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On the third day of interviews with Maryland gubernatorial candidates, former state senator Bobby Zirkin sat down with Democratic candidate Tom Perez, former Maryland Labor Secretary U.S. Labor Secretary in the Obama Administration. Perez’s previous experience also includes serving as the head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and as the chair of the Democratic National Committee. The hour-long interview, which took place on December 9th at the Inscape Theater at the Stevenson University Greenspring Valley Campus in Baltimore County, was live-streamed, recorded, and is widely available to MSBA members and Marylanders across the state looking to learn more about the candidates’ vision and platform. During his time with Zirkin, Perez, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and the youngest of five, shared his vision for the future of Maryland and his view on a number of topics and issues that have been at the center of the gubernatorial race.

Among other things, Perez noted that he believes the state’s “best days are ahead of us.” On the topics of police reform and public safety Perez stated that in his view, reestablishing a criminal justice coordinating committee was an important step to take to address crime in Baltimore and other parts of the state. Perez also explained his view on the importance of addressing the “root causes of crime,” and the significance of working “to prevent recidivism and giving people the skills to succeed.” On the topic of police reform specifically, Perez emphasized the need for a functioning “community mental health infrastructure not just in Baltimore City, but across the state, so that officers can have the tools necessary to deescalate” policing incidents.   

Turning the conversation to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zirkin asked where a Perez administration would fall on vaccines and mask mandates. “Our north star is always going to be to follow the science,” Perez said. “I want to make sure we’re working closely with not only our scientists but our first responders, our front line workers [and] our union members . . .  we’re going to continue to educate people on the importance [of getting vaccinated].” On the issue of evictions, Zirkin asked how a Perez administration would take on the eviction crisis in Maryland. Pointing to what he described as a failure of leadership at the gubernatorial level and using Virginia as an example, Perez noted the need for a comprehensive plan that brings together local stakeholders—“nonprofits, sheriffs, . . .[and] landlords”—to prevent evictions across the state. Perez went on to note that “the next Governor is going to have to be a multitasker in chief, [because] we have criminal justice issues . . . we have this eviction crisis . . ., we have the COVID epidemic, [and] we have to implement the Kirwan Blueprint [reforms].” When asked about judicial elections, Perez stated his general skepticism of the process but noted that diversity is one of the challenges that emerges in the judicial selection process. 

Perez wrapped up the conversation by noting his vision for a “Maryland where everyone has access to opportunity, where we have jobs and justice, [and] where zip code never determines destiny,” he said. “I want to build a Maryland where everyone has an opportunity to succeed.” 

You can view Tom Perez’s entire interview here.