Germantown -10/14/17-The Democratic Gubernatorial forum was held in Globe Hall at Montgomery College. Rich Madalenois one of the dandidates. Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun Staff. --#5927.
Germantown -10/14/17-The Democratic Gubernatorial forum was held in Globe Hall at Montgomery College. Rich Madalenois one of the dandidates. Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun Staff. --#5927. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

A majority of Democrats running for governor pledged to release their tax returns this week after state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno challenged them to do so.

Madaleno, a Democratic candidate for governor, this week released six years of tax returns — and called on his primary election rivals and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to do the same.

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"If you want to lead Maryland, you have to demonstrate openness, honesty and integrity," said Madaleno, a Montgomery County lawmaker, in a statement.

Madaleno's tax returns show income from his General Assembly position, which pays about $48,000 annually. After he got married to Mark Hodge, the couple's annual income rose to more than $180,000.

The campaigns for several of his Democratic opponents in the crowded field seeking their party's nomination in the June 26 primary election said they would release their returns, but questioned Madaleno's true commitment to openness.

"We've already began compiling Ben's tax returns for release," said Kevin Harris, a spokesman for former NAACP president Ben Jealous' campaign. "This kind of transparency is long overdue, and it's ironic that many long-time politicians are only now raising this issue in the context of a gubernatorial campaign. Where was their leadership before now?"

Tech entrepreneur Alec Ross said he would "of course" release his returns.

"I would say I'm surprised that this isn't required already, but the Annapolis establishment has shown its number one priority is self-preservation," he said. "I'll release as far back as possible."

Daniel Ensign, deputy campaign manager for Ross, also criticized Madaleno for voting against a Republican-led amendment this year to require all candidates for state offices to release tax returns.

Madaleno "releases tax returns and hopes you forgot he voted against a bill requiring candidates to release tax returns," Ensign wrote on Twitter.

Lawyer Jim Shea said he, too, would release his returns.

"I will release my tax returns because candidates and elected officials should be held to a higher standard of disclosure, a hard-learned lesson in the era of Donald Trump," Shea said in a statement.

A spokesman for Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said he believed his financial disclosure forms sufficiently informed the public.

"Kevin Kamenetz is a lifelong Marylander. He has issued public financial disclosures for the better part of three decades," said the spokesman, Sean Naron. "Those public records speak for themselves."

A spokeswoman for candidate Krish Vignarajah, a former policy director for Michelle Obama, said she would release her returns if others do

"We are more than willing to make a similar release when all the other candidates do as well," Elizabeth Waickman said. "Let's be clear though, this is an election stunt by someone who literally voted against legislation to require that this year. But this week, while other candidates are resorting to political gimmicks, we have been releasing comprehensive plans to act on climate change, clean up the Chesapeake Bay and address the economic challenges of Western Maryland."

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Campaigns for Hogan and Democratic candidate Rushern Baker did not respond to a request for comment.

The issue of whether candidates should release their tax returns has been in the news frequently since President Trump broke with tradition and refused to release his.

The Maryland Senate voted in favor of a bill this year to require president and vice presidential candidates to release their tax returns if they wish to appear on the state's ballots, but that legislation died in the House of Delegates.

"In the wake of the Trumpism of politics and transparency, where even the most innocuous information is hidden from the public, Marylanders are demanding their leadership rise above," Madaleno said in a statement.

Madaleno said that releasing his tax returns shows how he would govern the state with "a level of transparency that sadly has been lost by many of today's elected officials."

Madaleno chooses ex-Martin O'Malley aide as running mate in Democratic primary race

Gubernatorial candidate Richard S. Madaleno Jr. chooses Luwanda Jenkins, who headed Gov. Martin O'Malley's minority affairs office, as his running mate.

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