Legislation Would Scramble Local Central Committees
HB 335 would prohibit candidates for public office from running local party Central Committees, creating problems for some county-level parties
A bill working its way through the Maryland General Assembly would radically alter the ability for individuals to serve on local party Central Committees.
HB 335 would be a new law“prohibiting individuals from simultaneously being a candidate for a party office and an elected public office; and prohibiting individuals from simultaneously holding a party office and an elected public office.”
As it currently stands, individuals may run for both a public office as well as an office within their political party. A number of individuals in both the Democratic and Republican Parties simultaneously serve in both organizations. For example, Senator Cory McCray and Delegate Nicole Williams simultaneously serve as Vice-Chairs of the Maryland Democratic Party, while Delegate Mike Griffith and Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady serve on the Harford County GOP.
It’s long been a tradition that Central Committees serve as proving grounds for future candidates for public office. People can run for these offices, learn about their communities, and prepare for further public service. It is natural for Central Committee members to run for higher office in the future.
So what’s the point of this? Baltimore City Democrats are annoyed that Delegate Chanel Branch voted for herself for an appointment to the House of Delegates. Branch was the Chairman of the 45th District Committee on the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee at the time and cast the deciding vote in her favor.
What does this have to do with the rest of the state? Absolutely nothing. But that didn’t stop this bill from passing the House of Delegates on a party-line vote on February 16th. Branch was the only Democrat to oppose the bill.
As always, Democrats are failing to understand the ramifications of this bill.
There are many counties in Maryland that basically see one-party rule. Whether its the GOP in some rural counties or the Democrats in urban areas, the candidate pool is limited for the opposition party. Usually, it takes a dedicated member of the party to stand up, bite the bullet, and agree to appear on the ballot in a hopelessly futile run for office.
Those dedicated party members are usually Central Committee members.
If this bill were to pass it means that dedicated activists in these politically-slanted jurisdictions will have to choose between serving as cannon fodder in the General Election or running for the Central Committee and actively continue the process of party building. That probably doesn’t hurt Democrats all that much considering the jurisdictions in which they struggle are smaller in population.
But it certainly hurts Republicans.
In Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County, the Republican Party is very weak. In Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, they can’t even fill out their Central Committees with those willing to serve on it. The Baltimore City GOP has 11 vacancies and only 14 members. The Prince George’s GOP only has eight of its 15 slots filled. In two of the three jurisdictions, a Republican has not been elected to office in this millennium.
Needless to say, candidates for public office are at a premium.
And yet, General Assembly Democrats want to make it even harder for them to get elected to office and build their local parties. Republican candidates in Montgomery County up and down the ballot are almost always members of the County Central Committee. It’s similar in Baltimore City, where Committee member Shannon Wright finished third in the Mayoral Race in 2020 as the Republican nominee (though that campaign would not be impacted by this legislation).
This legislation artificially caps the number of people capable of running for office. They have to choose between a futile run for office or continuing to build their party for the future. That may not hurt Republicans in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, or Prince George’s County during a local election. But it certainly will hurt any Republican running statewide, diminishing the number of people who can serve in party-building capacities. For Democrats, that’s a feature and not a bug given that they have lost a majority of gubernatorial races in this millennium.
Regardless of your thoughts on the practice, it is thoroughly unnecessary for this bill to be a statewide bill. Just because Baltimore City Democrats can’t get their house in order doesn’t mean that the General Assembly should pass statewide legislation that punishes Republicans more than Democrats.