Campaigns for Maryland’s gubernatorial race have already begun to reach the St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) campus. One of the individuals seeking to beat Maryland’s incumbent Governor, Larry Hogan, is State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. Madaleno took meetings with an array faculty and staff members, held a Q&A session with a group of students and sat down with The Point News on Oct. 16. During The Point News’s interview with Sen. Madaleno, he explained that he thinks his record of public service makes him the best-qualified candidate to beat Gov. Hogan next year and take the highest executive office in the state.
Hogan, a Republican, is predicted not to have any challengers from within his own party. The Governor is set to face whomever the Democratic party awards their nomination to after their primary election on June 26. Albeit Hogan’s relative popularity, he is a rarity: a Republican governor in a majority-Democratic state. Many of the Democratic challengers to Hogan hope to tie him politically to the deeply unpopular United States President Donald Trump. To read more about the expansive field of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination please read “Maryland’s Upcoming Governor’s Race” in our late September edition of The Point News.
Madaleno argues that he is the best choice to take on Hogan due his 15 years of experience in the Maryland General Assembly (MGA), which is more than most of his competitors. Other than a stint away at college — at Syracuse University — Madaleno has lived his entire life in Maryland. He began his career at the state capitol in Annapolis as a legislative aide. Shortly after, in 2002, Madaleno was elected as Delegate to District 18, which includes parts of his hometown, Montgomery County. In 2006, Madaleno became a State Senator, representing the same district as he did during his time as a delegate. Currently, Madaleno is vice chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, but by running for governor he “forfeit[s] his chance to run for another term in the legislature,” according to The Washington Post.
Throughout his career, Madaleno has championed many progressive reforms. According to The Washington Post, he has a “strong social-justice record.” Madaleno is seen as a leader of LGTBQ issues. He led the charge to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. Madaleno was also the first openly-gay person elected to the MGA, and if elected, he will be the first openly-gay man to serve as governor in the United States (Kate Brown, the first openly bisexual woman, is currently the governor of Oregon).
Because Governor Hogan is popular in the state — his approval rating of 68 percent was the second highest in the nation this July according to CBS Baltimore — his Democratic opposition must first make the case that he is unfavorable in order to defeat him.
“The governor is a likable person.” Madaleno explains, “[Hogan] hasn’t done too many bad things, [but] he hasn’t done much. I think in these times with the Trump administration [and] Republicans in control of Congress, the states are more important than ever.” The Senator continued, telling The Point News why “having active state governments to stand up and protect the values that many of us hold dear as Democrats and Americans” are important in his mind. He explicated the difference on certain policy issues between Hogan and himself. Madaleno says, for example, “we need strong governors who are going to work to protect the health care that we’ve come to depend on.”
Furthermore, Madaleno believes that the Office of the Governor of Maryland has a “fundamental problem” which Hogan is exploiting. Madaleno told The Point News that the office of Governor is “too powerful.” According to Madaleno, Hogan has exercised “hubris.” At many times, according to Madaleno, Hogan has used his unilateral power to restrain Maryland from taking stances both against the Trump administration and for progressive action. He says Hogan did the prior by using “pocket signatures” which allow the governor to not take a stance on an issue all the while it goes into law unsigned, and the latter by setting budgets without the approval of the MGA.
On educational issues, Madaleno was proud to discuss the work he had done as a state senator to pass a bill which reduced the tuition at SMCM. He went as far as to say he intended to send his two children to the College. Outside of the SMCM campus, Madaleno has been working toward “debt-free college.” When asked how this differs from the plan of his Bernie Sanders-endorsed competitor, Ben Jealous, Madaleno spoke of practicality and maintaining “ownership” over one’s education.
Madaleno’s college affordability proposal, S.B. 1173, would ensure that individuals making “less than $125,000 a year would be [able to go to college] tuition free.” He explained that the proposal would give those students financial aid which would cover the cost of tuition.
On the note of climate change, Madaleno once again critiqued Hogan, this time for refusing to band together with other governors to fight climate change. Madaleno also told students at the Q&A session that Hogan has had lackluster attitudes towards enforcing environmental regulations. Madaleno implied he would strictly enforce environmental regulations and fight climate change if elected governor.
On matters of transportation, Madaleno stated his opposition to Hogan’s highway proposal — see “Maryland Governor Plans to Expand Highways” in the early October edition of The Point News — stating Hogan’s plan to add additional toll lanes to three major highways “does not make sense,” alleging that it does little despite “enormous cost.” Instead, Madaleno supports discussing additions reversible lanes to Maryland’s highways. He argues this would better fix the issue of congestion without the added environmental and societal impact of multi-lane expansion. Madaleno critiqued the plan for not being thought out, he explained that on Interstate 270 “it’s a bi-directional highway, but it’s a unidirectional rush-hour. Southbound in the morning and northbound in the evening.”
Madaleno hopes to build a campaign which works for all Marylanders. He went on to say that if elected governor, he would “be thoughtful in making sure that we have a state government that reflects the diversity of the state. In my appointments, such as cabinet officials to state boards, you will see a reflection of the state population.”
Some students in attendance seemed compelled by the Senator’s answers during his session. Henry Snurr, Class of ‘18 and state director of The Young Progressives Demanding Action, said via email “I certainly like him. Madaleno is very knowledgeable about matters [concerning] Maryland and he is willing to be a pragmatic [D]emocrat when he needs to be. He knows the issues and he has plenty of plans to move forward in a progressive and realistic way.”
When asked about gerrymandering — the practice of incumbent legislators drawing district lines to entrench their power — Madaleno responded suggesting that he would wait until Republicans agreed to give up some of their power strongholds before taking action. This answer did not satisfy the president of the College Democrats, Brandon Engle, who told The Point News via email that he was disappointed. Engle said, “While I admire Senator Madaleno’s progressive credentials on LGBTQ issues, college affordability, women’s issues, and more, it’s disheartening to see a lack of leadership on this critical issue in Maryland.”
When asked by The Point News “Why should a St. Mary’s student vote for you?” Madaleno said, “right now there is too much nostalgia for a past that really never existed, or if it did, only existed for a privileged few. We need to figure out a path forward that is going to embrace what our community is going to look like in the future.” He hopes that by running for governor he can fulfill the obligation he has felt since childhood to leave “the world a better place than how [I] found it.”