Three Paths to Better Filling Legislative Vacancies
This morning Len Lazarick reported that two freshman delegates are introducing two different approaches to holding special elections to replace members of the General Assembly:
Del. David Moon, a progressive Democrat from Montgomery, and Del. Christian Miele, a libertarian Republican from Baltimore County, are coordinating with each other to introduce constitutional amendments offering different approaches to the selection process. They plan on co-sponsoring each others bills.
Miele’s bill, still in the drafting stages, takes the more radical and costly approach. It would require an immediate special election to fill any vacancy in the Maryland General Assembly….
…..Moon figures that is too drastic a change for most legislators to swallow.
“I’m trying to get something that’s palatable to people,” Moon said.
His constitutional amendment would allow counties to choose if they want to have special elections for vacancies, but they would only be held in presidential election years as part of the regular voting process. The central committees would continue to nominate candidates to fill the seats, but anyone appointed in the first two years of a four-year term would have to run for the seat.
I’m on record as supporting special elections in all circumstances, so I would lean towards supporting Delegate Miele’s amendment over Delegate Moon’s, but either is an improvement over the current process given how much chaos has been generated this year in Carroll and Frederick Counties, as well as prior year quarrels on the Eastern Shore and in Prince George’s County over who should be appointed to legislative vacancies.
As she first announced on our Red Maryland Radio special at the MDCAN Conference, State Party Chairman Diana Waterman also supports an approach of her own:
Diana Waterman, chair of the Maryland Republican Party, wants to maintain the powerful role of the local central committees of both parties, whose members are chosen in party primaries. Waterman has drafted recommended guidelines that would go into the party bylaws. She wants to see a more open and orderly process for the filling of vacancies followed throughout the state.
Waterman said the proposal still needs some changes before she shares them with her executive committee.
“We are in discussions with the [Hogan] administration, so it’s not counterproductive with what they want,” Waterman said.
Her proposed rules could not be adopted until the next statewide Republican convention in April.
As I noted on the show, I’ll be happy to support the Chairman’s plan as a member of the Maryland Republican Party’s Executive Board. Even though I prefer Special Elections, having the State Party codify appropriate procedures in the bylaws is a vast improvement over the 24 county Central Committees often adopting 24 distinct and separate processes.
Three different solutions to a clear and obvious problem. And all three of them provide a structure and a basic framework for more orderly and participatory processes than are currently in place. If the life lessons from the Eastern Shore, Carroll County, and Frederick Counties have taught us anything it’s that these selection processes can become complicated and contentious in a hurry. This is particularly true in Frederick County, where supporters of Wendi Peters have actively worked to promote even more party disunity by acting out because they didn’t get their way and by promoting a narrative that somehow the runner-up is entitled to somebody’s spot.
A Constitutional Amendment or new State Party procedures will ensure that these types of distractions cannot happen again. I look forward to helping move these changes forward.