Senate battle of the endorsements

Now that U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin isn’t running for the U.S. Senate, the two Democratic front-runners are battling it out over endorsements.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks started early, rolling out multiple waves of endorsements from current and former elected officials. Among her biggest political supporters are fellow county executives Johnny Olszewski Jr. of Baltimore County and Steuart Pittman from Anne Arundel County.

U.S. Rep. David Trone stepped up his endorsement game this week, unveiling a list of 40 politicians who had endorsed him. Notable names include the current Frederick County executive, Jessica Fitzwater, and the former Frederick County executive, Jan Gardner. In the Baltimore area, Trone announced an endorsement from City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer.

Although it’s likely that few voters are paying much attention to the contest — and it’s unclear how much political endorsements matter to voters — lining up endorsements from politicians can be an early show of political strength. Endorsements can signal to donors that a campaign is serious and worth supporting.

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Endorsements can also give a window into the campaign strategy that candidates may employ.

In Trone’s case, for example, many of his endorsers come from the territory he’s represented in Congress, including Frederick County and Western Maryland.

Alsobrooks has shown she can nab the support of heavy hitters. In addition to the two county execs, Alsobrooks got endorsements from two of Maryland’s members of Congress (U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer and U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume) and two statewide officials (Comptroller Brooke Lierman and Treasurer Dereck E. Davis).

The third leading contender in the Democratic race is Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando, who has yet to announce endorsements.

On the Republican side, no experienced candidates have announced a campaign.

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One of Maryland’s U.S. Senate seats is open in 2024, following Sen. Ben Cardin’s announcement this spring that he would not seek reelection.

Moore heads to the Caribbean

Gov. Wes Moore is spending the weekend in Jamaica, where he’ll give a commencement speech at the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean in Kingston on Sunday.

The university also plans to award Moore an honorary doctor of laws.

“The Board of Directors of the UCC is elated that Governor Moore has consented to receive the honorary doctorate from our institution and to deliver the Commencement address,” university President Haldane Davies said in a statement. “He is a most eminent honouree and we are proud to welcome him to the UCC family and his maternal homeland.”

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The Democratic governor’s great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Jamaica, but the family returned under threats from the Ku Klux Klan, Moore says.

Moore’s grandfather came back to the U.S. as an adult and became the first Black minister in the Dutch Reformed Church. Moore often says his grandfather was the most patriotic person he’s known.

Moore, his sisters and his mother lived with that grandfather and his wife in the Bronx, New York, through much of Moore’s childhood.

This will be Moore’s fourth commencement speech of this graduation season. He’s previously spoken at Coppin State University, Morehouse College and Howard Community College.

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Hearing postponed for EBDI project

A Baltimore City Council hearing, originally scheduled for this past Monday and to be held now at a later date, will probe representatives from the East Baltimore Development Inc. nonprofit organization about the status of an 88-acre redevelopment project in East Baltimore, according to a draft of the resolution.

The revitalization work — anchored by a partnership of city officials, Johns Hopkins and private developers — kicked off in 2001 and has a proposed price tag of nearly $2 billion. Criticism of the project’s slow-moving timeline have loomed large over the development for years, and City Council members have requested a forensic audit to clarify questions for investors and community members about where project funds have gone.

City Councilman Robert Stokes, who represents East Baltimore, said the committee wanted to wait for a third-party auditor to complete its review of the project before scheduling a new hearing date.

“I always thought EBDI would be a good neighbor, but I’m the first councilperson to make sure [the audit] gets done,” Stokes said. “It is 20 years overdue.”

Stokes said EBDI originally proposed using an internal auditor to conduct the review, but City Council urged it to select an outside firm.

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Cheryl Washington, president and CEO of EBDI, said she didn’t know why the hearing was canceled but looked forward to presenting at a later date. She said the “impact audit” is underway.

A memo from City Comptroller Bill Henry’s office said the city’s auditor does not have the authority to conduct a forensic audit of an external nonprofit, but an outside auditor can audit city-granted funds, contracts, grants and other agreements. And a memo from the Baltimore Development Corp., a quasi-governmental agency, said while it had no objection to the resolution, it “does not play a role” in EBDI’s oversight or its work.

Baltimore County spends $1M for language translators, multilingual hires

Baltimore County wants to hire more employees who speak languages in addition to English. And after a three-year contract with multilingual interpreters used for emergency dispatch lapsed last May, County Council this month signed off on a new one that will work primarily with the 911 Call Center, county health department and state’s attorney’s office.

County Council approved $75,000 for a five-year contract with Alta Language Services Inc. to contrive and administer language “testing services” for employees and job candidates “to determine if their oral and written multi-language skills qualify them to serve as multilingual certified employees with translation abilities,” budget documents say.

The county’s public safety, health and public works departments are expected to rely on the contractor when screening some new hires. It’s seeking employees who speak Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Amharic (spoken by some in Ethiopia), French and German.

County Council also signed off this month on a contract with LanguageLine Solutions Inc., budgeting $958,000 over an approximate three-year, 10-month term. The California-based company will primarily help residents communicate with emergency dispatchers, as well as the county’s health department and state’s attorney’s office.

LanguageLine will also translate public documents and county websites — the contractor’s website says its interpreters can translate more than 260 languages, including American Sign Language. It mostly operates remotely; in-person interpreters could be arranged for county agencies “on an as-needed basis,” according to budget records.

911 Call Center operators call in language interpreters on a three-way phone call when residents can’t or prefer not to communicate in English. County budget documents claim that usually takes under a minute. According to budget documents, emergency dispatchers said they handled a monthly average of 2,850 calls for service requiring a translator in the last six months. The county had used LanguageLine in 2018, but its contract lapsed in May 2022. The company continued its services absent a contract, according to budget documents.

The county’s number of residents who immigrated to the U.S. tripled from 1990 to 2021; many come from Nigeria, Kenya, El Salvador and the Philippines, according to U.S. Census data.

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