Gov. Moore’s cabinet secretaries advance toward confirmation

Published 2/6/2023 7:39 p.m. EST, Updated 2/6/2023 8:55 p.m. EST

Portia Wu, who Gov. Wes Moore nominated to be secretary of labor, speaks to the Senate Executive Nominations Committee in Annapolis on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.

About half of Gov. Wes Moore’s cabinet secretaries are on their way to Maryland Senate confirmation and being able to drop “acting” from their titles.

The Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted unanimously and without discussion to recommend nine secretaries Monday night. The next step will be a confirmation vote before the full Senate.

The new Democratic governor’s cabinet nominees had a relatively smooth path through their presentations before the committee, receiving many glowing remarks from senators and only a few tough questions.

Sen. Stephen Hershey and Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, both Republicans from the Eastern Shore, pressed the nominees for budget secretary, Helene Grady, and health secretary, Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, to commit to working on the lack of access to healthcare in rural areas.

Those two senators also urged Joshua Kurtz, the nominee for natural resources secretary, to listen to the concerns of commercial watermen, who they said have been unfairly blamed for the low oyster population, when disease and pollution are also factors.

When senators questioned her about unemployment, Portia Wu — the nominee for labor secretary — pledged to focus on improving the unemployment insurance program, which buckled amid overwhelming demand during the start of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving some out-of-work Marylanders without a financial safety net.

The other secretary nominees who won committee approval included: Carmel M. Roques for aging, Kevin M. Atticks for agriculture, Kevin Anderson for commerce, Katie Savage for information technology, and Susan C. Lee — a former state senator — for secretary of state.

Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, Gov. Wes Moore's nominee for secretary of health, answers questions from the Maryland Senate Executive Nominations Committee in Annapolis on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.

Next week, the Senate committee is expected to consider another batch of secretaries including the two most controversial: Paul J. Wiedefeld for transportation and Vincent Schiraldi for juvenile services.

Wiedefeld is the former chief of the D.C. Metro system, Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport and Maryland’s mass transit administration. At Metro, Wiedefeld dealt with safety and reliability problems and criticism from riders.

In his new job as state transportation secretary, Wiedefeld will face key decisions to make along with the governor on issues including whether to continue a highway widening project involving privately-built toll lanes, how to restart planning for Baltimore’s east-west Red Line transit project and finishing off the Purple Line rail project in the suburbs of D.C.

Schiraldi has started receiving scrutiny for his approach to juvenile justice, which favors education and rehabilitation for young offenders over punishment and incarceration. He also had a short and difficult stint running New York City’s vast Rikers Island jail complex.

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