Leading the Way for Election Reform

Council Bill 30, which will implement Howard County voters’ wishes by creating a new small donation system for electing county council and executives, starting in 2022, is available for reading on the council’s web page. It will be formally introduced April 3, with a public hearing April 19, 7 p.m. at the George Howard building in Ellicott City. PLEASE COME and show your support!

Meanwhile, to illustrate the need, 2014 Democratic candidate for county executive Courtney Watson has revealed what it took for her to collect over $1 million in campaign funding. Yes, it cost a over $1 Million to run for County Executive.

In time, it took three years, 356 lunch meetings, 9 major fundraising events, 213 breakfast meetings, 348 hours of phone call to donors, 23 small house parties, 366 hours donated by volunteers to mage the fundraising, 514 hours donated by the volunteer campaign treasurer and assistant to process donations and do reports for the state.

Watson, who lost the election to county executive Allan Kittleman, also noted that she was prepared, having run several previous campaigns to win two county council terms. With a full time job and a family “it was still completely overwhelming. It serves as a significant barrier to the average citizen who might run and especially to someone who has not held elective office before;
Elections did not used to cost this much in Howard County, but the last two cycles have shown us that we are not immune from the high cost of elections. I believe the current system acts to disqualify otherwise very qualified candidates from running.”

Now, Howard County has the opportunity to be a leader in advancing greater citizen participation in elections by enacting CB30.

When it costs an individual 7 figures to run for Howard County Executive far too many citizens are left out of the process to be active citizen politicians. That in itself is dangerous for our democracy.

In a document posted by the National Conference of State Legislatures we find this interesting long ago quote.

“During the 1907 State of the Union Address, President Theodore Roosevelt said. “The need for collecting large campaign funds would vanish if Congress provided an appropriation for the proper and legitimate expense of each of the great national parties.” Public financing of elections, he believed, would ensure that no particular donor has an outsized influence on the outcome of any election, and would “work a substantial improvement in our system of conducting a campaign.”

It is time for this century plus old idea to become a reality in our community. We have countless typical fellow citizens that can share their expertise in making Howard County a sustainable community to raise our children and live a good and prosperous life. The citizens election fund will help make that a reality.

Maryland Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, was the first gubernatorial candidate in 20 years to participate in the state’s public financing system. The system worked fine. It is likely that the current Howard County Executive, Allen Kittleman will veto CB 30. While claiming to support the concept there is little evidence that he will sign such legislation. Finding more ways for typical citizens to participate in running for office is necessary for our democracy. Money alone should not eliminate citizens for running for office. Starting at the county level, with respectful campaign reform, will demonstrate how we the citizens can make running for office citizen not money driven.

Plan to attend the public hearing April 19, at 7 PM at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City to make this a reality for Howard County. We should accept the mantle of leadership in making it possible for typical citizens to run for office. We need a veto proof majority on the council to ensure enactment. Please, ask your member of the Council to vote yes!

Michael A. Butera
Laurel, Maryland


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