At Thursday’s (July 28) meeting of the MCDP Central Committee, a new MCDP Constitution will be decided by majority vote of those in attendance. I’m disappointed that the Constitution Committee is recommending a MCDP Constitution that continues a practice that I see as anti-democratic and unfair — the MCDP making early endorsements of Democrats in Democratic Primaries at dates well in advance of the deadlines for Democratic candidates to turn in petitions and declare candidacy. 

The MCDP has been embarrassed by recent endorsements. At last November’s election, the MCDP ended up apologizing for mailers to county Democrats attacking fellow Democrats Darryl Fairchild and Shenise Turner-Sloss seeking election to the Dayton Commission. Fairchild and Turner-Sloss won the election beating the endorsed Democrats Stacey Benson-Taylor and Scott Sliver. 

In 2018, the MCDP endorsed Rev Daryl Ward over Rev. Darryl Fairchild for the Dayton Commission. This endorsement seemed crazy because both were good men and great candidates. The only explanation I could understand was that Rev. Ward evidently had a lot of friends on the Screening Committee.

I see endorsements that choose one qualified Democrat over another in a Democratic Primary as a practice very detrimental to the party. It sends an anti-democratic message. I don’t think there is much hope that the group on Thursday will approve a Constitution that prohibits all Primary endorsements, but I am hopeful that a majority will agree with me that the practice of early endorsements is particularly harmful and will approve a Constitution that prohibits the practice of early endorsements.  

The goal of early endorsements — plainly stated by its advocates — is to suppress Democratic Primary participation. The reason? To save money. The argument is that the money devoted to winning a primary contest would be better spent defeating Republicans in the general election, so a Primary where there is only one Democratic candidate saves money. The second reason given by supporters of Primary endorsements is that a lot of Democratic voters want the party to tell them which Democrat to vote for. The party obliges by spending money to mail voter cards to Democrats instructing them who the party is endorsing in a Democratic Primary.

Endorsements in a Democratic Primary are prohibited by some Democratic Party county organizations. The point of a Primary, after all, is to give voters a choice.  But Primary endorsements is a long established practice in Montgomery County. 

Disappointingly, the Constitution Committee chaired by Brandon McClain, not only empowers Democratic Primary endorsements, it also spells out that a Democratic Primary endorsements can be made very early — long before the deadline for submitting petitions to the Board of Elections. For a May Primary, the deadline to file is in early February.  The proposed Constitution empowers the Executive Committee to endorse a Democratic candidate in December. In December! This is from the proposed Constitution:

 The Screening Committee recommendation shall go to the Executive Committee. The question on the floor shall be “Shall the Executive Committee concur with the Screening Committee’s recommendation.” This shall be a privileged motion; no other action relative to endorsement for a specific office shall be in order until the Executive Committee has acted on this question. In accordance with the Constitution, in order to concur with the Screening Committee recommendation to endorse requires a two-thirds (2/3) affirmative vote of the Executive Committee present and voting.

Early endorsements are effective in suppressing competition in Democratic Primaries. This deliberate suppression of primary participation smells of favoritism and is contrary to what rank-and-file Democrats want. I’m sort of flabbergasted that here in 2022, early endorsement is part of a MCDP Constitution proposal.

A two-thirds vote required for endorsements sounds like a high bar. But, as we know, the result of a vote depends on who shows up to cast a ballot and depends on how informed the voters are. In the past, Central Committee meetings concerning endorsements have been poorly attended. The established practice is that the Selection Committee’s recommendations are not announced prior to the meeting. The explanations for endorsements, given at the last minute, have been insufficient. Members have not had enough information nor have had sufficient time to make thoughtful decisions.

The proposed Constitution empowers a big increase in the number of members who will be enfranchised to vote on MCDP endorsements. The proposed Constitution follows the model of the Ohio Democratic Party Constitution. The ODP Executive Committee has 148 voting members. Only 66 of these voting members are elected in a Democratic Primary — a man and a woman from each of Ohio’s 33 senate districts. The other 82 members of the ODP Executive Committee are appointed. The appointed members are insiders of long-standing. The ODP is an insider’s group — not a representative group. It is easy to understand why many in the rank-and-file are increasingly discouraged with a Democratic Party that is organized in its very structure to greatly advantage a clique of insiders.  

The proposed MCDP Constitution copies the ODP Constitution. It calls for the elected Central Committees to be transformed into the Executive Committee. The advantage is that where the Ohio Revised C     ode requires Central Committee members to live in the precinct they represent, Executive Committee members can live anywhere in the county. Ten Executive Committee members could live in the same precinct. The proposed Constitution says:

The appointed members of the Executive Committee, including automatic appointments, shall not exceed the seventy-five percentage (75%) of the membership of the Central Committee. Further, if any appointed member of the Executive Committee could serve as a Central Committee member then their appointment to the Executive Committee shall be considered as an appointment to the Central Committee.

There are 200 precincts that failed to elect a Central Committee member in the May Democratic Primary. Following the ODP example, any county Democrat can be appointed to “represent” these 200 precincts — and then the total membership of this group can balloon to an increase of 75% more voting members. Friends and spouses and all connected county Democrats are eligible to be invited to be a voting member of the Executive Committee. 

I’m sympathetic with the rationale for creating this Executive Committee structure. The goal, I understand, is to encourage and empower more rank-and-file Democrats to become meaningfully engaged in the party organization. Offering Democrats a voice on the Executive Committee is a strategy to increase participation. Yes, it is crucial for the party to find a way to meaningfully engage and empower rank-and-file Democrats, but this big expansion of the voting membership to insiders and friends means that the endorsement process is even more likely to be seen as illegitimate.

This change in the Constitution allowing a big increase in the membership of the Executive Committee means that it is even more important to establish rules and guardrails for endorsements that will build confidence in the rank-and-file that the process is fair. 

I believe the MCDP Constitution should prohibit all endorsements in a Democratic Primary. But I don’t expect this view to prevail at the Thursday meeting. I hope there will be support in the Thursday meeting for prohibiting early endorsements and for slowing the endorsement process down so that voting members can have the information and the time needed to consult with others and to make thoughtful decisions. 

I am looking for support for two motions at Thursday’s meeting:

  1. The Executive Committee will make no endorsements for candidates in a Democratic Primary until after the deadline for filing candidacy with the Board of Elections has passed and after the Board of Elections has certified who the Democratic candidates are.
  2. All Executive Committee members will receive notice of Selection Committee endorsement recommendations at least one week prior to the Executive Committee meeting where these recommendations will be voted on. Along with this notice of endorsements, Executive Committee members will also receive a copy of all written material supplied to the Selection Committee from candidates. 

 

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