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Lopez enters congressional fray, Hoyer backs Alsobrooks, District 17 developments, a senior lobbyist departs, and more

Jun 02, 2023

Del. Lesley J. Lopez (D-Montgomery) entered the race for the open 6th District congressional seat Thursday, pledging to leverage her experience as a state lawmaker, political strategist and mother of two toddlers to Capitol Hill.

Lopez released a minute-long video, laying out her plans and experience. She is the fourth Democrat so far to enter the race to replace U.S. Rep. David Trone (D), who is running for U.S. Senate.

“I have the life experience and the track record to deliver real, meaningful results for my district,” Lopez said in a statement. “I have led the fight to protect reproductive rights, earned bipartisan support banning illegal ghost guns, helped hire more healthcare workers in rural areas, and lowered childcare costs for Maryland families like mine.

“We need leaders in Congress who have real life experience and understand the challenges families face if we want to seriously address these issues,” she continued. “I’ll bring my record of success to take on Kevin McCarthy and a broken Congress to finally pass reasonable gun safety measures, address the opioid crisis, and always protect Social Security, Medicare, and our reproductive freedoms.”

Lopez is in the middle of her second term representing an Upcounty district in Montgomery County, so a congressional run in 2024 is a free pass; she will not have to sacrifice her seat. She recently completed a year-long stint as president of the Maryland Legislative Women’s Caucus, and has also worked on Capitol Hill as a spokesperson for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and for U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

Lopez noted that Maryland has been without a female member of Congress since 2016, and that the 6th District, which takes in parts of Montgomery County and all of Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, has mostly had male representatives in Congress through the years.

But Lopez may not be the only woman in the Democratic primary: former Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner and Krish Vignarajah, head of the Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service and a candidate for governor in 2018, are also eyeing the race. So far, 26-year-old Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery), who entered the legislature in January, is the best-known candidate in the Democratic race. But the field is expected to grow — and Republicans are also going to aggressively contest the seat, the most competitive in Maryland.

Hoyer looks at Alsobrooks, sees a future colleague

One of Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks’ biggest supporters endorsed her bid Thursday to become the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5th) said he would’ve attended Alsobrooks’ campaign kickoff rally last month in New Carrollton, but he was out of town.

“We talked two days before her announcement. I said, ‘Angela, you tell me when you want me to endorse you. Whenever it is, I’ll be there,’” Hoyer said Thursday after giving his official public endorsement in Suitland. She’s “a young woman [with] a lot of vigor, a lot of vision, a lot of energy. The other people running, they’re fine. But more importantly, from my perspective, zero women in our delegation. I don’t know what a woman experiences — biologically or socially, culturally. That’s why we need diversity. She is what Maryland and the United States need.”

Hoyer joined Alsobrooks and several other elected officials offering endorsements, including Sen. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George’s), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee; Sen. Michael A. Jackson (D-Prince George’s); and Del. Adrian Boafo (D-Prince George’s).

Hoyer’s endorsement is one of the dozens the county executive has received since she announced her run for Senate to replace Sen. Ben Cardin (D), who is retiring.

But she’s going to face a few Democratic opponents, including U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th), who released his third campaign ad Tuesday. Another Democratic contender, Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando, joined Trone and Alsobrooks at a Maryland Democratic Party event May 17.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8th), who attended the party function in his home county, Montgomery, said in a brief interview then that he’ll make his intentions known this month about whether he’ll seek the Senate seat.

Jerome Segal, a former college lecturer who has run for several offices, is seeking the Democratic nomination.

Anne Arundel County businessman Juan Dominguez may also enter the Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s endorsement for Alsobrooks at the Towne Square at Suitland Federal Center was personal for her and Hoyer.

Alsobrooks said she “lived the first five years of my life” in Suitland.

Hoyer graduated from Suitland High School, less than a mile away from the $400 million mixed-use development. Several businesses and a hotel are also slated to be constructed on the property.

Alsobrooks recalled hearing from Hoyer when she was elected Prince George’s state’s attorney in 2010.

“One of the first calls I got…when the vote came in that night was from Congressman Hoyer,” Alsobrooks said. “I just thank you, not only for your steadfast leadership, thank you for your support for me. But thank you as well for your commitment to service, to serving Marylanders and making sure that Marylanders have been first in everything you have done.”

Before Hoyer stepped aside from the lectern, he summarized Alsobrooks’ work in the county and offered a prediction — and a hint, perhaps, that he will seek a 21st full term next year.

“I look forward to being her colleague in the Congress of the United States as she serves in the United States Senate, and I in the House,” he said. “We will continue to be an effective team.”

Some District 17 names

At least three well-known Democrats have applied for the District 17 vacancy in the House of Delegates. Longtime Del. Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery), who was tied for second in seniority in the House of Delegates, resigned recently to take a seat on the Maryland Public Service Commission.

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, which will vet the candidates and forward a recommendation to Gov. Wes Moore (D) later this month, had not released a full list of applicants as of Thursday evening, though the deadline to apply was 24 hours earlier. But the three best-known candidates appear to be Rebecca Smondrowski, a longtime member of the Montgomery County Board of Education; Gaithersburg City Councilmember Ryan Spiegel; and former Rockville Mayor Susan Hoffmann. All three previously ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in District 17.

Barve on Thursday said he’s supporting Hoffmann for the seat — in part because of her skills and experience.

“Susan has a philosophical worldview that is very much in sync with the people of District 17,” he said in an email to members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, which will nominate a replacement for Barve later this month. “She is a solid liberal Democrat who believes in practical policies to advance fairness, justice and prosperity for all. Like me, she is a staunch but pragmatic progressive.”

But Barve said he is also supporting Hoffmann because she’s pledged not to exploit her incumbency by seeking a full term in 2026.

“This is very important to me,” Barve wrote. “Maryland has no constitutional provision for special elections to fill legislative vacancies. As a result, roughly one quarter of the membership of the Maryland General Assembly can trace its initial origin to an appointment rather than an election. As a ‘small d’ democrat I find this to be repugnant and unacceptable.”

The District 17 Democratic Club is hosting a forum for all applicants on the evening of June 7. The county central committee will meet June 13 to nominate a replacement. They’ll forward the name to Moore, who has the ultimate say.

Sample-Hughes’ time to shine

She may be looking at a demotion in the House of Delegates — Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) wants someone else to serve as speaker pro tem come January — but Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes (D-Lower Shore) is about to play a prominent role at the upcoming Women in Government legislative conference in Annapolis.

The national organization for state lawmakers is holding its annual legislative conference at the Westin from June 8-10, and Sample-Hughes is co-vice chair of the group’s board of directors. She’ll be moderating a panel on Alzheimer’s disease and is giving closing remarks on the final day of the conference. She’s also scheduled to co-host a fundraiser for the organization.

Other Marylanders will also be present at the conference. State Sen. Katie Fry Hester (D-Howard) is moderating a panel on electric vehicles, with Kristy Fleischmann Groncki, manager of strategic programs at BGE, and Kim Coble, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, as panelists. Del. Edith Patterson (D-Charles) is moderating a panel on RSV prevention strategies, and Del. Nicole Williams (D-Prince George’s) will moderate a panel on “organized retail crime.”

The women lawmakers are also scheduled to take a tour of the State House and to eat dinner one night at Yellowfin Steak and Fish House in Edgewater.

He’s made his last Pitch(er)

One of the giants of the Annapolis lobbying corps is retiring.

J. William Pitcher is riding off into the sunset after lobbying and practicing law in Maryland for the past 45 years.

Pitcher owned his own practice for over 30 years, and for the past three he’s been the Maryland principal of the national lobbying firm Husch Blackwell Strategies as it expanded its operations in the state.

“Bill proved to be exactly the right person at the right time when he joined the firm three years ago,” said Husch Blackwell Strategies Chair Andy Blunt. “His unparalleled expertise and track record of success has helped us stay ahead and paved the way for HBS Maryland and its reputability.”

Through the years, Pitcher worked an array of issues, including real property law reform, health care, alcohol laws, medical cannabis cultivation, processing and dispensaries; and e-commerce information security, representing a range of business clients, trade associations, health care provider groups, and non-profits.

You could read more of this Maryland Matters article here.