So in the D20 delegate appointment process, even though there’s 28 people with actual votes, some of the candidates are spending valuable time talking to the media rather than the voters. And some of the candidates are complaining that the appointment process isn’t to their liking. Well, folks, we can debate the process and whether it should be changed (it should and probably will be somewhere down the road), but for now, as grandpa used to say, it is what it is what it is, and accusing the voters of conflicts of interest isn’t gonna win a whole lot of elections. Civics 101, people. Hell, human interaction 101.
One of the six District 20 applicants, Jheanelle Wilkins, senior field manager for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Human Rights, also sits on the central committee. She was elected to the post in the 2014 Democratic primary. For some of the candidates, that carries a whiff of insiderism.
“It feels like it’s not a level playing field,” said Daniel Koroma, outreach manager and liaison to African and Caribbean communities in the county’s Office of Community Partnerships. Koroma, 42, a native of Sierra Leone, said the setup does not square with his view of the United States, which he called “a beacon of democracy.”
“If you work hard, you have a shot. If there is a way to improve the process, I’m definitely for it,” he said.
Unger and other District 20 contenders have substantial records of civic and political involvement, but little relationship with the central committee: Yvette Butler, 56, is the Maryland state director of the League of United Latin American Citizens; Lorig Charkoudian, 43, is a professional mediator and criminal justice activist; and Amy Cress, 44, is communications director for Easter Seals in the Washington region and an anti-gun-violence organizer.
Cress said she would like to see a broader effort to include the public in the selection. “The feeling is that there are a number of people who aren’t aware of the process until it hits their district, and they are taken aback that there is not a special election.”
Unger, 43, chair of Montgomery’s ACLU chapter, said there is a larger conflict of interest issue that the committee needs to address.
While most central committee members are elected in Democratic primaries, the state requires that each county panel have an equal number of men and women. The Montgomery committee has four members it appointed for gender balance. They can vote on General Assembly vacancies, conceivably supporting members who brought them aboard.
“Committee members get to choose who else is on the committee, and that whole committee gets to appoint their members to the State House,” Unger said. “To me, democracy works best when people are diligent at avoiding even an appearance of interest conflict.”
Wow. This process has been around in the Maryland Constitution for over a century. It’s not new, and it’s been used a lot, as Turque notes. But from reading this, you get the feeling that these candidates are shocked to find out that it works the way that it works. That doesn’t speak well to the complaining candidates’ knowledge of how Maryland government operates. You have to lobby the committee members to persuade them that you’re the best candidate, that you’ve got the best qualifications and would make the best delegate. Questioning their ethics and integrity, or trying to tell them how to do it better – not such a good idea. And attacking the gender balance members of the committee, especially as a white guy, is an even worse idea, because those gender balance members? They’re all women.
And as for the complaint that many of the candidates don’t have “relationships with the central committee,” well, excuse me, but whose fault is that? The dominoes leading to this particular appointment started falling on March 2, 2015, when Barbara Mikulski dropped her bombshell retirement announcement on an unsuspecting state. Anyone who was interested in a potential D20 appointment should have started building relationships with Central Committee members over a year ago at the latest. If you didn’t, what does that say about your political acumen and skill?
The bottom line here is that while the process is open to criticism and should be changed, the time to have conversation is not while you’re running for a delegate appointment. There’s 28 voters. First one to 15 wins. Talking to Bill Turque, pleasant and affable guy that he is, won’t get you any votes. And complaining to Bill Turque that the voters are biased and/or corrupt definitely won’t get you get any votes. And any act that won’t get you votes is something you shouldn’t be doing.
If nothing else, all this willingness to openly complain should make the two candidate forums this week pretty damn interesting. Let’s see what happens.