In what is being described as one of the most convoluted, confusing and crooked political processes in local government, the seven elected members of 45th district state central committee voted to send one state delegate’s daughter to Annapolis, filling the vacancy left by a former state delegate being charged with bribery and wire fraud.
Last night, Chanel Branch – the daughter of longtime state delegate Talmadge Branch – received three of the seven votes from the members on the committee to make her the next state delegate for this East Baltimore district replacing former Delegate Cheryl Glenn, pending the appointment of Republican Governor Larry Hogan. Branch, the chairwoman of the district’s central committee, wound up breaking the two to two tie between her and area political activist Caylin Young, by voting for herself.
“Who else was I going to vote for,” questioned Branch. “I am my biggest supporter, so it would be foolish of me not to vote for myself.” She was responding to the criticism of online haters who were upset that she was allowed to not only participate in the selection process by being a candidate for the seat, but also allowed to cast a vote – which turned out to be the deciding vote at that. People were also upset that Branch was currently on the ballot for the upcoming April 28th Primary election as a democratic candidate for city council, which if appointed she would have to remove her name from; not to mention the many vocal critics of having a father and a daughter representing the same legislative district.
“Shenanigans like this will continue to fuel the disconnect and trust between the voters and the ones elected to lead Baltimore City. Ms. Branch replaces a Delegate who broke the rules and then she herself wins by a committee who broke the rules. At least we are consistent in our bad behavior.” ~ Sean Stinnett
Celeste Williams and a long list of Facebook users, especially the members of the popular but often controversial Baltimore City Voters FB page, screamed bloody murder when the vote was made public. “Chanel Branch broke the tie between herself and Caylin Young…that’s a shame,” Williams stated on a recent feed. However, despite the distasteful process that Branch took full advantage of, it is the law that we currently have in place when filling vacancies in both the State House and Senate.
“While the young and so-called progressive democrats of the BEST Democratic Club are upset that they weren’t able to get their chosen candidate Caylin selected, this process was no different than the sham of a selection process the city council had last year when Brandon Scott appointed all of his cronies to a nominating committee who interviewed people knowing full well that their support was going to Scott’s assistant and the sister of the district Senator Cory McCray,” said one angry East Baltimore resident who was a part of that “skewed” process to appoint Scott’s replacement in the City Council.
While the local city council appointment process is different than the state’s selection process, having the members of a nominating committee chosen by the Council President – which in this case happened to be the councilman whose district was vacant – and then having the members of the City Council affirm that selection; it doesn’t stray far from the line of argument that both reek of political cronyism. According to Article III, Section 13 of the Maryland Constitution, in the case of death, disqualification, resignation or removal from office in the House or the Senate, the central committee of that district shall submit to the Governor the name, or names, chosen by that body to fill the vacancy within thirty days of the vacancy occurring.
The seven-member body met last night, with thirteen candidates submitting their names to the committee for consideration, though Branch was the only person from the central committee to offer up her name. They interviewed each eligible candidate for three hours without Branch’s input due to her being a candidate herself, before turning the meeting over to the voting process in which Branch was allowed back to cast her ballot. Other candidates each received one vote, while Mr. Young and Ms. Branch each received two votes from the body. Then it was left up the committee’s chair to submit the final vote, and she did so in her favor, breaking the tie and sending her name to the Governor’s Office in Annapolis.
And while it appears as if all the rules and regulations were followed, there were some issues being raised after the vote, both from the media as well as from one political activist whose wife serves as the secretary of the city’s central committee.
The first questionable action taken by the central committee came when they decided to bar all media outlets from attending the public meeting, preventing any cameras or live-streaming from taking place in the Humanin Building that hosted last night’s meeting. The chair of the city central committee, 43rd district central committee member Karenthia Barber, apparently used the excuse that Humanin would not allow media inside the facility to film the proceedings. However, after several media outlets called DMVDailyNews, knowing that we had live-streamed from there on several occasions, including several central committee and vacancy selection meetings; Barber began to back off her earlier declaration.
People than began to question why a publicly funded facility would not allow for cameras in their facilities on twitter, in which the facility responded back stating that it was NOT their policy, but rather left up to the event coordinator whether they wanted cameras in their event or not. It was finally rectified almost an hour after the start of the interview process that there was no prohibition against cameras being allowed in the building, and all media outlets were allowed into the building but were prohibited from filming or live-streaming the rest of the interview process. They were allowed to film the voting process.
“Who else was I going to vote for. I am my biggest supporter, so it would be foolish of me not to vote for myself.” ~ Chanel Branch
The votes cast fell along political lines, as this publication thought it would and predicted in an earlier article where we believed it would come down to a contest between the McCray led BEST Democratic club members versus the members affiliated with Mayor Bernard ‘Jack’ Young, Delegate Talmadge Branch and the longtime Eastside Democratic Organization (EDO). And while Young received his two votes from BEST members Antonio Glover and Jackie Addison – who both ironically are running for the same 13th district council seat – it appears as if Branch received her other two votes from Mayor Young loyalists, Councilman Robert Stokes and Eric Booker.
Denise Richards cast her vote for Tiffany Jones while Jasmine Collins cast her vote for Marques Dent. However, Sean Stinnett – a local political activist and the husband of the city’s central committee secretary Tamara Stinnett – said that last night’s vote was illegal, and the Governor should not seat anyone until the central committee gets it right. According to Stinnett, the central committee by-laws state that during a special election to fill a vacancy that the majority of the seven voting members must be cast for one candidate before anyone is declared the winner.
The majority vote of seven is four votes, not three, and it appears as if Branch only won based on the simple majority of votes cast without reaching the necessary four-vote threshold. In the case that there is a tie, or that no member can reach the four-votes necessary to be declared the winner, than the body would have to go to a second ballot where the lowest vote getter, in this case that being both Dent and Jones, would have to be removed from contention and the body would vote for either Branch or Young until someone reached that four-vote majority. If one member decided not to vote for either, or abstained, and they both could receive three votes, then both names would be submitted to the governor for his choosing between the two.
Stinnett says they not only violated this provision, but also stated that central committee members Jasmine Collins should not be able to cast a ballot, since she apparently was never officially sworn-in as a central committee member in 2019, given that she didn’t show up to the official swearing-in of all the city’s elected central committee members. Stinnett stated that someone should challenge the results of this contest immediately, or risk the Governor stepping in and taking his own course of action.
“Shenanigans like this will continue to fuel the disconnect and trust between the voters and the ones elected to lead Baltimore City,” Stinnett said in a recent Facebook post. “Ms. Branch replaces a Delegate who broke the rules and then she herself wins by a committee who broke the rules. At least we are consistent in our bad behavior.”
Either way, last night appeared to be an interesting and enlightening exercise of democracy at its finest, or worst, depending on how you choose to view it. It appears to have left more questions than answers and doesn’t seem to be what the founders had in mind when shaping a policy that ensured that voters were not left without proper political representation upon someone’s death, indictment or resignation. DMVDailyNews congratulates delegate-elect Branch on her appointment and we look forward to having her on our program in the future, like tonight’s show where we will be joined by another recently appointed state delegate, Carl Jackson.
**We will follow-up with the legal process and possible ramifications of the Stinnett allegations, and let you know moving forward how that plays out. But until then, the 45th district appears to be headed into 2022 with a young and energetic delegation of elected representatives.