What’s Speaker Busch’s Word Worth?

Maryland Democrats say they hate to play partisan games with judicial elections. One would guess that they hate those games until they do, as Speaker Michael Busch has done.

Anne Arundel County is having a contested election for four spots on the Circuit Court. Four judges are currently up for reappointment: Glenn Klavans, Stacy McCormack, Cathy Vitale, and Donna Schaeffer. Two of the judges were appointed by Governor Hogan, and the third, Judge Vitale, was a longtime Republican who was appointed by Martin O’Malley at the tail end of his term (Disclosure: I’ve already voted in this election and I voted for these four judges).

The judges do have a challenger, Claudia Barber. Ms. Barber, who would be the only African-American on the court if she won, has been heavily pushed by the Anne Arundel County Democratic establishment as their sole candidate for the court. Which may have created a political problem for Speaker Busch because the Speaker endorsed the four sitting judges.

Well, until he didn’t:

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At a a Democratic rally in Annapolis on Tuesday evening, House Speaker Michael E. Busch urged voters to support Claudia Barber after backing the four sitting judges during the primary elections.

After he voiced his support for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Chris Van Hollen at an event hosted by the District 30 Democratic Club, he added, “and put Claudia Barber on the bench.” The call for support seems to go against Busch’s previous endorsement of the combined slate of Judges Glenn Klavans, Stacy McCormack, Donna Schaeffer and Cathy Vitale.

Barber, a registered Democrat, thanked Busch for his support during a speech at the rally.

“House Speaker Mike Busch, thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you have done in boosting this for us,” Barber said.

So Speaker Busch decided it was an appropriate time to renege on his support of the sitting judges by endorsing a partisan Democrat at a partisan Democratic rally during an election decried by Democrats as being too partisan.

The Democratic Party establishment support for Barber is irrelevant in this scenario though. Busch backed the sitting judges, and then decided to turn tail and endorse a Democrat ostensibly without informing the judges he already endorsed that he would be doing so. Presumably, he did this as a slight to Governor Hogan given that Governor Hogan gave his strong endorsement to the judges.

It’s hard to take Speaker Busch’s complaints about the partisan nature of “non-partisan” elections of judges seriously when he politicizes his endorsement of a candidate who is running against four candidates he’s already endorsed. There are five candidates for four spots and Busch has endorsed all five candidates. It’s unclear which candidate he wants to lose.

But the real story is this; if Mike Busch can’t even keep his word to support candidates for Circuit Court Judge in an election, how much is his word really worth? How can he be trusted to govern in good faith when he can’t even maintain support for candidates he endorsed and goes off and endorses a different candidate with now explanation as to why he changed his mind?

Can’t we do better as a state than this?

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