Former television news anchor and Marriott executive Kathleen Matthews, who was just named interim chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, said Thursday that the selection of a four-year party chair will be “inclusive and transparent.”
Matthews, who is a resident of Montgomery County, unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Democratic nomination for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District seat.
She said she intends to run for a full term as party chair in May but will “empower the staff, central committees and build the party infrastructure in the meantime.”
Democrats are numerically dominant in Maryland, with a 2-to-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans, seven of eight congressional seats and veto-proof majorities in both houses of the state legislature. But the party has struggled to gain traction against popular first-term Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
In an interview last month, Matthews said she was approached about becoming party chair by senior Maryland Democrats — U.S. Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer.
She reached out to party leaders throughout the state and was named interim chair by the executive committee late Wednesday.
Her appointment was criticized by former Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin (D), who said the process smacked of insiderism. The state party “missed an opportunity to open up the space for a new and different kind of leadership,” said Ervin, who is the first African American woman to be elected to the council.
She said party leaders should have adopted the approach taken in the publicly contested race for Democratic National Committee chair, which was won by Maryland resident Thomas Perez, the former Labor secretary.
Matthews spent 25 years as a reporter and anchor for WJLA and was later a vice president at Marriott International, where her job included overseeing a political action committee that contributed more than $1 million to House and Senate candidates.
She serves on the board of Emerge Maryland, which helps prepare women to run for elected office, and is married to MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews.
In a statement from the party Thursday night, Matthews promised “an inclusive and transparent process going forward,” guided by party parliamentarian Greg Pecoraro and leading to the election of a chair to serve a four-year term that will include the 2018 gubernatorial race.
Pecoraro “will convene a diverse committee that will work over the next two months to oversee the process, including an open forum for the public and state central committee members to hear from prospective candidates,” the statement said.