Gov. Wes Moore is turning 45 and he’s throwing what could be one heck of a party.

The Democrat’s birthday celebration will feature LL Cool J — yes, the LL Cool J — as a “special guest,” along with performances from MC Lyte and D-Nice.

The party is scheduled for Thursday night at the M&T Bank Exchange, a relatively new bank-turned-performance-venue that’s next to the Hippodrome Theatre.

And while regular folks’ birthday parties don’t usually require an entry fee, politicians’ birthday parties often serve as campaign fundraisers — and Moore’s is no different.

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According to an online invitation, “cocktail tickets” are being sold for $250 and $1,000. The invitation adds: “Please note these tickets do not include the sponsor’s dinner prior to the cocktail reception.” We’re not sure how much a sponsorship would set you back.

Moore’s approval rating ticks up

Speaking of the governor, his approval rating is inching up, according to a new poll released this week.

Moore now has a 60% approval rating, according to a new poll of 818 registered voters from Gonzales Research & Media Services. That’s up from 55% in a June poll from Gonzales.

In May, Moore’s approval was 53% in a survey conducted by Goucher College Poll in partnership with The Baltimore Banner.

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Not surprisingly, Moore fared well with Democrats (78% approval) and not so well with Republicans (30% approval). His standing with independents is 53% approval.

Broken down by race, the governor saw 85% approval from those who identify as African American; 51% approval from white voters and 42% approval from voters of other races.

His standing with women (65% approval) is better than with men (54% approval).

Here are some other findings of the Gonzales poll:

The poll was conducted via landlines and cellphones from Sept. 18 through 28. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.

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Dixon learns the Park Heights Strut

Sheila Dixon got a coveted endorsement in her race for mayor. TikTok creator and entrepreneur Bunkey Jr. shared a video on his Instagram feed this week of a Park Heights Strut dance session with the former mayor.

The dance originated in Northwest Baltimore and has inspired tens of thousands of tributes on TikTok, thanks in part to to Bunkey Jr., who added his own flair to the dance and named the new moves the Bunkey Jr. Strut.

It swept the internet and city last year, and now Dixon is strutting her stuff. In a video originally posted by Carlmichael “Stokey” Cannady, Dixon and Bunkey Jr. danced to the viral Djzayy mix of “Free Mind” by the Nigerian artist Tems.

Bunkey Jr. shared the video on his own page, this time set to the song “Closer” by the singer-songwriter Goapele.

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Dixon “will be getting busy in no time,” he wrote, adding: “make sure y’all go vote.”

Diverse tenants sought for Harborplace — while pavilions last

Downtown Baltimore’s business improvement district and Harborplace developer MCB Real Estate are joining forces in an effort to attract more diverse tenants to set up temporary stores at the Inner Harbor.

The Black Owned and Operated Storefront Tenancy program — already in place downtown with 10 businesses either already open or in the process of launching — is coming to Harborplace’s pavilions, with two Pratt Street fronting locations and five suites within Harborplace’s “Baltimore Boutique.”

Applications for the program, which includes grant awards ranging from $20,000 to $25,000, technical assistance and marketing support, are due by Oct. 6. Winners will be announced in November, according to a Thursday news release.

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“As we’re in the process of reimagining the shopping experience at Harborplace there is no better way to activate the space than to tap Downtown Partnership’s expertise for an incubator version of their proven BOOST Program,” P. David Bramble, managing partner and co-founder of MCB Real Estate, said in a statement.

Bramble, of course, revealed last week that the two Harborplace pavilions — iconic vestiges of the Inner Harbor’s vibrant past — will be torn down to make way for the waterfront site’s next chapter. No timeline for the demolition has been announced, and Bramble has said the harbor is still years away from its final form.

State legislators are investing $166 million into downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor, an investment meant to catalyze revitalization in the city’s core. The investment includes $7,500,000 for the Inner Harbor Promenade with another $60,000,000 pre-authorized in FY24 and FY25; $11,500,000 for the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore; and $50,000,000 for the relocation of state employees from State Center to the Central Business District.

Top senator tapped to lead Maryland Hospital Association

A top state senator is leaving her job to join the advocacy world.

Sen. Melony Griffith, chair of the Senate Finance Committee that regulates health care and utilities, will be the next president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, which represents the interests of the state’s hospitals.

“I am excited for this unique opportunity to continue supporting world-class health care access and delivery in Maryland. My aim is to improve quality and services for every Marylander while showing the state how hospitals help patients and meet their communities’ needs,” Griffith, a Prince George’s County Democrat, said in a statement.

Griffith was elected to the state Senate in 2018 and previously held the position of president pro-tem. She also served four terms in the Maryland House of Delegates.

She begins her position with the Maryland Hospital Association in December.

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