I met Delegate Christian Miele at some point during last year’s election cycle, although I can’t remember right now when and where, exactly. That being said, I instantly liked him. Now, I have know why: He fights for what he believes in. And he offers clarity on issues, well, on THIS particular issue, anyway. Whether I care or not about the issue at hand, and as I said in my most recent piece about a “convoluted mess,” when it comes to how the MDGOP is going to replace delegates and senators, I really don’t give much of a damn. But, Christian Miele apparently does.
So, in response to my last piece in which I published MDGOP Chairwoman, Diana Waterman’s, emails to the central committee detailing why she was opposed to opening the delegate/senator replacement process to special elections and continuing to allow the local central committees themselves to make the decisions of which names to send up to the Governor for consideration, I am publishing, verbatim, Delegate Christian Miele’s email to “central committee members and friends” on why the process should legislatively be changed to allow voters in the respective jurisdiction where replacements need to be made vote for their own future representative in a special election – but under very specific circumstances.
Here is Delegate Miele’s email:
“Dear Central Committee Members and Friends:
As some of you may know, I have introduced legislation this session, HB 806, which would amend the state constitution to require special elections to fill senator and delegate vacancies in limited circumstances. I understand after speaking with BCRCC leadership that the bill has caused some concern (and maybe even a bit of confusion) among members of the committee, and so I am writing you to address these concerns directly, and to explain both what this bill does and why I have introduced it. I offer my position in good faith, but also with the recognition that it would have been better had I sent out this communication at some earlier point in the session, seeing as this bill will directly impact the role of party central committees in the unlikely event that it passes (I say “unlikely” because the bill is being opposed by both major political parties).
I thought it best to structure this email as an FAQ, so here goes…
Why special elections?
HB 806 is the manifestation of my belief (and the belief of many) that elections represent the most democratic way to choose our public servants. I further believe that legislators are more accountable to the people they serve when they are directly elected by those same people, rather than by a partisan body not representative of the electorate as a whole. One need to look no further than the Eighth Legislative District—a district represented for the last twenty years by both Republicans and Democrats—to see that voters don’t always vote straight party; they like choices. This bill would simply give the voters a say in who represents them if a vacancy occurs within the first year of the four-year legislative term.
To be clear, this bill is not a knee-jerk reaction to the recent and somewhat controversial appointment processes conducted by RCCs in our sister counties, although I do feel strongly that the current system needs much improvement. That said, I am pleased that State Chairman Diana Waterman and Executive Director Joe Cluster are working on substantive reforms that will create a more transparent and streamlined appointment process for RCCs across the state. Their policy recommendations will have my full support.
According to this bill, when would special elections be held?
While my personal preference would be to hold special elections to fill senator and delegate vacancies in all cases (for the reasons stated above), any such proposal would be imprudent at this time given the current fiscal climate in Maryland. Elections, as you know, are very costly to facilitate, and that is why my legislation would require that a special election only be held in conjunction with the presidential primary and general elections midway through the legislative term. Tacking on a “down-ballot race” to the presidential primary and general elections would only cost the state an estimated $5,000–$10,000 according to the Department of Legislative Services, a small price to pay for a more democratic process.
Okay, but doesn’t this bill strip the central committee’s authority to make appointments to fill senator and delegate vacancies?
No, it merely precludes the central committee from making a full-term, four-year appointment. In fact, the following scenario is the only scenario in a given four-year term where the central committee’s appointment would not be binding for the remainder of the unexpired term: when “the vacancy occurs by January 1 of the year immediately following the year that the [vacating] member takes office” (i.e., Delegate A is sworn in on January 14, 2015, and vacates office on or before January 1, 2016). In this scenario, a special election to permanently fill Delegate A’s seat would be held in conjunction with the presidential election in 2016. In the interim, however, the central committee would still fill the vacancy by appointment using its normal process.
In all other circumstances, the central committee retains the exclusive power to make appointments that will span the remainder of the unexpired term. So, in sum, a special election is only triggered if the vacancy occurs within the first year of a given term. Any vacancy that occurs in years 2, 3, or 4 will be permanently filled by appointment.
If passed, when would these changes go into effect?
Assuming the bill receives a 3/5 constitutional majority in both houses (a tall order), it would appear as a ballot question in 2016. Therefore, 2020 is the earliest a special election could be held.
I hope that this email was helpful, regardless of whether you support or oppose the bill.
Let me say in closing that, as a former alternate member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, I greatly value and have a deep appreciation for the important work that you are doing on behalf of all local Republican officeholders. I certainly would not be in a position to serve my community and our state without your support.
Very truly yours,
p.s. To read HB 806 in its entirety, please click the following link: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2015RS/bills/hb/hb0806F.pdf
Christian J. Miele
Delegate, Maryland House of Delegates | Legislative District 8
(Christian Miele: On a Clarified Day, You Can See Forever…)
Again, although I have no real interest in this fight one way or the other, I tend to rather place the decision making process in the hands of the voters rather than in the hands of party bosses. That being said, however, I can see merits to both sides of the argument.
Many thanks to Delegate Miele for doing what he can to clear the air on the bill he’s sponsored. And, many thanks as well to s/he who forwarded this email!
Now, back to being a “Commissar”…which I was just called a little while ago – for the first time I’m aware of in something like 32 years.