Two delegates set to retire with another senator gearing up for a statewide run in 2014
If you are a Baltimore City resident you can’t help but to have heard about, witnessed and/or attended one of the many voter empowerment events hosted by some of the city’s growing political action clubs – and most are dominated by young politicos. From the Independent Movement Political Action Club or IMPAC, to the BEST Democratic Club; old school political organizations have resurfaced around the city; and the participants have taken a page out of the books of their elders.
Hosting political fundraisers, community engagement events and strategy sessions, these groups are gearing up for what they consider their golden opportunity to get progressively young candidates in office. Cory McCray, member and co-founder of the newest democratic club known as BEST, has been actively involved in union politics for quite a while; yet, now says he’s ready to set an example, and create a venue, for younger voters to become more actively involved in the local, state and national political process. “They say all politics is local, and we are focusing on the pressing local issues facing East Baltimore residents such as better schools, housing, public safety and other vital needs of our constituency,” says the 30-year political activist, who himself may be considering a run for elective office in 2014. “We’ll see, but what we’re doing now we don’t feel can wait every two to four years until election time. We are trying to help our neighbors each and every day, the best way we know how, whether elected or not; as we feel it’s our responsibility to help uplift the next man!”
And assist the community they have, especially with their community empowerment events aimed at registering and mobilizing a city that witnessed only 23% turnout in the 2011 city elections. “It’s not that people are blind to the fact that there is an election looming, but many feel they are wasting their time voting for the lesser of two evils in many cases,” says political analyst Shaun Louis, who is the Vice-Chairman of another political club, IMPAC. “We identify with those registered as Independents or unaffiliated as they put it here in Maryland. And while we work closely with progressive democratic and republican initiatives like BEST, we believe the two-party system is broken and the people of this great state deserve a viable alternative to what they’ve been getting for the past 20+ years.”
Attending the latest BEST community outreach event, members of IMPAC assisted in ensuring those who attended got to know about the 20-ballot questions facing city voters this fall. Having authored one of those many local charter amendments, Question L; the group looks to empower their members and others who are registered third party voters by enacting progressive policies. One of which is including almost 50,000 registered voters currently locked out of the political process of being appointed to local boards and commissions – which would change with the affirmation of Question L. “We can’t vote in Primaries, we aren’t recognized in political debates and are locked out of much of the process; yet, we are tax-paying citizens who are registered to vote and tend to be the vital swing voters these politicians seek out at election time – and we just happen to be the fastest growing bloc of voters in the country,” says a frustrated Louis.
Yet, it’s through groups like BEST that members of the younger generation of voters gets to interact with local and state democratic leaders – like Senator Brian Frosh of Montgomery County, who came all the way to Baltimore last week to be apart of their latest community event. Frosh, who has served the 16th legislative district since 1995, is now seeking a statewide seat in 2014 – as he has his eyes set on the Attorney General’s post. Currently held by Doug Gansler, another democrat who many believe will run for the open Governor’s seat in 2014; Frosh seems to have the support of most of the city’s political elite – two years out! Stating that he had commitments from all six of the city’s state senators, including the support of East Baltimore native and City Council President Bernard ‘Jack’ Young, Frosh is making the rounds early in order to secure a seat sure to be highly contested – both by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Yet, political groups like BEST believe it’s in their ‘BEST’ interest to have those seeking elected office, amongst their group and at their events; as they seek to become a political powerbroker in the months and years to come. “You need to be focused and strategizing for political office in 2014 now, especially statewide offices like the AG’s or Comptroller’s Office, and especially the Governor’s mansion,” says Louis, who believes that was the reason that Baltimore witnessed current Lt. Governor Anthony Brown at the last BEST event. Brown, a Prince George’s County native, who was a former delegate and now holds the #2 office in Maryland, is believed to also be seeking the Governor’s Office in 2014 – which would make him the first African American to ever hold the seat or be elected statewide (on their own). Yet, with Gansler and Brown almost certain to be ‘all-in’ for this seat in two years, rumors also have people like current Comptroller Peter Franchot and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman also considering a statewide run for the state’s top post.
“It’s going to be a democratic free-for-all in 2014, and not only for the Governor’s Office; but for the possibly vacant AG and Comptroller seats, as well as places like Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard Counties who are expected to have county executive vacancies,” says Louis, who is responsible for polling, strategy and meeting with each statewide candidate to see who IMPAC will support. “We are currently the largest organized group of Independent registered voters, with affiliates in Montgomery, Anne Arundel, PG and Baltimore County; these candidates will certainly need the over half-a-million registered Independent voters in the fall of 2014 – especially if we get the majority of our group to switch party lines to vote in the Primaries!”
However, more relevant news on the wire is that while Delegate Justin Ross of Prince George’s County has already announced his resignation next month; rumor also has it that longtime delegate Hattie Harrison of Baltimore City’s 45th district, is slated for retirement by the end of this year. Harrison, the 84-year old delegate who was alienated by her East Baltimore Leadership Team of elected colleagues in 2002 and overcame their quest to have her permanently retired through defeat; is said to be experiencing bad health and ready to hand over the reigns of leadership. If her seat becomes vacant, it will technically be left up to the 45th district’s state central committee to decide who will serve out the remainder of her term. However, politics isn’t always what it seems, and rumor has it that the same EBLT that tried to ‘throw mama from the train’ ten years ago, now has plans to fill her vacancy with their handpicked successor.
Their initial candidate was said to be East Baltimore leader Nina Harper, who because of her failing health as of late, seems to have endorsed longtime friend, Robert Stokes. The current aide to Councilman Carl Stokes (no relation), Robert has sought office before and was set to be anointed to take Carl’s 12th district council seat last year before Carl ultimately decided against a run for Mayor of Baltimore at the 11th hour. Now, it looks as though [Robert] Stokes may have finally ‘paid his dues’ and patiently waited his turn; however, other candidates seem likely to join the fray? Current 45th district state central committee member Ronald Bailey also has his eyes on a House of Delegates seat, as well as BEST Democratic Club co-founder [Cory] McCray, who both have put in a lot of work in the district over the past few years – and are both likely to run for one of the three House seats in 2014. “That will be really interesting to see what goes on over there; as you honestly have four or five great choices, but many won’t see the real inner political workings and deals cut to make that appointment happen,” says Louis. “Which is why the creation and the empowerment of these new political groups are vital; especially for those younger politicos trying to get involved in the political process?”
Therefore, while many older voters may remember the days of IMPACT (Kweisi Mfume’s West Baltimore political club), the Metro Democratic Club (Lloyd Randolph’s group), EDO (DuBurns/McFadden’s Eastside Democratic Club), George Della’s Stonewall Democratic Club and even old Mimi DiPietro’s Southeast Community Club; get ready for BEST and IMPAC, cause you haven’t seen nothing yet! As the utilization of the internet and social media for mass organizing and the disbursement of information, combined with the lessons learned from our predecessors and the insight into what the people really need and want; along with having great young leaders and potential candidates like Mr. McCray and Louis, Shannon Sneed, Tony Glover, Rodney Burris, Tashea Brodgins, Catalina Byrd and more – we are primed for a political takeover. So proceed against us with caution, for we are just as savvy and politically astute; and ready to put the work in – for 2014 and beyond!
Check out IMPAC’s ValueMyVote2012 website at: www.independentmovementpac.org
BEST Democratic Club can be found at: http://www.bestdemocraticclub.org
For more information on this article and more email me here, follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, watch episodes of the Reporters’ Roundtable ‘Politically Incorrect’ edition TV or browse the many services provided by GCOMM Media Co.