Governor Larry Hogan today announced that he has appointed Chanel A. Branch to the Maryland House of Delegates – a decision that comes on the heels of her selection by city Democrats at a controversial meeting from which media were, for a time, excluded.
Branch’s appointment fills the vacancy created in Baltimore’s 45th District by the resignation last month of Del. Cheryl D. Glenn amid federal bribery charges. Glenn pleaded guilty in court last week.
“I am confident that Chanel Branch will represent the citizens of Baltimore City admirably in her new role as state delegate,” Hogan said in a release emailed by his office.
“I offer Ms. Branch my sincere congratulations and look forward to working with her during this legislative session,” Hogan added.
Voting for Herself
At the January 13 meeting, the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee’s seven-member 45th District panel, which Branch chairs, met to interview candidates.
Under the current process, party central committees select someone to fill a vacancy and forward the name to the governor to be confirmed.
Branch, who sat outside the room while a dozen other candidates were interviewed, was permitted to vote for herself – a decisive vote that broke the tie with candidate Caylin Young.
The final vote was Branch 3, Young 2, Tiffany Jones 1, and Marques Dent 1.
Asked afterwards if it felt awkward to vote for herself, Branch said no.
“I’m the only one I was interested in,” she said. “I was my Number 1 fan. I think I’m the best candidate.”
Calling the selection process “flawed,” two 45th District residents protested it formally in a letter to city party chair Karenthia Barber. Allowing a person to vote for herself, they said, violates the party’s Code of Ethics.
Among the other improper actions the letter writers cited was that Barber at first barred media from the meeting room.
A Baltimore Brew reporter was ejected from the meeting for a time and other media were kept out as well. Members of the public, meanwhile, were allowed to attend.
Barber relented after the reporters protested.
“The meeting was not open to the public in violation of the bylaws and the Maryland Open Meetings Act,” the letter states.
From Republicans and Democrats: no response.
A spokesman for Hogan previously said the governor’s office “was looking into” the letter, which called on him and on state party officials to order a re-vote.
The letter was sent not just to Republican Governor Hogan and but to state senator Michael J. Hough, also a Republican, and to two Democrats: Senate President Bill Ferguson and Senator Clarence K. Lam, of Howard County.
“We got no response,” said Doris Minor Terrell, president of the Broadway East Neighborhood Association.
Others who signed the letter include Rita Crews, president of the Belair Edison Neighborhood Association, and two other community leaders Glenn Ross, of the Middle East community, and Earl Johnson, of Oliver.
Branch’s appointment has propelled a renewed push in Annapolis for special elections to fill legislative vacancies, rather than by party central committees.
A proposed constitutional amendment would require vacancies that occur at least 21 days before a presidential election filing deadline to be filled by a special election. An appointed person would still serve in the position until the election.
Lam, the sponsor of the measure, told Maryland Matters that having legislative positions decided by as few as three people undermines the credibility of the body.
“That selection process,” he said, “has resulted in questions that are being raised by voters about the fairness of the process and whether political connections are the deciding factor in the selection of the General Assembly replacements.”
Branch, 39, is the daughter of House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch of Baltimore. He is a candidate running in a special primary being held in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District to replace the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings.