The next step in the political career of Charles County Board of Commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large) is in the hands of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).
The Charles County Democratic Central Committee's nomination of Levy to replace former delegate Van T. Mitchell (D) in the General Assembly arrived in the governor's office Tuesday. Ehrlich will review Levy's nomination after he returns next week from a trip to China, a spokeswoman said. Ehrlich has 15 days from official receipt of the nomination to decide whether to approve the choice.
Several people described the approval process as largely a formality. Ehrlich must appoint a Democrat to replace Mitchell, who resigned to become deputy secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. If Ehrlich rejects the nomination, he must ask the central committee for another name rather than choose one of his own.
"I don't think there's going to be a problem there," Levy said.
The central committee's selection came Friday night after more than three hours of private interviews with six candidates in La Plata. The committee did not reveal how many votes Levy received, but one member called it a "blowout win."
"It was overwhelming," said central committee treasurer Norman Saunders. "We were looking for somebody who could definitely do the job and somebody that was re-electable two years down the pike. I think we chose the right person."
Levy's expected departure from county government, where he has been a county commissioner for 18 years, was met with mixed emotions from local Democrats.
State Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles) praised the selection, saying Levy's experience as the county's legislative representative with the Maryland Association of Counties has familiarized him with Annapolis.
"When it comes to fiscal issues, which has become the main focus of our deliberations in Annapolis, I don't think there's a better fiscal mind in the state [than Levy]," he said. "I think it's an excellent choice."
But Gaylord Hogue, a businessman and horse farmer from Waldorf who also interviewed for the delegate seat, criticized the committee for not choosing an African American. In an e-mail to Ehrlich and others Tuesday, he asked the governor to block Levy's nomination.
"Democratic Leadership and Commissioner Murray Levy's record in Charles County is one of consistency of keeping their foot on the neck of the Black community," he wrote. "The Democratic Party in Charles County is the source of this racism in the county."
Levy said that Hogue is entitled to his opinion but indicated that he thought Hogue's comments on race were baseless. Levy said that it is important that local government represent the minority population but that "it is equally important to have a person who does a good job."
Central committee Chairman Edith J. Patterson, who is African American, also dismissed Hogue's complaints. While Charles County has no black county commissioners or state delegates, she noted that the school board has two black members, the central committee has three, and minorities serve on numerous other local boards.
"I don't know where this is coming from," she said. "African Americans are a part of the Charles County structure."
After Levy's expected departure -- he plans to formally resign next week -- the central committee will begin the process of finding his replacement. Some Democrats have speculated that Commissioner Wayne Cooper (D-White Plains) is a likely successor as board president and that Patterson may end up taking Cooper's seat. Both Cooper and Patterson have said they would be interested in the new roles.
Patterson, 58, of Pomfret, is the director of the Educational Talent Search program at the College of Southern Maryland. She also served on the Charles County Board of Education from 1982 to 1994.
"If it so happens that the [commissioner] seat becomes available, I would certainly be a viable candidate for it," she said.
Levy declined to discuss any preferences he may have on his replacement. He said he would provide input to the central committee if asked. For now, he is preparing to move on and said he had few regrets.
"I'm not leaving with a sense of I wish I had done this or I wish I had done that," he said. "I think I've accomplished the things I set out to accomplish. I think the county government is in very good shape."