By Josh Kurtz

Three-quarters of Maryland voters want employers to provide robust paid sick leave benefits to their workers, according to a poll conducted for advocacy groups.

Specifically, 74 percent of survey respondents supported requiring companies with at least 15 employees to provide five days of paid sick leave each year to full-time employees. A bill that emerged from the legislature this year would have accomplished just that, but was vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who had a less comprehensive proposal for paid sick leave.

Fifty-seven percent of those polled said they favored legislators overturning Hogan’s veto when they return to work in January.

“This poll has confirmed what we already knew,” said Caryn York, executive director of the Job Opportunities Task Force, one of the advocacy groups that commissioned the poll. “Marylanders from every corner of the state support this legislation, because no one should have to choose between their paycheck and their health.”

The poll of 625 regular Maryland voters was conducted Sept. 27-30 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy Inc. It had a 4-point margin of error.

Support for the paid sick leave measure was at 80 percent or greater in Baltimore city, central Maryland and Prince George’s County, and topped 60 percent in more conservative areas like Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore/Southern Maryland. Eighty-one percent of women and 67 percent of men favored the proposal. Even 59 percent of Republicans said they supported the idea.

By region, support for overriding Hogan’s veto ranged from 67 percent in Baltimore city to 44 percent on the Eastern Shore/Southern Maryland.

Hogan and other members of his administration have been exhorting business groups and other civic leaders to help them whip up opposition to a veto override.

“Governor Hogan supports common sense paid sick leave,” his spokeswoman, Amelia Chasse, said in a statement. “The governor is committed to working with legislators, small business owners, workers, and advocates on a common sense, bipartisan, balanced plan that provides paid leave benefits to hardworking Marylanders without hurting our small business job creators. Fortunately, House Bill 1 was not slated to take effect until January, which means there is still time to get this right and compromise on a better bill.”

Endorsement Roundup. Ben Jealous, the former NAACP president and Democratic candidate for governor, is getting a major endorsement on Thursday from the Service Employees International Union, a powerhouse in Democratic primaries with a time-tested get-out-the-vote operation. SEIU represents 45,000 workers in Maryland.

Ben Jealous is picking up a major endorsement on Thursday.
Last week, Jealous was endorsed by the National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union of registered nurses.

“Nurses are proud to endorse former NAACP President Ben Jealous for Governor because of his inspiring vision for Maryland and his track record of activism and advocacy for social, economic, and racial justice,” said Sandy Falwell, a registered nurse who is a resident of Clinton, Md., and an NNU vice president. “As nurses, we see the devastating effects of a deeply flawed healthcare system on our patients every day. We are excited to stand with Ben Jealous because he shares nurses’ vision of a single payer/Medicare for All healthcare system that provides all Marylanders with the quality care they need, and because he shares nurses’ values of caring, compassion and community.”

Like Jealous, the NNU supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during his run for the White House last year.

Jealous is one of several candidates who have gotten significant endorsements in recent days:

*Vaughn Stewart, an attorney and one of several Democrats running for the House of Delegates in Montgomery County’s District 19, was endorsed by former state Attorney General Steve Sachs (D).

“Vaughn has the policy savvy and the work ethic necessary to be an incredibly effective Delegate,” Sachs said, “He is exactly the kind of tireless advocate we need in Annapolis.”

*Andrew Friedson, a former top aide to Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) who is running for the Montgomery County Council in District 1, rolled out several endorsements the other day coinciding with his campaign kickoff. They were: Franchot, state Sens. Brian Feldman (D) and Craig Zucker (D), and Susie Turnbull, the former state Democratic chairwoman and one-time Democratic National Committee vice chair.

“Andrew Friedson represents the very best of people who’ve ever worked for me,” Franchot said.

*The Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club on Wednesday announced that it was endorsing 52 incumbent state senators and delegates – all Democrats – for re-election. See the full list.

“These Sierra Club endorsed candidates have demonstrated strong leadership in promoting clean air, clean water, and cleaner energy for a healthier Maryland,” said Josh Tulkin, director of the Maryland Sierra Club.

The Maryland chapter aims to raise $100,000 to support pro-environment candidates in the 2018 election cycle – and has collected about $40,000 so far.

Franchot Files. To the surprise of no one, Franchot filed for re-election late last week. He is seeking a fourth term.

What is surprising is that Franchot has no Democratic primary opponent, since many party insiders are furious with him for his close relationship with Hogan and vocal criticism of legislative leaders. But Franchot continues to thrive with his own special sauce of political savvy and public service.

Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) is seeking a fourth term.
“I don’t work for the Annapolis insiders,” Franchot, who has served in Annapolis for 31 straight years, says in an announcement video. “I don’t work for the political bosses. I work for you.”

The 1,001st Friend. 1000 Friends of Maryland, the environmental and smart growth advocacy group, announced Wednesday that it has hired John Campagna to be its next executive director when Dru Schmidt-Perkins, the organization’s long-time leader, steps down next month.

Campagna has worked in high tech and finance as well as being an environmental activist – a useful combination in the modern advocacy world. As the founder of Restore Capital, he has worked with organizations such as Corvias, GreenVest LLC, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, and others

“John takes the helm of this organization that has a strong record,” said Dale Sams, 1000 Friends’ board chairman. “We see the impact of 20 years of strategic and effective advocacy everywhere, including new state laws, stronger regulations, and policies that strengthen our communities and protect rural areas from costly, polluting sprawl development.”

Schmidt-Perkins, who helped launch the organization and previously was a regional director for the group Clean Water Action, announced in May that she would step down after 19 years at the helm. 1000 Friends is hosting a farewell dinner to salute Schmidt-Perkins on Nov. 8.

“People are often surprised at how small this organization is,” Sams said. “But when you have a strong team, smart strategy, and effective coalition leadership you can have a powerful impact.”

Party Up. The Maryland Democratic Party this week announced that it has brought on three new staffers.

Fabion Seaton will manage the party’s communications and messaging strategy, replacing Bryan Lesswing, who took a job at Emily’s List. Seaton most recently served as the press secretary for U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). Prior to that, he worked for former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and former Baltimore city Del. Jill Carter (D). He grew up in Prince George’s County and is a graduate of Frostburg State University.

Saif Ratul will manage the party’s field operation, after serving as the deputy field director for the 2016 Maryland Democratic Coordinated Campaign. Prior to that, Ratul was a regional field director for Chris Van Hollen’s U.S. Senate campaign and worked on electoral and issue-based campaigns in Iowa, Colorado and New York.

Eva Lewis will manage the party’s political outreach. She has worked as an attorney, grass-roots organizer and political operative building coalitions and increasing political engagement. She is a native of Prince George’s County.

The trio joins Executive Director Stephanie Potter as the top party staffers for the election cycle.

“This team has the energy, the experience, and the drive to support our candidates up and down the ballot, all across the state,” party Chairwoman Kathleen Matthews said in a statement.