xml:space="preserve">

The Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee has recommended to Maryland's governor only one person to fill each of two open delegate seats (one of which was created because a criminal indictment was filed against the original appointee): former City Councilman Nick Mosby and Bilal Ali, who works as a community liaison for Mr. Mosby's wife, Marilyn, Baltimore's state's attorney, and sits on the committee that selected him. Both men were chosen after a hasty, opaque process.

Gov. Larry Hogan asked for a background check on each and was promptly criticized for the optics of it. One might wonder how this request could be considered unreasonable after the city committee's first choice was charged with making illegal campaign contributions.

Advertisement

And then there's this lesson from history: A few years ago, the Prince George's County's Democratic Central Committee rashly recommended a person to fill an empty seat there who turned out to have a misdemeanor firearm conviction that ultimately caused the committee to withdraw the nomination. This created significant delay and required the Maryland Court of Appeals to resolve the dispute. With this in mind, Governor Hogan's asking for a little more information is hardly unreasonable.

In fact, there is a very good argument that the governor, whose middle-of-the-road moderation has been a breath of fresh air in today's polarized political climate, is entitled to go even further and ask for a real choice. The Maryland Constitution, which governs legislative vacancies, requires the governor to appoint a replacement from among the recommended candidates provided by the central committee within 15 days of receiving them. That, of course, contemplates that the central committee will give the governor a list with more than one name on it.

In 2015, the Court of Appeals of Maryland said that the constitution does not prohibit a party central committee from sending the governor a menu from which to make his selection, but no case seems to have yet resolved whether the law requires the committee to put forward more than one name. A careful consideration of the Maryland Constitution's text and purpose suggests that the governor should be able to choose from a list of qualified people, however.

If the central committee is allowed to just handpick the replacement without providing any options, why does the Constitution give the governor two weeks to make a decision? Why would the Constitution refer to the governor's role as a "duty" to make an "appointment"? And why even bother the state's chief executive if the committee's selection is only to be automatically ratified?

Clearly, the governor's constitutional "duty" to "make said appointment" anticipates that the governor will use his discretion in selecting a qualified person to make our laws and serve the public good with integrity. Indeed, the practice of sending only one name is particularly problematic when previous selections have been scuttled by corruption charges and criminal convictions. If the governor was left only the responsibility of rubber stamping the central committee's selection, the constitution could have said exactly that. It doesn't.

On the contrary, our state constitution divides power for filling vacancies between the central committee and the governor. The committee must recommend candidates, and the governor must appoint from among them. But implicit in the governor's duty to decide whom to appoint is the authority to decline a candidate. So if the central committee declines to send more than one name, the governor should feel free to decline its nominee and ask for another.

Faith in democratic institutions is being tested across the country, and continuing to allow our city's replacement representatives to be chosen in backroom deals by party insiders is a mistake. The Republican governor should exercise his legal prerogative and ask for a menu of candidates, all selected by the district's Democratic central committee. That is what the law contemplates, and that is what a transparent, accountable democracy requires.

Daniel A Loveland Jr. is an attorney and resident of Baltimore; his email is DanielLovelandJr@gmail.com.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement