Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Douglas F. Gansler has narrowed his search for a running mate to a handful of names and is likely to announce his pick next month, his advisers said Monday.
Several African American officials from Baltimore and Prince George’s County are apparently in the mix. Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt (D) confirmed in an interview that she recently talked to Gansler about the lieutenant governor position.
Several state legislators, including Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. (D-Baltimore), have also had conversations with Gansler about the No. 2 slot, according to people with knowledge of the conversations but who were not authorized to speak on behalf of Gansler’s campaign.
Some of those lawmakers, including Sen. Catherine E. Pugh (D-Baltimore) and Del. Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), have said they are not interested, however.
Gansler, the state’s current attorney general, plans to make his 2014 gubernatorial bid official on Sept. 24, when he kicks off a week-long tour of the state. He will likely name his running mate a few weeks later, according to an adviser, who said that Gansler has not “formally or informally” offer the job to anyone yet.
“Doug believes that selecting a running mate is one of the most important decisions he will make as a candidate, and he is conducting a methodical and comprehensive lieutenant governor search process,” Gansler strategist Doug Thornell said Monday. “He hasn’t made a decision yet, but when he does, it’ll be based on who shares his positive vision for the state and who is prepared to serve as a real partner to build the best Maryland.”
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), Gansler’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination, kicked off his campaign in May and named his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D), in June.
A third Democrat, Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), announced her bid in July and has not named a lieutenant governor candidate yet.
Gansler, a former state’s attorney from Montgomery County who is white, signaled months ago that he plans to fill out his ticket with an African American from either Baltimore or Prince George’s, two of the state’s larger jurisdictions.
“It will be an African American, and it will be someone from Baltimore or Prince George’s,” he told a group of volunteers at a mid-July meeting in Annapolis that was recorded without Gansler’s knowledge. “I cannot overstate the amount of pressure I have from both of those places to get a person from there.”
Race is a prominent subtext in the 2014 race. In recent Maryland elections, African Americans have accounted for more than 35 percent of Democratic primary voters, according to exit polls. If elected, Brown would be the first black governor in Maryland history.
On Monday, Gansler advisers declined to say whether he still plans to tap someone from either Baltimore or Prince George’s or whether he would definitely pick an African American. But they stressed that, if elected, the makeup of Gansler’s administration would reflect Maryland’s diversity.
Gansler’s advisers, who requested anonymity to more freely discuss the selection process, declined to name any candidates under consideration. They said Gansler has looked at other people besides current officeholders for a possible running mate.
Weeks ago, for example, there were rumors of Gansler reaching out to Wes Moore, a young African American author, businessman and Army veteran from Baltimore who has not run for office before.
“Doug and I are friends, and I am flattered my name has come up in this context,” Moore said in an e-mail Monday. “But I am very focused on building my businesses here in Baltimore.”
Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and national NAACP leader, told The Post that he has also heard talk about Gansler courting him to fill out his ticket. “Not true,” said Mfume, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2006.
“He and I have never had a conversation about that,” Mfume said in a text message Friday.
Pratt, Baltimore’s comptroller, said that she and Gansler recently talked in “general terms” about the lieutenant governor’s job.
“The two of us met, and we had a nice conversation, and I enjoyed it,” said Pratt, who has held her position since 1995 and faced little opposition to reelection since then.
Pratt’s office is primarily responsible for conducting audits of city agencies and overseeing city real-estate transactions. She also sits on the Board of Estimates, which guides the fiscal policy of Baltimore and awards city contracts.
Asked if she would join Gansler’s ticket if asked, Pratt said: “I think it would be great to have someone from Baltimore City. I think that would be great.”
Ivey, who chairs the Prince George’s House delegation in Annapolis, declined to speculate as to whether she would take Gansler’s No. 2 spot.
“It hasn’t been offered, and I haven’t made a decision as to whether I would take it,” said Ivey, who is close to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and the wife of former Prince George’s State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey (D).
Del. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George’s), who previously led her county House delegation, has also had discussions with Gansler about his ticket, according to several of Griffith’s colleagues. Griffith declined to comment on her future political plans in a brief interview Monday.
Mitchell, a delegate whose Baltimore family has long been active in the civil rights movement, also declined to comment.
Jones, who has served as speaker pro tem, the No. 2 position in the House of Delegates since 2003, said that she has spoken to Gansler about the job and indicated she is not interested.
“I like what I’m doing now,” said Jones, who added that she is also supportive of Brown’s bid for governor.
Jones said that Gansler told her he would like to name an African American woman from the Baltimore area as his running mate if possible.
Pugh, a senator who has represented the city since 2007, also said she is not interested in the No. 2 slot on Gansler’s ticket.
“I’ve had conversations with Doug, but it’s not something I’m looking at right now,” Pugh said.