It’s spring the year before a Baltimore election — meaning consultants, elected officials and their potential challengers are quietly maneuvering to identify viable candidates.

Polls are one way the city’s political class gain insight into whom voters are interested in. Depending on the number of respondents and the number of questions they ask, polls can cost upward of $40,000. Generally speaking, only candidates seriously considering a run agree to dip into their campaign reserves to finance a good survey.

Another thing to keep in mind — politicos coughing up the cash for polls tend to leak them to the press, in hopes of getting the word out about any promising data about their campaigns.

In order to get that positive data, pollsters will sometimes ask questions that frame the candidates paying for the survey in a positive light, especially if they may have low name recognition. A hypothetical example: “Emily Sullivan knows everything about her neighborhood of Remington. Knowing this, would you vote for her to become president of the Greater Remington Improvement Association?”

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In mid-March, a few city residents told me they received a poll that asked if they were likely to vote in next year’s Democratic primary. If they answered yes, pollsters asked their opinions of:

Another interesting poll that I have firsthand information about is currently in the field.

On Thursday, I got a text from McGuire Research that read “we want to hear what you have to say about issues affecting the city of Baltimore” followed by a link to the survey.

I was asked who I would vote for in the Democratic primary for mayor were it held today: Scott, Dixon, Henry or Councilman Eric Costello.

I was asked the same question about candidates for council president, Mosby and Councilman Zeke Cohen.

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I was also asked my opinions about the same group of public figures in the mid-March poll, as well as Gov. Wes Moore, Del. Stephanie Smith, and Sen. Antonio Hayes, and my opinions about the performance of Baltimore Gas & Electric, the Department of Public Works and City Hall in general.

Then I was presented a few questions asking me to assess Scott’s job performance, each framed critically.

A poll question asks potential voters what they think about the job performance of Mayor Brandon Scott. (Emily Sullivan)

Then I was presented with a few questions that framed Costello in a positive light.

A poll question asks what potential voters think of Councilman Eric Costello's crime positions. (Emily Sullivan)

Costello didn’t respond to phone calls seeking comment.

My guess: Costello is mulling a run for something other than his current council seat — and that he’ll use the results of this poll to help make his decision.

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House budget includes a placeholder for new FBI HQ

Contingent on a formal agreement between the federal government and the state of Maryland — or perhaps in hopes of one — a House appropriations subcommittee recommended setting aside $100 million for the relocation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters to Prince George’s County.

The state has been vying for the country’s top law enforcement agency to relocate its headquarters to Maryland for years. The potential new addresses have been whittled down to three — Landover or Greenbelt in Maryland, or Springfield in Virginia.

Members of Maryland’s federal delegation in 2022 put aside $375 million in a similar gesture.

Del. Mark Chang, the subcommittee chairman, said the carve out and the amount was decided with General Assembly leaders, the Prince George’s County delegation and the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Del. Benjamin Barnes, a Democrat representing Prince George’s County.

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“I just think it shows a strong sign that we would love to see the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s headquarters relocated here. We’d like to really see the state go into a formal agreement with this important federal agency,” Chang said.

A spokesperson for the General Services Administration, the federal agency making the decision, said they are “considering feedback from stakeholders” as they “determine next steps on the site selection process.”

The budget move strikes a dollar amount previously allocated to a public school construction program.

Brittany Marshall, a spokesperson for Gov. Wes Moore ‘s administration, confirmed the money was “fulfilling a commitment we already made” when the state submitted a bid for the project. The $100 million set aside was introduced in Moore’s budget as written, and an additional $100 million was preauthorized for next year, Marshall said.

Del. Marc Korman, a Democrat from Montgomery County, introduced a joint resolution Friday that threw the weight of the General Assembly behind the state’s efforts to win the bid.

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Chang said securing the agency headquarters in Maryland “would provide a lot of jobs and vibrancy and economic development in the Prince George’s County area,” and would bring “much pride to our state.”

Maryland Supreme Court explains decision in mail-in ballot case

The Maryland Supreme Court has released a written opinion explaining why it rejected an appeal that Dan Cox, the 2022 Republican nominee for governor, brought challenging a ruling that allowed election workers to start counting mail-in ballots early.

Under Maryland law — which lawmakers are working to change — election workers are prohibited from opening mail-in ballots until after Election Day. The Maryland State Board of Elections filed a petition in Montgomery County Circuit Court and convinced a judge that emergency circumstances existed to allow them to begin the canvassing process on Oct. 1, 2022.

The state’s highest court heard oral argument and issued a brief order at the time.

Cox is an attorney who served one term in the Maryland House of Delegates. Wes Moore, a Democrat, defeated him by more than 32 percentage points.

In the opinion filed on Wednesday, Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader wrote that a section of the Election Law Article does not violate the separation of powers guaranteed in the Maryland Constitution’s Declaration of Rights. The lower court, he said, also did not err when it found that emergency circumstances existed.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case.

Since losing the election, Cox has taken a job as chief of staff to Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Republican who also unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2022.

They’re both allies of former President Donald Trump who chartered buses to the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Get that arm warmed up, gov

While we’re definitely interested in the fortunes of the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff, on opening day our eyes will be on the ceremonial first pitch.

Gov. Wes Moore and his children, 11-year-old Mia and 9-year-old James, have been tapped to do the honors at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Thursday, as the Orioles face the Yankees.

“I’m nervous because I’m actually going out with my kids this time,” Moore told The Baltimore Banner. “And now the big thing is I need to make sure that I’m not going to get shown up by them.”

Here’s a look at Moore throwing out the first pitch at a spring training game, when he was in Sarasota meeting with O’s execs and negotiating a new lease for the team at Camden Yards.

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First bills cross the finish line

On day 79 of the 90-day legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly produced its first fully-approved bills on Thursday.

A batch of 20 bills crossed the finish line after being passed by the state Senate, then passed in identical form by the House of Delegates and then returned to the Senate.

The first bill in the group of 20 — Senate Bill 3 — requires another year of funding for the state’s 988 suicide and crisis hotline. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Malcolm Augustine, a Prince George’s County Democrat, was the first one to make it out of either chamber all the way back on Jan. 30, when the Senate voted 46-0 to approve it.

Other bills in the first group include relatively noncontroversial measures that require the State Ethics Commission to hold public meetings; authorize the Maryland Board of Physicians to create a new category of “emeritus” licenses for retired doctors; and reduce the size of the board that oversees the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore, among others.

Next step: The bills will be sent to Gov. Wes Moore’s desk sometime between now and April 30. Moore, a Democrat, will have until May 30 to decide whether to sign the bills, veto them or let them become law without his signature.

As the General Assembly heads toward adjournment on April 10, expect the list of fully passed bills to grow as lawmakers power through the legislative process.

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