Baltimore attorney Jim Shea has never run for political office, but he does have experience when it comes to managing a large company and hundreds of people.
The 65-year-old gubernatorial candidate from Owings Mills in Baltimore County worked as managing partner and later chaired Venable LLP, the largest law firm in the state of Maryland with nearly 700 lawyers in five cities. Shea stepped down as chairman last year to run for governor.
Shea also served as a former chairman to the University of Maryland System’s Board of Regents. He criticized Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s BOOST (Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today) program that uses public money for students to attend private schools.
Shea called it “a constitutional right” to educate every child in the state, but improving public schools must be the first priority.
Shea, who also chaired the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, said Hogan ruined transit-oriented development for the Baltimore region when he terminated Baltimore’s $3 billion Red Line light-rail project.
The Towson area native graduated from Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, and received his law degree from the University of Virginia.
The man who’s been married to his wife, Barbara, for 40 years, faces a major challenge in the June 26 Democratic primary against seven other candidates: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz; state Sen. Richard Madaleno of Montgomery County; former NAACP president Ben Jealous; tech entrepreneur Alec Ross; Krish Vignarajah, former policy adviser for first lady Michelle Obama; and Ralph Jaffe of Baltimore County.
Shea has the second-highest amount of money among the Democrats with more than $1.3 million cash on hand, which includes more than $500,000 he contributed himself toward the campaign.
Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College in Towson, said money definitely helps to wage a statewide campaign. However, she said Shea must be able to stand out among the other candidates.
“Jim Shea certainly needs to be able to tell his story and get people to listen” she said. “With a really crowded field, it becomes difficult to stand out. He is someone with core Democratic values in his policy priority and positions, but it will be up to him to actually distinguish himself from the group.”
During a phone interview Thursday, Feb. 8, Shea discussed housing, job and economic growth and education. Here are some of Shea’s thoughts, in his own words:
What we need is enforcement of the rules that we have on the books. It’s a constitutional right to be treated equally regardless of your race. When that is violated, the state and even private concerns should enforce those rules and laws. I think we need to replace the governor and that’s exactly the point. The governor is ultimately in charged in the enforcement of the laws of the state. We have a governor who does not have a priority at enforcing rights. I would have it as a priority in my office and all of the state agencies responsible. I don’t have a specific policy [on foreclosures], but I am very aware of the problem. It’s obvious something has to be done about it. These people who are in housing that is being foreclosed upon are in tough, financial situations and it doesn’t do anybody any good to have them foreclosed. It hurts the economy, it hurts them and it creates problems in its weight. In 2008, the big banks in New York and the Republican Party put us in a terrible pickle which cost a lot of people their jobs and their homes. Now that the economy has been improving, we ought to be in a position to stem that tide. Our housing policies has led us into the situation we are in now with areas of concentrated poverty. A well-functioning housing program would have mixed-income housing. If you have good housing, then your health care costs are down. Your children are able to go to school healthier and better able to take on the studies that are in front of them. I think we need a serious, comprehensive and effective job creation, economic-development plan. Within the next couple of weeks, I will publish such a plan. It starts with a much more effective public educational system. All of these things are interconnected.
JOB, ECONOMIC GROWTH
If Amazon [known as “HQ2,” or second headquarters] comes through with the [50,000] jobs that’s it promised, it will certainly add those jobs to Maryland. You have to examine at what cost. I don’t think it’s a simple proposition to give them a big pile of money and they give you [50,000] jobs. You have to examine very carefully how your allocating your financial set up. I have not seen the specific proposal, nor have I seen the cost benefit analysis, if any that [Hogan] has done. I would hope he’s done one. I would hope he has computed how much financial incentive he is giving and what ripple effect stems from that. What kind of financial [gain] he expects from that and has a good handle on that. I haven’t seen it. There are three pieces to [the] economic development plan that I’ve got. The first is to improve the educational system. The second is definitely improve the transportation system that will get people to their jobs and will enable commerce to flow easily and freely through the state. Transportation improvements are all infrastructure improvements. That create jobs as you make the improvements, but it also creates an environment where more jobs can be had. There is a big loss in cancellation of the Red Line. There was a lot of transit-oriented development that was expected and always pop up around the various hubs and centers. If you added up all the development that was envisioned and would have taken place over time [for] the Red Line, the cancellation is way into the billions of dollars. I would definitely look for a resurrection of the Red Line. If that can’t be done, then an adequate substitute and transit-oriented development around it. The third is we need to increase startup [companies] and help small businesses. That’s where we grow jobs in this state.
I believe we have the resources to pay for a fair education for all our children. It is a constitutional right and duty on the part of government to provide it. Now having said that, the political will [requires] prioritizing a resource of funds. Part of my education plan is to make sure all school systems have the resources they need. Make sure the teachers have the resources and support and compensation they need. Other things like curriculums are developed and implemented. In return for all that, all of the schools will be accountable for producing a good, educational product. If we’re going to put all this money in and put all these new programs in, then you have to check and make sure they are accomplishing what we want to do. When we have a constitutional mandate and a moral obligation to improve a public education system that is in poor shape, I don’t see how we can divert precise, finite resources to other uses including other private schools. I have great sympathy for the goals and mission of those schools. I cheer them on, but our first obligation is to make sure our public education system is operating well. In terms of the gambling money, the deal was that was to go into education. It has gone into education, but other monies have been cut from education and it’s become a substitute, or replacement, instead of a supplement. I would make it a supplement as originally designed. In the educational world, I don’t think you look around for things to cut. I think one thing you would want to cut is wasteful spending that doesn’t take advantage of the efficiencies we can create having more ways to procure. We would get the same supplies, but at a lesser cost. Education is the fundamental building block of all that what we want.