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Hours before the General Assembly gaveled in for its 442nd session Wednesday, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced a round of appointments that could prove controversial in the Democratic legislature.
Among the appointments, which included filling two legislative vacancies, Hogan announced that he was re-nominating Dennis R. Schrader to be secretary of Health and re-nominating former Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge Bryon S. Bereano to fill a District Court vacancy.
The Schrader and Bereano nominations could be controversial for different reasons.
Schrader, a veteran high-level government bureaucrat and half of a Howard County Republican power couple, was originally nominated to fill the job in 2017, after Hogan parted company with his original Health secretary, Van T. Mitchell. But the Maryland Senate refused to confirm Schrader — and that led to a protracted battle over how long Schrader could remain at the agency as acting secretary and whether he would get paid.
Eventually, Hogan named Robert R. Neall as secretary of Health in 2018 and he served in that position, with Senate confirmation, until his retirement on Dec. 1 — with Schrader remaining at the agency as chief operating officer. Schrader resumed the role as acting secretary when Neall stepped down.
“Dennis has been an integral part of my executive team since 2015, and he has been working around the clock over the last 11 months to save lives,” Hogan said in a statement Wednesday. “I have no doubt that the Senate will want to give Dennis a swift confirmation to ensure steady leadership as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Schrader has some good will in the Senate through his wife, former Sen. Sandra B. Schrader (R), who is currently the state’s deputy Planning secretary. Whether another fight brews over his re-nomination remains to be seen.
Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) on Wednesday promised a “thorough vetting” to make sure Schrader is the right person for the job.
“We are going to ask some very significant questions,” he told reporters, adding, “We are in the middle of a health pandemic, and so this is something that we’ll have to work through pretty quickly.”
Third time’s a charm for Bereano?
Bereano is the son of veteran Annapolis lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano — one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Hogan in the capital and a popular figure among many legislators.
Hogan appointed the younger Bereano to a District Court judgeship in 2017 and then elevated him to fill a Circuit Court vacancy a year ago. But Circuit Court judges must compete in the next scheduled election and win to serve a full 15-year term, and Bereano finished out of the money in the Democratic primary last June. Though he prevailed in the Republican primary and earned a place on the general election ballot, he withdrew from the race, in a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans, 10-1.
Now, Bereano appears to be headed back to the District Court — though he too could face a confirmation battle in the Senate.
In addition to Bereano, Hogan nominated Allegany County State’s Attorney Michael O. Twigg (R) to the county’s Circuit Court, District Court Judge Stacy Adele Mayer to the Baltimore County Circuit Court, and Heather Lynne Price to the Caroline County District Court.
Mayer served as legislative director under former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D). Price currently works as the county attorney for the Caroline County government.
“The appointment of qualified individuals to serve across our state’s justice system is paramount to upholding our responsibilities to the people of Maryland and the rule of law,” Hogan said in a statement. “I have confidence that these respected individuals will continue to be strong advocates for the law and will serve the citizens of the State of Maryland admirably.”
Also on Wednesday, Hogan elevated Del. Michael A. Jackson (D-Prince George’s) to the state Senate, where he’ll replace former Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D) in District 27, and he appointed Republican Reid J. Novotny to the House of Delegates in District 9A, where he’ll replace former Del. Warren E. Miller (R).
Bennett Leckrone contributed to this report.