Political Notes: Moore Getting the Oprah Treatment, Schulz Sticks to the Script, and Gansler Lays Out Crime Plan

The one and only Oprah Winfrey will interview Democratic gubernatorial contender Wes Moore during a virtual political fundraiser for Moore’s campaign in June. Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for Global Citizen.

Democratic candidate for governor Wes Moore likes to say he’s showing “Moore-mentum” as he racks up endorsements from key political leaders and interest groups.

Now, he is getting a boost from one of America’s biggest celebrities: Oprah Winfrey is coming to town, virtually, to help Moore raise money.

Winfrey, according to the Moore campaign, will interview the candidate “about leadership and the challenges families in Maryland are facing” on the evening of June 14. Ticket prices for the virtual conversation start at $250.

“When I first interviewed Wes Moore in 2010, I was impressed by his sense of integrity and leadership qualities,” Winfrey said in a statement provided by the campaign. “I look forward to our conversation and hearing more about his vision for the people of Maryland.”

Winfrey has interviewed Moore on a few occasions since he broke into public consciousness with his 2010 bestseller, “The Other Wes Moore,” and he also hosted a show on The Oprah Winfrey Network. Winfrey is certainly responsible for spreading the word about Moore’s up-from-the-bootstraps personal journey.

But as CNN reported when it took a hard look at Moore’s biography earlier this spring, Winfrey may have contributed to the impression that Moore grew up on the rough-and-tumble streets of Baltimore City, which was not the case.

A campaign appearance with Winfrey could be a double-edged sword for Moore: It will undoubtedly create buzz, add to a sense of momentum, and reinforce the unspoken argument by Moore fans that he is the closest thing to Barack Obama that Maryland politics has produced (and Obama was aided by a well-timed Oprah endorsement when he was first running for president in 2008). On the other hand, it’s a celebrity lending her celebrity to a candidate with an air of celebrity already.

“I’m grateful for Oprah’s friendship and I’m grateful for her lifetime of leadership,” Moore said. “I’m excited to come together with her for this important conversation about the leadership required to face head on the challenges that families in Maryland face, the role of governors, and the path forward.”

Schulz sees a winner in crimefighting

Former Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, a Republican candidate for governor, leaned into two of her top campaign themes on Tuesday — crimefighting and the record of her top GOP primary opponent, Del. Dan Cox.

The Schulz campaign launched a 30-second digital ad Tuesday spotlighting a case Cox handled in 2020 and 2021 as a defense attorney representing an Eastern Shore man who was jailed on charges that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl. It then seeks to contrast Cox’s legal work with the views of his running mate, attorney Gordana Schifanelli.

“Dan Cox fought to get a client charged with child rape out of jail because of COVID,” a female narrator says at the top of the ad. “But his running mate wants the death penalty.”

The ad goes on to show footage of a TV appearance Schifanelli made.

“I am for death penalty for violent criminals who go and rape 5-year-olds,” she says in the clip.

Cox’s client, the ad continues, is considered “a Tier 3 sex offender…and now he lives less than half a mile from a school.”

The ad concludes: “Republicans — even his own running mate — can’t trust Dan Cox.”

Also on Tuesday, the Schulz campaign announced the formation of a group called the Law Enforcement for Kelly Coalition.

The announcement was accompanied by a minute-long video featuring seven Republican sheriffs from around the state — Craig Robertson of Allegany County, Jim Fredericks of Anne Arundel County, Mike Evans of Calvert County, Jim DeWees of Carroll County, Jeff Gahler of Harford County, Gary Hoffman of Queen Anne’s County, and Tim Cameron of St. Mary’s County — who form the law enforcement coalition’s steering committee. Five of the seven are featured in their uniforms in the ad.

“We need someone who is going to support law enforcement and be tough on crime, and Kelly Schulz is just the lady who is going to get the job done,” Gahler says in the ad. Several say Schulz will have their backs if she’s elected governor.

“For me it is simple, as governor I will treat members of law enforcement like heroes and criminals like criminals,” Schulz said in a statement.

Gansler offers plan to fight crime in Baltimore and beyond

Former state Attorney General Doug Gansler said on Tuesday that if he is elected governor, he would fund the hiring of 1,000 new police officers to patrol communities across Maryland.

Gansler, a Montgomery County Democrat who served two terms as state’s attorney there, also pledged to install 10,000 new street lights in Baltimore, a city he said is experiencing a crime “crisis.”

Speaking to reporters outside city hall, Gansler noted that Baltimore routinely averages more than 300 homicides a year — a staggering number for a city of fewer than 600,000 people. 

“People sit at a red light wondering whether they are going to be the next victim of a carjacking or not,” he said. “And there is no other person running right now who has a scintilla of experience in criminal justice.”

One of ten Democrats running in the July 19 primary, Gansler said he would replicate many of the policies he implemented during 16 years as attorney general and state’s attorney. He said he would re-establish the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, create drug courts and domestic violence courts in all 24 jurisdictions, and work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure that all gun crimes get referred to federal court, where convictions trigger mandatory minimum sentences. 

“We want to make sure that we actually have somebody who understands the problem [and] wants to be laser-focused on solving the problems,” he said. “We want to drive crime down while bringing justice up.” 

Baltimore City State’s Attorney candidate Thiru Vignarajah (D) praised Gansler and his running mate, former Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. “If you are running for governor and you are not talking about crime in Baltimore, you do not appreciate the magnitude of the task before you,” Vignarajah told reporters. 

A former deputy state attorney general, Vignarajah is attempting to unseat Marilyn Mosby (D), the city’s embattled prosecutor. Earlier this year he won the backing of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R).

Beth Hawks, a shop owner in Baltimore, criticized city leaders for their response to the crime spike. “We are helping build a better Baltimore, but we get nothing,” she said. “Our businesses are really struggling.” 

As he has in the past, Gansler praised a rival, former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who has also made a crime in Baltimore a cornerstone of his gubernatorial bid. “I deeply respect County Executive Baker’s desire to also address crime in Baltimore City and his ideas.” 

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