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June 12, 2002

Party Posts Require Belief, Dedication and Hard Work

John W. Ashbury

Over the decades many people, both Republican and Democrat, have attempted to launch their political career by serving on their party's state central committee. Only rarely have they been successful, even though they may very well have been winners in their races for the party posts.

And then there were others who loved working for the party so much that they stayed in those positions for a generation. But those were different times.

Jack Derr became a state senator when, after serving only a few months on the Republican State Central Committee, Senator Eddie Thomas died of cancer and Mr. Derr was appointed as Thomas' replacement. That was in 1983.

When Republican County Commissioner Ilona Hogan, totally fed up with the lack of civility, and the stupidity coming from the mouths of her compatriots in Winchester Hall, resigned to take a prestigious position in the private sector, Rick Weldon, the chief operations officer of The City of Frederick, was appointed by Governor Parris N. Glendening to complete her term.

With the exception of the replacement of the members of the central committees themselves, these are the only cases where the party committees actually got to do what most who seek those positions really want to do.

Yes, until 2000, both parties made recommendations to the governor for appointments to the Frederick County Board of Education, sometimes with great success, but frequently with dismal results.

Being a member of a party state central committee requires a great commitment to the ideals set forth by either political entity. It requires a great deal of hard work, and not just the mental kind.

Putting together the Democrats' Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner and the Republicans' Lincoln Day Dinner can be a daunting task. And if you are not willing to do the manual labor to make them a success, then you shouldn't even consider running for the central committee. Everyone needs to chip in, otherwise the burden doubles for those willing to work.

Then there are the tents at the Great Frederick Fair. Both parties get volunteers to man them during the hours the fair is open. And if the volunteer fails to show up, the tent remains closed, and the party's candidates suffer the consequences.

Personal observations have demonstrated that some members of the two major party central committees have failed over the years to make the commitment to work the fairs. Yes, they show up at night when the big crowds are there. But many fail to show up during the day, citing work as an excuse.

If you want the prestige of holding elective office, and you know ahead of time that there are certain "jobs" that must be done during your four year term, then take a week's vacation during the fair and DO YOUR JOB. Don't depend on retirees, or those who are willing to take vacation days from their work, to do YOUR job.

It would appear that the Democrats have quite a few of their central commit planning to seek re-election. On the Republican side, only one is like to go it again, and he was appointed when one, who was elected to serve, resigned. So it will be his first trip down the campaign trail.

Policy wonks need not apply for these positions. There is a lot of grunt work necessary to build a party and keep it viable. We have so many new residents in the county since the last election that the strides the Democrats have made in rebuilding their party seems like a dismal failure. But the evidence of their party strength can be seen in the results of last Fall's election in Frederick City.

But the victory in the mayor's race cannot be laid totally at the feet of those Democrats who worked so hard to organize in the city. The failings of the incumbent had a lot to do with it. And the results, now that a Democrat sits in that exalted seat, don't appear to be any better than when a Republican sat there.

Those who will choose to run for seats on the central committees must realize that politics is not all fun and games. A commitment is required, one that will require time and a good deal of true sweat from the brow.

It is not an easy task. But there are good people out there in our beloved county who are willing to work for what they believe in. The problem is going to be in convincing those who go to the polls in September that they will truly work for the party - and not just be there to promote themselves for future campaigns.

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