The MSBA, as the home of Maryland’s legal profession, works tirelessly to advocate on behalf of the profession. In recent years, we’ve had tremendous success defeating taxation of legal services, ensuring attorneys on the frontlines of justice had access to the COVID-19 vaccine, and much more.
In addition, the MSBA works to bring vital information to the profession through a variety of efforts including coffee chats with legislators, MSBA Day in Annapolis, and more. As a continuation of this effort, the MSBA recently con- ducted a series of interviews with Maryland’s Gubernatorial candidates the week of December 6, 20211. The MSBA provided a platform for the candidates to share their goals and vision for the State. is apolitical and does not support any particular candidate.
Over the course of the week, former State Senator Bobby Zirkin sat down with Democratic candidates Rushern Baker, Jon Baron, Peter Franchot, Doug Gansler, Ashwani Jain, John King, Wes Moore, and Tom Perez, Republican candidate Kelly Schulz, and Libertarian candidate David Lashar at the Inspace Theatre at Stevenson University’s Greenspring Campus. Candidates Dan Cox and Robin Ficker were invited for interviews but were unable to attend. The interviews were live-streamed and recorded.
MSBA President M. Natalie Mc Sherry noted that “presenting the premier interviews and debates to Maryland lawyers and the public is an opportunity we’re incredibly honored to spearhead as we offer potential candidates a platform to present their plan on moving our state forward in 2022 and beyond.”
These interviews were only the beginning of MSBA’s efforts to ensure the legal profession learns more about the in- dividuals who hope to lead our state and their plans for the future, including interviews with candidates for Maryland Attorney General. And, for the first time, MSBA will host gubernatorial debates, at its Legal Summit in Ocean City this summer.
Rushern Baker was inspired to enter politics after one of his high school English teachers enlightened him about social injustice. After earning bachelor’s and law degrees from Howard University, Baker decided to stay in Prince George’s County and was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1994. He served as a delegate for eight years, and then ran a non-profit before being elected the Prince George’s County Executive in 2010, a position he held until his 2018 run for governor. While his first bid was unsuccessful, he decided to run again after the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted disparities in health care and racial injustice that he hoped to address as governor.
Baker spoke extensively about how his administration would tackle criminal justice and public safety issues. He believes in order to reduce crime rates, “you have to do two things at one time: one, you have to deal with the crime, and two, you have to prepare for the future.” He thinks that the governor’s office should partner with cities to help achieve crime reduction goals, which may include introducing gun courts or increasing funding for the State Attorney’s office so they can better prosecute crimes. He also thinks that increased police training, better policing, and going through the backlog of outstanding warrants would help increase the impact of prosecution.
Baker also discussed the legalization of recreational marijuana use. Baker supports the initiative and thinks that the General Assembly should move to get the issue on the ballot so that voters have a chance to weigh in. He stressed the importance of assessing the laws and regulations that go along with legalization, to avoid unjustly prosecuting people for activity that is lawful, and ensuring that some of the resources garnered via legalization go to communities that were harmed by the criminalization of marijuana use.
Why are you running for governor?
“During COVID, I got a chance to just start looking at what was going on not just in Maryland, but what was going on nationally. And I started thinking about Maryland’s role in leading, not just the state but leading the nation, on things like disparities in health care and racial injustice. And I thought about the experiences that I learned as a legislator, both in the judiciary, and on appropriations, and eight years leading the second-largest jurisdiction in the state, with one of the biggest budgets in the state, and I just couldn’t sit on the sidelines. I thought the skills and things that I’d learned would help us lead our way out of this crisis and make Maryland not only just better, but also a leader in the nation.
What will a Rushern Baker administration do about criminal justice and, more specifically, about public safety in places like Baltimore City?
You have to do two things at the same time: you have to deal with the crime, you have to prepare for the future. And that is the governor’s office coming in as a partner and saying, “Okay, what were the things?” So in Baltimore, why don’t we have a gun court? So if we know guns are in the hands of folks out there, let’s see if we can prosecute those things quicker? How do we make sure we use resources to staff up the State’s Attorney’s Office and help that office so they can prosecute better? How do we create job opportunities for these young folks? How do we make sure kids are going to school and truancy? Health is one of the biggest factors in both our criminal justice system, and our education system, mental behavioral health, for individuals and for families. So it’s working together with all of them. And when people say, Well, how do we know work? Well, the reason we know who work is in Prince George’s County, we had 105 going to about 106 homicides, when I took over. By the time we left, we were down to less than 50. And it’s because we didn’t look at it as a short term strategy.
Why should the members of the bar look to you to be our next Chief Executive Officer of the state of Maryland?
I think this is an important time for the state and the nation. And I think it’s not about what you believe in, or what you even say. It’s really about what you can get done. I think this is the time when we need experience in the executive office, because we face tough issues, whether it’s criminal justice reform, whether it’s housing, whether it is health care, all of those things are going to have a great impact on Maryland. And on the nation. We need somebody who actually has done this before. The one thing I’m proudest about is picking a running mate, Nancy Navarro, who’s actually governed in the second largest jurisdiction in the state. These aren’t positions that we’re talking about and wish we could do. We’ve actually done it. We walked this walk. And I think at this stage in Maryland’s crisis, we need someone who can do that. And that’s why I’m running for governor and I’d love to have the bar’s support and the members’ support.
Jon Baron is a nonprofit executive, former congressional staffer, and a former federal appointee with experience under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Baron, a lifelong Montgomery County resident, considers himself a government reformer who has “led the charge to increase the effectiveness of government through rigorous evidence about what actually works to improve people’s lives.” He says his evidence-based policy approach is what the state needs “to make progress” on issues like stagnant wages, poverty, education, and public safety.
Baron noted his general support for Baltimore City’s focused deterrence strategy, which aims to reduce crime by conveying incentives for avoiding violence and deterrents for engaging in violence. He said that as governor his administration would “help provide the resources to ensure [the strategy’s] success,” in Baltimore City and surrounding areas. Baron also highlighted his support for drug treatment courts as an alternative to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders and functional family therapy to reduce criminal activity by youths in the community.
Baron wrapped up the conversation by indicating that a more targeted approach to policy is what the state of Maryland needs to “zero in on solutions that are tested and shown [to be] effective” in addressing issues like stagnant wages, poverty, education, and public safety among others. He also noted that without an evidenced-based approach, there runs a risk of funding too many “well-meaning programs . . . that unfortunately don’t deliver” meaningful results for Marylanders.
Why should Marylanders vote for you for governor? What is it that you would bring to Maryland?
I’m running because I believe Maryland can do so much better in education, wages, and health care. And I’m going to want to get us there because unlike others, I would expand programs and policies that don’t just sound like good ideas, but have been tested in the real world, and shown to make a big difference in people’s lives. The key theme is this, that if we simply continue on our current path, we’re going to be here in another 20 years, and nothing will have changed to make progress, we have to zero in on solutions that are tested and shown to be effective. That’s why I’m running for governor. Let’s do what works.
What does the Baron administration do on Juvenile Services?
My overall focus is on expanding programs that are promising or proven to work. So in juvenile justice, one approach that has been shown to be very effective is something called Functional Family Therapy. It’s for youth who have been arrested or convicted. It pairs them and their families with a therapist who works with them on a time limited basis, to increase family functioning, because a lot of kids come from families where there’s intense negativity. And often there’s no communication between the parent or caregiver and the child. And it’s a completely dysfunctional situation. So the therapist works with the family, including the parents with parent training and the rest and communications techniques. It was shown in an excellent study in Philadelphia, to reduce the rate of subsequent criminal activity by these youth by about 40%. It was a small study. But this is the kind of thing we should expand in Maryland, at least on an initial basis, test it, see if it works here, and then expand it statewide.
Why should the members of the Maryland Bar elect you, Jon Baron, to be our next governor?
All of the candidates you’re going to hear from on the Democratic side, we all support similar goals. We all want to improve education. We all want to reduce poverty and improve wages and all the rest. The way that I am different is this: I recognize that to achieve those goals, it is simply not enough to roll out yet another unproven plan or program because however well intentioned, many plans and programs just don’t work. If we’re really going to make progress on these long standing problems, if we’re really going to move the needle on stagnant wages and the rest, we need to focus like a laser beam on expanding programs that have been tested in the real world and shown to make a big difference in people’s lives.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Franchot says his qualifications for the state’s chief executive job rest on the experience he’s garnered during 20 years as a legislator serving on the appropriations committee, followed by 15 years as comptroller. “I don’t need any on-the-job training. I’m ready to rock and roll as the state’s next governor.”
Franchot has lived in Takoma Park for 41 years. He dropped out of college to protest the Vietnam War, not realizing that the loss of his student deferment would lead him directly into military service. After two years in the Army followed by law school, Franchot moved into a career of public service, which he emphasized has always been focused on the budget. “There’s very little the bureaucracy can do to trick me these days.”
Franchot spoke at length about how his fiscal expertise and focus would inform almost every aspect of his administration, from crime to transportation to COVID-19-related economic relief. Noting that he would be tough on both police and civilian misconduct, he emphasized “No public safety, no economy.” Franchot sees himself as “compassionate and empathetic” and is very optimistic about the future of Baltimore and other high-crime areas. He believes that crime will naturally come under control with a more normal economy.
Why should Marylanders vote for Peter Franchot, and what does the Franchot administration look like?
“ I have fiscal expertise, combined with a love for the state of Maryland. And I’m committed to doubling the gross domestic product of the state of Maryland, in the eight years that I hopefully will serve as governor. And we’re going to make Maryland a go-to state. When I say safer, stronger, more prosperous, I mean it, we’re going to improve the quality of living in every nook and cranny of the state.
What would your administration do on the issues of public safety, criminal justice, all those kinds of interrelated issues?
My view as governor is look, we obviously have a huge issue with police misconduct. That’s been all over the country. I have zero tolerance for police misconduct. But I also say to the police, no public safety, no economy. For a functioning economy, we’ve got to have safety. Secondly, I say that I have zero tolerance for criminals who harm other people. I mean, that is just we have to punish them. We need to be strong on both the issue of police misconduct, which is obviously something that is front and center for a lot of people in the state of Maryland, but also this basic concern about are there violent people out there that are going to hurt other people. I think the crime in Baltimore City naturally will get under control as we get back to a more normal economy, which is very broken right now. We have about $5 billion in surplus dollars that can be used creatively as far as perhaps dampening down some of the public safety issues in the city of Baltimore. But the long term solution is to change the direction of the city.
Can you give a summation of the Peter Franchot stump speech?
The proof is in the pudding. I’ve been a good comptroller for 15 years. And recently, we announced a $2.5 billion dollar surplus. We’re going to add another $2.5 billion this year we’re in and next fiscal year. That’s proof positive that I’ve done my job as a good chief fiscal officer. I will make a great CEO because of that experience and that perspective. All over the state I have people say, we know who you are. We like you. And I say back to them, not only do you know who I am, I know who you are, because I’ve been all over the state. And I think that’s what people want right now. They want an experienced steady hand at the helm, particularly with the economic consequences of COVID and the need for the state to improve its prosperity.
If elected governor, Doug Gansler said his priorities would include rebuilding the state’s economy following the COVID-19 pandemic. A longtime Montgomery County resident, Gansler graduated from Chevy Chase Elementary School and attended Yale and the University of Virginia School of Law before returning to the state. His career has included serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, State’s Attorney for Montgomery County, and as Maryland’s Attorney General for two terms. He is currently a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.
Gansler said his experience as Attorney General, and his prior leadership as a State’s Attorney, makes him uniquely qualified to lead on the topics of criminal justice and crime. Emphasizing that he is “running against the defund the police crowd,” he believes implementing community prosecution, requiring training for police officers, making being a police officer “a respected and respectable position,” and using alternative incarceration avenues like drug court is more productive. He feels strongly about training police officers in culture and diversity. Hiring “the best and brightest” and then paying them well is key, he says. Police officers should also be required to obtain associate’s degrees for training purposes.
Gansler wants to lead the state and rebuild the economy in the post-COVID word by tapping “into the potential of every Marylander regardless of what they look like, their socioeconomic status and providing access to opportunity for every Marylander.” That is his “overriding concern,” he says. Gansler wrapped up the conversation by noting he is the “only practicing member of the bar running for governor” and the “only person running for governor with democratic values, experience and record of accomplishment that will provide [him] the opportunity on day one to be governor.”
Who is Doug Gansler, and how is it that you came to be running for governor?
Like all of us during COVID, I was doing a lot of reflection and thinking about what I wanted to do. I was getting an enormous amount of pressure to run for governor. While I love my job, what really “motivates me is helping people, and particularly Baltimore City. I’m the only person running who has led during a time of crisis; I was president of the National Association of Attorneys General during the national mortgage foreclosure crisis. My biggest issue when I was attorney general was the environment. We took on big corporate polluters, but we also did positive programming to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. So the environment is obviously going to be a big issue for us and protecting the Chesapeake Bay.
How do we get police officers to want to stay in the profession?
We need to change the conversation and make it a respected and respectable position. Look, should we have police officers shooting people of color for no reason? Absolutely not. Do we need to ferret them out? Yes. Do we need to prosecute them? Yes. But most police officers are there risking their lives. They need to be well trained, they need to have diversity training, and they need to be respected from the governor on down. We need to pay them higher, so we will attract better. It’s economics 101, to pay people so you get better people in the profession. And that’s one of the things we need to do with the police. But we need to make sure that we don’t go overboard on beating up on all the police officers just because there are some that are really not good.
What is your focus on the environment?
We have to have somebody who recognizes the importance of the environment, both from an environmental perspective, and from a climate change perspective. And I think they’re inextricably tied, but both important. I want to make Maryland, the environmental center, the California, if you will, in terms of the environment, only on the East Coast. We have the brainpower to do that.
Ashwani Jain is a first-time candidate and Program Director for the National Kidney Foundation in the DC metro area. Jain, who spent time working in the Obama Administration in both the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said he was running for governor as a way to “make [Maryland] politics more inclusive and accessible” to residents across the state. The 32-year-old cancer survivor found during his health battles that many people were making decisions for him as opposed to making them with him. He determined at that point that “if I was blessed enough to get a second chance at life, I was going to try to make it count.”
Jain has shared over 150 detailed policies on his website and he says every one of those were created by residents who will be impacted by the policies. Noting his relative youth–if elected, Jain would be the nation’s youngest governor–Jain said he has “the experience and perspective to really serve Marylanders.” He says his work at the federal level included working on affordable housing issues in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; serving as outreach director for then-Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative; and managing the political appointee process during the administration.
What are your top priorities in terms of a Jain administration?
One of my signature programs is called the Maryland Now plan, which will eliminate the state income tax for 95% of Marylanders, make Maryland the first state to make public transit free, create the nation’s very first guaranteed jobs program, legalize marijuana while expunging records, and then also impose very specific anti corruption measures. And at the end of the day, I’m doing all this because I really think decisions about us should not be made without us.
What would the Jain administration prioritize on the issue of public safety?
I have shared an entire comprehensive criminal justice platform on my website. A lot of it starts with this idea of demanding accountability. It doesn’t negate the good work that law enforcement does. But it ensures just like we do in any other field, that if you’re not doing your job right, or if you have a job that can lead to the murder of individual residents, and break this idea of community trust, you need to put specific measures in place. And all the things I want to talk about right now, were created by the law enforcement community and by residents alike, who are part of our volunteer operation. So I talk about everything from ending extreme census for children, ending the money bail system, making sure we treat drug and opioid use as a mental health and public health issue, not as a crime. I talk about legalizing marijuana and expunging records, obviously, I talk about preparing those in prison for leave for life outside of prison. I talk about investing in more mental health professionals so we get to the root of some of the causes that allow people to kind of keep going back and forth through the jail system.
What are your plans on immigration?
I helped organize to pass the Maryland Dream Act in 2010, to make sure that at least for children of immigrants, or children of illegal undocumented immigrants, still get access to in state tuition, for example. So access to higher education. Part of my criminal justice platform is to remove the influence of ICE, especially for nonviolent offenders. And instead, have it go through our Maryland agencies instead. But if they’re nonviolent offenders, I would not cooperate with ICE. I don’t think ICE coming into our communities, even in our prison systems, is really making our communities actually safer. And we’re not actually taking care of those residents who could still be active members of our communities.
Democratic candidate John King, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Education under President Obama, said his life was shaped by his childhood experiences. His parents, both educators, passed away when King was very young, and he found refuge in school, where he was fortunate to have teachers who gave him second chances. He ultimately chose a career in education. Since the end of the Obama Administration, King has been running an education civil rights organization. He believes children and their education are greatly affected by all of the other systems, and he believes the next leader of Maryland will be someone who can “make government a force for good in people’s lives much the way school was a force for good in [his] life.”
The three core pillars King’s administration would focus on are education, economic development and economic dignity, and the environment. King believes it is important to invest in the children of Maryland, and “fairer” taxation may be required to fund the Blueprint for Education in the future. He opined, “just tax fairness, making sure everybody is paying fairly into the system, will get us a good distance towards the investment we need.”
King emphasizes that he brings two things to the state: “a very clear progressive vision for how we move the state towards greater equity, greater justice, and greater prosperity, and the experience, at the local level, state level, and federal level, of getting big things done in the government.” He noted that some of his running mates have no experience in the government, while he does, and can deliver on his objectives. As such, he hopes people will support him.
What does a John King administration look like?
It’s really three core pillars for me. One, of course, is education. It’s hugely important that we have a governor who actually follows through on the [Blueprint for Education]. The second pillar for me is economic development and economic dignity. We have to keep growing the number of good jobs in the state, we have to make sure folks have the skills for open jobs. We also have to attend to economic dignity issues, paid family leave, access to housing that’s affordable, investing in public transportation, those kinds of quality of life issues. The third pillar for me is around the environment. Obviously, we have to protect the Chesapeake, and make sure that we’re protecting water quality. We also need urgent action on climate.
How do we stem the loss of people willing to enter and remain in the law enforcement profession?
We’re seeing something similar in education, we’re losing a lot of teachers in this moment. Folks are feeling overwhelmed by the challenges that they’re facing in this moment. And then the question is, can we get to a better place? I think a lot of police officers would say that being called to respond to a mental health services crisis isn’t their training, that isn’t the thing they are best at doing. A Crisis Intervention Team, a trauma team that responds to them, so that the police can be focused on the things they are trained to do, that’s part of how we make policing a job where folks feel good about their day to day work and feel equipped to do their jobs.
Why should people be attracted to the John King candidacy?
I bring a very clear progressive vision for how we move the state towards greater equity, greater justice and greater prosperity. I have the experience at the local level, state level, federal level of getting big things done in government. I can deliver on the things that will matter in people’s quality of life. Things like paid family leave, universal, affordable quality child care, clean air, clean water, taking action on climate, I can deliver on those things and for that reason, I hope folks will support me.
David Lashar, the only third-party candidate running for governor, described himself as a “Reagan Republican” when he was a young voter, but says he began to question his affiliation with the party when the United States invaded Iraq under the Bush administration. He lost faith in Republicans with the rise of Donald Trump and divorced himself from the party. He was working under Governor Hogan at the time, as the Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer of the Maryland Department of Health, and chose the Libertarian party because he believes it is the only party dedicated to a principle, which is that they will not use force or aggression to achieve their goals.
Lashar believes that we can reduce violent crime by ending the war on drugs. He thinks that the illicit drug trade is the cause of most violent crime, and the key to reducing high crime rates is to stop criminalizing drug use. He believes that all drugs, including opioids, and alkaloids, should be made legally available in a controlled and safe manner and that providing such access would reduce both crime and overdose rates. He thinks any efforts other than complete legalization are merely political and would have no true impact on crime.
Lashar challenged anyone who is looking for a governor who is both compassionate and responsible, principled and accomplished, to vote for him. He describes himself as the only candidate currently in the running who has both private and public sector achievements and stated he would work with the General Assembly and engage in civil discourse when needed in order to get things done.
Who is David Lashar, and how is it that you came to be running for governor of the great state of Maryland?
I’m an IT executive. I help organizations, commercial organizations, public agencies, figure out how IT can help them do whatever they do better. Then choose that technology, put it in and make use of it. So I work at a high level with organizations to become better by using IT globally. I decided to divorce myself from the Republican Party with the rise of Trump. I was working for Governor Hogan at the time. I chose the Libertarian Party, because it is the one party truly dedicated to a principle. It is famously in some circles, known as the non Aggression Principle. And basically what it says is, I will not use force to get my way. So no bullying, no bossing, no riots, no interactions, we respect each other. And in that spirit, we can debate it out and but we will also hug it out too, and that’s the way we in the Libertarian Party try to be.
Where do you stand on the legalization of drugs?
I can give you the vision and the end state. The end state is that we legalize even opioids, heroin, crack, cocaine. They would be legally made available in almost the same way that we now make medical cannabis available. It is not a vision of you go to the Wawa and get your heroin. It is a model like medical cannabis, where you have a distribution model. I want places where people can go to get what their bodies need. They have a moment when they can begin to receive services when appropriate. You can bring in loved ones, an important part of recovery for most addicts. There’s always going to be addiction. I think we need to instead of trying to deny human nature and continuous prohibition, we need to accept human nature and figure out the way to bring hope back to the make it possible for a renaissance in Baltimore and make it easier to get people who are addicts the services that they need.
Why should people cross their party lines and go to vote for the Libertarian, David Lashar?
The why is that if you’re one of the many people in Maryland, who’s looking for both compassionate and responsible, who is looking for principled and accomplished, the only candidate who is bringing public sector achievement and private sector experience and achievement to the role, you only have one choice, and that would be me. I’d like people to know the Libertarian party invitation is to follow us and learn a little bit more. I hope you heard thoughtfulness. I hope you felt empathy. I would work with the assembly. I would. I would engage. I would argue civilly. We would disagree civilly, which is needed in order to actually get things done.
Wes Moore was born and raised in Maryland and describes himself as a Marylander through and through. His father died from a treatable virus when Moore was young, after the hospital sent the uninsured patient home to rest. This singular incident had a significant impact on his family, leaving his mother a single parent who, despite having a master’s degree, didn’t get a job that provided benefits until Moore was 14. Moore knew from an early age that he wanted to devote his life to public service, and his career has included leading soldiers in combat, owning a small business that helped students make it to college, and running a nonprofit focused on creating economic mobility.
To Moore, focusing on transportation, education, and making the state more competitive for businesses will lead to his intended goals of establishing work, increasing wages, and helping people build generational wealth. He explained that we have a new balance sheet for the state, with $3.7 billion coming into the state in discretionary capital and $1.7 billion for education, which Moore believes can be leveraged into the additional resources needed to fund the Blueprint in the future.
Moore asked Marylanders for his support because the challenges the state is facing, like learning loss, job loss, inequity within pay grades, and wealth “are not new, but are generational challenges.” To address these challenges, “we need a generational change. We need to be able to look at this from a cross-sector.” Moore explained that this is what he has done his entire career and advised he would place his executive experience against anyone else in this race and asked Marylanders for their support as the race continues to push forward.
If you become the next Governor of the state of Maryland, what are your initiatives?
The first year in office is that we are going to build the most remarkable administration that is going to be focused on results. My north star, what we’re going to expect for everything, it’s really focusing on this idea of creating work, wages and wealth and pathways to all three of those things for Marylanders. We are going to properly implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. We’re going to accelerate the $15 minimum wage, because right now, we have too many Marylanders who are working, and in some cases, working multiple jobs, and still living below the poverty line. And we have to make sure we’re focusing on measurements of wealth and economic security for people and giving people the opportunity to pass something off to their children besides debt.
How do we make progress on juvenile justice, specifically the high recidivism rate?
I think the things that we have to do is we have to focus on how our juvenile justice system is actually truly going to focus on this idea of rehabilitation, reentry, and, stopping that cycle that we have, because you’re watching how so many of these key early indicators are showing themselves within our juveniles. Maryland also has an incredibly stubborn rate of juveniles that are being tried as adults. I think we need to think about the type of supports that we’re trying to introduce into our children and whether they be academic supports, whether they be job training type of supports, whether the other familial supports that we’re going to see, because we cannot address the challenge that we’re having with our children by simply just thinking that this is going to be a criminal justice solution.
Tell the folks why Wes Moore for Governor in our next election.
These challenges that we are seeing and facing (learning loss, industries closing, wealth and wage inequalities), they’re not new. These are generational challenges. And I think in this moment, the thing that we continue to hear from people is that in order to address these generational challenges, we need a measure of generational change. We need to be able to look at this from across sectors. And that’s what I’ve done my entire career: build bridges, build bonds, be able to build a big tent, and knowing that we are not going to get addition through division. And so at this moment as we are electing our next chief executive, I know that I would put my executive experience against anybody else inside this race.
The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and the youngest of five, Tom Perez has “always wanted to change the world.” Perez says he has spent his entire career fighting for civil rights and labor rights, prosecuting racial violence, police misconduct, and human trafficking, and ultimately leading the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. His experience includes serving as Maryland’s Labor Secretary and U.S. Labor Secretary in the Obama Administration and as the chair of the Democratic National Committee. In running for governor, Perez believes the state’s “best days are ahead of us.”
On the topics of police reform and public safety, Perez said that reestablishing a criminal justice coordinating committee was an important step in addressing crime in Baltimore and elsewhere. He stressed the importance of addressing the root causes of crime and emphasized the need for a functioning community mental health infrastructure, to give law enforcement officers the tools necessary to de-escalate policing incidents.
Calling Maryland’s diversity its greatest strength, Perez vows to build a diverse team with a focus on jobs and justice, and making sure that Maryland realizes its full potential. Perez says the state’s next governor will need to be a multitasker who can handle the multiple crises currently at issue, including public safety and the COVID-19 pandemic; he noted that, while the state is in a moment of crisis, “we’re also in a moment of great opportunity.” If elected Perez would pursue building a clean energy economy and implement the Kirwan Blueprint for Education, which he calls a “remarkable roadmap to make sure that zip code never determines destiny.”
What would your priorities be if elected governor?
Our focus is going to be on jobs and justice, making sure that Maryland realizes its full potential. We’re going to go to school on the lessons of this pandemic, such as the need to make sure everybody has health insurance, such as working with our first responders, and issues of preparedness. We have an incredible opportunity right now, to build a Maryland where we have a clean energy economy, through the infrastructure bill and the dollars that are going to come to Maryland. We need to address climate change, jobs and job creation, public safety, and healthcare
What do we do about public safety, to try to help stem the tide of violence?
Day one, we need to reestablish the criminal justice coordinating committee to address the crime challenges in Baltimore. Next, a disproportionate amount of violent crime is committed by people who are already under supervision. So let’s figure out what is happening in the supervision process that’s breaking down. We’ve got to address the problem of ghost guns; we’re going to have to do something on the state level. A big part of what we have to do to address crime is to address the root causes of crime.
Tom Perez for governor, because …
I’m running for governor because I want to build America, a Maryland where everyone has access to opportunity, where we have jobs and justice, where ZIP Code never determines destiny. We have so many natural assets here, whether it’s our human capital, our healthcare infrastructure, our remarkable Chesapeake Bay, and I want to make sure that we live up to that full potential. I really do think our best days are ahead of us. Take a look at what I’ve done before, take a look at our vision for what we want to do for Maryland, and take a look at everyone else as well. Because one thing I feel really confident about is when “you take a look at what we’ve done, you’ll see that I’ve always fought for jobs, justice, and opportunity. A Maryland that works for everyone.”
Kelly Schulz has spent the last seven years as part of Governor Hogan’s administration. If elected governor, she plans to stay on the same path, “with some mild differences,” emphasizing a platform of “prosperity with a purpose” that would benefit all Maryland residents. Schulz spoke of a lengthy journey into public service, which included graduating from Hood College at the age of 36, making her the first in her family to earn a college degree. After working for a defense contractor and volunteering in Republican political campaigns, Schulz was approached to run for an open seat in the House of Delegates in 2010. She won twice, and represented Frederick County until 2014, when she resigned to become Hogan’s Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. She has been Maryland Secretary of Commerce since 2018.
Schulz’s priority as governor would be to provide all Marylanders an equal opportunity for prosperity. She said that as Secretary of Commerce, her department worked to remove burdens and barriers so that companies could increase jobs, noting that, sometimes, discussion of business is limited to “talking about the business that is a brick and mortar type of a business as opposed to the people that they’re actually employing.” She said “good business owners, those good stakeholders, that are just trying to be able to make sure we create meaningful jobs and careers for our families, our neighbors, and the communities” are key to her vision of providing “everybody across the state, no matter what zip code you live in … an equal opportunity” for prosperity.
What does the Kelly Schulz administration look like?
A Kelly Schultz administration is all about opportunity. It’s all about being able to make sure that those “ young people like myself, like my kids have the opportunity to move forward and be able to obtain their greatest prosperity. And I call that prosperity with a purpose. It’s not about the family that you’ve been brought up in, it’s all about being able to understand what resources and opportunities are available for every single person, whether it be a family, a nonprofit organization, a small business, medium business or large business, because there’s room for all of us. And we have to be able to make sure that we all work together.
What are the specific things that you’re going to do if you become the next governor of the State of Maryland, in terms of economic development or business development or commerce?
One of the biggest issues is to be able to attract new types of businesses here. We have been very successful over the course of the last seven years to be able to attract more businesses. But for those businesses that do not choose Maryland, there are themes as to why they don’t choose Maryland, and it’s all about the tax system. It’s all about the cost of doing business in Maryland. And if we have a big deal that comes to us and we’re being graded with multiple states, they’re going to choose a state that has lower taxes, income taxes, corporate taxes, retirement and estate taxes. It all comes down to what your level of revenue is, right. So the more you’re going to be able to bring businesses into the community to be able to pay into the different types of stack tax structures, the more income tax you’re going to have, the more sales tax you’re going to have, it is going to be able to come out in the end that if you rid yourself of the estate tax, if you rid yourself or decrease the retirement tax that we have, you’re still able to attract more revenue into the state.
Why should people be attracted to a Kelly Schulz campaign for governor of the state of Maryland?
I think it comes down to the basics of people wanting to be able to make sure that there’s continued dialogue, debate, and checks and balances to the system that we have right now. I think Marylanders want to be able to make sure that what we’re doing when we’re policymakers and we’re keeping their money, we’re spending their tax dollars, it’s because we should, not because we can and being able to provide a governor for the next four years. That is in a very similar stature as Governor Hogan is wanting to be able to continue on that path with some mild differences, but being able to continue on that path of opportunity, and that prosperity with a purpose. I think that is where Marylanders want to go.
1 The MSBA is an apolitical organization and does not endorse any candidate for elected office. All candidates that had declared their intention to run for Governor by November 30, 2022 were invited to the participate in the interviews.