Maryland union endorsements cause heated battles for many state races

Union boss loses his first floor fight to have the union support his daughter

By Hassan Giordano

On April 19th, the unions that make up the state’s largest and most influential union body, known as the AFL-CIO, took to the floor to do battle over who should earn their support and endorsement.

And, boy was it a barn burner!

According to several union leaders who were present on the floor, there were several races that wound up being contested, including one that involved the daughter of one of the most influential union officials in the DMV region, Glennard Middleton. The Executive Director of AFSCME’s Md. Council 67 and the President of the Local 44, Middleton was apparently unsatisfied with the early endorsement of the local courthouse union, AFSCME 3674, as well as the no-recommendation made by the Interviewing Committee and Executive Board of the AFL-CIO.

So he rose to make a motion to have the body override their decision, making a plea for his daughter Anika Middleton to receive their endorsement. However, that didn’t sit well with the AFSCME Maryland Council 3, who the local courthouse employees are a part of. So Sue Esty, Council 3’s political director, took to the microphone and announced that they were not willing to oppose who the local courthouse employees union had already endorsed, which happens to me (Hassan Giordano).

She then handed the microphone to the President of the courthouse employees union, Mrs. Pat Kelly, who defended their endorsed candidate for Clerk. “We are in such disarray currently downtown at the courts, that we need someone like Mr. Giordano, who won’t have to learn the position like Ms. Middleton and the other candidates running for the position, as Mr. Giordano has been the right-hand man of the former Clerk Frank Conaway Sr. (God rest his soul) and has fought side-by-side with us for years for better working conditions and equal pay for all. So we stand united behind our recommendation, and ask that the body support the recommendation made by the executive committee.”

The motion then went to the floor for the union members to vote on, as Middleton needed 2/3 of the vote for his daughter to be chosen. However, he did not receive the number of votes he needed, thereby leaving the n0-recommendation endorsement in place and a pissed off union leader who for years had never lost a motion.

However, that was just the beginning of a long night of fights on the floor as the body made their voices heard on many of the executive committee’s recommendations.

One of the most surprising fights was when the executive committee recommended endorsing longtime incumbent state senator Delores Kelley, from Baltimore County’s 10th legislative district. However some from the floor opposed their recommendation, making the case that she has become ineffective as an advocate in the state senate, and they received more than the 2/3 votes necessary to kill that endorsement – leaving that district’s state senate race with a no-recommendation instead.

The executive committee also recommended supporting first-term state delegate Antonio Hayes in his battle to unseat incumbent state senator Barbara Robinson in Baltimore City’s 40th district. Yet, they mistakenly had Robinson’s name printed on the sheet as their endorsement recommendation. Once that oversight was dealt with, multiple people stood to make the case as to how effective Robinson has been both as a state delegate, and as a state senator over the past year since she was appointed to the seat once held by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.

So they opposed the recommendation by the EC to endorse Hayes; however, they were unable to receive the 67-votes needed to overturn their decision so his endorsement stood! That also happened in the 41st district after the EC chose to recommend former state delegate Jill Carter as their nominee for the state senate race. However, several members raised the issue that her opponent has raised frequently about her reportedly missing roughly 1,600 votes during her time in the Maryland General Assembly. But they too weren’t able to secure the 2/3 votes needed, so her endorsement stood as well.

Members also challenged the EC recommendation for 43rd District State Senator Joan Carter Conway, as members stood to defend her challenger Delegate Mary Washington – a member of the local SEIU 500 who has supported the union for years – but failed to garner enough votes, leaving Conway’s endorsement intact. They also tried not allowing the EC’s recommendation to endorse incumbent state delegate Talmadge Branch in the 45th district, but that failed as well. The EC recommended not endorsing anyone in the battles for state senate in the 44th district, where the challenger Aletheia McCaskill is being backed by the powerful SEIU union, and the 45th district where the challenger Cory McCray is a union member. (The union endorsed Cheryl Glenn for delegate in the 45th district during an earlier endorsement period.)

There was a battle on the floor for both of them to receive the union’s support; however the body couldn’t muster up the necessary votes so those two districts remain with a no-recommendation endorsement.

“We stand united behind our recommendation, and ask that the body support the recommendation made by the executive committee.” ~ Pat Kelly

The powerful union, which is now being led by a young, rising political superstar, Jermaine Jones – who took over the Metropolitan Baltimore AFL-CIO union from legend Ernie Greco a few years ago; made some interesting choices for state delegate as well. In the 41st district, they left off two of three state delegates, deciding to endorse incumbent Bilal Ali, and two challengers Tony Bridges and Sean Stinnett.

And while the 46th district state senator Bill Ferguson unsurprisingly received their endorsement, his three House members did not! In fact, the only one of them to receive the endorsement of the AFL-CIO was longtime state delegate Luke Clippinger, while first-term delegate Brooke Lierman and recently appointed Delegate Robbyn Lewis did not receive their support. Instead, they decided to endorse challenger Dea Thomas for one of the seats, and left the other seat without a recommendation.

They also left the open 45th district delegate seat open with a no-recommendation, as well as the open 43rd district delegate seat, though they did endorse the 43rd district’s two incumbent state delegates Maggie McIntosh and Curt Anderson. In the lone 44A district for Baltimore City, they endorsed incumbent Keith Haynes who faces no challenger; however in the 40th district, they only endorsed newly appointed state delegate Nick Mosby, while leaving longtime incumbent Frank Conaway Jr. off the list.

However, his sister Belinda Conaway, won their support and endorsement for a second term as the city’s Register of Wills. Yet, shockingly they decided not to support longtime city Sheriff John Anderson, deciding to endorse his challenger Stanley Brandford, who is a political newcomer with no real resume of community engagement whatsoever, which has baffled many.

Overall, it was a night filled with plenty of floor battles and even more disappointed candidates hoping to receive the endorsement of this powerful body; however, I’m sure while it may energize those who received their support, it won’t stop the others who didn’t from giving it their all during this hot and heavy primary election season.