The Baltimore Democratic Central Committee met Friday evening, February 15 at the Oliver Community Center to choose a successor to the late Del. Hattie Harrison.

I attended to support one of the nine candidates and also to see if what one legislator told me about a year ago was to come true. The legislator told me that Nina Harper was going to be the successor to Hattie Harrison. During the evening the legislator let it be known that if she said this, she meant it to be an explanation of the process of succession. I must be very naive because I didn't think that would happen, but, in truth, that is exactly what happened.

But not without some superb wheeling and dealing on the part of the members of the central committee. To the committee's credit they had an orderly method of questions and answers to acquaint everyone with the candidates. However, three of the candidates were members of the central committee. Following their presentations they then sat in their places on the committee. I began to calculate in my head that if each of them voted for themselves there would only be four relevant votes for others.

Evidently others in attendance were thinking about the process as well. There were to be three ballots by the committee, each time eliminating the bottom candidates until one remained. Prior to the vote many questions were asked of the committee. Why didn't those running for the office recuse themselves from the committee? Why was this a secret ballot? The chair repeatedly explained that everything that they were doing was according to the state constitution as they were broadly interpreting it. The first ballot was completed with no one in a majority and with one ballot invalid because two persons were voted for on it. The audience was incredulous that seven people couldn't vote correctly. On the second ballot the same thing happened. One person voted for two people on his/her ballot, and it was invalid. Nina Harper got three votes and won the election. How would the election have turned out if those two ballots had been valid? Basically, the audience was so upset at the procedure that I never heard the final tally.

To say that those in attendance were incredulous and angry is an understatement.

While no laws may have been broken in this shameful election process, it is clear that the central committee had already decided who they wanted to win the election and everyone was in cahoots or was afraid to speak. The ethical uprightness of this committee is to be questioned as is their respect for the intelligence of their constituency, whom they evidently think will overlook their behind the scenes actions.

In retrospect the hard work of the candidates to prepare their presentations were exercises in futility. Every candidate was well qualified to serve but was up against the "old boys (and girls) club" and had no chance to be elected. In addition, a question might be asked why no attorney was present to answer the legal questions that were being asked by the audience? Why, too, was there no press present to report this glorious event? Because the committee wisely held the meeting on a Friday night when most people had gone home for the weekend.

Shame on the central committee for their boldfaced cronyism! Members of the committee owe a re-vote and an apology to their constituents. Members of the committee are Scherod Barnes, Ronald Bailey, Warren Branch, Tashea Brodkins, Donovon Brooks, Nina Harper, Kevin Parson, and Robert Stokes.

The people of District 45 deserve excellent elected officials who will move us forward, not these farcical antics that do not resemble good government.

Donna Martin, Baltimore

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