Intraparty squabbling was on the agenda of last night’s Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee meeting, where members had a raucous discussion about removing former 4th District County Council candidate Julian Jones from the committee.
Jones was elected to the central committee in the September primary election – the same contest where he lost his bid for a seat on the county council to incumbent Kenneth N. Oliver. Jones subsequently lodged an unsuccessful write-in campaign for the seat in the general election.
After the election, five committee members – all officers – submitted a petition to the state Democratic Party requesting Jones’ removal, arguing that he violated the bylaws by running a write-in campaign against the party nominee. Jones is scheduled to appear before the state party’s credentials committee tonight to review the matter.
“We did what we felt we needed to do to support a duly elected nominee of the Democratic Party,” said committee chair Margie Brassil.
However, many rank and file members said they believed the officers jumped the gun by submitting the petition before they brought the matter to the general body, and that the bylaws are somewhat ambiguous. Some members warned the officers that their actions were “radical,” “overreaching,” set a “dangerous precedent” and might cause a “schism” in the group.
The meeting ended with the committee voting to send a letter to the state party requesting to withdraw the petition until the committee received guidance on the bylaws.
UPDATE: State Democratic Party officials will proceed with a hearing tonight on Jones’ credentials. Party chair Susan W. Turnbull said a decision is not expected tonight.
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, she added.
“I can’t think of another example,” Turnbull said, “and I’ve been on the committee for 20 years.”
The central committee supports 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.
The state credentials committee will determine whether Jones, who ran as a Democratic write-in candidate, had a conflict of interest as a member of the committee running against the party nominee, she said.
“We’re going through the process and I know it will be handled fairly and equitably,” Turnbull said.
Oliver said he believes the bylaws might need to be clarified. But he had no doubt that Jones understood the requirements of serving as a central committee member: Support the party nominee.
“His oath was totally clear,” Oliver said.
-Raven L. Hill