Balto. Co. Dems may boot member over write-in campaign

Jones could lose committee spot after running against Oliver

November 17, 2010|By Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

After waging a write-in campaign for a seat on the Baltimore County Council, Julian E. Jones Jr. could lose his position on the county Democratic Central Committee.

Five officers petitioned the state Democratic Party to remove Jones from the committee, arguing that he violated state bylaws by running against Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, the party nominee. Jones appeared before the state party's credentials committee on Wednesday to review the request.

"We did what we felt we needed to do to support a duly elected nominee of the Democratic Party," committee Chairwoman Margie Brassil said of the request for removal.

Jones was elected to the central committee in September. He lost to Oliver in the same Democratic primary election and lodged an unsuccessful write-in campaign in the general election.

Jones called the officers' actions "unfortunate."

"If they want to kick me off, they can try their best," he said, "but I'm not going to walk away from the people who entrusted me to do something for them."

Central committee members had a heated discussion about the issue at a meeting this week and asked the officers to withdraw the petition, which they refused to do. The committee then voted to send a request to the state party to hold off on the petition pending legal guidance, but state officials said only the five officers could withdraw it.

Many said they believed the officers acted hastily by submitting the petition before they brought the matter to the general body. For their part, the officers said they did not act on behalf of the club but as individuals and that there wasn't enough time to hold a meeting before submitting the petition.

Members also said the bylaws were ambiguous. The bylaws state that grounds for removing a member include "openly supporting or endorsing a candidate for public office of another political party or an independent candidate who is opposed or will be opposed by a Democratic nominee for the same office."

Violations include endorsing or publicly supporting such a candidate; making campaign donations; displaying signs; wearing campaign buttons or bumper stickers; or participating in other activities. Jones ran his write-in campaign as a Democrat.

"It doesn't say anything about our running or the terms under which we can run," said state Sen. Delores G. Kelly, a committee member.

Removing a member from a central committee is unusual, but it's even more unusual for a committee member to run against the party nominee, state Democratic Chairwoman Susan W. Turnbull said.

"I can't think of another example," Turnbull said, "and I've been on the committee for 20 years."

The central committee's main purpose is to support all Democratic candidates on the ballot. In this instance, the committee provided volunteers and support for all get-out-the-vote efforts, early voting and mailings as part of a coordinated campaign in the county, she said.

Oliver said he was not behind the removal request. He said he believes the rules could be clearer, but that he had no doubt Jones understood the main requirement of central committee members: Support the party nominees.

"His oath was totally clear," Oliver said.

raven.hill@baltsun.com

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