After more than two hours of speeches from Maryland’s leading (and , in many cases, long-winded) Democrats on Tuesday, what remained of the party faithful had already started to file out of an annual luncheon at the Annapolis Westin.
“September,” the rousing ’70s hit by Earth, Wind & Fire, was blaring on the loudspeakers.
And then state Sen. C. Anthony Muse bounded on stage, demanding the party should not be over.
Muse (D-Prince George’s), who last week announced a primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), had sat quietly through the speaking program at a luncheon put on by the Maryland Democratic Party that drew several hundred people.
Cardin got his turn at the microphone, as did several other high-profile Democrats, including Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) — both of whom implored the crowd to help re-elect Cardin this year, among other things.
Muse begged those who remained to listen to him “just out of respect.”
“Only after the primary do we endorse those that the people have said is our Democratic nominee,” he said after the music was cut off.
Most people continued toward the exits.
Afterward, David Sloan, the executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said the party had not made an endorsement in the Senate primary and that he and party leaders “absolutely understand” Muse’s concerns.
But Sloan said the luncheon program “was exactly the same format as past years,” with speakers limited to the congressional delegation, governor and presiding officers of the General Assembly.
The party exercised no control over what individuals chose to say from the podium, Sloan said. “Our elected officials are free to support whomever they want.”
Questions about the state party’s allegiance in the Senate race first flared last week when @mddems, the party’s official Twitter account, sent out a series of tweets featuring quotes and video of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III urging voters to support Cardin in the primary and general elections..
The tweets were flagged by the conservative blog Red Maryland, which subsequently noted that the party’s own bylaws state that party staff and resources “may not be used to the advantage of one candidate over another.”
Party spokesman Matthew Verghese defended the tweets Tuesday, saying that “we haven’t done anything that should be construed as an endorsement” of Cardin.
“The core of our party’s mission includes talking about the records and achievements of our leaders,” Verghese said.
If someone of Baker’s stature endorsed Muse and made similarly positive statements about him, Verghese said, the party would tweet about that, too.