Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:42 a.m. on June 3 to include additional information about the applicants.
The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will consider one of its own members—and several elected officials—to fill a vacancy for the District 17 House of Delegates seat.
This election comes after the body narrowly voted against a proposed rule change last month 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 by Kumar P. Barve, who joined Democratic Gov. Wes Moore’s administration as a member of the Maryland Public Service Commission.
The 14 applicants for the vacancy, which were announced Friday, are:
- David Fallick: professor in the humanities department at Montgomery College
- Josh Fischer: Child Welfare Services for Montgomery County Government, member of the Board Of Directors of the Montgomery County Renters Alliance
- Julian Haffner: partner at YK Law LLP practicing business and corporate law, former County Council candidate, ran in the 2018 Democratic primary for House District 17, former MCDCC treasurer
- Susan Hoffmann: former mayor of Rockville, ran in the 2014 Democratic primary for House District 17, development manager at the Fund for Montgomery
- Jennifer Hosey: current MCDCC member
- Tiffany Kelly: community planning & development specialist at U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, anti-poverty advocate
- Matthew Lee: member of the board of directors of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corp., chief executive officer at A-Tech Systems Inc. in Rockville
- Johvet Lopez: political action specialist for Montgomery County Education Association
- Kevin Redden: civil litigation associate at Joseph Greenwald & Laake P.A., chair, Montgomery County Commission on Juvenile Justice
- Ryan Spiegel: Gaithersburg city councilmember, ran in the 2006 Democratic primary for House District 17, ran in the 2014 Democratic primary for County Council District 3, partner at Thompson Hine LLP business law firm
- Sabria Still: former staffer for County Councilmember Will Jawando (D-At-large), cannabis industry consultant
- Rebecca Smondrowski: Montgomery County Board of Education member for District 2, ran in the 2018 Democratic primary for House District 17
- Keith Vance: software engineer at The Knot Worldwide
- Karl Van Neste: director and developer at KFVN Software, LLC, vice president of the Muddy Branch Alliance
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.
MCDCC will select its nominee during a meeting on June 13 at 6:30 p.m.
After tense debate and raised voices among members, the committee narrowly voted against enacting that requirement—as well as a proposed amendment that would have merely recommended members recuse themselves from such votes. Twelve members of the committee voted no to the requirement, while 11 voted yes, and two abstained. The recommendation died in a 12-12 vote, with one abstention.
The panel has placed 38% of Montgomery County’s General Assembly members into their seats. This is the fifth time the committee will undergo the process this year.
When a Montgomery County-based member of the General Assembly leaves their seat mid-term, the county’s Central Committee members, who are elected at-large or in legislative districts, vote on who will fill the legislative vacancies. Those recommendations are sent to the governor to approve as a formality.
The central committee has been tasked with filling five vacancies this year alone after members of the General Assembly joined Moore’s administration. Currently, 13 of 34 state delegates and senators in the county—or 38%—were appointed by the committee. That is higher than the overall proportion in Maryland, which was calculated at 21% as of March.
The process has been criticized by some state legislators and good-governance advocates as undemocratic. It also offers entry into office without the months of fund-raising, coalition building, campaigning or scrutiny of a traditional electoral effort.
Del. Julie Palakovich Carr (D-Dist. 17) sponsored a bill this General Assembly session that would have required 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.
Another bill from Del. Linda Foley (D-Dist. 15) would have set a special election for any legislative vacancy that occurs in roughly the first year-and-a-half of a legislative term. It would first be filled via the current appointment process, and then special elections would occur in the scheduled presidential midterms.