This past weekend's Maryland Republican Party convention was dominated by Larry Hogan's announcement of his intention to run for Governor of Maryland. Lost in the excitement, the assembled central committee members from around the state debated a non-binding resolution calling on the MDGOP to withdraw its support for elected officials who have been "convicted and incarcerated".
The proposal, submitted by the influential chairman of the Baltimore County Republican State Central Committee John Fiastro, Jr., called on state party leaders to apply the same standards to elected officials of both parties and refuse to support elected officials who are "convicted and incarcerated" while in office. Mr. Fiastro summarized his proposal as a symbolic, non-binding effort to hold "all elected officials to a higher standard."
In an era where so many voters view all politicians as corrupt and often eschew associating with any political party, there is a great opportunity for the MDGOP to set itself apart by demanding a basic standard of conduct from those who hold the public trust. Maryland is a state with a one-party machine and a rich history of every type of political corruption from Tiffany Alston to Sheila Dixon to Jack Johnson to Tommy Bromwell to Larry Young, well you get the idea. Voters here are desperate for some political party to put integrity, basic honesty and decency over partisan advantage or the maintenance of raw political power.
Against such a background, it would seem the MDGOP would have leaped at the opportunity to separate itself from the Maryland Democratic party that dominates the state and, albeit symbolically, adopt a zero tolerance policy for elected officials who are "convicted and incarcerated." It would be another arrow in the state party's quiver to distinguish itself from the status quo of Maryland politics. Imagine how powerful an argument emphasizing honesty and good government would be to the state's growing unaffiliated voting bloc cynical of party politics.
Unfortunately, the proposal was rejected by a three-to-one margin. The overwhelming number of central committee members took the view that there is, in fact, a place for "convicted and incarcerated" elected officials in the Maryland Republican Party. Citing technical arguments and a lack of "enforcability" the state party failed to adopt the wholly symbolic resolution establishing the MDGOP as the party of clean politicians. Worst yet, not one single central committee member, other than Fiastro himself, took the floor to argue for the resolution.
This vote embodies the myopic, short-sighted partisanship that has driven so many voters from organized politics, people who in many cases should be receptive to the message of the Maryland Republican Party. While this vote may give comfort to Don Dwyer, currently serving a prison term, or John Leopold, the defrocked former Anne Arundel County Executive who is openly contemplating a return to elected office, it makes the job of every Republican candidate, elected official, activist, donor, and yes even central committee member more difficult.
Fiastro is considering whether to bring back the proposal, perhaps as a broader package of reform resolutions. If he does, all Maryland Republicans should demand that their party leadership abandon their enabling of corrupt politicians and work to create a party we can be proud of and which distinguishes itself as a party which demands integrity, honesty and decency.
Red Maryland has strived to be the premier blog and radio network of conservative and Republican politics and ideas in the free state since 2007. Its posts appear regularly on baltimoresun.com.