Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Central Committee Defends Status Quo

As Paul Gordon previously outlined, Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-18) is working on a bill to bring special elections for state legislative vacancies to Maryland which occur before the presidential election. (I believe that he and Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20) are working closely together on this.) Appointments occurring before a certain date would expire after a special election held in concert with the regularly scheduled elections held in presidential years.

Regular readers of MPW know that this has been a hot topic around here due to the spate of vacancies in Montgomery County. The proposal is similar to a reform proposal I outlined briefly here.

The Central Committee, or at least its spokesman, appears to prefer the status quo. A New Year's Eve article in the Examiner reported:

The replacement process has received extra attention this year due to an unusually high number of vacancies in Montgomery County. Before the current crop, the county had seen only four vacancies since 1997.

Even so, the county’s Democratic Central Committee spokesman Milton Minneman believes his team is best equipped to make the selections. Because the group’s purpose is to get Democrats in office, and because it spends time interviewing potential replacements and hosting public forums, it is far more knowledgeable than average voters of each candidate’s suitability.

“Special elections are often held rapidly, and voters don’t have time to get to know the candidates,” Minneman said. “We think we’re more representative.”
I'm not certain how well this reflects the view of either individual members of the Central Committee or the Central Committee as a whole. At least some members of the Central Committee have expressed a desire to focus more on other issues.

I don't think the proposal is meant as an attack on the job that the Central Committee has been doing. After all, they are merely performing one of the functions which they were elected to do when they select people to fill vacancies. Neither Sen. Madaleno nor Sen. Raskin has any ax to grind with the Central Committee as far as I am aware.

On the contrary, I imagine that Sen. Madaleno is reasonably pleased that MCDCC picked his choice, Al Carr, to fill the vacancy in his legislative district. Additionally, Del. Al Carr endorsed the idea of special elections in the District 18 forum.

The main purpose of the idea is simply to make sure that appointments don't last too long before the appointees have to face the voters. Appointments would still occur and reduction in the Central Committee's authority would be quite small.