Josh Kurtz: Waiting on Elijah, Jealous Guy and Other Convention Notes

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At Passover Seders, Jews traditionally set a place at the table or pour a glass of wine for Elijah,  miracle worker of the 9th century B.C.

Sounds a little bit like Maryland Democrats, no?

After waiting several months for Congressman Elijah Cummings (D) to decide whether or not he’d run for Senate this year, or try to “save Baltimore” by running for mayor, some Democrats are now saying he’s their first choice to take on Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in 2018.

I heard this surprisingly often in Philadelphia last week during the Democratic National Convention, from party stalwarts of all races, ages, creeds and geographical bases, even as three or four other Democrats were taking real steps toward running.

But let’s face it: Elijah the lawmaker is probably no likelier to show up at the gubernatorial starting gate than Elijah the prophet is in your dining room.

Even serving in the minority in the House of Representatives, Cummings has a powerful post as the top Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He’s revered by Maryland Democrats, universally respected on Capitol Hill, and admired by President Obama, Hillary Clinton and their closest advisers.

It’s possible a miracle happens and Democrats take the House back soon. It’s possible Cummings will be asked to take a top post in the Clinton administration, if she wins. And if neither of those occur, he’s still poised to be a very important figure, at home and in Washington, in the years ahead.

So why, when he’ll be 67 in 2018, would Cummings want the risk and bother of running for governor?

In their write-ups of convention week, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun both took note of the activities of three of the wannabe governors – Prince George’s County Executive Ruhern Baker, Congressman John Delaney, and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz – and the presence of a fourth, former state Attorney General Doug Gansler.

Both papers also made note that former NAACP president Ben Jealous, a prominent supporter of Bernie Sanders, was in Philadelphia. But they did not mention that Jealous is, according to several people who talked to him last week, actively pondering running for office in Maryland soon – maybe even for governor in 2018.

Jealous spoke on the DNC stage Monday night and was a leading figure at gatherings of Bernie Sanders supporters throughout the week. On Thursday he presided in a packed ballroom as progressive activists, including union leaders, state and local officeholders, and actors Rosario Dawson and Danny Glover, pondered how to transfer the energy Sanders generated nationally to their respective communities. He and other speakers frequently used the word “revolution.”

“The revolution is bigger than one issue, bigger than one candidate,” Jealous said.

When it comes to Maryland, Jealous has clearly already given this some thought. He said two immediate priorities at home would be the ongoing struggle to combat police brutality in Baltimore city and to pass the proposal for public financing that’s on the Howard County ballot this November.

Asked whether he’s planning to run for office soon, Jealous shrugged dramatically.

Like Cummings, he rejected entreaties to “save Baltimore” and run for mayor this year. But it would not be surprising to see him seeking office sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Baker, Kamenetz and Delaney all acquitted themselves pretty well. Baker gave an effective denunciation of Hogan’s record at a luncheon that he sponsored, and Kamenetz seemed to spare no expense for a late-night party at a stylish restaurant around the corner from 30th Street Station. Delaney sponsored the Maryland delegation breakfast the following morning.

But the breakout star of the delegation may have been Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, who gave a lively speech of her own at a delegation breakfast, was a savvy social media user throughout the convention week, and co-sponsored a post-convention reception at a jazz club.

Alsobrooks is currently the frontrunner to replace Baker, who is term limited, as county executive in 2018. But she’s only in her early ‘40s – so the sky’s the limit.

As Alsobrooks was riding high in Philadelphia, it was hard not to think about another promising young, female African-American prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, who has faced mounting criticism over the handling of the Freddie Gray case and last week dropped charges against the remaining Baltimore city police officers who were awaiting trial.

If ever we needed a reminder about the transitory nature of political success, there it was.

NOTE TO READERS: I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off. The column should return on Tuesday, Aug. 23. Thanks, as usual, for reading – even you, Greg Kline.

 

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily on Capitol Hill. He can be reached at . Follow him on Twitter -- @joshkurtznews

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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.