Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Maryland and Democratic Conventions

By Marc Korman.

In honor of the Democratic National Convention taking place this week, I thought we would take a look back at Maryland’s involvement in Democratic Conventions through the years. Unfortunately, there is not too much to write about, especially in recent times.

Since the birth of political conventions in 1832, Maryland has hosted nine Democratic conventions, all in Baltimore. The Baltimore conventions include the first party convention in 1832, where the Democrats nominated incumbent Andrew Jackson for reelection and Martin Van Buren as Vice President. Prior to 1832, political parties primarily selected nominees by votes of their Congressional caucuses, in coordination with state parties.

One of the most notable Baltimore conventions was in 1860, when Baltimore was home to the second Democratic national convention in the same year. The first, in Charleston, fell apart over the party position on slavery and a failure to nominate a presidential candidate after fifty-seven ballots. The Democrats reconvened in Baltimore two months later and finally managed to nominate Stephen Douglas. The last Democratic convention held in Maryland was in 1912, when the Democratic Party nominated Woodrow Wilson. For more on Democratic convention locations, you can peruse a handy list created by Larry Sabato. For a great survey of Democratic Party history, including the conventions, I suggest reading Party of the People, by Jules Witcover.

There has never been a Democratic presidential nominee from Maryland. But there have been some Vice Presidential nominees with Maryland ties.

In 1868, Francis Preston Blair, Jr. was the running mate of presidential nominee Horatio Seymour in their unsuccessful campaign against Ulysses S. Grant. Blair was a House Member and Senator from Missouri. He was also the son of notable Marylanders Francis Preston Blair, the founder of Silver Spring, and the brother of Montgomery Blair, Lincoln’s Postmaster-General. Descendants from the Blair family include Blair Lee III, a former Maryland Governor, and Blair Lee IV, a current columnist for the Gazette.

In 1972, the second Democratic Vice Presidential nominee was Sargent Shriver. The man nominated at the Democratic convention that year, Senator Eagleton from Missouri, withdrew after his mental health history was disclosed. Sargent Shriver was nominated by a conference call of the Democratic National Committee. Shriver was born in Maryland and is the father of former Maryland Delegate and Congressional candidate, Mark Shriver.

Although not on the ticket, Barbara Mikulski was discussed as a potential running mate in 1984. PolitickerMD recently ran a story on the Mikulski boomlet.

But what Maryland lacks in convention hosting or candidates, it is trying to make up for this year in speakers. Elijah Cummings, Steny Hoyer, Chris Van Hollen, and Maryland native Nancy Pelosi are all on the schedule for speeches in Denver. Enjoy the show.