The nomination of a prominent Montgomery County Republican to the Maryland Public Service Commission stalled in the General Assembly on Monday night as some senators privately wondered how a series of years-old partisan tweets might have affected his confirmation.
The Senate’s Executive Nominations Committee held its final meeting of the legislative session Monday without a hearing on the proposed appointment of Michael Higgs, a telecommunications lawyer and the chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, to the state Public Service Commission.
The panel must vote on appointees before they can be confirmed by the full Senate.
Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery), the committee chairman, said several senators had raised concerns about the tweets, which talked about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s physical appearance and took swipes at undocumented immigrants. “The question for us is always fitness for office,” Raskin said. “We were in no hurry to drag everyone into a discussion about all the tweets.”
Raskin said Gov. Larry Hogan (R) was not pressing for Higgs to be approved. Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said the governor asked the committee to hold off on the nomination because the Public Service Commission was in the final stages of a decision about the proposed Exelon-Pepco merger.
Mayer said delaying the vote on Higgs had nothing to do with the tweets, which the governor’s office recently became aware of.
It’s not clear how the tweets — which are three to six years old and predate Higgs’s election as county GOP chairman in late 2013 — came to light. Higgs’s Twitter account, @MightyTerp, has been shut down.
On Dec. 30, 2012, Higgs wrote: “HRC not being seen for 3 wks = covert facelift.”
From July 18, 2012: “Requiring ID to vote is not racist; Claiming minorities incapable of getting ID to vote is racist.”
Aug. 4, 2011: “newsflash Illegal alien immigrants now to be referred to as #UndocumentedDemocrats.”
Higgs, a lawyer with the firm Shulman Rogers, said he would “rather not comment” on the tweets but did not think they undermined his fitness to serve on the commission, which regulates utilities, telecommunications firms, railroad and taxi companies, and other businesses that serve the public.
Hogan’s other commission appointment, former Baltimore Gas and Electric customer-service officer Jeannette Mills, is also on hold.
Hogan could place them on the board through recess appointments later this year, enabling the committee to hold hearings when it returns next year. Mayer said no decision has been made.
Higgs had a bumpy 2014 as head of Montgomery’s GOP. The party dropped its support of District 1 County Council candidate Jim Kirkland after the disclosure of an anti-Semitic e-mail he wrote.
Higgs acknowledged that the party had no vetting process in place for primary candidates.