The following piece by Fran Rothstein, President of the Montgomery County Women’s Democratic Club, is a response to Jordan Cooper’s critique of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s (MCDCC) recent actions.
As a lifelong Democrat and a 36-year resident of Montgomery County, I must protest Jordan Cooper’s recent opinion piece, “Montgomery County Democrats make a mockery of democracy.”
I know what a mockery of democracy looks like, and Montgomery County isn’t it. I grew up in Washington DC, where my parents were completely disenfranchised. They couldn’t even vote for President until 1964. I grew up with no home rule at all. Even today, Washingtonians remain scandalously unable to participate fully in our democracy.
Contrary to Mr. Cooper’s assertion that “the Democratic Party of Maryland has long prioritized the party above the public interest,” I see exactly the opposite in today’s State and County Party.
At the State level, Maryland Democratic Party chair Kathleen Matthews has worked tirelessly to reach out to the many new activists who have come together in new groups since the 2016 election. Some of these activists are outspoken Democrats; others are progressives active in new nonpartisan but progressive organizations. She has met with them, she’s invited them into the Party’s big tent, and quite a few of them have joined the Woman’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County (WDC), which I lead.
At the County level, rather than the “gross abuse of the public trust” Mr. Cooper sees, I see a Democratic Central Committee striving to expand voter choice in selecting our representation. I happened to be at the most recent Central Committee meeting, when the Committee became the first in Maryland to endorse Del. David Moon’s legislative proposal to create special elections to fill a General Assembly vacancies. Why is this important? If passed, a state Senator or Delegate vacancy in the first year of a term would trigger a special election, rather than being filled by Central Committee appointment as is now the practice. (When a vacancy occurs later in a term, the Central Committee would make a temporary appointment, with a special election held during the next Presidential election, thus avoiding the cost of a special election when a regularly scheduled election is on the horizon.)
The vote that seems to have prompted Mr. Cooper’s protestation was the adoption of a proposal to restrict candidates from running on the same ballot for a government office as well as the Central Committee. This makes great sense, for several reasons. First, it would avoid the possibility that a candidate may – intentionally or not – use public financing and traditional financing simultaneously. Second, it avoids the possibility of conflicts of interest that would inevitably arise should one person hold both positions. And third, from my perspective, is that it opens up more opportunities for the many newly energized Democrats to serve in leadership positions.
Personally, I appreciate the County Central Committee leadership’s willingness – indeed, enthusiasm – to engage in collaborative efforts. Among many examples, the Central Committee and WDC are working together to recruit and train precinct officials, a critically important function. Precinct officials are the ones who rally local residents to vote – certainly the essence of a strong democracy.