Bill to restructure Harford Republican Central Committee draws fire from members

Republican legislators are trying to restructure the membership of Harford County's Republican Central Committee, a move that has touched off a clash between them and the panel's members.

The legislation would confer ex-officio status on Republicans in the House of Delegates from any district that covers Harford County and give each a say in the selection of replacements if a central committee member resigns or is removed.

House Bill 1513 was introduced as an emergency bill on Feb. 28, after the regular, or courtesy, deadline to submit legislation. As a result, the bill was referred to the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, which had not moved the bill as of Tuesday afternoon.

The bill's sponsorship is listed as the full Harford House delegation, six of whose seven members are Republicans.

Jeffery McBride, chairman of the Harford GOP Central Committee, said members are opposed to HB 1513, which he called "an effort to counter to the principles of the Republican Party, disruptive to party unity and counter to the expressed wishes of the Republican voters of Harford County."

The chief role of the central committee is to nominate candidates for any offices that aren't filled on an election ballot or when a vacancy occurs in a county elected office or a legislative seat held by a Republican, McBride explained. The committee also helps with voter registration drives and with fundraising of a general nature, usually on behalf of the party's candidates on the general election ballot.

Membership can also be an entree to elected politics and running for other offices. One member, Teresa Reilly, is running for a seat in the House of Delegates in northern Harford District 35 this year.

The committee is compromised of a 12 people who are elected during the gubernatorial primary every four years.

According to McBride, registered Republicans in Harford can vote for up to 12 candidates on the ballot that typically contains 30 or more candidates. There were 37 candidates in 2010.

This year's gubernatorial primary is June 24. The newly elected RCCHC members will not be officially seated until after the November general election, however, and five months difference between the two elections is part of the impetus behind HB 1513.

Del. Rick Impallaria, the Harford delegation chair and the prime mover behind the legislation, said since the primary has been moved ahead to June this year – from the traditional date in early September – and the newly elected central committee members won't take their seats until 14 days after the general election. As result, he said, a sudden vacancy could cause a "lame duck committee."

Impallaria said he was informed that a number of the committee members are considering resigning from their positions before the newly elected members would have an opportunity to formally take office.

In the past, Impallaria noted, the committee has had difficulty filling vacancies swiftly.

In 2012, he said, the panel was deadlocked in filling a vacancy and then-Maryland GOP Chairman Alex X. Mooney, who lived in western Maryland, appointed the replacement member, McBride. Mooney has since moved to West Virginia.

"It's ridiculous someone from western Maryland can appoint a central committee member in Harford County," Impallaria said. "They can't make an informed decision about a committee member in Harford County."

Impallaria said the legislation would ensure that people with an interest and understanding of Harford County make those decisions.

"We can only vote to replace them or if there is a reason to move one of them," Impallaria said. "We can't bring the charge to remove them."

Among the 12 committee members elected in 2010, 11 are still serving on the panel, according to the committee's website. Only McBride was appointed since the last election.

Just four current members, however, McBride, Patrick McGrady, Carol McCubbin and Scott DeLong, are running again in a field of 31 candidates. Among those running are Ricky Impallaria and Christina Impallaria, the delegate's children. Tim Impallaria, the delegate's brother and a member of the panel since 2010, is not seeking re-election.

McBride said he considers HB 1513 to be unprecedented legislation, noting that this past January, the committee voted on process to replace any members who might resign prior to November.

If a vacancy occurs before November, but after the June primary, McBride explained, the committee decided to appoint someone from the list of newly elected committee members to take their position early.

"We will honor the wishes of the voters by saying if we needed to replace those people, we will look at those list people who have been elected by the votes," McBride said.

McBride also said he has not received any official documentation announcing the resignation of any committee members.

Impallaria said he is unsure if the legislation will move forward or even go to a vote in the full House, noting it has been caught up in the rules committee for almost four weeks.

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