The Curious Case of Melanie Harris – Let Charm City YRs Be Free!
Melanie Harris, Baltimore County Republican Central Committee member, has spent the last few weeks attempting to bully Maryland Young Republicans into terminating an emergent YR chapter in Baltimore City. Her escalating fury, which defies all reason and logic, has spilled out onto the national YR stage. Maryland Young Republicans should not give into her blackmailing threats. They should fight back against her attempts to burn their organization to the ground.
I am a young Republican in Baltimore City. Looking back to last summer, I never would have dreamt that our small group of young Republicans in and around Baltimore would be in the dire state in which we now find ourselves. That line from the movie Anchorman comes to mind: “Well that escalated quickly, really that got out of hand fast!”
No one I know doubts that Melanie Harris, chairman of the Baltimore Area Young Republicans (BAYRs) and vice chairman of the Maryland Young Republicans (MDYR), has worked hard over the last few years on Young Republicans events and maintaining the organization in this, a state that is historically deep blue, on the local and national level. The MDGOP and Young Republicans all around Baltimore recognize and applaud Melanie’s efforts. The Baltimore City Republican Central Committee has partnered with BAYRs and we appreciate all they have done.
With Time, Comes Changes.
The existing BAYRs structure, which was assumed to cover Baltimore City and Baltimore County, no longer works for many of the Republicans living in Baltimore City. After speaking to more than a few young Republicans around me, the common statements were: “I would get to meetings except they’re too far away” or “I’d like to focus on city issues in my own neighborhood and am looking for a group to do that – not BAYRs.” The motivation existed to do things in the city, but being as tapped out as I was with obligations to other Republican/political organizations, I could neither start a new group nor help BAYRs with city efforts.
Enter, Kory Boone, Stage Right
Kory Boone, chairman of the MDYR, moved to Baltimore City in late 2016 and joined the Baltimore City Republican Central Committee. I was the sole vote against his appointment to the committee because I was skeptical of the time he would be able to put toward committee work while running his campaign for chairman of the Young Republicans National Federation (YRNF). I was wrong. Since his appointment, I have been amazed at his dedication toward all things Republican. His optimistic personality is infectious – when he smiles, you smile; when he laughs, you laugh. Although Mr. Boone and I disagree politically from time-to-time, we can always reach a compromise. He has become a friend.
Mr. Boone approached me a couple of months ago to discuss starting a local city chapter of Young Republicans under the name Charm City Young Republicans (CCYRs). Initially, I poo-poo’ed the idea. I assumed he wanted me to organize it and I did not have the time to dedicate to its creation. I knew that the establishment of a city chapter would possibly upset Ms. Harris. However, being a member of BAYRs myself, I could see the need for a city chapter that would not be in competition with the existing BAYRs chapter. I was sure she’d see that, too.
Baltimore City and the surrounding Baltimore County are two distinctly different areas. Each has its own political situation and constituent base. I am aware of and have participated in BAYR-sponsored events in Baltimore City, so I know that they do volunteer in the city on occasion. However, it was my dream to see a group of CCYRs help with the things I was involved in:
- attending weekly Baltimore City Council meetings and subcommittee meetings
- protesting various bills, working with neighborhood groups for cleanups, and other community projects
- working with local businesses, professional organizations, and community leaders to write proposed bills with a conservative perspective
- booo-ing at Board of Estimates meetings
I was tired of doing these things alone and longed for more company.
I floated the CCYR idea to other Republicans in Baltimore City to get their take on it. No one said it was a bad idea. It was generating a positive buzz that I had not expected. One Republican friend asked if he could take on the chairmanship of the new chapter, but a short-term military deployment prevented him from doing so. I left the CCYR idea on my back burner. If it was meant to be, someone else would take on the effort, whether it was Mr. Boone or a new Republican.
CCYRs Spread Their Wings.
A few weeks back, I was meeting some Republican friends for dinner at a restaurant in Fells Point which we meet at most Monday nights (steak night special!). Mr. Boone was in attendance, as well as another prominent Republican in Baltimore City. The topic of CCYRs came up. Boone explained that he had met a new, young city Republican, Nick Calos. Mr. Calos had reached out to join BAYRs several times, but received no response from anyone at BAYRs. Discouraged, but unwilling to give up, Mr. Calos had reached out to Mr. Boone instead. In Nick, Kory found a CCYR chairman. A week later, I met Mr. Calos for the first time at our steak night in Fells Point. He’s great (truly…he is – you must meet him!). Mr. Calos, Mr. Boone, and I discussed plans to host an “informational meeting” for CCYRs later in February. We all left that meeting excited. I felt as if a new dawn was breaking across Baltimore City — one with a renewed sense of spirit. I knew I would not be able to put as much time into CCYRs as Mr. Calos, Mr. Boone, and the other new members would. However, I had just witnessed the birth of CCYRs and for that I was grateful. I know they will do great things.
A few days before the scheduled CCYR informational meeting, Ms. Harris posted a message via the BAYRs Facebook account. The message explained that, given current MDYR bylaws, the CCYRs would not be allowed to use the “Young Republican” name because the bylaws allowed only one chapter per county.
Every Baltimore City resident, and Marylander for that matter, knows that Baltimore City is its own county in every way. It is what is known as an Independent City, completely separated from a surrounding jurisdiction. With the exception of Virginia, in which every city is independent, Baltimore is one of the few Independent Cities in the country. This is not a new phenomenon, to which someone on the board of BAYRs may not be aware.
According to the state of Maryland’s website: “As a governmental unit, the City separated from Baltimore County in 1851, and has been considered on par with county jurisdictions since the adoption of the Maryland Constitution of 1851.”
We pay our own county tax rates. We have our own government representatives. We have our own GOP Central Committee separate from Baltimore County’s. Why would Baltimore City and Baltimore County not be seen as two separate counties for YR purposes, whereas the state and the nation views the city as Independent and a “County-Equivalent”?
I replied to that BAYRs Facebook post. My reply was promptly deleted. In my reply, I asked for a refund of my BAYR membership dues. The moment I saw that Facebook post, I knew that the underlying issue was not related to the bylaws at all. It was personal. I was shocked that it had gone that far.
The MDGOP Celebrity Couple Breakup.
As some of you may know, this story would be incomplete if I left out the following important fact: Melanie Harris and Kory Boone had a previous romantic relationship. I did not know either of them particularly close during that time, but seeing them out and about was like seeing a celebrity couple. They both always looked great. They both knew everyone in the room. I thought of them as the next big MDGOP power couple. Sadly, things fell apart. I became friends with Ms. Harris shortly after that breakup and her opinion of Mr. Boone rubbed off on me until I met him later in the year and realized the level of bias in her opinion.
Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned.
After the breakup, I was sad that I felt forced to choose a side: Ms. Harris or Mr. Boone. At first, I was determined to be amicable with both. Ms. Harris would not let that happen. Because I had attended social situations in which Mr. Boone was also present, I was in violation of a “girl code” that I had not known existed. She accused me of being in a “Kory bubble” — like a liberal bubble — in which one does not see that one has broken from reality. According to her, I was blinded by Mr. Boone’s falseness and unable to see his “evil.”
It’s very sad when you realize that a female friend is still stuck on obtaining post-breakup revenge even when she has clearly moved on to another romantic situation with someone else. Why feel the need to expose Mr. Boone’s “evil” unless she was holding on to an irrational personal vendetta? I was surprised at the hatred she carried toward Mr. Boone. When she would discuss him, you could feel the negativity seeping out of her on to you. I think that may have been her “Kory bubble” oozing out on me. Eeek!
Ms. Harris, apparently unable to move on with her life, is determined to quell Mr. Boone’s “lawless” behavior in starting a new YR chapter within the bounds of Baltimore City, an Independent City and County-Equivalent. In her unhinged state, she’s become determined to derail him at all costs. This includes his campaign for chairman of the YRNF. She has discussed her plans to interfere with Mr. Boone’s national campaign to more than a few people — in writing.
MDYR Executive Board Gives CCYRs the Green Light.
There is no provision in the MDYR bylaws (that anyone I know is able to find) that outlines the process for the creation of a new chapter. Mr. Boone decided to take the creation of the new CCYR chapter to an MDYR executive committee vote, even if that is not specifically stated in the bylaws as a requirement.
Before the MDYR vote to approve the CCYRs, the new chapter had at least 12 members. The first “informational meeting” for CCYRs went off without a hitch on Tuesday, February 21. During the meeting, we discussed exciting plans for the group until well after midnight. On a weeknight, that shows some serious excitement.
The following week, the Maryland Young Republicans officers voted to approve a YRs chapter in Baltimore City; the vote was unanimous save for one…Ms. Harris’s. The entire board not only recognizes (just like the State of Maryland and the Internal Revenue Service) that Baltimore City is, in fact, an Independent City and County-Equivalent, but also sees the need for a city-focused group. Failing to recognize this is one person, blinded by emotions.
Oops! – What I Said to the BAYR Leadership.
In discussions with a different BAYR officer after my deleted Facebook response to the BAYRs post, I became aware that we were destined to go round and round with this ridiculous argument of whether Baltimore City was independent of Baltimore County, despite state and federal recognition. Legally it is, an unquestionable fact of law. BAYR leadership refusal to acknowledge it does not alter the boundaries between Baltimore County and Baltimore City. They maintain that a line from the MDYR Constitution Article VI Section A wins their argument: “The MYR can charter only one Young Republican County organization per County in the State of Maryland.” I wholeheartedly agree with that Article 4, Section A:
Baltimore County should only have one Young Republican organization, so that resources are not tied up in frivolous and pedantic bickering.
Baltimore City, the great Independent City and County-Equivalent, should be afforded the same ability to forge its own path within the bounds of the Maryland Young Republican Constitution, to which BAYRs holds so dear.
The BAYR officer continues to refuse to acknowledge this even though it is a well-known fact (since 1851! What happened to Civics classes?). It is in the conversation with this officer that I realized Ms. Harris must rule the BAYR board with an iron fist. The other officers are too afraid to go against her or they will face her wrath — and just look at that wrath evidenced with Mr. Boone. Boy, what a wrath!
Anyway, in my conversation with the BAYR officer, I proposed seeking an opinion from the YRNF. I thought consulting with them could provide examples of what had been done previously and establish a norm in situations such as these. I wouldn’t have dreamed of filing an official legal complaint with them.
At the time of my suggestion, the MDYR executive committee had not yet voted to approve the new chapter. If the vote had been close, it would make sense to seek resolution from a higher echelon in the organization. Since the vote was so clear that a new Charm City YRs chapter is what MDYRs want, seeking resolution from YRNF legal counsel would not be necessary unless the intent is to use it to smear Mr. Boone. Well…guess what Ms. Harris did. Yep, she went there.
YRNF Legal Counsel and Dispute Resolution – Now We See Ms. Harris’s Plan.
The day after the MDYR February officers meeting, Ms. Harris submitted a formal complaint to the national YRs to resolve the CCYR/BAYR matter. The general counsel for YRNF, Christopher Mays, supported Mr. Boone’s opponent slate in the last YRNF chairman election and is currently involved in private communications between slate members. I hope that he and others, who may have formally endorsed a chairman candidate, recuse themselves of this matter appropriately.
In Ms. Harris’s formal request, she states: “Ideally, I would like a finding that MDYR violated its bylaws and I want the YRNF to issue a demand that MDYR nullify the charter of Charm City YRs or face the revocation of the MDYR charter under Article II Section 05 of the YRNF bylaws.”
The last phrase in that sentence is the important one: the revocation of all Maryland YR chapters if she does not get what she wants.
According to Ms. Harris, if the MDYR executive board refuses to quash Charm City YRs (which they voted heavily in favor of), then the whole MDYR organization should be burned down to the ground. There’s a phrase for this — throwing the baby out with the bath water. Perhaps, Ms. Harris should really take this to heart. If BAYRs was really as important to her as she says it is, then why would she want the entire MDYR charter revoked, thereby killing her own chapter in the process? Does that sound like someone who is passionate about Maryland Republicans, or someone who has fallen into an unhealthy obsession with destroying an ex-boyfriend at all costs?
As part of the dispute, both parties involved (BAYRs and CCYRs) get to submit at least two people to serve on the dispute resolution committee. Two of the three people Ms. Harris requested to serve on behalf of BAYRS have already endorsed Mr. Boone’s opponent. The ethics of conflict of interest and arm’s-length transactions seem lost on these people.
What happens now?
Will there ever be a time in the future of Maryland politics when Republicans stop shooting themselves in the foot? Are we as Young Republicans in Maryland going to accept Ms. Harris’s attempts to extinguish the MDYR organization as a whole? Do you think the fledgling CCYR chapter should be aborted or given a true chance at viability?
Ms. Harris has not listened to her former friends’ pleas for reasonableness. She has not listened to the MDYR executive board. Will she listen to the YRNF when they rule against her? I’m not certain Ms. Harris would listen to God if he came down in a burning bush in her front yard and commanded her to let this issue go. What would you tell her to do?
We’ll see what happens…
In the meantime, Charm City Young Republicans meets on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at Dogwatch Tavern in Fells Point, Baltimore. All are welcome. Street parking is available in front of the restaurant. I hope to see you there!
For more information about CCYRs or to join the new organization, visit them on Facebook.