Charter Amendment would lay the groundwork for small donor public financing of County elections
Baltimore County – On Wednesday night a crowd of supporters and community leaders came together on Zoom to launch the campaign to support Question A, a Baltimore County Charter Amendment to establish the Citizens’ Election Fund and Commission.
With costs to run for office in Baltimore County rapidly increasing and growing public concern over big money in politics, Question A will amend the Baltimore County Charter and enable the County Council to establish the Baltimore Citizens’ Election Fund, a small donor campaign finance system for County Executive and Council races.
“This program will enable community leaders, especially those that are young and from under-represented groups, the ability to run true grassroots campaigns,” explained Samay Kindra, the Ballot Committee Chair. “The Citizens’ Election Fund will give communities a greater voice in elections, which is something we need now more than ever.”
With a Citizens’ Election Fund program, candidates who abide by stricter ethics and transparency rules, like not taking giant checks from lobbyists, corporations, or PACs can qualify to receive limited matching funds for small donations they receive from Baltimore County residents.
Supporters of Question A came together to celebrate the Charter Amendment and launch a voter education and mobilization campaign for the election.
“When campaigns are dominated by large and corporate donors, we all lose. Question A is about ensuring Baltimore County voters have a voice in local government regardless of how much money they have, and that’s a good thing” said Maryland PIRG director Emily Scarr.
In recent years the cost to run for Baltimore County Council has dramatically increased, and candidates for County Executive have consistently raised or spent in the muli-millions. According to a forthcoming report from Common Cause Maryland Center, in 2018, four candidates for County Executive raised over $1 million dollars for their campaign. The winning candidate for County Executive raised $2,216,067.29.
“The Citizens’ Election Fund can expand opportunities to run for office, so more women and people of color can compete for County Council and County Executive races,” explained Common Cause Maryland executive director Joanne Antoine. “If we want a more representative government, Question A is something you should get behind.”
The Charter Amendment for the Fair Election Fund was spearheaded by County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. With less than a month before Election Day, the coalition, which is supported by local, state, and national organizations and volunteers, says they are working to reach voters wherever they can, safely: talking to community groups online, hosting Zoom happy hours and house parties, and pounding the pavement with educational information via social media, texts, phones, and letter writing.
“As a grassroots group, we know that local issues matter, and we know that local voices matter. In Baltimore County, Question A will allow for more participation in our elections,” said Rianna Lloyd, the Baltimore Community Organizer with Jews United for Justice. “That’s why Jews United for Justice is encouraging voters to vote their whole ballot, from the bottom to the top, and vote yes for Question A.”
“To solve big problems, we need leadership that’s reflective of our communities,” explained Jennifer Mendes Dwyer, Progressive Maryland deputy executive director. “Question A will enable more everyday county residents with good ideas and a call to public service to run for office without connections to big-dollar contributors.”
For more information about Question A and the campaign, visit https://www.baltimorecountyfairelections.org/
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The grassroots campaign in support of Question A for the Baltimore County Citizen Election Fund has been endorsed by local, state and national organizations Including Clean Water Action, Common Cause Maryland, Democracy Initiative, Food and Water Action Fund, Get Money Out Maryland, Greater Baltimore Sierra Club, Jews United for Justice, League of Women Voters of Baltimore County, Maryland PIRG Progressive Maryland, Represent Maryland.
Authority: Yes for A! Baltimore County Citizens’ Election Fund, Zachary Kovach, Treasurer