The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will consider one of its own members to fill a vacancy for the District 39 House of Delegates seat — even as it weighs a rule change that would put restrictions on committee members who apply for future vacancies.
The panel will give the public an opportunity on Wednesday to meet and ask questions of the applicants. The seat was vacated in March by Kirill Reznik, who left to join Democratic Gov. Wes Moore’s administration as the new assistant secretary for inter-departmental data Integration for the state Department of Human Services.
The applicants for the vacancy are:
- Esam Al-Shareffi, intellectual property lawyer working on pharmaceutical patents with D.C. based firm Latham & Watkins, 2018 primary candidate for District 17 delegate
- Robert Bartlett, 2018 primary candidate for District 39 delegate
- Eric Bernard, executive director of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association
- Adam Cunningham, 2022 primary candidate for District 39 state senator
- George Lluberes, corporate qualitative research director at Hanover Research, Montgomery County Police Accountability Board member
- Marc Anthony Robles, current MCDCC board member representing District 39 since 2022
- Clint Sobratti, bus driver and union activist, two-time primary candidate for the District 39 delegate seat
- W. Gregory Wims, founder of Victims’ Rights Foundation, local business leader
The public will be given the opportunity to meet and ask questions of the candidates during a Zoom forum at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
The committee will also vote on a key policy change at their Tuesday night meeting, according to Liza Smith, an MCDCC member representing District 14. MCDCC’s Rules Committee has advanced a proposal that would not allow current MCDCC members to participate in a vote to fill a vacancy if they have applied for the vacancy.
The proposed policy says:
Any current MCDCC member who applies for a vacancy appointment shall inform the Chair of their intentions within 3 days of the announcement of the vacancy and shall be recused from participating in all aspects of the vacancy appointment process, including but not limited to receiving candidate materials, communications related to the vacancy, interviewing other candidates and voting.
Smith has pushed for this change. She said the rule change would not apply to the current District 39 vacancy. Current MCDCC members would still be able to apply for vacancies, and would not be required to resign, but cannot participate in the process, including the vote.
If the applicant is on committees that have responsibilities related to the vacancy, those tasks and decisions would similarly need to be assigned to other members.
“At the end of the day, [being able to vote for yourself] is a violation of our code of ethics that says you can’t benefit from your job. And you know, the appointment is a pretty big benefit, especially if you can vote for yourself,” Smith said.
Smith said Robles said in an email to MCDCC members that Robles would recuse himself from voting in the District 39 appointment process. Robles did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of his recusal Monday.
Del. Julie Palakovich Carr (D-Dist. 17) sponsored a bill this General Assembly session that would require central committee members who apply for state legislative vacancies to recuse themselves from voting for the vacancy. However, the bill didn’t make it far in the legislative process.
Smith said if passed, the proposed policy change would mimic this bill.
This will be the fourth of at least five openings the committee, not voters, will fill this year. Currently, 13 of 34 state delegates and senators in the county – or 30% — were appointed by the committee. The process has been critiqued by some state legislators for being “undemocratic.”
To participate in the Zoom forum for the District 39 applicants on Wednesday, attendees must register in advance at bit.ly/d39-04-12.
The committee also encourages registered District 39 Democratic voters to submit letters of support for the applicant of their choice to email@example.com no later than5 p.m. Friday.
The MCDCC will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 18 to interview the applicants and vote to recommend a candidate to the governor to fill the vacancy. The meeting, which will be open to the public, will be held in-person at MCDCC Headquarters, 12320 Parklawn Drive, Rockville and will be live-streamed via Zoom webinar. All attendees must register in advance at bit.ly/mcdcc-04-18.