By Len Lazarick
In filling the three legislative vacancies he has created in building his new administration, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan said he’d like to see a more open nominating process used by the Republican central committees and more candidate names for him to fill the seats.
Two GOP committees have already acted to fill the seats opened when Hogan appointed Del. Kelly Schulz of Frederick County to be secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, and Sen. Joe Getty of Carroll County as his legislative and policy director. On Tuesday, he also named Sen. Chris Shank of Washington County to be his director of the Office of Crime Control and Prevention, creating a third vacancy.
In Frederick and Carroll counties, the small Republican Central Committees have already named one person for each seat, creating controversy in both counties.
In Frederick for the Schulz seat, the party committee nominated Barrie Ciliberti, a former Montgomery County delegate, who came in fifth in his party primary in which he ran with Sen. Mike Hough whose wife JoeyLynn chairs the central committee. The committee did not interview Wendi Peters, a Schulz running mate, who got more votes than Ciliberti.
In Carroll County in particular, the nine-member party committee has caused an uproar by using a completely secret process to nominate Robin Frazier to Getty’s seat.
Frazier lost her bid to be reelected as a Carroll County commissioner in the Republican primary. She stirred controversy by many positions during her stay in office, including her insistence on praying in Jesus’s name at meetings of the county commissioners, despite a federal court order to stop.
Encouraging more transparency
“We think there could be more transparency,” Hogan told reporters Tuesday. “We’d like to encourage them to make the process more transparent.”
“Our hands are not tied” by the central committee actions so far, Hogan said. “They’re supposed to send three names.”
In fact, the provision in the Maryland Constitution that outlines the process only talks about sending “a name” to the governor, but Gov. Parris Glendening began the custom of seeking three names to choose from.
Senate President Mike Miller also noted that the central committees may have jumped the gun by nominating people before the vacancies technically exist.
Schulz, Getty and Shank were all sworn in again as members of the General Assembly Wednesday, and they cannot be appointed to their new administration jobs until next Wednesday, Jan. 21, when Hogan is inaugurated.
Miller said the central committees should take another vote when the seats are actually vacant.
Article III, Section 13 of the state constitution says a name should be sent to the governor “within thirty days after the occurrence of the vacancy.”
5 votes for Frazier, 4 for Ready
Three Republican sources familiar with what took place behind closed doors in Carroll County said Frazier got five votes and Del. Justin Ready (pronounced REEDY) got four votes.
Two of those sources also indicated that Hogan has told Getty to “fix” the problem prior to his appointment.
Getty said given his role in the Hogan transition, “my position is whatever the governor’s position would be” and he would not comment further.
Ready was recently reelected to the House with 34,789 votes and was the top vote-getter in the Republican primary with 10,567 votes. He was presumed to be the leading candidate for Getty’s seat.
Frazier got 1,753 votes in her primary loss to Stephen Wantz, who got 2,563 votes then won the general election.
Ready declined to comment for this story.
Krebs calls it “a sham”
Four-term Carroll County Republican Del. Susan Krebs, the top vote-getter in the general election for three-member District 5, said, “I did not apply for the vacancy because I knew it was going to be a sham. I want people to know that I did not apply.”
None of the names of the people who applied was released, and the vote of the central committee was not formally disclosed.
“This central committee did not support Hogan,” Krebs noted.
The closed process, political jockeying and lack of public involvement in filling legislative vacancies were not unusual for central committees in both Democratic and Republican parties.
Legislators from both parties have told MarylandReporter.com that they are working on legislation to reform the process.
This might include greater openness in the initial appointment, and requiring that the candidates run for election during a presidential election year if they are appointed in the first year of a four-year term.