Ross said after he, Madaleno and other Democratic gubernatorial candidates participated in a March 25 forum at Hood College in Frederick that “the difference between me and like a state senator is a state senator prances around Annapolis talking about these issues where as an entrepreneur and somebody with real executive branch experience like myself has actually done it and knows how to do it.”
Madaleno campaign: Comments are a ‘dog whistle’
Madaleno’s campaign in a statement to the Washington Blade on Wednesday sharply criticized Ross.
“Using the term ‘prancing around’ while talking about Rich Madaleno clearly is a ‘dog whistle’ to the fact that he is the openly gay candidate and state senator running for governor,” it said. “Alec Ross certainly wouldn’t say Rushern Baker is ‘prancing around’ Prince George’s County, or that Krish Vignarajah was ‘prancing around’ while serving on first lady Obama’s staff.”
“At the very least this was a poor and insensitive choice of words,” adds the statement.
Madaleno has represented the 18th Senate District since 2007. He became the first openly gay person elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 2002.
Madaleno on Wednesday mocked the comment by pointing out on his Twitter page that he “pranced my way to victory” on banning assault weapons and fracking in Maryland, extending marriage rights to same-sex couples and securing free community college tuition. The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Madaleno, and elected officials who back the Montgomery County Democrat’s campaign to unseat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November have also criticized Ross, who was a senior State Department official during the Obama administration.
Pranced my way to victory with:
Assault rifle ban ✔
Marriage equality ✔
Fracking ban ✔
Free community college tuition✔
And I'll prance my way to the Governor's mansion this November https://t.co/XK5v0zhqqR
— Rich Madaleno (@RichMadaleno) March 28, 2018
Ross has lesbian running mate, gay campaign manager
Ross last month chose Julie Verratti, who co-founded Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring with her wife, Emily Bruno, and her brother-in-law, as his running mate. Ross’ campaign manager is gay. Verratti would become Maryland’s first out lieutenant governor if she and Ross are elected in November.
Ross and Verratti on Thursday strongly denied Madaleno’s accusations.
“The way Rich is characterizing this just doesn’t make sense,” Ross told the Blade during a conference call with Verratti. “He’s making this about his sexuality when it’s about the choice the voters have to make between new leaders with new ideas or the same old status quo politicians that have been around for umpteen years.”Ross acknowledged that Madaleno has “zeroed-in on the word prance.” Ross also told the Blade that “a lot of career politicians are a little too self-congratulatory and pat themselves on the back without end.”
“Why would I try to win a Democratic primary with a gay running mate and gay campaign manager and then attack someone’s sexuality,” said Ross. “It doesn’t make sense and it’s not compatible with who I am.”
Verratti told the Blade that Madaleno is “creating a controversy” to garner attention for his campaign.
“He knows damn well that Alec is an ally and a decent and good human being,” said Verratti. “He knows damn well that I’ve spent my entire life fighting for LGBT policies. I am an out gay woman. I understand what it’s like to be a gay person who is not totally gender conforming who gets called sir on a regular basis. I’ve been chased out of women’s bathrooms within the last two months. I understand all of those things. This is not a controversy.”
Verratti also sharply criticized Madaleno over his accusation that Ross is trying to “dog whistle” to people.
“That’s a really bad strategy if that’s your plan to pick an openly gay woman as your running and have an openly gay man as your campaign manager,” Verratti told the Blade. “That’s crazy.”
“I don’t know why Rich is trying to create this controversy,” she added.
Ross and Madaleno will face off against former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous; Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker; Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz; lawyer Jim Shea and Krishanti Vignarajah, in the June Democratic primary. The winner will run against Hogan in the general election.
A poll that Goucher University released on Feb. 22 indicates 19 percent of respondents would vote for Baker and 12 percent of respondents would vote for Kamenetz in the primary. Three percent of respondents said they would vote for Ross and two percent of respondents said they would vote for Madaleno.
Ross’ latest campaign finance report indicates his campaign has raised more than $1 million. Madaleno has raised just under $440,000, but is accepting public financing.