Schulz Appointment Opportunity for Greater GOP Unity

Today, Governor-elect Larry Hogan announced his first cabinet appointments.  Among them was the appointment of Delegate Kelly Schulz (R-4) as Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Delegate Schulz is well qualified for this post and we wish her the best.

Delegate Schulz’s appointment leaves a vacancy in the House of Delegates.  More importantly, it provides an opportunity for local Republicans to come together and heal some of the division caused by this year’s primary election.

Some background is important.  With Maryland’s redistricting, the newly formed District 4 covered most of Frederick county and a small sliver of Carroll County.  Incumbent Republicans Senator David Brinkley and Delegates Kathy Afzali, Kelly Schulz and Mike Hough represented areas now included in the newly formed District 4.

At the beginning of the election season, all four incumbents began to campaign for reelection.  But something happened.  According to those involved in the primary campaigns, State Senator David Brinkley recruited former Mount Airy town councilwoman Wendi Peters to run in the delegate race, thus creating a contested primary.  Delegate Mike Hough, taking umbrage at this move and seeing the opportunity created by Senator Brinkley’s terrible voting record and personal baggage, announced that he would run for State Senator, challenging Brinkley.

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The animosity amongst GOP leaders didn’t end with Hough and Brinkley  as Delegates Afzali and Schulz had a less than perfect working relationship.  Like an episode of Survivor, this lead to competing alliances between Brinkley-Schulz-Peters and a slate of candidates led by Delegate Hough and including Delegates Afzali, David Vogt and Dr. Barrie Cilliberti. As the campaign moved toward the June primary, the Hough slate worked much more closely than the Brinkley-Schulz-Peters team.

When the votes were counted, Mike Hough trounced David Brinkley. (Full disclosure: Red Maryland endorsed and supported Mike Hough.) In the Delegate race, the incumbents won with the third seat going to David Vogt. All the Republican nominees won handily in November.

At the same time, a slate of candidates for Frederick County’s Republican Central Committee won seven of the committee’s nine seats.  This slate includes Sen. – Elect Hough’s wife, JoeyLynn Hough, his campaign manager Ted Dacey , among other Hough associates. Mrs. Hough was elected the committee’s chair.

With the Schulz appointment, there are a number of candidates who could fill the role and create greater unity and comity among the District 4 delegation.  These candidates would include Dr. Cilliberti, Ted Dacey and Mary Rolle, former wife of newly-elected Circuit Court Judge Scott Rolle. A wild card potential candidate would be former Frederick County Commissioners Chair, Blaine Young who lives in the District. Young and Hough worked closely during the campaign.

The selection of Wendi Peters, however, would likely perpetuate the disharmony in the District 4 delegation caused by a long and hard-hitting primary.  Further, it seems nearly impossible that the Frederick County Central Committee would approve the choice.

It would seem Ms. Peters’ only scenario to appointment is to have the Carroll County Central Committee, who also has a say in the matter, appoint her.  This is a scenario we have seen before and has caused division within the state’s Republican Party.

If the two committee’s could not agree, the decision would go to Governor Hogan. For Governor Hogan to appoint the Carroll choice, he would have to ignore the wishes of the county where the vast majority of the district is located and, frankly, the wishes of the other legislators in the district.  It seems a terrible idea to put a newly elected Republican Governor in this position.

As a result of past incidents, MDGOP chairman Diana Waterman has made it abundantly clear that the state party will do what it can to avoid such divided results in filling vacancies.  A Republican Governor would seem warrant greater efforts to promote local unity rather than having him choose sides.

A consensus pick jointly made by both committees of someone who has a demonstrated ability to work with their District 4 legislative colleagues would be the best recipe to promote party unity and serve the interests of the party and Governor Hogan.

Let’s hope that is how the central committee members see it.

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