County Democratic Committee Taps Pamela Queen to Fill District 14 Delegate Vacancy
Olney resident to become Montgomery County's second African-American female legislator
Resolving a contest that had turned contentious and sometimes nasty in its closing days, the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) voted overwhelmingly Thursday night to recommend MCDCC member Pamela Queen of Olney be named to fill a state delegate vacancy in District 14.
On the first ballot, Queen received a clear majority—17—of the votes of the 28-member MCDCC. Former Del. Herman Taylor, who represented District 14 from 2002 to 2010, was a distant second with six votes. Four votes went to long-time party activist Mark Feinroth, an Olney resident who is a former state official and long-time Annapolis-based lobbyist. Queen would have received 18 votes, but one MCDCC member neglected to sign the ballot, as is required by party rules.
Queen, a Morgan State University professor of finance with a doctorate in business administration and a master’s degree in computer science, will become only the second African-American woman to represent Montgomery County in the General Assembly. The first, former Del. Karen Britto of Chevy Chase, served for just eight months in 2010 to fill a District 16 vacancy pending that year’s election. Queen will serve for nearly three years, until the 2018 election.
“I complement the District 14 team with my background and experience in economic development, STEM [science, technology, engineering and math education], budgeting and finance,” Queen told MCDCC members as the three candidates made presentations Thursday.
The committee’s recommendation of Queen, 56, now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan, who has 15 days to appoint her—but that is considered little more than a formality. Under the Maryland Constitution, Hogan, although a Republican, is compelled to appoint a member of the political party that previously held the seat. Only in extraordinary cases has a governor declined to follow the recommendation of the political party committee with jurisdiction.
Thursday’s vote ends a process triggered in early December by the resignation of former state Sen. Karen Montgomery, a Brookeville Democrat, just a year into her second term. The MCDCC last month tapped then-Del. Craig Zucker to become the next senator from District 14, which extends north from Silver Spring to include much of eastern Montgomery County.
Zucker’s elevation left his delegate seat open, and, even before Montgomery’s resignation as senator was disclosed, the District 14 legislative delegation—Montgomery, Zucker and Dels. Anne Kaiser and Eric Luedtke—threw their support behind Queen for the anticipated delegate vacancy. County Executive Ike Leggett, a District 14 resident, also backed Queen early.
But Taylor, who got only two votes when he challenged Zucker for the Senate slot before the MCDCC in January, then decided to compete aggressively for Zucker’s vacant delegate seat. He garnered the endorsement of four members of the County Council—Sidney Katz, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice, the latter two the council’s only Hispanic-American and African-American members, respectively. Democratic clubs in the county representing African-American, Asian-American and Latino Democrats also got behind Taylor.
“It’s not about race. It’s who has the ability to go to Annapolis on day one and address the needs of the residents who are in dire need of help,” declared Taylor, who is African-American, in touting his past experience in the General Assembly to MCDCC members. “I’m saying send me back because the East County is broken.”
But the contest was about race to an extent: Although District 14 is nearly 25 percent African-American, its four-member state legislative delegation has been all-white since Taylor gave up his delegate seat in 2010 in an unsuccessful bid for Congress. In addition, with Queen’s expected appointment, there will be three African-Americans in the 32-member Montgomery County delegation in Annapolis. The county delegation, representing a jurisdiction that is now majority-minority, also includes three Hispanic-Americans and four Asian-Americans.
By the same token, Taylor’s efforts to mobilize support from minority-group Democrats appeared to have a limited impact once the votes were counted. Besides Queen, six African-American members of the MCDCC cast votes Thursday—with three supporting Taylor, two backing Queen and one voting for Feinroth.
Also among the MCDCC members voting for Queen was Chris Bradbury, a Burtonsville resident who earlier had been pursuing the delegate vacancy. But Bradbury did not file for the slot prior to the deadline earlier this week, and also announced that he was leaving the MCDCC—a decision he later decided to rescind.
Notwithstanding her wide margin of victory, Queen’s candidacy for delegate got off to a somewhat bumpy start.
There was a backlash in some quarters in response to the effort by the District 14 incumbents and Leggett to give her a head start over others interested in the vacancy. Some minority-group party activists grumbled Queen had done little in the past to boost other minority candidates seeking elected office. And some MCDCC members remained concerned by Queen’s 2013-2014 tenure as the committee’s treasurer, when failure to file Federal Election Commission reports in a timely manner resulted in a $1,000 fine paid by Queen.
But these issues ended up largely overshadowed by concerns among MCDCC members regarding Taylor’s stance on abortion rights during his General Assembly tenure: Of 10 questions posed to the candidates by MCDCC members prior to the Thursday vote, one-third focused on the abortion issue.
“I’ve always believed from a public policy standpoint that a government has no right in telling a woman she has to do X, Y or Z with her body,” Taylor responded, adding later, “I have always tried to stand with a woman’s right to choose.”
But Taylor did not address his votes on several occasions as a member of the House of Delegates to block Medicaid funding for low-income women seeking abortions—a stance for which he was sharply criticized in recent letters to MCDCC members from the chairman of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. NARAL also cited Taylor’s votes against state funding on the related issues of stem cell research.
Queen, indirectly but pointedly, raised this issue in responding to a question from an MCDCC member—recalling how, as a 19-year old college student, she experienced difficulty getting pharmacies to fill birth control pill prescriptions. “If I had had a child at 19, I would not have finished college, I would not be a Ph.D. professor, I would not have married a man [with] a college degree—my household would be very different,” she declared. “So I know the direct impact of not having choice, particularly as a low-income person.”
The issue of Taylor’s eligibility for the District 14 seat also surfaced days prior to the vote, after it was discovered that—as of early December—he was registered to vote at a Silver Spring residence outside of District 14. Taylor told MCDCC Chairman Darrell Anderson that he had switched his registration to that address more than two years ago, when he was unsuccessfully pursuing a vacant seat on the County Council. But he then moved his registration back to an address in District 14 late last year—to a home Taylor, 49, said he has owned in the Ashton area for nearly a quarter of a century.
“Are all three of you eligible to run and serve as delegate having been a resident for at least six months prior to this date?” veteran MCDCC member Alan Banov asked the candidates, alluding to a provision in the Maryland Constitution requiring a delegate from a given district to have “resided in that district for six months” preceding his or her election.
While Anderson sought to deflect Banov’s query, sources said that had Taylor been recommended by the committee, his appointment could have possibly come under challenge, due to the change in his voting registration to District 14 barely two months ago.