – Landover or Greenbelt in Maryland or Springfield in Virginia.

Members of the Maryland federal delegation in 2022 have set aside $375 million for a similar gesture.

Del. Mark Chang, the subcommittee chair, said the spin-off and amount were discussed with leaders of the General Assembly, the Prince George’s County delegation and House Appropriations Committee chair Del. Benjamin Barnes, a Democrat representing Prince George’s County.

“I just think it’s a strong sign that we’d like to see the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation move here. We would really like to see the state reach a formal agreement with this important federal agency,” Chang said.

A spokesman for the General Services Administration, the federal agency making the decision, said they would “consider feedback from stakeholders” as they “determine next steps in the site selection process.”

The budget movement involves a dollar amount previously allocated to a public school building program.

Brittany Marshall, a spokeswoman for Gov. Wes Moore’s administration, confirmed that the money “fulfills a commitment already made” when the state submitted a bid for the project. The $100 million set aside was introduced into Moore’s budget as written, and an additional $100 million was pre-authorized for the next year, Marshall said.

Del. Marc Korman, a Montgomery County Democrat, introduced a joint resolution Friday that threw the General Assembly’s weight behind the state’s efforts to win the bid.

Chang said securing the agency’s Maryland headquarters “would create a lot of jobs and vibrancy and economic development in the Prince George’s County area” and “make our state very proud.”

The Maryland Supreme Court explains the decision in the absentee ballot case

The Maryland Supreme Court has released a written opinion explaining why it dismissed an appeal filed against a ruling by Dan Cox, the 2022 Republican nominee for governor enabled poll workers to start counting absentee ballots early.

Under Maryland law — which lawmakers are working to change — poll workers are prohibited from opening mail-in ballots until after Election Day. The Maryland State Board of Elections filed a petition in Montgomery County Circuit Court, convincing a judge that emergencies existed, allowing them to begin the October 1, 2022 election process.

At that time, the country’s highest court negotiated orally and issued a summary order.

Cox is an attorney who served one term in the Maryland House of Delegates. Wes Moore, a Democrat, defeated him by more than 32 percentage points.

In the opinion filed Wednesday, Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader wrote that a section of the electoral law article did not violate the separation of powers guaranteed in the Declaration of Rights of the Maryland Constitution. Even the lower court was not wrong when it determined that there were emergencies.

The US Supreme Court declined to take up the case.

Since losing the election, Cox has accepted a position as chief of staff to Senator Doug Mastriano of Pennsylvania, a Republican who also ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2022.

They are both allies of former President Donald Trump, who chartered buses to the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC, prior to the US Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.

Warm up your arm, governor

While we’re definitely interested in the fortunes of the Baltimore Orioles pitching team, our eyes will be on the ceremonial first pitch on opening day.

Governor Wes Moore and his children, 11-year-old Mia and 9-year-old James, have been tapped to pay their respects at Oriole Park in Camden Yards on Thursday when the Orioles face the Yankees.

“I’m nervous because I’m actually going out with my kids this time,” Moore told The Baltimore Banner. “And now the most important thing is that I have to make sure I’m not paraded by them.”

Here’s a look at Moore pitching the first pitch at a spring training game while he was in Sarasota to meet with O’s executives and negotiate a new lease for the team at Camden Yards.

First bills cross the finish line

On the 79th day of the 90-day legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly presented its first fully approved bills on Thursday.

A stack of 20 bills crossed the finish line after being passed by the state Senate, then passed in identical form by the House of Representatives, and then returned to the Senate.

The first bill in the Group of 20 — Senate Bill 3 — requires another year of funding for the state’s 988 suicide and crisis hotline. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Malcolm Augustine, a Prince George’s County Democrat, was the first to make it out of both houses on Jan. 30 when the Senate voted 46-0 to approve.

Other bills in the first group include relatively uncontroversial measures requiring the state ethics committee to hold public meetings; Authorizing the Maryland Board of Physicians to create a new category of “emeritus” licenses for retired physicians; and to reduce the size of the board that oversees, among other things, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore.

Next step: The bills will be sent to Gov. Wes Moore’s desk sometime by April 30. Moore, a Democrat, has until May 30 to decide whether to sign the bills, veto them, or pass them into law without his signature.

With the General Assembly adjourned on April 10, expect the list of fully passed bills to grow with the power of the legislature in the legislative process.


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