University of Maryland band nixes Confederate state song, could lawmakers be next?

The University of Maryland marching band said Monday it would drop its longtime practice of playing the state song before football games.“Maryland, My Maryland” — set to the tune of the Christmas carol “O Tannenbaum” — is the latest pro-Confederacy expression to come under fire in Maryland in the wake of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., this month. The song includes nine verses that served as a bloody call to action against President Abraham Lincoln and the “northern scum.”Lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully for years to change the song, either by rewriting the lyrics or scrapping it entirely. Two years ago, the General Assembly asked the state archives to convene an advisory committee to examine the song; the panel urged lawmakers to revise or replace the song.Now the Mighty Sound of Maryland, the marching band of the state’s flagship university, has abandoned it. University spokeswoman Katie Lawson said the band decided to suspend playing the controversial tune to “evaluate if it is consistent with the values of our institution at this time.”The song is also getting renewed attention from state lawmakers, who predicted they would revisit it when the General Assembly returns to work in January.For years, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan said, complaints about the state song were seen in Annapolis as frivolous or silly. But now, she said, people are beginning to take the issue more seriously.“It is symbolic of a time in our long-ago history,” the Montgomery County Democrat said. “Calling Abraham Lincoln — one of our most revered presidents — a tyrant and a despot is absurd and offensive.“It’s time to make a change.”Kagan said she wants to eliminate the state song, then hold a contest in which Marylanders would submit ideas for new songs for lawmakers to consider.The lyrics of “Maryland, My Maryland” are drawn from an 1861 Continue Reading

Hogan, Leggett sell $3B tax break for Amazon HQ2 in Montgomery as economic boom for all of Maryland

The $3 billion in tax breaks that Gov. Larry Hogan is offering to entice Amazon to build its second headquarters in Montgomery County would benefit all of Maryland, not just the affluent Washington suburb, representatives of the Republican governor told lawmakers Wednesday. “If Montgomery County wins, every corner of the state of Maryland wins, and wins significantly,” Commerce Secretary Michael Gill said. The deal being offered to the massive online retailer would be the largest economic incentive package in Maryland history. Montgomery’s bid for what the Seattle-based tech giant is calling “HQ2” beat out a Hogan-backed proposal for Baltimore, which was seen as a long shot but one with the potential for major impact in a region that has greater economic challenges. The governor shifted his focus to Montgomery County after Amazon announced in January that it was one of 20 finalists for the project. Montgomery County is the state’s most populous jurisdiction. The Amazon development is expected to bring as many as 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in corporate investment. Lawmakers did not dwell on what could have been for Baltimore, but focused on ensuring Maryland as a whole would benefit from a deal for Montgomery County. “This is $5 billion,” said Del. Nick Mosby, a Baltimore Democrat. “We have to look at it differently.” Legislation that Hogan is calling the PRIME Act — named for Amazon’s membership program — would provide incentives to any Fortune 100 company that agreed to create at least 40,000 jobs that pay an average of $100,000 a year. The proposal would provide $10 million a year out of the state’s Sunny Day business incentive fund, a state sales tax exemption for construction materials and a 10-year annual tax credit equal to 5.75 percent of each new job’s wages. Legislative analysts have said the package could cost state and local governments $6.5 billion over the next 35 Continue Reading

Rep. Elijah Cummings hospitalized, wife Maya Rockeymoore Cummings drops out of Maryland governor race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maya Rockeymoore Cummings suspended her campaign Friday “due to personal considerations.” Later in the day, Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, her husband, announced that he has been hospitalized for the past week in the latest in a string of health setbacks. The emailed statement from the Rockeymoore Cummings campaign did not elaborate on why she dropped out of the crowded primary race for governor, and the campaign did not respond to a request for comment. The congressman’s office declined to answer a question about whether his health was related to his wife’s political decisions, or when he would return to Capitol Hill. Cummings was hospitalized Dec. 29 for what his office said was a bacterial infection in his knee. He underwent what aides called a “minor procedure” at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Aides could not say when he would be released. Cummings, 66, missed several months of work last year after complications from a minimally invasive heart surgery in mid-May. The congressman told The Baltimore Sun over the summer that an infection prolonged his recovery. Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, returned to Washington in September following his initial recovery and, while slimmer, kept a robust schedule. He spoke with The Baltimore Sun the week before the House adjourned for its Christmas break. Rockeymoore Cummings, a public policy consultant, was the last of eight Democrats running for governor to declare her candidacy and the first to drop out of the contest. In October, she gained the potentially lucrative endorsement of the national political group Emily’s List, which works to elect female candidates. Rockeymoore Cummings has worked in and around politics for decades but was a first-time candidate. Her decision to drop out of the race comes weeks before a crucial fundraising reporting deadline that will reveal how much the Democrats Continue Reading

Rockeymoore Cummings drops out of Maryland governor’s race

HANDOUT - Maya Rockeymoore Cummings announced Friday that she is suspending her gubernatorial bid in Maryland. (Rockeymoore Cummings campaign ) (Nate Pesce/Rockeymoore Cummings campaign) Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, a policy consultant who is married to U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md), is dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor, citing “personal considerations.” Cummings, the second woman and the last of eight candidates to enter the crowded race, launched her campagin three months ago. “Making a positive and direct contribution to the state of Mayland and to our nation was my greatest motivating factor for stepping into the public arena,” Cummings said in a statement. “Unfortunately due to personal considerations, I am suspending my bid for governor of Maryland.” A spokesman for her campaign did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The announcement comes just weeks before candidates must file reports on fundraising, which will provide a strong indication of how well they might fare against popular and well-financed Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is seeing a second term.Rockeymoore Cummings had difficulty getting her campaign off the ground despite receiving a key endorsement from Emily’s List, a political action committee that pushes to elect Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights. Before she launched her bid, nine percent of voters in a Goucher Poll, taken in September, said they would consider voting for her. Rockeymoore Cummings has worked in politics as a staffer on Capitol Hill and for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, but was not widely known in Maryland politics. The bid for governor was her first run for public office. As a small business owner, Rockeymoore focused her campaign on addressing economic inequality. Her decision leaves just one woman, Krishanti Vignarajah, a former policy aide to Michelle Obama, remaining in the Continue Reading

Ben Jealous Is Running for Governor of Maryland—and He Has an Inspired Agenda

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous entered the race for governor of Maryland with an honest complaint and an audacious promise. In an era when Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and Paul Ryan are working feverishly to reverse the progress of the past century, Jealous argues that progressive states are positioned to build the framework for the progress of the coming century. Decrying the failure of Republican Governor Larry Hogan and his statehouse allies to resist the new administration in Washington, Jealous declared in his announcement this week that “The current leadership has missed every opportunity to stand up to Donald Trump. They have let him trample over the progress our state strived to usher in. We have a rare opportunity right now and hidden inside of it, an obligation. We must bring people together across all lines, and make all forms of difference less important: whether it be race, class, region or religion.” In that unity, argues Jealous, there is the power not just to thwart Trump and Trumpism but to shape an alternative vision for the next American politics. Jealous faces Democratic primary competition and, if he gets the nomination, a challenging political fight with a well-financed Republican incumbent. But he enters the race with a striking résumé and an inspired agenda that is all but certain to make the Maryland contest a key measure of the national mood in 2018. With deep roots in Maryland—his parents were Baltimore educators and civil-rights activists—Jealous speaks of uniting the state around an economic- and social-justice agenda that extends from his groundbreaking work as executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (the federation of African-American community newspapers), as director of the US Human Rights Program at Amnesty International, and as the youngest president in the history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Jealous has for years earned Continue Reading

Unfortunate son! Coast Guard commander’s kid Martin Yamin throws away the easy life for a life of crime

In 1951, the newly elected Republican governor of Maryland continued a musty political tradition by seating a new slate of patronage hacks as Baltimore traffic court magistrates. They included Martin Yamin, just 27. Yamin’s father, Joseph, was a Coast Guard commander who had wheedled a Naval Academy nomination for his son. But he belly-flopped as a midshipman and was sent home “for the good of the service.” He tried college but washed out there, too. He ran for state legislature and lost badly but somehow ended up on Gov. Ted McKeldin’s fresh cronyism list. The magistrate gig seemed like just the ticket—decent money at $4,500 a year, and no qualifications necessary. But after a few weeks on the bench, Yamin “got loud” with a cop who stopped him for speeding. “Do you know who I am?” the callow magistrate bellowed. The cop didn’t, and Yamin should have left it that way. His insolence prompted the annoyed officer to check Yamin’s record. He learned that Yamin had lived in traffic court long before the magistrate’s appointment, with 13 appearances in eight years. His driver’s license had been suspended at the time of the shouting match. Police tipped the Baltimore press, which squawked about “ripe plums” on the traffic court bench. The governor did some pruning, and loudmouth Yamin lost his job. But he wasn’t out of the papers for long. He proved to be the sort of man “to whom trouble comes in battalions,” said the Baltimore Sun. It was all of his own making. For some, crime is as easy as one-two-three. For Yamin, it was as knotty as calculus. Cops finally caught up to hit man Augie Robles in Harlem. First, he was charged with stealing $400 from an insurance firm where he worked as a claims adjuster. While that case was pending, he and some pals conspired to fake a Continue Reading

Sanders, O’Malley decry reports of plans to deport families

The Democratic presidential campaigns are denouncing reports that the Obama administration is planning to deport families who have fled to the United States from Central America."As we spend time with our families this holiday season, we who are parents should ask ourselves what we would do if our children faced the danger and violence these children do?" said Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont.Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland, said that "we are a better nation than this."O'Malley also tweeted that a "Christmas Refugee Roundup" sounds like something Donald Trump would concoct. He added, "Remember: Jesus was a refugee child who fled death gangs."Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokesperson for the Clinton campaign, said the former secretary of state "has real concerns about these reports, especially as families are coming together during this holiday season."Clinton believes that all migrants deserve "a full and fair hearing, and that our country provides refuge to those that need it," she added. "And we should be guided by a spirit of humanity and generosity as we approach these issues."O'Malley's spokesperson, Lis Smith, pointed out in a tweet that Clinton has backed the idea of deportations.Earlier this year, Clinton said deportations would dissuade Central American parents from sending their unaccompanied children over the border.“Specifically with respect to children on the border, if you remember, we had an emergency, and it was very important to send a message to families in Central America: Do not let your children take this very dangerous journey,” Clinton has been quoted as saying.The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, said immigration officials at the Department of Homeland Security are planning a series of raids to deport hundreds of families who fled to the United States from Central America since the start of last year.The operation "would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from Continue Reading

Montini: 11 governors (not ours) choose people over politics in fight for health care

The good news is there are 11 governors in America who recognize that they don’t work for one political party or another, but for the people who elected them. The bad news is, ours isn’t one of them.Gov. Doug Ducey has decided to sell out Arizona’s most needy citizens (and pretty much everyone else) by announcing his support for the latest, last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare with a bill that hasn’t been vetted through any congressional committees, for which there have been no hearings, no testimony, no opportunity to knock around ideas to find the best possible solution.Ten governors signed one letter (another wrote one of his own) asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to drop the latest legislative scheme that could mean disaster for citizens of some states.Like, for instance, ours.In their letter, the governors ask only that the Senate follow its own rules and go about the process of creating health care legislation the right way.They write in part: “We ask you to support bipartisan efforts to bring stability and affordability to our insurance markets. Legislation should receive consideration under regular order, including hearings in health committees and input from the appropriate health-related parties.”Those who signed it include five Democrats (Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards), four Republicans (Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott) and one independent (Alaska Gov. Bill Walker).The Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, wrote a letter of his own expressing similar sentiments.The bipartisan group isn’t asking for the moon. They’re asking for a common sense approach that would, in the end, “control costs, stabilize the market, and positively impact coverage and care of millions of Continue Reading

Diane Black enters race for governor of Tennessee

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, is entering the 2018 race for governor of Tennessee, ending months of speculation and adding a deep-pocketed candidate who is widely considered a front-runner to an already-crowded Republican field. Black, a staunch conservative from Sumner County who is in her fourth term representing Tennessee's 6th Congressional District, will formally announce her candidacy in an online video to be released Wednesday. In the video, Black discusses her rise from humble beginnings while labeling herself as a conservative fighter ready to take on liberals. "Most people in politics say the right things, but they never fight for the right things," Black says in the 90-second clip. "They're too meek or maybe even too weak ... I don't back down. Maybe's it's because I grew up in a family where we had nothing or maybe it's because I was a single mom working in the night-shift as a nurse. It's just how I'm wired."Black, 66, joins the race with the most name recognition of the five leading Republican contenders, polling suggests, and a track record of championing conservative causes in Congress. Black enjoys ties to both establishment and tea party Republican politics, a strong fundraising prowess and the ability to self-finance some of her campaign. She touts her pro-life record and how she fought against a GOP-led state income tax plan when she was a state lawmaker."I believe in secure borders and tough choices in cutting spending and beating the liberals instead of caving into them," she says. Her seven years in Washington could lead to attacks from her opponents and Republican primary voters dismayed with the Beltway. And though popular among many tea party-aligned Republicans, Black will face other candidates who pull from the same base. While well-known in Middle Tennessee, Black is not as familiar in East and West Tennessee.  Impact on Continue Reading

Death of Sen. Edward Kennedy brings close to Camelot legend; Ted last of big name Kennedy brothers

The Kennedy brothers built up the myth of Camelot, that if the  sons of a bootlegger-turned-businessman strove hard enough, they could capture the country's highest political offices. A generation later, their children have  chosen to make their mark in quieter ways, suggesting the family's powerful political dynasty died with Ted Kennedy. "Certainly, Camelot as we knew it is over," said Will Swift, author of "The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm." The grandkids of Joseph Kennedy,  whom Ted Kennedy once said put a "blowtorch" on his kids to succeed, grew up with the burden of their family's expectations. John F. Kennedy Jr. seemed most capable of carrying the mantle, only to die in a plane crash en route to a cousin's wedding in 1999. "The death of John F. Kennedy Jr. signaled that generation really didn't have anyone of that calibre or political charisma to pick up the torch," said Thomas Whalen, a social science professor at Boston University. His sister Caroline, known for her philanthropic work for city schools, disastrously dipped her toe in the political waters this year, seeking Hillary Clinton's empty Senate seat, only to  drop  out after a series of gaffes. Those who have succeeded politically have done so on a smaller stage - Patrick Kennedy as a representative for Rhode Island, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as lieutenant governor of Maryland, Robert Shriver as a Santa Monica councilman. Maria Shriver, of course, is California's first lady. The other grandchildren have explored routes outside of elected office to tackle the same societal ills that their fathers fought. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. chairs an alliance of environmental groups focusing on waterway pollution, and Rory Kennedy films documentaries about poverty and AIDS. Ted Kennedy Jr., who lost a leg to cancer, fights for the disabled, while Kerry Kennedy created an award for journalists who uncover human rights abuses. And the children of Eunice Kennedy Continue Reading