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Government & Politics

Road to the White House Should Run Through Maryland, State Dems Tell the DNC

Yvette Lewis, the head of the Maryland Democratic Party, speaks to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee on Thursday Screenshot via YouTube.

Maryland’s top Democrat urged party officials to give her state a leading role in the selection of the next president, telling a Democratic National Committee gathering in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that if it’s diversity they’re looking for, they need look no further.

Playing up Maryland’s status as “America in miniature,” and its robust racial and ethnic diversity, state Democratic Chair Yvette Lewis made an energetic pitch to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, which held an all-day meeting downtown.

“Maryland is the most diverse state on the east coast,” Lewis said. “In a party that boasts its inclusivity as the big tent party, our state is the most symbolic of that.”

Fewer than half of all Marylanders identify as white, according to the most recent Census.

The national party is looking to rejigger its presidential primary and caucus lineup, which currently includes longtime leadoff states Iowa and New Hampshire along with relative newcomers Nevada and South Carolina, which were added to add Latino and Black voters to the mix. Iowa and New Hampshire are among the least diverse states in the nation. Their place at the top of White House selection process has long drawn criticism.

Iowa may be replaced by another Midwestern state due to the computer mishap that delayed reporting of 2020 results from the Iowa presidential caucus for several days, a huge embarrassment to the traditional kingmaker.

More than a dozen states are vying with Maryland to become the “fifth state” in the frequently make-or-break early stage of campaigning.

Lewis noted that Maryland’s congressional delegation and General Assembly are dominated by Democrats and she touted her party’s aggressive outreach to Black, Latino, LGBTQ, Asian-American, veteran, female, disabled and working-class residents.

She said that if any of the Democratic gubernatorial tickets running in the primary prevails in November, it will make gender and/or racial and ethnic history. “We will raise our national profile with this upcoming election and that’s exactly the look that the Democratic Party should have going into a national election.”

Lewis also said that Maryland has been an “export state” in recent cycles, sending volunteers to purple states to help elect Democrats.

DNC officials probed Maryland’s bid to become an early primary state in detail, asking about the cost of advertising on local television and whether the state party would make its voter files available to campaigns for a reasonable price.

Lewis described the state’s Baltimore- and D.C.-based broadcasters as being politically-attuned. “Earned media is in abundant supply,” she said. “You can get earned media for just about anything. So any candidate that is struggling financially can always have an opportunity to get earned media.”

She said that any White House hopeful seeking to do well in Maryland must be comfortable campaigning in rural, suburban and urban areas — skills that would be valuable as the contest advanced.

“The very skills and the messaging that you hone in the different parts of my state will serve you well in other parts of the country,” she said. “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”

Lewis suggested that if Donald Trump had been forced to campaign in Maryland in 2016, the state’s large presence of policy-savvy federal workers would have debunked many of his claims, such as the notion that Mexico would pay for an American-made wall on its border.

In a not-so-subtle dig at Iowa, former Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough said that state elections officials have a history of reporting election results quickly.

Although Maryland made its presentation to the DNC late in the afternoon, after more than a dozen other states had already spoken, several members of the panel praised Lewis for her energetic sales pitch.

The DNC is expected to set its 2024 primary and caucus schedule later this summer.