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“Nationals October 2019

OPINION: Just how smoky are the backrooms that will select the next Delegate for 30-A?

| April 18, 2019, 09:00 AM

When former Delegate Herb McMillan decided to not run for re-election, he minced no words about why.  He was no longer willing to put up with the political machines on both sides of the aisle—with Steve Schuh and Nic Kipke on the republican side and Mike Miller and Mike Busch on the democratic side.

One might have thought with the death of Speaker Busch that the political machines might be running on a few less cylinders. If  you thought that—you would be mistaken.

Freshmen legislators, Sen Sarah Elfreth and Delegate Alice Cain have emerged as the self-appointed kingmakers in Annapolis politics and taken up the mantle.  They have hand picked a candidate to replace Delegate Busch– Shaneka Henson. Henson, a supporter of Elfreth’s from the early days of her campaign) is the freshman Alderwoman for Ward 6 in the City of Annapolis. Senator Elfreth and Delegate Cain appear to be making a full court press to insure their candidate comes out on top. So much for democracy!

I first learned of this push on Monday, April 8th, the morning after Speaker Busch had passed. Let that date sink in for a little.

As I mentioned in my April 11th opinion piece on the Daily News Brief (below), it is in the best interest of the political hangers on of the Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee to appease the two now-veteran legislators. And by “veteran” I mean together they have a combined 180 days of experience. After all these hangers on likely will need the support of the delegation when they ultimately decide to run for office.  I read an article on A Miner Detail where Delegate Alice Cain, with her 90 days of legislative experience, discouraged a candidate because of his “lack of experience.” That’s rich. And the irony was not lost on me!

But the smoke is filling up that back room. When other democratic Delegates in other districts were discussing  potential candidates to replace Busch, Senator Elfreth reportedly got wind of the discussions and contacted them telling them to “keep their nose out of her district.”

Elfreth has not shied of her support for Henson and she has said she is not telling the Central Committee how to vote. This is true—she does not get a vote. Nor does Cain.  But again, that committee is comprised of political wannabes who likely will need the assistance of the Senator and Delegate in the future.

Even more disturbing is that the Central Committee seems to be doing what it can to thwart any type of transparency.

There are more than a dozen names in the running and they claim to be interviewing ALL candidates at 6pm on April 25th in a community center located well outside of the legislative district.  Why so far away? I find it hard that there was not a room in Annapolis capable of holding the crowd. If the committee needs some suggestions–email me. I know a bunch of places that woudl love to host the meeting.

Moreover, they are not allowing ANY public input other than emailed letters of support  which are due at noon on the 25th. If you want to support a candidate, the email to do so is  [email protected].

So, how deeply can we expect them to dive into the candidate pool of 14 in just a few hours? Not too deeply I am afraid. This pool is quite shallow–in fact, it is only one candidate deep.

I am pretty sure the choice has already been made—but the motions need to be gone through to remain “transparent”;  and of course there are certain legal requirements which will be met to the lowest letter of the law.

The process is flawed and is geared to encourage these types of backroom deals. There has to be a better way. Special election? Go back to the other candidates that did not come out in one of the top two spots? After all it WAS less than six months ago when we held an election. In fact, the chair of the Central Committee, Patrick Armstrong, lobbied hard after the death of Ted Sophecleus (he passed away just before a primary and could not be removed from ballot) to have the 4th place finisher (3 person district) automatically replace Sophecleus on the general election ballot in case Sophecleus ended up winning the primary. Not exactly the same situation, but a lot of parallels for sure.

The shenanigans are not new.  In 2009, in the Annapolis primary election Zina Pierre defeated Josh Cohen and then backed out. There were 6 people vying for her spot on the ballot which was selected by the Annapolis Democratic Central Committee. The Central Committee held a “public meeting” that lasted all of 20 minutes to announce that they selected Josh Cohen. The meeting was adjourned with a wink and a nod (and the audience mostly with their moths agape).  Incidentally, Josh was the heir apparent in that election and former Mayor Ellen Moyer had seen to it that the Mayor’s salary was increased to a level to support Cohen’s family. Zina was not supposed to win that primary at all. Whoops!

Typically the Central Committee is a very minor elected office. They meet for monthly cheerleading meetings for their respective parties; but the constitution of Maryland does indeed give them some power in rare circumstances—and here we are!

What do you know about the members of any central committee?  Probably not much. I spoke to a member of this committee who told me that the majority of the committee was likely supporting the Senator and Delegates’ choice.  One member apparently said  they would only support an African American candidate. And a few were on the fence. Take that for what it is worth!

And what really frustrates me is that I spoke to two VERY qualified candidates who (in my mind) would be outstanding Delegates. But both of them are considering NOT running because of this bullshit.

I guess we will wait to see who is chosen on the 25th.  And since gambling is legal here in Maryland—I’m betting on Shaneka by a long shot!

Yes folks, the machine is alive and well. Speaker Busch prided himself on being fair, but partisan– and there is nothing wrong with that. But this process does not seem to have any hint of fairness associated with it.

I wonder if the Speaker would be proud…or horrified? I am pretty sure I know the answer!

And to those who are wondering…I do think Shaneka would make a fantastic selection for Delegate and there is no argument from me on that point. The argument comes when she is chosen by a small group that does not necessarily reflect the wishes of the constituency while ignoring (or diminishing) the qualifications of many other stellar candidates.

This process is putting the “moc” in democracy. The voice of the people, I am afraid, has been silenced. Is there any recourse? Absolutely.  November 8, 2022.

There was an additional commentary on the Daily News Brief on April 17th as well.

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About the Author - John Frenaye

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for nearly 25 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news–and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.

John’s background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with

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