Politics Roundup: Democratic Central Committee Bars Dual Candidacies, Amid Protests From One Candidate

Bethesda Magazine Publishes Article: Democratic Central Committee bars dual candidacies, amid protests from one aspirant

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) this week voted to bar an individual from seeking a seat on the panel while simultaneously running for public office. The move was a reversal of an earlier recommendation by the MCDCC’s Rules Committee—and prompted strong protests by an affected candidate.

Jordan Cooper, who filed last month to run for both state delegate and the MCDCC in Bethesda-based District 16, charged in a statement the committee’s action showed “contempt for Democratic voters in Montgomery County who are now being denied the opportunity to determine who, among the willing candidates, will represent them in their local Democratic Party.”

Elected public officials sitting on local party committees “is long established in Maryland and is currently the practice with numerous members of the state legislature from other jurisdictions outside of Montgomery County,” Cooper contended.

But such a practice has long been outside the political norm in Montgomery County, noted MCDCC Chair Dave Kunes.

“It’s not something that’s been done in Montgomery County, as far back as I can tell,” said Kunes, adding, “I think the concern is that it is a conflict.”

The MCDCC’s vote came as it also approved a conflict-of-interest policy aimed at sitting committee members who decide later to seek elected office. A decision on what penalties should apply to those who violate the policy was put off until the committee’s March meeting. “We’d encourage public feedback on that,” Kunes said in a phone interview.

A half-dozen committee members are running for public office in this June’s primary, at the same time as the entire MCDCC is up for election. No current committee member seeking public office has filed to retain his or her MCDCC seat—the practice that would be barred under the newly passed rule.

According to Kunes, the MCDCC had been discussing such a rule since December, prior to Cooper filing for delegate and central committee. The MCDCC’s Rules Committee took up the matter last week, after Cooper had filed. It recommended putting off action until after this year’s primary, so as not to be perceived as taking aim at a particular candidate.

But the full MCDCC, by a vote of 16-6 with five abstentions, voted this week to immediately implement the rule.

With 10 days to go until the candidate filing deadline for the June primary, it remains unclear whether the rule will have an effect this year—particularly since the state Board of Elections had previously set a Dec. 1, 2017, deadline for local party committees to alter their ballot procedures.

Cooper said Thursday he does not plan to file to have his name withdrawn from the ballot for MCDCC. “I will continue to run to represent District 16 in the … House of Delegates and will take no further action with regards to the MCDCC or the Board of Elections,” he said.

It raises the possibility that, absent action by the Board of Elections, Cooper’s name could remain on the ballot for a MCDCC seat in District 16. Cooper, a health care professional, is currently one of three candidates who has filed for that slot. The others include retired federal employee Brian Doherty and health care advocate Hrant Jamgochian—with whom Cooper previously competed when both sought a nomination for delegate in 2014.

The current District 16 legislative delegation—Sen. Susan Lee and Dels. Bill Frick, Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman—have endorsed Jamgochian’s bid for MCDCC, as have U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin and Kunes.