July 25, 2017 at 5:02 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Madaleno runs as ‘progressive leader’ in Md. gubernatorial race

Maryland state Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) speaks with the Washington Blade outside his Kensington, Md., campaign office on July 20. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

KENSINGTON, Md. — Maryland state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) describes himself as a “progressive leader” among the Democratic candidates who are running for governor.

Madaleno pointed out to the Washington Blade during a nearly hour-long interview at his Kensington campaign office last week that he is the lead sponsor of a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Montgomery County Democrat also noted he has played an active role in the extension of marriage and other rights to LGBT Marylanders over the last two decades.

“Not only do I have a record of supporting and leading on progressive issues, I have a record of getting them done,” said Madaleno.

Madaleno on July 17 formally announced he is running to succeed Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. His husband, Mark Madaleno Hodge, and their two children, Jackson and Katie, joined him at his campaign announcement that he made at Universities at Shady Grove in North Potomac.

Madaleno, 52, has represented the 18th Senate District since 2007.

He became the first openly gay person elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 2002. Madaleno also worked for state Sen. Barbara Hoffman (D-Baltimore City) and the late state Del. Pete Rawlings (D-Baltimore City).

“I know more about the Baltimore region than I think people assume,” he told the Blade.

Former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and former State Department official Alec Ross are among the Democrats who have also announced they are challenging Hogan. Madaleno would become the first openly gay man elected governor in the U.S. if he were to win in 2018.

“I would be immensely proud of having that distinction,” said Madaleno.

Madaleno supports sodomy law repeal

Madaleno, who joined the FreeState Justice board of directors in 2000, is among the lawmakers and advocates who led efforts to secure passage of the state’s same-sex marriage bill then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law in 2012.

Madaleno in 2014 introduced a transgender rights measure that took effect later in the year. He also defeated Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer, who ran against him in the 2014 Democratic primary.

Madaleno told the Blade he would “absolutely” support a bill that would formally repeal Maryland’s sodomy law.

“[We would do] all of those things to make sure that we are in alignment of keeping the promise that we have made to LGBTQ Marylanders,” he said.

Hogan ‘ambivalent’ on LGBT issues

A recent poll indicates Hogan is the second most popular governor in the U.S., with a 68 percent approval rating. Madaleno has nevertheless emerged as one of Hogan’s most vocal critics.

Hogan said during his campaign against then-Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown that his position on marriage rights for same-sex couples has “evolved,” even though he voted against the 2012 law that legalized them. Madaleno told the Blade that Hogan has “been ambivalent” on LGBT-specific issues.

“He recognizes that he cannot win with his true feelings coming out,” he said.

He said he would work to ensure LGBT Marylanders and their families “can access all of the rights they have” in the state — birth certificates for trans people who have transitioned and children of same-sex couples — if he were elected. Madaleno added he would also appoint judges who will “faithfully follow the rules of the laws of the state and the rules that the U.S. Supreme Court has laid out.”

Madaleno has challenged Hogan’s support of the use of public funds to private schools that are not required to comply with Maryland’s nondiscrimination law. He has also criticized the governor on a host of other issues that include his handling of the proposed Purple Line between Bethesda and New Carrollton and appointing Maryland State Board of Education President Andrew Smarick and Maryland Health Care Commission Chair Robert Moffit, who have ties to the conservative American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation think tanks respectively.

“He’s going to fill his second-term administration with more and more of these people associated with these right-wing think tanks in Washington to try and use Maryland as a Petrie dish for crazy right-wing ideas, especially if Virginia succeeds in having another Democratic governor,” said Madaleno, referring to the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial race in which Lieutanant Gov. Ralph Northam is running against former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie to succeed Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “Their avenue is not going to be Richmond, but Annapolis.”

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Maryland state Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) (on left) and then-state Sen. Jamie Raskin on Feb. 4, 2014, spoke at hearing in Annapolis, Md., on a transgender rights bill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Madaleno also questioned Hogan’s ability to respond to the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act then-President Obama signed in 2010.

“There are going to be all sorts of decisions that are passed on to the states,” said Madaleno. “What sort of governor do you want making those decisions for the state? Do you want a conservative Republican or do you want a progressive Democrat who’s going to be looking out for all the people of the state, who believes health care is a human right and we’re stronger when people have access to quality, affordable health care or o you want someone who believes in the unfeterred free market?”

Madaleno suggests Trump should resign

Madaleno spoke with the Blade six months to the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

Madaleno said it “would be nice if (Trump) would just resign” over his campaign’s reported collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential election, but he stopped short of saying the president should be impeached. Madaleno told the Blade he supports Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s decision to file a federal lawsuit last month that alleges Trump is violating the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause because his businesses accept payments from foreign governments.

“I’m just as anxious about Mike Pence,” Madaleno told the Blade. “Pence shares many of the same, very bad and very regressive ideas. He just does it with better hair and maybe less drama.”

“It’s still hard to believe that Donald Trump is president of the United States and every day there’s a new revelation,” he added. “It’s so frightening because you don’t know.”

Hogan did not publicly support Trump during the campaign.

Madaleno sought to compare Hogan to Trump, noting he reappointed acting Planning Secretary Wendi Peters and acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader in spite of the fact the Maryland Senate did not approve their nominations. Hogan dismissed Frosh’s opinion earlier this month that said it is illegal to pay his cabinet nominees.

“Hogan displays some of the same executive arrogance that Trump does,” said Madaleno. “He does it in a more subtle way or it gets less attention because Trump is sucking up all the oxygen.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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