The troublesome case of Curt Anderson

We sympathize with the residents of Baltimore’s 43rd District who want some resolution of the sexual misconduct allegations against Del. Curt Anderson before the deadline this month for him to be replaced on the ballot. Mr. Anderson’s appearance this week at a marathon meeting of the General Assembly’s Ethics Committee served as a reminder that voters have no clarity about whether the charges — ranging from inappropriate comments to outright sexual assault — are true. That was also the case before June’s primary, when Mr. Anderson narrowly captured the third spot on the Democratic ticket, and in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, that makes him an odds-on favorite for re-election in November if he stays on the ballot.

But we also appreciate the need for the Ethics Committee to follow the process for handling sexual misconduct complaints updated this year as part of Annapolis’ response to the #metoo movement. It ensures that allegations like those Mr. Anderson faces — and which he categorically denies — are not swept under the rug, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to a speedy process. The rules now require the General Assembly to hire an independent investigator, who then presents his findings to the Ethics Committee. That adds to the time it takes for a finding, but it also lessens the possibility that the relationships between lawmakers will influence the process. Additionally, under the old law and new, such an investigation has to wait for the conclusion of any criminal investigation, on the grounds that to do otherwise could taint the process. Given that The Sun has reported on a 2017 police report related to one of the allegations, that may well have been a factor in this case.

It’s frustrating that this is playing out in an election year, but that’s just unfortunate timing. It wouldn’t make much sense to create a separate, truncated process for election years.

We are in no position to judge whether the allegations are true or what a just outcome of this case might be. For that reason, we aren’t prepared to join the calls for Mr. Anderson to withdraw his name from the ballot. But we would add that no matter what may come to pass, the Aug. 28 deadline isn’t so crucial as Mr. Anderson’s critics make it out.

First, we should note that voters will have a choice in November whether Mr. Anderson stays on the ballot or not. There are no Republicans running in the district, but there is a Green Party candidate, Bonnie “Raven” Lane, a long-time community activist from Charles Village. She has an extensive record of volunteer work to help the homeless, and her policy platform — which focuses on fighting hunger, expanding affordable housing, increasing the minimum wage, encouraging clean energy and improving Baltimore’s public transportation — should be appealing to many 43rd District voters, particularly those who have gravitated to Del. Mary Washington’s progressive campaign for state Senate.

And second, we would point out that if the worst proves true and Mr. Anderson either resigns or is expelled from the General Assembly, there is no practical difference in who will represent the district whether he’s on the ballot or not. If he drops off the ballot in advance of the deadline, the Democratic State Central Committee for the district would choose his replacement. If he stays on the ballot and is re-elected but does not or cannot serve, the Central Committee would still choose his replacement.

Should any of those scenarios come to pass, we urge the Central Committee not to appoint a political crony, as so often happens in these cases, but instead to bear in mind the will of the primary voters. Two Democrats got a substantial number of votes in the primary — Kelly Fox, a pastor and former youth and family therapist, and Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman. Of the two, Dr. Kalyanaraman, a physician with Health Care for the Homeless, who finished less than 500 votes behind Mr. Anderson (and whom we endorsed in the primary) would be the best choice.

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