Assembly seat sought by member of Carroll GOP central committee

Reter won't recuse himself from candidate interviews

July 20, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Among the eight candidates whom the Carroll County Republican Central Committee will interview Saturday for the recently vacated District 5A House of Delegates seat will be one of the committee's members, who has said he will not recuse himself from the interviews, the deliberations or the vote on the replacement.

"Absolutely, I will participate," said James E. Reter, 72, of Westminster. "I was elected to participate in the process. It is my responsibility."

Reter said he intends to vote for himself. "I am the best person for the job," he said. "I have read the other resumes. None of the others can touch my resume."

David Roush, who also is vying to replace former Del. Carmen Amedori in the legislature, said he hopes Reter "thinks he is the best candidate, or he would not have put his name in."

Amedori, a two-term Republican delegate who represented Westminster, Manchester and Hampstead, resigned June 30 to accept a position on the Maryland Parole Commission.

The central committee bylaws are vague on the role of members who become candidates, so the panel decided to leave participation to Reter's discretion, said Michelle Jefferson, committee chairwoman.

"Legally, Reter is allowed to vote because he is a committee member," Jefferson said. "As a committee, we would prefer he did not participate in deliberations. We had advised him to recuse himself from deliberations and then come in to vote. This is his personal decision. Whether we agree or disagree, ultimately it is up to him."

The Maryland attorney general, ruling on a similar case in 1993, said, "No statute clearly prevents such voting. And, absent an applicable party rule or bylaw prohibiting it, a central committee member appears not to be barred from voting to nominate himself or herself to fill a legislative vacancy."

Joseph M. Getty, a former Carroll delegate and former GOP central committee member who is director of policy for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said Reter is an elected party official, not a public official.

"Typically, the central committee is a field team for potential legislative candidates," Getty said. "It is logical that when a vacancy occurs, a committee member is interested. Participation is left to the candidate's discretion."

Filling the vacancy is the committee's greatest responsibility, Getty said. Committee members frequently have had to balance that responsibility with their interest in pursuing a political career, he said.

In Calvert County, the Democratic Central Committee recently recommended a replacement for Del. George W. Owings III, who resigned to become state secretary of veterans affairs. A member of that county's committee unsuccessfully sought the seat.

Roush joined C. Scott Stone and Tanya Shewell, two other candidates for the Carroll seat, in saying yesterday that they understand Reter's role in the selection process.

"It seems peculiar, but I am not bothered," said Stone, president of the Carroll County Board of Education. "Circumstances have made this situation permissible."

Shewell, former president of the Republican Women's Club of Carroll County, said Reter faced a difficult decision. Had she been in his position, she said, she would have found it inappropriate to participate in the interviews and would have recused herself.

"I respect Jim Reter. He had a reason for the decision he made," she said. "I know the central committee is effective in doing its job and takes this process seriously. This is the biggest job the committee has, and I trust them to do what is right."

In a public session starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, the committee will interview each candidate individually, starting with Reter, while the others are sequestered away from the meeting room of the Board of Education offices on Court Street in Westminster.

The central committee expects to deliberate and choose a candidate for delegate after the interviews Saturday. Members will make their recommendation to the governor Monday. The committee can send more than one name to the governor.

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