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Ben gets the BEST of his opponents during central committee election

By Hassan Giordano

(BALTIMORE – July 19, 2018) – Last night, members of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee converged on East Baltimore with one thing in mind, who were they going to elect to be their next presiding officers. We found out the answer to that question about two hours after the start of the meeting – which garnered the largest turnout for a central committee meeting in recent history.

FB LIVE Video of the entire election proceedings found here

It was room packed with democratic activists, many of them recently voted to serve the next four years as the army for the Democratic Party; and yet, surprisingly there was not one mention of the name Ben Jealous – the democratic candidate for Governor this November – by a single person the entire night.

However, while one Ben all but saw his city battalion turn their back on his uphill battle to unseat a popular Republican Governor, another Ben used his political prowess to ensure those same folks secured his victory as the body’s new leader.

Ben Smith, the 40th district Bolton Hill resident, rode in to last night’s vote with a well thought out, and politically connected, plan to win the necessary votes to become the central committee’s next chairman. Articulating a vision for the future in his two-minute stump speech to the body, Smith conveyed a plan for engaging Baltimore voters that was also highlighted in the 9-point handout he gave members ahead of his speech entitled, “Rebuilding Trust”.

And while he garnered enough “trust” amongst the body to win the seat, he likely lost the trust of one of his closest allies and “friends” once it was all said and done. Phylicia Porter, a candidate for 2nd vice chair on the Ben for Baltimore slate and a member on the Antonio Hayes led ‘40th district leadership team’ during the recent democratic primaries, saw her hopes of leadership dashed at the hands of the very man she’s been touting as the leader the central committee needed to embrace, her friend Ben.

It was his vote for Porter’s opponent, 45th district central committee member Antonio Glover that killed her candidacy by one vote. With the election for 2nd-vice chair tied between Glover and Porter at 11-eleven votes apiece – with other opponents Tessa Hill-Aston with 4-votes, Arlene Fisher with seven and Angie Winder receiving three votes – it was Smith’s vote against his district colleague Porter, in favor of Glover, that secured the seat for the BEST Democratic Club co-founder.

Last night’s election results highlighted exactly what I wrote about the other day, that the political wheeling and dealing of BEST was the driving force behind who would become the next chairman of the city’s central committee – and it turns out, they were influential in the election of the entire slate of officers. Senator-elect Cory McCray, the leader of BEST, was making calls to urge members of the central committee to support Ben, contingent on Ben’s support of McCray’s East Baltimore ally, Mr. Glover.

And while Senator-elect Hayes, another BEST member representing their West Baltimore faction, was supportive of Porter – who was on his Primary Election ballot – it quickly became clear that his loyalty to McCray and Glover was more pressing than his allegiance to Ms. Porter. So while Hayes loyalist and 40th district central committee member, Councilman John Bullock, wound up voting for Porter; it was clear that his task was to “not make it look intentional” but to ensure Smith’s victory, as the two sat next to each other the entire night, while Glover sat directly behind them.

McCray also orchestrated the insertion and victory of the committee’s Sergeant at Arms, Jacqueline Addison – who was on the McCray primary ballot along with Glover. And while both of them are great leaders with the drive and the passion for the people, it seems as if some members had an issue with Glover’s election – based more off the fact that he had to be replaced during the last central committee term for not attending regularly scheduled central committee meetings.

“The issue with Mr. Glover is we kicked him off of the central committee last term because he never showed up to meetings, only showing up to two meetings,” wrote Odette Ramos on Facebook, who was recently re-elected to the central committee representing the 43rd district. “Phylicia should be there, but it’s okay because I have a plan.”

Porter on the other hand, though disappointed in the treachery that left her off the leadership team, said that she’s thrilled to have been elected by the voters of the 40th district, and says she’s ready to help the central committee activate democratic voters to turn out in November and beyond. “We have work to do, as a City and as a Party,” said Porter, who is slowly becoming one of Baltimore’s leading health specialists, and quickly becoming a rising star in local democratic politics.

“I genuinely feel awful for what happened to Phylicia last night, as she quickly became my vote shero through the primary campaign; but I know that she will be a force to be reckoned with in democratic politics across this city and state in the years to come,” said SEIU500 political director, Mark McLaurin. “I want to congratulate all of the winners, as I can’t wait to work with them to help get Ben elected Governor this fall – and not Ben Smith, Ben Jealous!”

Ironically, with a Ben leading the charge on last night’s ballot and after eighteen candidates spoke for one to two minutes about their plans and vision for their possible role as a central committee officer; not a single one of them mentioned the name Ben Jealous. With thirty-seven of the committee’s 42-members in attendance, it was never mentioned once that their #1 goal is to engage and energize the voters this fall, in electing a democrat over that of an incumbent Republican Governor, Larry Hogan.

Maybe they are resigned to the fact that with a 70% approval rating, and a pie-in-the-sky, self-proclaimed socialist as his opponent, that Governor Hogan isn’t going anywhere, so they are more concerned on building their base for 2022?

I don’t know, but either way, with a divided central committee that feels as if their local political leaders put their thumb on the scales of justice during last night’s election – who may not be as trusting of one another as you would hope; it seems as if Mr. Smith will have his work cut out for him trying to “Rebuild Trust” within his own party’s central committee – before they ever engage the voters of Baltimore City.

Here is the final vote tally and winners from last night’s central committee election:

Chairman

Ben Smith (Winner) – 18 votes

Monica Cooper (40th) – 8 votes

Angela Gibson (41st) – 8 votes

3 – members abstaining from the vote

1st Vice-Chair

Karenthia Barber (Winner) – 27 votes

Sharon Brackett (46th) – 9 votes

1 – member abstaining from the vote

2nd Vice-Chair

Antonio Glover (Winner) – 12 votes

Phylicia Porter (40th) – 11 votes

Arlene Fisher (40th) – 7 votes

Tessa Hill-Aston (41st) – 4 votes

Angie Winder (43rd) – 3 votes

Recording Secretary

Tammy Stinnett (Winner) – 41st district with no opposition

Corresponding Secretary

Sylvia Williams (Winner) – 43rd district with no opposition

Treasurer

Mike Ball (Winner) – 17 votes

Mark Edelson (46th) – 12 votes

Crystal Jackson Parker (40th) – 6 votes

2 – members abstaining from the vote

Sergeant at Arms

Jacqueline Addison (Winner) – 21 votes

Kyle Berkley (44A) – 11 votes

Lisa Henson (41st) – 5 votes