Maryland, Baltimore City, Baltimore County politics

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has been traveling plenty lately on personal political business — to Iowa, New Hampshire, and Oregon — and now he’s out of town on government business.

The term-limited Republican is in the midst of a two-week trip to Asia, visiting South Korea and Japan on what’s described as an “economic development mission.”

Hogan has planned a mix of economic development meetings and visits with leaders, including a meeting with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. He’s scheduled to return to the U.S. on Sept. 24.

“For eight years, our administration has worked to expand partnerships with key allies, and I have no doubt that this mission will result in new opportunities for cultural and economic exchanges,” Hogan said in a statement before he left town on Monday.

This will be the governor’s final overseas trip before he ends his second term in January and fittingly echoes his first overseas trip, also to Asia, in 2015.

It was on that first trip that Hogan discovered a lump in his neck that turned out to be a sign of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer he was treated for successfully.

Hogan has also traveled to Australia, Canada, China, England, France, Ireland and Israel on state business over the course of his two terms. He also attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland earlier this year.

Joining Hogan on the trip: Amelia Chassé Alcivar, chief of staff; Edward Burchell and Carter Imes, special assistants; Ben Wu, special advisor on international relations, trade and cultural affairs; Alex Choi, policy advisor to the governor’s deputy chief of staff; Jimmy Rhee, special secretary of small, minority and women business affairs; Jessica Reynolds, senior director of international investment and trade for the Department of Commerce; Mary E. “Mendy” Nitsch, director of international affairs for the Department of Commerce; and Hui-Min Tzeng, senior regional manager for East Asia for the Department of Commerce.

Hogan’s wife, Yumi Hogan, who was born in South Korea, is also on the trip, along with her Chief of Staff, Eun Yong Hong, and Senior Assistant, Erin Kim.

How much is this costing Maryland taxpayers? The governor’s office hasn’t answered our questions about the cost.

Former Olszewski spokesman returns, with a promotion

After two top aides left Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s administration within weeks of each other this summer, the first-term Democrat announced this week he’s bringing back an old face to head government communications.

Olszewski rehired his former press secretary Sean Naron, who in March left his county post to direct campaign communications for Tom Perez. Perez, the former U.S. labor secretary and Democratic National Committee chair lost his primary to be Maryland’s next governor.

Olszewski first appointed Naron in late 2019 to replace spokesman T.J. Smith, a former city police spokesman who left the county to run, unsuccessfully, for Baltimore mayor. Naron was also named deputy communications director in 2020 on top of his role as press secretary.

Naron’s return comes as Olszewski shuffles his closest aides. Naron, who will earn $135,000, will replace his former boss, Dori Henry, who was appointed interim chief of staff.

Henry took on the job after Patrick Murray, one of Olszewski’s first hires upon his election, left the administration in August. Murray’s departure came shortly after Deputy County Administrative Officer Drew Vetter, another of Olszewski’s first appointments, stepped down in July. Vetter took a job with Annapolis law and lobbying firm Schwartz, Metz, Wise & Kauffman, P.A.

“Sean is a dedicated and skilled communicator who brings unparalleled experience ensuring the public has access to the critical information they need and deserve,” Olszewski said in a statement.

“I’m thrilled to have him return to our team as we continue implementing our vision for a better Baltimore County,” he said.

Naron, 32, comes with a wealth of experience. He was previously a campaign spokesman for the late Kevin Kamenetz and then Olszewski in 2018. Before that, he was press secretary for former Planned Parenthood leader Dr. Leana Wen, worked as a speechwriter and deputy press secretary for former Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and was the city health department’s public information officer from 2015 to 2017.

No Noem for the Maryland GOP

Maryland Republicans were looking forward to hearing from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem at their annual fundraising dinner in College Park next week.

But Noem pulled out of the event because she needed to have surgery for a back injury, according to Maryland Republican Party Chair Dirk Haire. That left the GOP scrambling to find a replacement with just 10 days’ notice.

The GOP ended up landing another big name in conservative circles: Kellyanne Conway, former advisor to President Donald Trump. The event is Sept. 22 at The Hotel at the University of Maryland. Tickets start at $200 and go up to $20,000. Each attendee will get a signed copy of Conway’s memoir, “Here’s the Deal: A Memoir.”

Republicans who want to hear from Noem, who has been floated as a potential presidential or vice presidential candidate in 2024, won’t have to wait too long. Haire said she’s agreed to do an event for the Maryland GOP in the spring.

Debate debate continues

Socialist Jerome Segal is continuing his fight against Maryland Public Television for excluding him from a debate during the gubernatorial primary season earlier this year.

MPT requires participating candidates to show they’ve generated “significant voter interest” as demonstrated by poll results, fundraising or media coverage. MPT left out Segal and perennial candidate Ralph Jaffe from a Democratic gubernatorial primary debate on the grounds they didn’t meet the criteria.

Segal filed a legal challenge that he continues to pursue. In his latest court filing, Segal claims that MPT “illegally and unconstitutionally favored” certain candidates. A motions hearing is scheduled for Nov. 2.

MPT’s lawyers have asked for the case to be dismissed, arguing that Segal’s requests, such as removing the debate video from the internet, are unreasonable.

“In sum, this is a case of a fringe political candidate who failed to meet established, publicly available, viewpoint-neutral, and constitutionally protected eligibility criteria for a debate who now, after the fact — and, indeed, after conceding the election — seeks the unconstitutional relief of prior restraints and compelled speech from a state agency that is immune to suit,” MPT’s lawyers wrote.

Segal maintains that he should have been included because he won 3% of the vote in 2018 when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2018 as a Bread and Roses Party Democratic Socialist against Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. He also notes that he got more than 15,000 signatures to establish the Bread and Roses Party (which he later disbanded).

Even though the primary election is over, and Segal finished second to last with less than 1% of the vote, he says the issue is still relevant because MPT is likely to hold debates in future elections.

That is, of course, true: MPT has lined up Democratic nominee Wes Moore and Republican nominee Dan Cox for a debate on Oct. 12. The candidates from the Libertarian, Green and Working Class parties have not been invited.

David Lashar, the Libertarian candidate for governor, told supporters in a recent email that MPT is “preventing Maryland voters from hearing from alternatives to the Ds and Rs” by not including third-party candidates in the debate.

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