Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin has 92,000 reasons why he should be the next chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, a two-term senator, finds himself in the enviable position of having no opposition in the general or primary election as well as a couple hundred thousand dollars sitting around gathering dust in his campaign account.
What’s a guy to do?
If you’re Zirkin you donate $92,000 to help re-elect democratic Senators. The biggest chunk of that money, $58,000, was transferred to the Maryland Democratic Senatorial Committee Slate—essentially a campaign entity used by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. to help elect and re-elect senators.
Zirkin spread another $34,000 to other Democratic senators who lead committees. He also gave money to senators considered to have difficult races such as Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, and Del. Luiz Simmons (who is running for a Senate seat).
And in the politics makes strange bedfellows category, Zirkin gave $6,000 to Sen. Joan Carter Conway. Zirkin and Carter Conway over the last two terms have occasionally butted heads on bills that would ban fracking or create an elected-appointed school board in Baltimore County.
A $6,000 donation might not make the pair BFFs but it could go a long way toward garnering support for what appears to be some serious interest in becoming the next chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. It’s a position that may also be coveted by current committee vice chairwoman Sen. Lisa Gladden and committee member Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin.
Assuming Raskin and Gladden are successfully re-elected, they and Zirkin would be in a very small club as the only attorneys on the committee.
Sources say the chairmanship will likely go to a practicing attorney who is on the committee. Raskin is more of an academic. Zirkin has a private practice based in Owings Mills and Gladden is a public defender.
Even if Simmons wins and is appointed to Judicial Proceedings, Simmons would be an unlikely choice to lead the committee as a freshman.
It also sets the bar for Gladden and Raskin. As of the most recent campaign finance report filed last month, Gladden had a negative balance of more than $41,500. Raskin reported having more than $143,500 in cash on hand.
Sending checks to help colleagues get re-elected and ponying up nearly $60,000 could send a strong statement to Miller, who ultimately will pick the next committee leader.
Zirkin, for his part, declined to discuss the chairmanship or his interest in it.
When asked about the donations, he would only say:
“I’m just happy to be in a position to help my colleagues,” Zirkin said.