By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
As the Maryland General Assembly begins the 2019 session the Black delegates have an opportunity to make a statement that could affect the funding for their constituents. With Governor Larry Hogan entrenched for his second and final term and Peter Franchot serving another term as state comptroller, just one statewide office remains to be settled.
Former state senator turned talk show host Larry Young says now is the time for the Maryland Black Legislative Caucus to provide a viable list of candidates for state treasurer to oppose a fifth term for Nancy Kopp. Kopp, who has been treasurer since 2002 is currently unopposed for the position, which could be detrimental to the hopes of appropriation of funding for the free state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities among other urban programs.
The Maryland State Treasurer is responsible for the State’s cash deposits, money from bond sales and manages the investments of those assets. The Treasurer is elected by a joint ballot of both houses of the General Assembly. Maryland has only appointed one Black treasure in its history, and Young is advocating that now would be the time for the Black Legislative Caucus to aggressively push for a Black nominee to hold the position as Kopp approaches what would be her 20th year of service.
“When will the state’s democratic leadership do right by its Black constituents,” Young told the AFRO in an exclusive interview. “We’ve been the most loyal supporters of the party yet whenever there is an opportunity to support a Black nominee for a statewide office they always lose [the election].”
On Jan. 10 the Black Legislative Caucus met to discuss a potential nominee. Former State Senator Joan Carter Conway was put forward for the Treasurer’s job. However, she didn’t accept the nomination because of family considerations. Young sees this as an opportunity for the state’s most powerful Black Democratic political group to galvanize and pressure their white peers to support their attempt to diversify statewide offices starting with this non-elected position.
There is a perception among many political observers that White Democrats have taken Black support for those candidates for granted, which has led to recent defeats statewide elections. During the past two statewide election cycles two Black nominees lost Gubernatorial elections in what is a staunchly democratic state.
“Black democrats have been more supportive of White Democratic candidates than their White counterparts have been,” Young says. “It’s ironic that when it comes to statewide offices the Republicans have been more supportive of Black candidates than the democrats have been.”
The 2010 United States Census concluded that 29.4 percent of Maryland residents identified themselves as Black or African American. However, more than 80 percent of those who are registered to vote identify themselves as Democrats although they have not been able to swing the balance of power in the Governor’s office. Former Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and NAACP President Benjamin Jealous both lost to Governor Hogan as White Democrats continue to be elected and are serving decades in Congress and the state legislature which is what Kopp is on the precipice of.
Richard Dixon of Carroll County, who preceded Kopp, has been the only African American to serve as state treasurer from 1996-2002 which coincided with an unprecedented era of growth for HBCUs around the state. With Conway unable to serve, Young sees Baltimore County Director of Finance Keith Dorsey as a viable nominee to oppose Kopp if the Black Legislative Caucus can wield its influence as a united front throughout the state legislature.
“They [White delegates] owe us this,” Young says. “Black Democrats have been extremely supportive. [Kopp] hasn’t stepped up for HBCUs.”