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Committee bungles Harrison replacement

3:00 PM EST, February 20, 2013

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On Friday, Feb.15, the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee convened at the Oliver Community Center to select a candidate to assume the seat once held by Delegate Hattie Harrison, a longtime political stalwart in East Baltimore ("Community leader picked to replace delegate," Feb. 19). Ten candidates interviewed for the position, and three of the candidates were also members of the committee conducting the interviews. The oddity was that at no time did the chair or committee members think it was inappropriate for them to participate in deciding who should succeed Delegate Harrison. On several occasions, Chairman Scherod C. Barnes was questioned about obvious conflicts of interests to which he expressed having no qualms. For those with the temerity to question the process, they were told the Maryland Constitution allows such a vote and the candidates were all known to the district and have done good work followed by another two minutes of complete obfuscation.

Yet, several issues remain. It is unclear why the committee would not utilize its two at-large members to replace those seeking the position (not that it would have changed the outcome), but it would have given the perception that the proceedings were above board. It is also unclear why committee members who were also candidates did not recuse themselves from the vote. It appears that ethics is but another area to be overlooked when seeking a legislative replacement. Here was a unique opportunity for the three committee member candidates to rise above others and show leadership and honor and they failed the test miserably opting for typical East Baltimore politics instead. A huge disappointment! And finally, why did one committee member consistently submit an ineligible ballot by selecting two persons when the instructions specifically asked panel members to vote for only one? Is the work of the central committee so unimportant that abrogation of duty is thought to be comical? Unfortunately, this was not the most bizarre act of the evening.

Then there were the candidate questions. It is unclear why the interview questions were so pedestrian in nature. They included: Who are the city and state legislators in the 45th District? What do you believe is the role of a state legislator? Tell us about a situation when you had to deal with a very upset person. What was your approach and how did you deal with it? Why do you believe you are the best qualified person for the position? Yes, it is important for the potential candidate to know basic civics. However, the 45th District needs a person who can think critically and offer policy and position statements on the myriad challenges of the district such as state budget, education, jobs, housing, health care, environment, gun crime, public safety issues, taxes and fees, gambling, etc. None of these questions was asked of the candidates. It is unclear what skill sets the committee was seeking in this appointment which has the capacity to extend into a four-year term. Are the difficulties of the 45th so unremarkable that we have no need to set a high bar in terms of requiring candidates to be deep thinkers with some degree of mental dexterity?

If the politics, ethics, leadership, and questions asked on Friday are any indication of 45th District's capacity, then the trajectory of this district will continue to be in serious trouble economically, politically and otherwise.

Brenda Pridgen, Baltimore

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