A proposal to slate all incumbent Democrats in Montgomery County on one ticket continued to falter this week as some elected officials announced they would not run on the ticket and several state legislators indicated they would oppose including any members of the County Council if all seven members did not agree to join.
The all-Democratic council, caught up in fractious internal battles all year, is split over an endorsement of the slate, whose proponents would like to see listed all 62 incumbents who could appear on the ballot in Montgomery. At a meeting last week with representatives from all elected bodies in the county, council members David Scull and Ruth Spector, representing the two factions, were told that a number of state legislators probably would vote against a slate that included only a few council members.
Council members Scull, Esther Gelman, Michael Gudis and Neal Potter have said they oppose the slate proposal, while members Spector, Rose Crenca and Scott Fossler support it.
State's Attorney Andrew L. Sonner and Del. Judy Toth also announced they would not run on an incumbents' slate. Toth is the only state delegate seeking reelection to officially announce her opposition.
"I've got an opponent in the primary and it would certainly make sense financially to support a county-wide slate," said Sonner, who four years ago vehemently opposed a nominating convention. "But the idea of shutting off opponents through a process as undemocratic as this does not appeal to me."
The slate has come under increasing attack from precinct officials and party workers who say it would be almost impossible for a challenger to wage a competitive bid if all incumbents pool their resources. The proposal, say critics, is an attempt to block primary challenges.
In addition to pooling funds, incumbents on the slate would be prohibited from contributing to campaigns of candidates challenging incumbents and would be required to sign a loyalty oath pledging not to criticize fellow slate members.
Defenders of the slate, who have become increasingly hesitant to discuss its status, counter that a reluctance on the part of leaders of the county Democratic Central Committee to support a nominating convention this spring has left incumbents with no other choice than to run together. Both committee chairman Stanton Gildenhorn and vice chairman Joan Lott said last year they would not endorse a convention.
State legislators, who remain the slate's strongest supporters, add that low name recognition coupled with the high cost of conducting a campaign justify their linking together.
Toth, in a letter to her constituents, however, said she opposed the incumbents' slate because it worked against the public interest.
"There are some people in the delegation who stand for things I am very much opposed to," Toth said in an interview. "And I find it hard to believe that in their the state delegates' self-interest they are going to pull together and forget all past disagreements. There are people on the delegation who can't stand each other."
In addition, members of the precinct caucus in District 20 in Silver Spring, which will be the scene of a tough primary fight between incumbents State Sen. Victor Crawford and Del. Stuart Bainum for the state Senate office Crawford now holds, also voted last week to ask their representatives not to participate in the incumbents' slate. Dels. Sheila Hixson and Ida Ruben, representatives from that area, however, said they have not decided whether to participate in the incumbents' slate.
Incumbents are scheduled to meet again Thursday night in a closed-door session to discuss the slate.