Stalwart liberal state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. is planning to launch his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor Monday — heralding a contest for the party’s progressive base.
Madaleno told The Baltimore Sun he would be the first Montgomery countian, the first Italian-American and the first openly gay person to be elected governor of Maryland. He plans to announce his candidacy at Shady Grove in Montgomery County in the morning, then travel to Baltimore for an afternoon roundtable with community leaders.
The veteran lawmaker’s entry into the race swells an already crowded field of Democrats seeking to oust popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Madaleno, 52, has been a consistent critic of Hogan from the day the governor was sworn in.
“I think I was the leading voice from the beginning saying we can’t just roll over for Larry Hogan,” Madaleno said. He promised to “call him out for his hypocrisy and flip-flops.”
Madaleno is a former legislative staffer who is known as one of the General Assembly’s top budget experts. After serving a term in the House of Delegates, he moved to the Senate in 2007. He has risen to vice chairman of the powerful Budget & Taxation Committee and is consistently one of the small group of senators in the room when spending decisions are made.
By jumping into the governor’s race, Madaleno will likely forgo a chance of someday becoming chairman of that panel — a position now held by Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer of Howard County, a Democrat who is about to turn 72.
Madaleno said he decided to run because “the state and the Democratic Party need new leadership.”
“Quite frankly, I think we’ve become stale,” he said. “I decided I needed to try to make that change happen myself.”
Madaleno conceded that Marylanders typically haven’t looked to the legislature to choose its governors. Not since the nineteenth century has a sitting legislator been chosen by the voters to be chief executive. (House Speaker Marvin Mandel, who succeeded Spiro Agnew as governor in 1969 when Agnew became vice president, was elected to the job by his fellow legislators.)
Hogan enjoys some of the highest poll approval numbers among U.S. governors, but Madaleno describes his support as “a mile wide and an inch deep.”
Madaleno’s entry will make five announced Democratic candidates for governor. The others are Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; former NAACP President Ben Jealous, Baltimore lawyer Jim Shea and high-tech entrepreneur Alec Ross.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is expected to join the race soon. Also considering a run are Rep. John Delaney and former Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.
Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, said Madaleno will contend with Jealous for the support of the most progressive Democrats — many of whom lined up behind Del. Heather Mizeur in 2014. Jealous scored a coup in that effort last week when he was endorsed by former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Jealous had supported Sanders in the 2016 race.
Madaleno supported Hillary Clinton in that contest, but Kromer said he still a powerful argument to make to left-leaning Democrats. While Jealous has been a formidable national figure, Madaleno is steeped in Maryland politics.
“He’s very tapped into the progressive movement in Maryland,” Kromer said. “If you pay any attention to state politics, he’s probably one of the most widely quoted anti-Hogan folks in the state legislature.”
Madaleno said he is the candidate with a record of progressive accomplishments in Annapolis.
“I have been willing to fight for progressive change on the inside for the past 15 years, and I’ve won on issue after issue in ways that people said couldn’t be done,” he said. “If people are looking for somebody who knows how to get progressive policies accomplished in the state of Maryland, there’s no one better than me.”
The Kensington man has chalked up victories in education and job training, where he succeeded this year in amending Hogan’s manufacturing tax credit bill to include expanded state support for apprenticeships. But few of Madaleno’s battles were more important personally than his leading role in passing legislation permitting same-sex marriage in Maryland and upholding the measure in a 2012 referendum.
Madaleno is married to Mark Hodge, a nurse manager with whom he has a daughter, 14, and a son, 10.
“Certainly I’m not running to be the gay governor of Maryland, but obviously I want people to know who I am and what my family looks like,” he said.
If he won, he would be the first openly gay person elected governor of an American state.
It has long been apparent that Madaleno has been itching to take on Hogan. The formerly portly lawmaker has lost about 70 pounds over the past year while honing his critique of the incumbent. On issue after issue, he has prepared scathing attack lines against Hogan.
Among the issues he expects to highlight is Hogan’s reluctance to criticize President Donald J. Trump in the harsh terms other Republican governors have used.
“He has remained studiously silent,” Madaleno said. “In some ways, just as Trump can’t find a way to criticize [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, Hogan can’t find a way to criticize Trump.”
In the event of an economic downturn, he said, Maryland will need a governor who will protect Maryland’s commitment to public school funding. Madaleno pointed to Hogan’s proposal during his first year in office to cut a school funding index that benefits Baltimore and high-cost counties.
“It’s clear that his top priority would be gutting public education,” he said. “The only thing he’s interested in is charter schools and vouchers.”
Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer pointed out that Madaleno gave former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley a pass for not fully funding that formula in 2009 during the depths of the recession.
Mayer said the administration’s record on the economy, tax and toll relief, education spending and the environment “speaks for itself.”
“Convincing Marylanders that we should abandon this incredible progress won’t be an easy task," Mayer said. “Good luck.”
Though he represents affluent Montgomery, a county whose interests have often diverged from Baltimore’s, Madaleno said he would be a champion of the city.
“We can’t have a city at the center of the state that is not healthy and expect the rest of the state to function well,” he said. He is proposing to relieve the city of the job of maintaining state roads within its borders — a burden borne by the State Highway Administration in the 23 counties.
Madaleno pointed to two past Baltimore lawmakers who chaired budget committees, former state Sen. Barbara Hoffman and the late Del. Howard P. “Pete” Rawlings, as mentors.
“I know a lot more about Baltimore city than I think the stereotype of the Montgomery County legislator,” he said.
One distinction Madaleno will not embrace is that of a non-politician outsider — a claim that could be made by Jealous, Shea or Ross.
“After this experiment with Trump and our little experiment with Hogan, maybe the public will begin to appreciate why it’s good to have people with experience in office,” Madaleno said.