Political Activist Pens Open Letter to Del. Eric Bromwell

    Editor’s note: An article in Maryland Matters this week featured criticism from Democratic elected officials of Maryland Democratic Chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who had warned elected Democrats against entering into political alliances with Republicans – in the race for House speaker and in future elections.

    One of those who responded to Rockeymoore Cummings was Baltimore County Del. Eric Bromwell, whose note to Rockeymoore Cummings was published verbatim in Maryland Matters. Now, Dustin Branch, a longtime Democratic activist has written a response to Bromwell, which we publish here.

    Good Afternoon, Delegate Bromwell,

    My name is Dustin Branch and I have been working on campaigns since 2008, most recently as regional field director for the Maryland Democratic Party’s Coordinated Campaign in Baltimore County. We have never met.

    After reading your open letter in response to Dr. Rockeymoore Cummings’ statement, I felt I also needed to respond. Not just as a fellow Marylander, but as someone who fought tirelessly to help you and other Democrats get elected up and down the ticket.

    As a young professional and someone who has led campaigns in five states, I appreciate your perspective and years of experience as we close a bittersweet legislative session and begin debate over who will become our next Speaker. For 17 years you have fought on behalf of your constituents, and I hope to follow your example if I too am elected one day. However, as the regional field director tasked with District 8 and the rest of Baltimore County, I must correct the record.

    While you claim that the Ben Jealous campaign chose not to come to your district, I was instructed by your campaign and several others not to send volunteers into District 8. After weeks of back-and-forth discussions, myself and another campaign reached a compromise — we could knock on doors in your district, but only in areas “closest to the city.” As a young black man navigating the historical racial and economic boundaries of Baltimore County, I found this offensive; but I relented.

    For over three months myself and my team of committed field organizers worked over 14 hours a day, every day to recruit volunteers and turn out voters on your behalf. As the campaign went on, we heard reports of candidates refusing to have their literature on the same table as Ben Jealous’ during county fairs and visibility events throughout the state. Beyond creating fliers and mailers with Governor Hogan, some Democratic candidates even objected to having their yard signs next to Ben Jealous’ at voter’s homes. I even saw attempts at voter suppression and vandalism of campaign signs in majority black neighborhoods, yet no one spoke out against any of these injustices.

    Campaigns that I previously made agreements with to jointly pass out Ben Jealous literature later refused, except in areas “where it makes sense.” After receiving requests from multiple campaigns to help knock on doors elsewhere in District 8, I got multiple angry phone calls from a campaign manager demanding to know “why the f***” I am sending volunteers into Perry Hall, and not in Rosedale, “where [I] belong.”

    For these reasons and many more, I applaud the chairwoman for her continued efforts to bring our party toward a more inclusive future, where black and brown voices are championed and everyone is respected. I got involved in politics over 10 years ago to fight for those same values, and witnessing a lifelong progressive leader like Ben Jealous be spurned by our trusted Democratic elected officials was heart-wrenching.

    I do not know if you were part of these decisions to keep the Coordinated Campaign out of District 8, but it happened. You represent a district that is increasingly-diverse, and I agree with your sentiment that we must also listen to our fellow citizens who don’t always agree with us. We lost the gubernatorial election in 2018 because we could not come together as a party and show unity to our voters. We can and must do better. Electing a Speaker who embodies those values of empowerment and inclusion is the first step in achieving that goal.

    Therefore, I respectfully call on you to retract your letter to Dr. Rockeymoore Cummings, not just for the sacrifices that myself and our team of activists made during the campaign, but for the truth. Thank you for your continued service.

    In Solidarity,

    Dustin Branch