State Roundup, June 13, 2018

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ERVIN DROPS OUT, BACKS BAKER: Valerie Ervin is dropping out of the Maryland governor’s race and endorsing Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who is locked in a tight Democratic primary contest with former NAACP chief Ben Jealous, reports Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. Ervin is the latest Maryland politician to rally around Baker since a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll last week showed him and Jealous, a first-time candidate, at the top of the crowded primary field.

SUIT AGAINST VIGNARAJAH TOSSED OUT: An Anne Arundel Circuit Court judge affirmed Tuesday that Krishanti Vignarajah is eligible to run in Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, following a lawsuit by a Baltimore County man who sought to remove her name from the ballot. Douglas Horn alleged that the time Vignarajah spent living and voting in the District should disqualify her because Maryland requires that its governor be a resident of the state for five years before the election, writes Rachel Chason for the Post.

OAKS RE-REGISTERS TO VOTE, REALLY: In another bizarre twist, former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks is once again on Maryland’s voting rolls, making the disgraced ex-lawmaker technically eligible to be re-elected to his old job if he wins the primary election this month. Oaks, who pleaded guilty to a felony in March and is awaiting sentencing, said becoming a state senator again was not the reason he registered to vote last week. But he did not explain why he did, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

SOPHOCLEUS COULD WIN: Del. Ted Sophocleus died on Friday, but he could still win the House of Delegates District 32 Democratic primary, writes Danielle Ohl for the Annapolis Capital. Sophocleus, who served in the House of Delegates since 1993, died Friday after being hospitalized in Baltimore. But the veteran lawmaker’s name will still appear on primary election ballots along with six other Democrats competing to represent District 32. It’s far too late to reprint ballots to remove Sophocleus’ name, said Maryland Board of Elections officials. Early voting starts Thursday.

SUN BACKS JEALOUS: The editorial board of the Sun endorses Ben Jealous to be the Democratic nominee to run against Gov. Larry Hogan, writing that Maryland voters deserve a real choice in November’s election for governor, and we believe Jealous provides the clearest alternative to Hogan. It’s not just that the former NAACP president and CEO has the stature or political skills to run a competitive campaign against the popular and extremely well funded Republican incumbent (though he does), it’s that he presents the strongest contrast to the governor in his vision for the state. We give him our endorsement in the Democratic primary.

ON ALEC ROSS: In this final profile in the Post series on Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Paul Schwartzman looks at Alec Ross, author and innovator. He was on his way to Annapolis in early 2017 to brief state lawmakers about the economic future when he told a friend of his latest high-wire ambition: dethroning Gov. Larry Hogan. The friend, state Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), liked the idea of a statewide candidate proselytizing about the necessity of modernizing. But Ferguson was surprised that Ross — then a 45-year-old political novice — actually thought he could become governor. “I tried to be realistic,” the senator recalled. “He was sure he could win.”

BEING GREEN: More than 250 candidates for state Senate and House seats have embraced the Clean Energy Jobs Act, legislation to boost Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50% electricity by 2030. The Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative and Chesapeake Climate Action Network on Tuesday released the names of 253 candidates who agreed to support the measure when it is introduced in the 2019 General Assembly session, Josh Kurtz reports in Maryland Matters.

AN UNENGAGING RACE: In his Political Maryland blog, pundit Barry Rascovar opines that neither Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker nor former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous has captivated Democraticv Party voters. Jealous is the more engaging public speaker but Baker has a vast edge in public service and executive management.

CARROLL STATE HOUSE ENDORSEMENTS: The editorial board for the Carroll County Times kicks off its endorsements in the state Senate and House races by backing the incumbent slate of Dels. Susan Krebs, April Rose and Haven Shoemaker for the Republican race for House of Delegates representing District 5. In Annapolis, so much of the job is knowing how to play the game, particularly if you are a member of the minority party. All three of these individuals have shown an ability to work across the aisle on some issues while also staying true to their conservative values.

DEMS PUSH FOR REPUBLICAN SHREVE: Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland writes that the Maryland Democratic Party is putting its finger on the scale to help Billy Shreve win his state Senate primary in District 3. The mailer, paid for by the Maryland Democratic Senate Caucus Committee, is, in fact, a piece that is attacking Shreve for being a Trump supporter. The point of the mailer is not to get people in District 3 to vote against Shreve. It’s designed to get Republican primary voters to vote for Shreve in the primary against Craig Giangrande. Democrats, he writes, see an opportunity to ensure they get a beatable opponent in November.

SUPER PAC BUCKS FOR ALMOND: Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond (D) is in line to get a last-minute surge of support for her campaign for county executive, thanks to a super PAC created last month to boost her primary election effort, William Zorzi of Maryland Matters reports.

ENDORSEMENTS IN MO CO: Louis Peck of Bethesda Beat rounds up the latest endorsements coming into races in Montgomery County, including for county executive as well as down-ballot races.

VAN HOLLEN, RASKIN WON’T ENDORSE: U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, who hail from Montgomery County, said they will not endorse a candidate to replace County Executive Ike Leggett before the June 26 Democratic primary, reports Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat. Van Hollen told Bethesda Beat while attending a political event in Silver Spring on Monday that he will not endorse any of the six Democrats who are running. “We have a lot of good candidates in the county executive race,” Van Hollen said.

PLEA DEALS PART 2: Omar Burley was among the first 105 Baltimore defendants whose convictions were voided as of mid-April after eight officers were convicted for robbing people, planting guns and drugs on them and lying on arrest reports to cover up their crimes. In Part 2 of the Capital News Service series and analysis of court data found that all but four of the vacated and dropped cases involved guilty pleas. Nearly all, including Burley, were black men. More than half pleaded guilty while awaiting trial in jail, often for months. Not all defendants were innocent. Rather, the state can no longer maintain their guilt.

PURGING VOTER ROLLS? Marylanders who don’t get to the polls much, if ever, are not in danger of being purged from the rolls simply for not exercising their right to vote, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The U.S. Supreme Court Monday ruled that an Ohio law allowing voters to be removed from the rolls for failing to vote does not violate the 25-year-old National Voter Registration Act. In Maryland, elections officials said that while they do remove some voters, inactivity isn’t the only standard.

PRISONERS CAN GET MORE BOOKS: Maryland prison officials have agreed to rescind a policy introduced in April that inmate advocates said restricted prisoners’ access to books. In a move to curb smuggling of Suboxone film — a drug commonly used to treat opioid addiction that is sold in thin, easy-to-hide strips — the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in April announced that inmates would only be allowed to receive books from two vendors. The corrections department overturned that decision Monday. Inmates may now accept books from family and online retailers, but only after those books have undergone a rigorous screening process, Lauren Lumpkin of the Sun reports.

BUMP STOCK BAN SUIT: Maryland’s recently enacted ban on attachments that enable guns to fire more rapidly should be struck down as violating their owners’ constitutional right to due process, a gun-rights group has argued in a federal lawsuit, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports. If the law is upheld, owners forced to surrender these accessories popularly known as bump stocks should be paid just compensation by the state government, Maryland Shall Issue Inc. added in its complaint, filed Monday in federal district court in Baltimore.