Friday, May 21, 2010

The Caretaker

By Marc Korman.

On May 12th the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, pursuant to the Maryland Constitution, forwarded the name of Karen Britto to Governor O’Malley for appointment as delegate for District 16. I have had the opportunity to get to know Karen over the past seven years as a District 16 resident, Young Democrat, and now as a fellow member of the Central Committee.

Karen Britto is sworn in as Delegate from District 16.

Last month, the Central Committee adopted a rule stating a preference for a caretaker, someone who would pledge not to run for a full term in the fall, for vacancies in circumstances such as these where the final legislative session of a term is over and the filing deadline has not yet passed. Karen Britto publicly pledged not to run for the Delegate seat in the fall. She also pledged to donate her legislative salary to community service organizations.

Karen’s professional resume, largely working as an advocate and lobbyist in Washington, could match any freshman legislator’s. But her political involvement is how most of us know her. Karen was first appointed to fill a vacancy on the Central Committee in the 1990s. When George Leventhal, then chair of the committee, stepped down to run for the Council, Karen stepped up and was appointed chair. She has held that role for approximately nine years.

Those nine years have been very successful for Democrats in Montgomery County. It is easy to assume that our strongly progressive community will automatically vote Democratic. But that is not the case. Under Karen’s leadership, our local party has: an office open year round with staff; a full precinct organization; a vibrant community service program; active voter registration activities; and much more. And those are just the ongoing activities and do not include the Party’s many election season activities. The County is also now represented on the Council and in Annapolis entirely by Democrats. By comparison, after the 1998 election three of nine council members were Republican and there were three Republican State Senators and four Republican Delegates representing the County (to be fair, many of those were districts split between counties we no longer have).

But all of that work is the public Karen Britto. I have also gotten a chance over the past seven years to work closely with Karen. Behind the scenes, Karen is broadly and correctly viewed as an excellent political strategist and advisor to many local politicians (and aspiring politicians). She is always generous with her time and insightful suggestions.

When I moved home to Maryland in 2003 and became involved in the Montgomery County Young Democrats, Karen was a regular presence at our events and meetings. When I served as president of that organization in 2006, no one was quicker to offer suggestions or donate to our annual summer dinner than Karen. The next year, when Paul Mandell stepped down from the Central Committee, Karen was supportive of my effort to win the appointment to succeed him. Since being appointed, I have tried to follow Karen’s example of local engagement, dedicated progressivism, and hard work.

I do not want to overstate the role Karen will play as a caretaker Delegate. District 16 is ably represented by Senator Frosh and Delegates Lee and Frick and there is little work to be done for a new Delegate with no desire for reelection between now and January. But both as an honor for her, and in case her services are needed for legislation and constituent service, Karen Britto is a great pick for the caretaker role.