In Tuesday’s general election in Montgomery County, folks assume all the Democrats will win. Here’s a surprise: over the years Republicans have been elected all over the county – in Chevy Chase, Kensington, Laytonsville and other communities where the races are “nonpartisan.”
About 25 years ago, I served four terms on the Friendship Heights Village Council in an overwhelmingly Democratic community. The position is nonpartisan, but the majority often tagged me as the Republican. I earned the trust and respect of the voters and by the end of the fourth term I was the highest vote-getter and the only Republican. Yes, residents voted despite knowing my affiliation – because they trusted my judgment, we had mutual respect, and frankly I think they liked the idea of different views and having a representative who would “watch” the majority. That happens quietly all over the county.
We need that on the county level. Nine to nothing decisions by the County Council are the norm. Members are too often afraid to go against the grain, afraid their party will pull the plug of support in the next election because they don’t toe the line. A county that values diversity is also rethinking diversity of party. How refreshing would it be to have some debate? How refreshing would it be to have some folks see that their opinions were valued enough, and see their views reflected in the vote tallies?
The recent mess with the Montgomery County Planning Board is an example of a lack of leadership, and the council’s recent 9-0 vote to change zoning policy through adopting Thrive Montgomery 2050 shows another curious lack of diversity of thought.
We have a chance to change things now. Reardon Sullivan is running to replace Marc Elrich as county executive. A host of diverse Republican candidates are running for the council. They have great new ideas and the ability to form coalitions and actually effect some change in the new 11-member council. We’d like some diversity of thought, opinion and yes – party affiliation.
I know partisan politics often turns folks off. Both parties tend to point at the extremes of the other side and paint all the members the same. I’ve probably done that myself, but the extremes aren’t the norm, and respect and discussion are what we need in these challenging times.
Republicans will probably turn out in droves this year. So will independents and moderate, centrist Democrats. Voting together for common sense, we can make a big difference. One-party rule never turns out well. Now’s our chance to bring diversity to our politics in Montgomery County. And I’d be happy to see that change.
Dennis Melby of Laytonsville is a former member of the Friendship Heights Village Council and a former chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party.
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