For advocates in the Jewish community, a close relationship with the governor’s office means high-level support on initiatives and the opportunity to keep Maryland’s highest-ranking elected official in the loop.
Rob Frier, president of the Maryland/Israel Development Center, said the state’s relationship with the Jewish state has been enhanced by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s involvement with the group, which included a trade mission to Israel in spring 2013.
“The outgoing governor has been very supportive of MIDC and in general of Maryland’s connection with Israel,” Frier said. “Certainly from a business development perspective, he’s been very supportive, and [the Department of Business and Economic Development] has been very supportive.”
He thinks either of the Democratic front-runners would be an asset to the Jewish community.
“We would love to take the next governor on the trade mission to Israel,” he said.
Cailey Locklair, deputy executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said relations between the Jewish community and the governor’s office have been excellent over the years. Because the BJC gets involved in a variety of issues, it’s good to have the ear of the governor, she added.
“There are a lot things that we are looking at with our coalitions right now and our partners at the federal level,” Locklair said. “There’s a ton of issues that I think we’d love to see more on” including minimum wage, human trafficking and fair pay for women, she added.
When the American Studies Association passed an academic boycott of Israel, the BJC spoke with the governor’s office.
“At the end of the day, that bill, that budget or whatever language you have is going to come across the governor’s desk, so they have to be in the loop,” Locklair said.
A good relationship with the governor’s office is key to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s work, said Executive Director Ron Halber. The governor develops the state’s budget, and since a major function of the JCRC is advocating for the funding for Jewish community organizations and priorities, the Council works closely with the governor and his administration.
“O’Malley’s been a good friend,” said Halber, adding that his organization’s experiences with the candidates seeking to replace O’Malley have all been positive.
While the BJC, JCRC and the MIDC don’t endorse candidates, Locklair is hoping for a high turnout in the general election, even though a majority of voters are still undecided.
“This is a really exciting time for Maryland voters because there are a lot of candidates and a lot of different options,” she said. “I really hope that people are engaging themselves and really paying attention because the system only works when people pay attention.”
Also read, Gubernatorial Primer.