Political Leadership Or Constituent Representation

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By Bryan Simonaire
State Senator, District 31

Occasionally through these articles, I try to give you a peek into one or more aspects of being a senator in Annapolis. This time I will focus on the competing forces vying for our representation in Annapolis.

I wonder how many people feel as if their government is primarily focused on their best interest. I can tell you one of the reasons I entered the Senate was because I wanted to restore the voice of the people and give them confidence that their representative was there for them.

Sadly, most people probably feel that politicians look out for themselves first, then their political party, then their constituents. Honestly, during my time in Annapolis, I have found that most members of the General Assembly are trying to represent their constituents. However, I have learned that when the interests of their political leadership collides with their constituents’ interest, many politicians side with their party leadership.

I recall one senator who was a good friend and also the swing vote on an important issue. I approached the senator and said, “We could really use your vote on this issue, especially since this legislation hurts your constituents.” The reality of politics became so evident to me that day when I heard the response: “I know, but leadership is pressuring me so much. I have to vote for the bill.”

I know it frustrates you, but can you imagine how frustrating it is for us as well?

I will share one more recent example that is both encouraging and disheartening at the same time.

We were in committee voting this year when a new senator of the majority party questioned why things were done a particular way. He asked why county election boards would have a majority membership based on who won the governor’s race. He suggested an amendment to base the board majority on each county’s voter registration. For example, his district was overwhelmingly Democrat, but Republicans had control of his Board of Elections since Governor Hogan won. Also, places like Garrett County that always vote Republican had Democrats controlling the elections board when Governor O’Malley won.

The new senator was told that Democrats normally win the governor’s race, so it benefits Democrats the most. They further clarified that his idea would give up control in all the Republican areas of the state when a Democrat won governor again. He still said, “… But it’s a matter of fairness” and pushed the amendment (known as a “rookie” mistake).

I supported his argument and suggested if we are looking for fairness, this amendment was a great idea for the people. However, if you were voting simply based on what’s best for the majority party in Maryland, you would vote against it. Predictably, party won the day — no other Democrat voted for the amendment.

After the vote, I encouraged the new senator to guard his sense of fairness for the people, because leadership would work to squash such “independent thinking.”

It was a moment of kindred spirits between a Republican senator and a Democrat senator.

Trust me, numerous legislators in Annapolis fight for you independent of pressure from leadership. With your voice, we will continue to push to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

If I can be of any assistance or if you would like to comment on this article, contact me at bryan.simonaire@senate.state.md.us or call my office at 410-841-3658.

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