Baltimore Dems Deadlocked on Oaks Replacement, Punting Choice to Hogan

In the end, Nathaniel T. Oaks was a no-show. Whether his presence would have changed the dynamic of the balloting or the outcome of the vote Tuesday can never be known.

 

But here’s what is known: After five ballots, a simple majority of the 41st District Democratic State Central Committee was unable to agree on who should finish the last eight months of Oaks’ state Senate term; so, the six members will send two names, instead of just one, to Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. and let him pick the next city senator.

 

The two possibilities?

 

1. Jill P. Carter, a former member of the House of Delegates, now Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh’s director of civil rights, who is running for the 41st District Senate seat in the June 26 Democratic primary; and

 

 Joyce J. Smith/William F. Zorzi

 

 

2. Joyce J. Smith, a member of the 41st District central committee for the last 12 years who is running in the June primary for one of the three 41st District House of Delegates seats. Smith is also the older sister of Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, a 45th District Democrat who just finished her two-year term as chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus and sat quietly through the proceeding Tuesday evening at the Forest Park Golf Course clubhouse.

 

Carter and Smith each received two votes in a succession of five ballots by the committee members. Under the Democratic State Central Committee rules, a single winner would have required four votes.

 

Asked afterwards if the vote went according to plan, Del. Angela C. Gibson, who chairs the 41st District Democratic State Central Committee, said “not with a Republican governor and a Democratic State Central Committee.”

 

“It should have been one unified recommendation to the governor — one choice, one appointment,” said Gibson, who did not vote for Carter or Smith.

 

Under the Maryland Constitution, once the committee notifies the governor, Hogan has 15 days to make the appointment to the Senate.

 

In each of the ballots, Carter and Smith received their votes from the same supporters on the 41st District central committee.

 

 Ex-Del. Jill P. Carter/William F. Zorzi

 

 

While Del. Bilal Ali and Chezia T. Cager voted for Carter, Smith’s two votes came from Wanda Wallace and Smith herself, a vote that is permitted under the rules.

 

Gibson voted for Shawn Z. Tarrant, a former two-term House of Delegates member from the adjacent 40th District. On the fifth and final ballot, however, when Tarrant’s name was removed from consideration, Gibson cast no vote, leaving her ballot blank.

 

The sixth voting committee member present, former City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, refused to vote in any of the five rounds of balloting. Before the meeting, she told a reporter she did not believe the district needed Senate representation for the next eight and half months, and that the entire episode involving Oaks had been “an embarrassment.”

 

Despite resigning his state Senate seat March 29 and then pleading guilty in federal court two hours later to two felony wire fraud counts in a political corruption case, Oaks continues to hold a party office as the seventh member of the 41st District Democratic State Central Committee. He will not be sentenced until July 17, three weeks after the primary election.

 

Scherod C. Barnes, chairman of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee, presided over the Tuesday vote – though not as a voting member — expecting Oaks to be come by.

 

“I was sure he was going to show up,” Barnes said of Oaks. “He had a right to vote, if he did. We were prepared.”

 

Barnes said he would draft a letter with the Carter and Smith names, and send it certified to Hogan in Annapolis first thing Wednesday.

 

Oaks’ very good friend, former state Sen. Larry Young (D-Baltimore City), now a WOLB-AM radio talk show host, said after the meeting that Oaks told him that his lawyer instructed him not to attend the vote.

 

Young, clad in a bright green Boston Celtics warmup jacket, waited in the clubhouse parking lot throughout the entire proceeding. After the vote, he greeted meeting attendees as they left.

 

Carter and Smith were plucked from a field of seven aspirants who were interviewed by the central committee before voting. The other five were: Gary Brooks; James Butler; Charles Smith; Jay Steinmetz; and Tarrant.

 

An eighth candidate who qualified and was expected to be interviewed, Wade Moragne-el, did not post.

 

The seven candidates were each asked the same series of questions, mostly related to experience, identifying the No. 1 community issue in the 41st District, and whether public money should be used to keep the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.

 

Barnes said in an interview afterwards that Wednesday evening, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Baltimore City Democrat State Central Committee, he will officially begin the process to remove Oaks from the District 41 central committee, based on petitions submitted for the former lawmaker’s ouster.

 

Additionally, there are two lawsuits pending in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court that seek to have Oaks’ name removed from the June 26 primary ballot.

 

His name currently appears twice on the 41st District ballot – as a candidate for both the Maryland Senate and Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee – because he was qualified at the time of the state’s Feb. 27 primary election filing deadline and the subsequent withdrawal and disqualification dates.

 

A judge could rule in those cases as early as Friday.

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William F. Zorzi
Bill Zorzi was a Baltimore Sun reporter and editor for nearly 20 years, focusing on government and politics. An Annapolis bureau veteran, he wrote a weekly column, “The Political Game” for the paper.Zorzi and another former Sun reporter, David Simon, are longtime collaborators on acclaimed television projects, including the HBO series, “The Wire,” and the HBO miniseries “Show Me a Hero,” which dealt with an explosive housing desegregation case in Yonkers, NY.

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