Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Who The Frick Is Bill???

Otto Von Bismarck was once said to retort that there are two things you should never being made: sausages and legislation. Well you can add closed ballot elections of the MoCo Democratic Central Committee to that list. In the strangest set of circumstances I had seen in almost thirty years of observing elections, Bill Frick was selected the new Delegate from District 16 (Bethesda and Chevy Chase) to replace the ailing Marilyn Goldwater on the very first ballot. Goldwater stepped down less than one year after she pledged to finish her entire four year term.

Ho hum you say. Sure but as one veteran political observer mentioned to me last night that if they had a pool of who was going to win and in what round no one would have guess Bill Frick in the first round. The money collect could have been used to completely cover the capital campaign that the Central Committee is embarking on to upgrade its equipment.

Otto where are you when we need you.

The eleven candidates spent time and money wooing the 23 members of the MoCo Central Committee for the past month. It had several very worthy candidates. And most insiders were assuming that the selection would be either long time party activist Don Mooers or Regina "Reggie" Oldak who came in forth in a three person race last September. But someone tell me who had Frick in first???

Probably it is best summed up by another political observer when Jane Lawton beat two veteran party insiders in same format in 2005, "they seem to like the person the know the least." Then again that idea went out in the final vote of the night so Otto was right on the mark.....

If there was one universal comment from the now apparent Frick bandwagon "he is a great speaker and a charming young man." I would not know about being a great speaker as I was not allowed in the room when he spoke (they went alpha order). By candidate six I was in the back back room cranking my neck to see everyone.

Ok here is the blow by blow -- assuming you are still reading this far down -- the Central Committee had three times as many people as they had seats for everyone considering that they had four vacancies to fill (two on the Board of Elections, one for District 16 and one for District 39). Just like last month everything could have ended unceremoniously if the local Fire Department saw the overcrowding.

Things that need to change
Why would the Central Committee expose itself to horrible PR and egg on its face because they don't want to spend the ducats to get a room that could hold everyone??? I guess democracy (small "d") went out the window when the big "D"s gather.

So the Central Committee would only allow in the room if you were a member of the Central Committee, an elected official, the candidates and when your candidate was speaking they got to bring in 5 people. So everyday folks who wanted to see the proceedings were thrust out. Not very democratic for the Democratic Party. All I will say is if the BOE (Board of Elections) treated the party observers the way the Central Committee treated the attendees they would have raced to the courthouse to stop it. What is good the goose is good for the gander. Strike one for the Central Committee.

No Q&A just opening/ closing statements
Next because the list of District 16 candidates totaled eleven by the time everyone had their five minutes for an opening statements no one wanted to ask a question because then they would be subjected to eleven answers to parse through. Tell me that there is better way to elect our representatives to Annapolis. Strike two.

Things Leading up the vote
So one hour of candidates giving opening (and closing) statements, followed by zero questions in a room of the connected with outsiders on the outside, we get the first vote. If no one gets a majority on the first ballot then they drop off the lowest people until someone gets a majority. So with eleven running and 23 total votes you knew that some of the candidates would be shutout. But who had seven with goose eggs?

Closed Ballots have got to go
Finally, all of the members of the Democratic (and Republican) Central Committee are elected by the members of their party. So as a public official you have to make tough choices. But how would the public react if our elected officials voted on high profile issues such as the war in Iraq via closed ballot?? You are right -- zero. So why does the Central Committee get to have a closed ballot of the most important vote they will ever make? Why the answer is obvious -- they don't want to let everyone know who they really voted for? Tell me you like that in your elected officials. We know what US Senators voted for John Roberts as Chief Justice and I think that is a bit more important than which person is sent to Annapolis as Delegate. Strike three for democracy among the Democrats of the Montgomery County Central Committee.

There was no democracy among the Democrats
Strike four would be to allow this format to continue. It is not that the Central Committee is a collection of bad people. I know most of them. And I like them. I love politics (why else would I force my way into a crowded room to see this stuff). But why not open up the process? Where is the transparency? Where is the democracy among the Democrats? If you don't want to have people know exactly where you stand on the issues then don't run for public office; and the Central Committee members are publicly elected every four years (last done September 2006). Stand up. Be counted. Let us know who you voted for.

I am sure that Bill Frick will do a great job as will Kirill Reznik (who won the final vote of the night on the first ballot over Hugh Bailey by a 12 to 11 with Reznik voting as a member of the Central Committee). I also like previous winners of this process (read Jane Lawton and Susan Lee) but still this is a poor way to run a railroad -- or elect our officials. The system needs to change.

We need a room big enough to hold everyone. We need those voters (the Central Committee) to at least ask questions of the candidates. Does not matter if you asked them in private; again elected officials have mark-ups and hearings on things that they have already decided their position. We more transparency. We need democracy in our elections. The Central Committee needs to be more democratic (small "d") or it should get out of the business of selecting our officials. Of the 32 members of the MoCo Delegation now five of them have gotten elected the first time to their seat via the MoCo Democratic Central Committee.

It is the 21st Century. We can do better.