The Maryland Senate delayed confirmation votes Friday on five of Gov. Larry Hogan’s Cabinet nominees, a move that some Democrats say was intended to show displeasure at a speech by the Republican criticizing how the state operated during the tenure of his Democratic predecessor, Martin O’Malley.
With limited discussion, the Democratic-led chamber agreed to a motion by Senate President Pro Tem Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-Baltimore) to put off votes on the five nominees until next Friday. All five sailed through confirmation hearings before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee earlier in the week.
Asked by reporters afterward if Hogan’s maiden State of the State address was at issue, McFadden said: “One could say that.”
“That kind of set the tone for us fulfilling our advice-and-consent powers in a more effective manner,” he said. “We just want to make sure that the best individuals are running the agencies.”
In his speech, Hogan described Maryland’s economy as “floundering” and blamed “high taxes, over-regulation and an anti-business attitude” during eight years under a Democratic governor and legislature. Many Democrats said the rhetoric was more akin to a campaign speech. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) also blasted Hogan for proposing tax cuts and other measures that Miller said were not likely to pass.
Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery), who chairs the committee that approved the nominees Monday, noted that “the temperature has certainly gone up over the course of the week.”
Asked about Friday’s Senate action, Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer stressed the governor’s desire to work with the legislature in a bipartisan fashion. “As Governor Hogan said numerous times . . . working with both Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan fashion will be the only way we truly move Maryland forward,” he said.
Sen. Justin D. Ready (R-Carroll), a Hogan ally, said later Friday that he was optimistic the Senate would act quickly on the nominees, which include Hogan’s choices for budget and health secretaries. They are the first five of about two dozen Cabinet members whose nominations require Senate approval. They have been serving in an acting capacity while awaiting confirmation.
“The governor has assembled a very qualified team,” Ready said.
Miller said some senators had concerns about Hogan’s nominees but declined to provide details. He said the concerns are “not across the board, believe me.” The five nominees whose consideration was delayed are:
●David R. Brinkley for secretary of the Department of Budget and Management. Brinkley is a former senator from Frederick County who was defeated in last year’s Republican primary.
●Van T. Mitchell for secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Mitchell is a former Democratic delegate from Charles County who served as deputy health secretary under former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). More recently, he has worked as an Annapolis lobbyist.
●Kelly M. Schulz for secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Schulz resigned as a Republican delegate from Frederick County in January.
●David R. Craig for secretary of the Department of Planning. Craig left office as Harford county executive in December and is a former Republican delegate and state senator. He lost to Hogan in the GOP primary for governor.
●George W. Owings for secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Owings held the same position under Ehrlich. He previously served as a Democratic delegate from Calvert County.