Thursday, July 14, 2022

Primary Concerns


From Wikipedia:

A slate is a group of candidates that run in multi-seat or multi-position elections on a common platform. The common platform may be because the candidates are all members of a political party, have the same or similar policies, or some other reason.

In United States legislative elections:

In states whose state legislatures are elected from multi-member districts, it is common for groups of candidates to form slates in primary and general elections. Elections to the Maryland General Assembly are a prime example, with most districts electing one member of the Maryland Senate and three members of the Maryland House of Delegates. Candidates for senator and delegate (usually incumbents) often join together prior to the primary election, registering their slates as separate campaign committees to enable them to raise funds separately. They are commonly called "Leadership Teams".

Today’s post is about my Democratic state representatives, known around Columbia/HoCo as “Team 13”. Until very recently this slate was made up of State Senator Guy Guzzone, and State Representatives Shane Pendergrass, Vanessa Atterbeary, and Jennifer Terrasa.

Shane Pendergrass, Vanessa Atterbeary, Jennifer Terrasa

At some point during the last year I started hearing rumblings that Delegate Pendergrass might be retiring. As is usually the case, certain names began to float to the surface as possible candidates to replace her. I was particularly excited to see two newcomers throw their hats in the ring: attorney and local activist Becca Niburg, and Amy Brooks, teacher and co-founder of OMO.

It is possible to win election after election and gradually become more insular and less attentive to other ways of thinking. It’s easy to fall back on things that have always worked before. That’s why I was so hopeful to see two candidates whose expertise and life experience could bring variety and added depth to our representation in Annapolis. It seemed to me that this was a very good time to bring in fresh voices to provide new insight to this already successful group.  

And, as was expected, Ms. Pendergrass did announce her retirement.

I have to admit my complete surprise when another candidate declared for this race. If I were more closely involved with the local Democratic Party perhaps I might have been aware this was coming. I wasn’t. That third candidate is Pam Lanman Guzzone. Ms. Guzzone has a Masters Degree in Public Management from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, and has been active as a community advocate and loyal Democratic Party volunteer.

Pam Lanman Guzzone

So far, so good. It’s the next bit that threw me for a loop.

At this point the good folks of Team 13th did what they’ve always done. They invited the three candidates to interviews and then selected the one they felt was most compatible with the slate. That person was Ms. Guzzone, who was henceforth integrated into “Team 13” on campaign literature, signs, photographs, and t-shirts.

Why did this bother me? Haven’t I observed this process before? Well, yes. But, for the first time, it felt really wrong.

We’d all love to pick our coworkers. I can definitely see the appeal there. But the tradition of running as a slate and getting to pick their own candidate runs contrary to the intent of the primary.

If the existing representatives get to pick their coworkers, why do we have a primary at all?

This is one election season where I think it would have made much more sense for Team 13 to have minded their own business and allowed the voters to pick the winner. It would have shown respect for Niburg and Brooks who are taking the risk to step up and serve, and it would have avoided the uncomfortable assumption that the endorsement was a slam-dunk for a traditional party insider. 

I don’t know if I’m more dismayed at what this does to Becca Niburg and Amy Brooks, both highly- qualified first-time candidates, or embarrassed for Ms. Guzzone who now does not have the opportunity to prove she could win in her own right. I don’t suspect there was any particular mean-spiritedness involved, but I do think it was an error in judgement.

What does this mean to you, if you live in District 13 and haven’t voted yet? It means I’m encouraging you to look at all three of the new candidates for the Delegate position. All three deserve a look and your serious consideration. It’s my understanding that you can vote for up to three. (I thought at first that this was a race only for Shane Pendergrass’s seat, but the incumbents are running for re-election as well.) 

If you aren’t familiar with the incumbents, look them up, too.

So - - drumroll please - - there does exist a possibility that all three challengers could get through and the incumbents knocked out. This is highly unlikely. I’m not saying I am advocating for that, either. But, all slates aside: you get to choose. It is your vote that will be counted.

Perhaps this entire episode is an example of why you need to be open to new views every so often so that you don’t get stuck doing the same old thing. What do you think?

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