MARYLAND MATTERS: Annapolis isn’t accustomed to a high-dollar political fundraiser during the General Assembly session. Statewide elected officials and all 188 members of the legislature are barred from raising money during the 90-day session.
And yet, elected officials and high rollers gathered Wednesday evening in the Red Red Wine Bar on Main Street, a popular venue for political events in the off season, for a fundraiser for a newish entity known as the Prince George’s Now PAC. That’s a pro-business political action committee constructed from the ashes of an older political organization, the Jobs 1st PAC, which attempted to influence the Prince George’s County Council elections of 2022.
The new iteration was put together by former County Councilmember Derrick Leon Davis (D), who resigned in April 2022, eight months before his term was due to end. Davis, who calls himself Prince George’s Now’s executive director, is relaunching the PAC after a period of “not resignation, but rest, relaxation and restoration.” The PAC’s purpose, he said, is to “provide a voice to the business community and how the business community produces revenues for the community.”
State Treasurer Dereck Davis (D), no relation to the former council member, but a friend and political ally, was listed as the headliner for the fundraiser, with tickets starting at $500. Derrick Leon Davis described the treasurer, who spent 27 years as a powerful member of the House of Delegates while also serving in Prince George’s County government, as “one of the most important people” responsible for the county’s economic growth.
“I want us to do great for the state of Maryland and make Prince George’s a real competitor in the regional economy,” the former council member said. He referred to Wednesday night’s fundraiser as “a first foray” for the PAC. Asked why he would hold the initial event of the election cycle in the state capital and not in Prince George’s, Davis replied, “That’s where the attention is right now. It’s just before you get to the crunch time in Annapolis.”
Besides, he said, “who doesn’t love a happy hour?”
The full roster of people attending the fundraiser could not be immediately determined, as the bar was closed to the public for the duration of the two-hour event, though a few county business leaders and politicians were observed coming and going. Treasurer Davis could have been a draw for business interests around the state looking to curry favor with one of the three members of the powerful state Board of Public Works.
The Jobs 1st PAC spent upwards of $130,000 on Democratic primaries for county council in Prince George’s last year, campaign finance records show, and with decidedly mixed results. Most of the money came from some of the county’s biggest real estate developers. Sometime last fall, according to the State Board of Elections website, the group changed its name to Prince George’s Now.
“I think Jobs 1st was more of a political idea at a political time,” Derrick Leon Davis said. “There ain’t no one running for office now.”
The newly elected council, which took office in December, is already vexing some Prince George’s business leaders by adopting rent control and other programs that some believe could end up stifling economic development. The next county elections are 3 1/2 years away, meaning the newly constituted PAC is in a different posture than it was during campaign season, according to Davis.
“I’m not targeting anybody at this point,” he said. “My goal is to support people who understand the equation of revenues and expenditures.”
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) is termed out in 2026, so a spirited race to replace her is already anticipated. But here’s a twist that gets the blood of the county’s political insiders flowing a little faster: If Alsobrooks is elected to another office in 2024 — she is rumored to be looking at a run for U.S. Senate if incumbent Ben Cardin (D) decides not to seek a fourth, or could potentially seek longtime Rep. Steny Hoyer’s 5th District House seat if he retires — there would be a vacancy sooner than expected.
Under that hypothetical scenario, the timing of Alsobrooks’ departure would be key. If she leaves the county executive’s office before Dec. 5, 2024, there would be a special election to replace her. If she leaves after that Dec. 5 — the second anniversary of her swearing-in for a second term — the county council would select one of its members as the replacement. If the council is unable to agree on a successor, the council chair at the time would ascend to the executive’s job — meaning the jockeying for that position could become intense.
But all that is in the future, said Davis, a former council chair and former chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Alsobrooks just issued her annual budget proposal Wednesday, and Prince George’s Now, he said, “wants to support people who see the importance of business growth in the county. I’ve always been cognizant and aware of how we create revenue in Prince George’s County.”
Photo: A newly constituted pro-business PAC from Prince George’s County held a fundraiser in an Annapolis bar Wednesday evening. Photo by Josh Kurtz.