Mikulski Convenes Meeting of Party Leaders With Eye Toward ’16

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By: Josh Kurtz 

Distressed by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's defeat in last week's gubernatorial election and with an eye toward her own reelection bid in two years, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) is calling a meeting of Democratic leaders for next Monday to discuss "the path to new leadership" at the state party and "victory in 2016," according to a memo obtained by Center Maryland.

An email sent Monday evening by current state Democratic Chairwoman Yvette Lewis to top state Democrats conveys Mikulski's desire to meet -- and the veteran senator's apparent plan to exert greater control over the state party operation.

The email was sent to members of the so-called State Advisory Committee, which consists of the Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation, statewide elected officials, and the presiding officers of the General Assembly. Mikulski only wants officials who will be in office after Gov.-elect Larry Hogan (R) has taken office in mid-January to attend the meeting next Monday morning at state party headquarters in Annapolis -- in other words, no Brown or Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

The email from Lewis reads:

"Dear SAC,

"Please see the below message from Senator Barbara Mikulski:

"Election results have cast upon me the role of titular leader of the MD Democratic Party. I ask for your help and counsel at this time. To that end, I am convening:

         -a SAC meeting

        -Mon, Nov 17 at 8:30am

        -at MD Party HQ in Annapolis


      -elected officials (limited to those holding office after Jan 21, 2015)

      -NO staff


      -Yvette Lewis will provide us with the state of party and party fiscal situation

      -we will discuss the path to new leadership

      -fiscal stability

      -victory in 2016

Thanking you in advance for your cooperation."

Democratic sources have said in recent days that Mikulski, the only statewide elected official who is in cycle in 2016, is hoping to install a loyalist as the new chairman of the state party. Speculation will inevitably turn to Del. Maggie McIntosh (D), the chairwoman of the House Environmental Matters Committee, a close Mikulski ally who has done consulting work for the state party and Democratic coordinated campaign in the past several election cycles.

It's hard to imagine McIntosh wanting to become state Democratic chairwoman -- and it's equally hard to imagine Mikulski being in any way vulnerable as she seeks a record-shattering sixth term, despite Brown's drubbing last week. But McIntosh may not be able to turn away Mikulski's entreaties.

Coincidentally, McIntosh is likely a leading contender, along with Del. Adrienne Jones (D), to chair the House Appropriations Committee come January, now that Appropriations Chairman Norm Conway (D) and the heir-apparent, Del. John Bohanan (D), lost reelection bids last week.

The budget will be a big area of dispute between the Democratic legislature and Hogan in the months ahead, and legislative leaders will be looking for someone who can play both the inside game and the outside game -- skills McIntosh possesses -- to take the Appropriations gavel.

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.

But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.

The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.

In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.

Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.