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Opinion: District 18 Vacancy Highlights Need to Reform Legislative Appointment Process

The Maryland State House. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

By Ed Fischman

The writer is co-chair of Our Revolution Montgomery County. 

With the last-minute shuffling at the candidate filing deadline, we find ourselves with yet another vacancy of sorts in Annapolis. The process for filling them is very undemocratic, even anti-democratic.

Nothing can better illustrate just how problematic the process is than this latest vacancy in candidacy for the 2022 primary ballot.

There was some upset over the most recent vacancy in Montgomery County’s General Assembly delegation, as the County Democratic Central Committee looked to the party organ’s former chairperson, Linda Foley, to fill the open seat. Now, she runs as an incumbent, having never been elected there by the district’s voters. I might have the highest regard for Delegate Foley, but that’s decidedly beside the point. A similar drama played out before that in Prince George’s County.

Del. Al Carr (D) was first appointed to the House of Delegates by the county central committee in 2007.

On Friday, he waited until the filing deadline to withdraw from re-election and file for a different race. The timing of his switch worked to ensure there would be no contest for his seat in the July 19 primary. No one filed to challenge the incumbents.

Right now, there are two candidates for three spots on the ballot. The law precludes any new filings, other than by a candidate to be selected by the central committee, which will vote on Tuesday to fill the seat.

It is disappointing that this timing has worked to prevent voters from having any meaningful choice to fill Del. Carr’s seat.

The numbers fluctuate some, but at least a quarter of members of the General Assembly have first claimed their seat not by election but via selection by committees, which are themselves at least in part self-selected.

Party committee members are elected every 4 years, but there is great turnover and many members are simply appointed by the people already there. They may have the most altruistic intentions, but the process is, by its nature, corrupt in appearance.

The process to fill Del. Carr’s place on the ballot is the most extreme example, as there will be no opportunity for another candidate to file in the primary to contest what would be an open seat.

On Monday evening, Maryland Matters’ editor will be moderating an online forum. Residents and interested parties should listen to hear which candidates will promise to work to reform the process, but all candidates for state or party office should be asked the question.


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Opinion: District 18 Vacancy Highlights Need to Reform Legislative Appointment Process