Maryland’s political elite, in a tradition that goes hand-in-hand with the state’s top annual sporting attraction, racked up a $200,000 tab over the weekend as they took in the Preakness Stakes and hosted business executives, family and friends.
Splitting the bill among a half-dozen taxpayer-funded state agencies, Gov. Wes Moore’s administration covered the costs for an invitation-only tent, food, drinks, tickets and an excellent view of the races for dozens of people at Pimlico Race Course.
A list of 80 attendees released by the governor’s office includes elected officials, government staff, business leaders, former officials and Moore’s mother, Joy — everyone whose ticket was covered by the state, according to the governor’s office.
Others — like Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., both Democrats, as well as family members of many of the attendees — filtered in and out of the tent Saturday afternoon but are not listed.
Moore, a Democrat, and other officials said throughout the day that the Preakness is a way to put Maryland into the national spotlight and highlight the state’s commitment to an industry that, while embattled, has longtime traditions and thousands of employees.
“It’s not really an event for local politics,” U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat, said in an interview outside the state’s tent three weeks after he announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection. He and Moore, in a nod to their work in politics, each said they placed bets on a horse named Bipartisanship.
“Yes, it’s great to be seen. It’s great to say hello to people I know. But this really is a feel-good place to be, although there sometimes are retail politics done,” Cardin said, referring to the process of politicians interacting with constituents and potential voters at community events.
Part of that political element was a separate fundraising event hosted by the Democratic Governors Association next to the taxpayer-funded Maryland tent. Govs. Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania, Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Laura Kelly of Kansas, attended the fundraiser and did not appear on the list of attendees paid for by the state.
Maryland Policy & Politics
For Moore’s first Preakness as governor, the $200,000 price tag was more than the $145,500 that officials in former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration spent on the event in 2019, the last full Preakness year before the coronavirus pandemic.
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The costs were covered this year by $50,000 each from the state lottery and the Department of Commerce, and $25,000 each from the departments of Transportation, Housing and Community Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.
Guests in the state tent who were not government officials or employees included executives in finance — Eddie Brown, investment manager and president of Brown Capital Management; and Stanley Tucker, president of Meridian Management Group, which handles some state money such as a financing authority for small businesses — and real estate or construction, like New Harbor Development President Mike Font and Southway Builders President Willy Moore.
Others included Joseph “Max” Curran, a partner at the Venable law firm; Paul Nolan, a vice president at the food manufacturing company McCormick and an executive committee member of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce; Terri Roberts, vice president of the airport retailing company Onsite Retailers; Dana Stebbins, CEO of the consulting firm Cornelius Group; and Mark Anthony Thomas, CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.
The list also included at least one registered lobbyist in the state, Michael Arrington, a former Democratic delegate who runs the firm Capitol Connections.
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Other government officials on the list included two county executives — Democrats Steuart Pittman, of Anne Arundel, and Jessica Fitzwater, of Frederick — as well as U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat; 14 members of the Maryland General Assembly, including one Republican; and five of Moore’s roughly two dozen cabinet members.
Former government officials on the list included former Gov. Parris Glendening; former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, who works for the Maryland Minority Contractors Association; and John Willis, who served as secretary of state under Glendening. All three are Democrats.