Candidates match seats on central committees
Newcomers and veteran members join June 26 ballot
Central committee members chosen by the two major political parties in Maryland’s counties help fill vacancies that occur in other elected positions, get a starting ground for potential aspirations of their own, and basically help out for the good of the party.
In St. Mary’s, next month’s primary ballots for the Democratic and Republican parties list tallies of candidates that exactly match the number of seats on each party’s local central committee.
The Democratic ballot, structured to include both women and men, includes female candidates Diana D. Donahue of Mechanicsville, Heather Marin Earhart of Leonardtown, Laura Hart of Mechanicsville, Caroline Miller King of California and Jane Loughran of Piney Point. Male candidates include Bill Bates of Leonardtown, Michael D. Brown of Lexington Park, Shane Mattingly of Lex- ington Park, Sal Raspa of Lexington Park and Collin Jay Foster, a teenager in Piney Point who will turn 18 this summer.
Foster, a senior at Leonardtown High School, said that neither state nor county bylaws list an age requirement for serving on a central committee, but “it’s kind of interpreted that you have to be 18 by the time of the general election. You have to be a registered Democrat to be able to run. You can’t vote at 16; you can just register. I got my [driver’s] permit at the same time.”
Foster’s political interests accelerated when he started high school. “That’s when I came out as gay,” Foster said. “It was a critical period for LGBT rights. It was a hot topic at the time, in politics.”
Sending emails and letters to lawmakers throughout the country, Foster soon “realized how politicized it was, for good and bad reasons,” and the scope of his political involvement broadened when he learned of his disabled grandmother’s risk of losing benefits. “I started with civil rights, and branched off from there,” he said. “I felt it was necessary to protect the things that let my grandmother live.”
The 2016 election “made me realize that this is a crucial period for me to get involved,” he said, and as the local component of a broader “wake-up call for our party,” he added, “the central committee helps shape our vision and representation in the county. It starts at the grassroots level.”
Continuity is a key component in this year’s slate of candidates for the St. Mary’s Republican Central Committee, which includes Bryan M. Barthelme II of California, Jacinta Bottoms-Spencer of California, Jennifer Hayden Boyd of Bushwood, Kevin Cioppa of Lexington Park, Joe DiMarco of Mechanicsville, Cody Hance of Great Mills, Jodi Stanalonis of Hollywood, Karen P. Wathen of Leonardtown and Hollywood resident David Willenborg, the panel’s chairman.
“The entire committee will be returning,” Willenborg said, compared to a crowded field for the job four years ago. “The last election, we had 22” candidates, he said, including some who “were libertarian-leaning Republicans. They had a clique.”
This year’s lineup includes two committee members who were appointed to fill vacancies that occurred, Willenborg said, including Wathen, who filed in this year’s election after her appointment, and Hance, who filed as a candidate before being interviewed and appointed to serve out the current term.
“For us, it’s just the way it worked out,” Willenborg said of the current panel’s continued service.
Collin J. Foster’s interest in politics, and elected office, has gotten an early start.