As the Democratic National Convention winds down after a few days of trying to ramp up their party members for the upcoming General Election, in Baltimore City they will be short a dozen democratic activists elected in 2018 to serve on the city’s democratic state central committee.
Ironically, after campaigning door to door just two years ago promising change, many of the candidates ensuring voters they’d reform the central committee by replacing members who didn’t show up for half of the meetings are now being removed for that very reason.
On Wednesday night, on a call in replace of their normal monthly meeting, Chairwoman Karenthia Barber read the names of the twelve central committee members who were being removed from the distinguished body for failing to attend 50% of the body’s twelve monthly meetings.
According to the group’s by-laws, Article V, Section 1; Sub-Section B: Any member who fails to attend a majority of the meetings during any twelve month period of time from the time of their election can be removed from their position, with the exception being for any member who is an elected member of the Md House of Delegates or State Senate who missed meetings during the 90-day Maryland General Assembly session.
However, none of the members that were removed serve as a state legislator, though one such member is a sitting council member, Councilman Robert Stokes, with another member weeks away from being one herself. Here is the list of names of those being removed, and the legislative district in which they represented:
Steven Johnson (At-Large, 40th District); Tessa Hill-Aston (Chair, 41st District); Bilal Ali (41st District); Kalman Finklestein (41st District); Josh Crocket (At-Large, 41st District); Odette Ramos (43rd District); Terrence Thrweatt (At-Large, 43rd District); Roscoe Brunson (District 44A); Robert Stokes (45th District); Jasmine Collins (45th District); Kevin Parsons (45th District); Betty Bland-Thomas (46th District). [The three At-Large members were appointed, not elected by the voters, to serve as gender-balance members.]
Each member received a certified letter back in July detailing the upcoming punishment, as prescribed by their by-laws; yet Chairwoman Barber was still accused of orchestrating a mass exodus of members as some sort of payback. However, the first-term chairwoman was not going to take such accusations lightly and bluntly stated, “it’s not my fault you didn’t show up for our meetings, you did this to yourselves.”
In fact, the group of party activists, known as the “Democratic Dirty Dozen”, began to utilize every trick in the political playbook to save face after being ousted for the very thing they campaigned against, including one member lying to her constituents on Facebook. Odette Ramos, a member of the 43rd district central committee and the person who revised the group’s by-laws, was removed but took to social media to pretend as if she was resigning due to recently being elected to the Baltimore City Council.
A day after receiving the certified letter from the central committee detailing the reasons for her removal, Ramos posted a letter to Facebook stating the reason she was “resigning” from the committee was because she didn’t want to hold two elected seats, another issue that many of these same members promised to eliminate once elected and never got around to. Ramos was called out on her BS reason by local activist Shane Bryan, who questioned the timing of her so-called resignation, knowing that she had just received her removal letter.
Others have questioned the decision and the timing of their removal as political payback. Councilman Robert Stokes questioned why a state elected official would be given an excuse for their work in the Maryland General Assembly during the 90-day session while a councilman such as himself doesn’t get any excused absences for his year-round work on the council.
“If it comes down to me meeting with a constituent or community group, or having to attend a committee hearing over that of a monthly central committee meeting, guess which one I’m going to choose,” questioned Stokes, who says that he was appealing the matter for several reasons, including the fact that several meetings were held online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions and he was unable to log-on to the meeting due to technical issues with the site.
Of the dozen members removed, four of them did appeal the decision, including Stokes, former state delegate Bilal Ali, Kalman Finklestein and Jasmine Collins. They had their appeals heard by the state party’s credentials committee, which includes one member who would clearly be biased towards Councilman Stokes’ appeal, given his disdain for elected officials serving on the central committee.
Robbie Leonard, a Baltimore County democratic official, has long championed the issue that the members of the city’s central committee failed to act on, which would be to have elected officials barred from serving on the central committee. In fact, Leonard was one of those duped into believing Ramos was resigning from the position due to her belief that she should not occupy two seats rather than the real reason of being removed, highlighting her Facebook post on his own FB page later that day as he made the point that elected officials should not be elected to this non-paid position.
When I chaired the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee, I strongly advocated to change our bylaws so that an…
Stokes feels that Leonard’s vote would certainly be to remove him from the position, as would Senator Cory McCray’s, who serves as the 45th district’s state senator – the district in which Stokes serves – and chairs the state credentials committee. Stokes says that this is an attempt by the freshman state senator to remove two of the central committee members that he doesn’t control – Stokes and Collins – in order to get two people selected that serve at his pleasure. The central committee plays a huge role once a sitting state delegate or senator dies, resigns or is removed from office, as they are the body of folks who vote to appoint their replacement.
Last year, Stokes and Collins flexed their central committee muscles as they were able to get Chanel Branch, the chairwoman of 45th district central committee and the daughter of the district’s state delegate Talmadge Branch, appointed to serve in the House with her father.
McCray, who only had two votes on the seven-member central committee, failed in his attempts at getting his own nominee appointed to the delegate seat vacated by the now imprisoned state delegate Cheryl Glenn. With the removal of both Stokes and Collins, two members that are not in the McCray camp, and the possibility of replacing them with two pro-McCray members, that would give the senator the four votes necessary to ensure that such a failed attempt never happens again.
The appeal process is still pending for these four, but the other eight members have been removed. However, their positions will not be filled anytime soon, as the central committee isn’t set to begin the appointment process for these open seats until after the upcoming November election.