TO: Democratic Members of the Maryland House of Delegates
FROM: Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Maryland Democratic Party Chair
DATE: April 24, 2019
RE: Open Letter Regarding the Speaker of the House of Delegates Leadership Race and Similar Matters
As the Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, it is my role to make sure that the Party’s infrastructure and operations are solid, so the public is informed, inspired, and activated to vote for Democrats and so Democratic candidates can win elections and serve the people effectively. I am also responsible for ensuring that Democratic elected officials can operate in a political environment that optimizes their ability to represent Democratic voters, values, and policies.
Republicans in the Maryland House of Delegates have reportedly offered to cast their 42 votes in support of a Democratic candidate for Speaker who is unlikely to win the majority vote of the Democratic Caucus. While Republicans are free to cast their votes as they so choose, it would be unacceptable for a Democratic candidate to assume the Speaker’s position in this manner.
The Speaker of the House of Delegates carries a lot of power. S/he appoints committee chairs who determine how legislation is developed and whether it is advanced, sets the policy and political agenda for the full body, and schedules the matters to be taken up on the House floor. A Democratic Speaker who rises to the position because of Republican support will be beholden to Republicans, their agenda and their values. This outcome would not only hurt the Democratic Party, it would diminish the power of Democratic legislators and their ability to represent the values and the will of Democratic voters across a range of important issues.
For this reason, I call on each candidate for Speaker of the House of Delegates to accept the vote of the Democratic Caucus, vote for the Democratic nominee for Speaker, and refuse to accept a nomination from the floor if it means winning the position because of Republican votes.
Unfortunately, the Speaker’s race is not the end of this matter. For all the reasons stated above, the power and positioning of the Democratic Party is also threatened by Democratic elected officials who explicitly or tacitly throw their support to Republicans in general elections. The Party saw the result of this kind of behavior when Republican Governor Larry Hogan won reelection in the 2018 election cycle with the support of approximately 25 percent of Democratic voters; many of whom took cues from certain Democratic officials who refused to publicly support the Democratic gubernatorial nominee and/or publicly indicated their preference for the Republican governor.
Because the scenarios outlined above (and several more not yet articulated) conflict with our core principles and diminish our ability to achieve our goals, the Maryland Democratic Party is prepared to penalize (e.g. deny access to party tools and resources, charge a higher premium for services, etc.) any elected official who is caught using Party resources to promote Republican candidates and/or who work to block the ascension of Democratic nominees duly elected through official Democratic processes and procedures.
If officials deemed in violation of Party principles receive access to the tools and resources of the Maryland Democratic Party indirectly through leadership organizations, these organizations will be held to the same standards and penalties. More detailed guidelines explaining how and under what circumstances party penalties will be deployed are forthcoming.