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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

MD Delegate Weldon Leaves Republican Party

George Wenschhof

Earlier today, in a publicized press conference in front of city hall in Frederick, Maryland, Republican Delegate Rick Weldon (Dist. 3-B) announced he was changing his political affiliation to "Unaffiliated". He was first elected delegate in 2002 and was reelected in 2006.

The stated reason for his change was to concentrate on policies and not politics. At this point he indicated he could not agree fully with the Republican or Democratic Party positions on issues so his choice was to change to "Unaffiliated". Weldon posted his speech online in the Frederick News Post Forums and you can read it here. It is an interesting decision, one which will leave many with differing opinions. Weldon also serves as chair of the Frederick County state delegation so it will be interesting to see if he continues in this capacity.

When I asked Bob Kresslein, chair of the Frederick County Democratic State Central Committee what his reaction was to Delegate Weldon's announcement he said "I am sure that this was not an easy decision for Delegate Weldon, in such matters what is important is that one follow the dictates of his conscience."

Let's take a look at this decision and what it may mean. In practicality, it means little and it is much to do about nothing. Rick Weldon will continue to serve as delegate in District 3-B and presumably in a similar manner as he did in his preceding six years in office.

However, in politics, it can mean a lot. In Maryland, there is no registered "Unaffiliated" Party and in Frederick County, you are indicated as "Declined" meaning you declined to affiliate with a recognized political party. Weldon's action may be considered noble by some. However, in a state dominated by the Democratic and Republican Parties, it is unlikely a elected representative who declines affiliation will have much influence in Annapolis. In fact, a "Unaffiliated' or "Declined" candidate for state office would not be allowed to be on the ballot for a vote unless they met a petition requirement. I have no knowledge of this occurring in a state election in the history of Frederick County, Maryland.

Looking at a little background, Delegate Weldon previously announced he would not be seeking reelection in 2010. This announcement came after the special session of the general assembly called by Governor O'Malley a year ago to deal with the state structural budget deficit.

One of the reasons speculated at the time for his announcement not to run again, was his position on "Slots" during the special session. The Governor's strategy for passage was to have the approval measure for "Slots" be a constitutional amendment requiring a three-fifths majority vote in the Maryland House and Senate. The Republicans, who previously supported the approval of "Slots" under Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich decided they would oppose this measure put forward by Democratic Governor O'Malley. Delegate Weldon, who had supported "Slots" under Governor Ehrlich, voted in favor of Governor O'Malley's bill, which passed. Thus he supposedly earned the wrath of some Republicans who did not want the O'Malley bill to succeed. It appears Weldon did not see a reason to change his position on the issue due to partisan posturing by the Republican Party.

It will be interesting to see the Republican reaction to Weldon's decision to end his lifelong registration with the Republican Party. Some Republican voters may well be upset as they voted to elect a Republican delegate to represent their interests in the state government.

Also the Republican Party, already looking to recruit and promote a replacement for Weldon due to his previous announcement that he would not seek another term, will likely be feeling as though they are tied in knots.

It is possible the Republican Party might try to discuss resignation with Weldon. They may be tempted to inform him the political reality is that his change of political party to "unaffiliated" will limit his effectiveness in Annapolis. If he would resign, the local Republican Central Committee would be able to submit names for his replacement to the Governor for appointment to the position. This would give the new Republican delegate a two year head start advantage going into the 2010 election.

As of now, District 3-B looks like a good chance for a Democratic pick up in 2010. Stay Tuned.


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