Progressive Md. Vows to Primary Any Dem Who Sides With GOP During Speaker Floor Vote

Larry Stafford Jr., executive director of Progressive Maryland. Twitter photo

On the eve of the House vote to select a new speaker, a coalition of progressive groups has mounted a last-ditch campaign to keep Democrats from siding with Republicans on the House floor – and is taking early steps to run Democratic primary challengers in 2022 against those who do.

A memo to “Progressive Maryland affiliates, Working Families Party, People’s Action, and other state and national allies” from Larry Stafford Jr., executive director of the group Progressive Maryland, outlines the group’s objections to the apparent alliance between one of the two candidates for speaker, Economic Matters Chair Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), and members of the House GOP.

The subject line of Tuesday’s memo, which was obtained by Maryland Matters, says, “Republican Takeover of the Maryland House of Delegates.”

Stafford’s memo begins by noting the importance of the speaker election and the fact that the House Democratic Caucus will be meeting before the scheduled noontime floor vote.

“Unfortunately, one Democratic candidate for the Speaker role is so determined to win that he is collaborating with Republicans to convince Democrats to vote against the will of their party (and their constituents),” Stafford continues. “He’s maneuvering to become the next Speaker of the House with the bloc of all the Republican votes and a small minority of Democrats.

“This is tantamount to allowing Republicans choose the next Speaker and handing the power of the House over to the minority party. Beyond party allegiance, electing a Speaker who will caucus with Republicans and elevate corporate Democrats to leadership will be devastating to Marylanders, particularly people of color and working people.”

After outlining objections to Davis – who is never named in the memo – and to Republican priorities, Stafford gets to the heart of the matter:

“Any Democrat who would vote against their values and the will of their constituents, betraying their party by supporting the Republicans’ leader of choice (presumably in exchange for an appointment as a committee chair or other position of power) must be challenged and replaced by Democrats who hold the values of the voters over their personal ambitions.”

The memo goes on to assert that Progressive Maryland is prepared to immediately recruit and train “insurgent Democratic candidates” to run against Democrats who side with Republicans in a vote for speaker on the House floor. It outlines a long-term battle plan for boosting these candidates, and a price tag: $826,342.

“Though this plan is prospective, we believe that a strategy as extensive as this — while requiring a substantial investment from a variety of donors — can be funded by combining traditional fundraising with a grassroots drive,” Stafford writes. “We are committed to executing this plan if Republicans gain control of the House of Delegates. After Wednesday, we will determine the need for a full proposal including the recruitment and field plan for each district.”

In addition to looking ahead to possible Democratic primary challenges, Maryland Matters has learned that the progressive groups on Tuesday also placed about 10,000 robocalls, urging supporters to call their legislators and asking them to vote for the Democratic caucus candidate. And they also sent out about 60,000 emails with a similar ask.

Davis and House Appropriations Chair Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) are competing for the right to replace the late Speaker Michael E. Busch (D), who died on April 7. The full House is scheduled to convene at noon following Democratic and Republican caucus meetings that are due to start at 10 a.m.

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Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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