By Eric Kelderman and Robert F. Patrick
ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland delegation to next week’s Democratic National Convention is more diverse than the state as a whole, and considerably more diverse than the delegation that attended the GOP’s convention.
According to Anne Beegle, deputy director of the Maryland Democratic Party, the 96-member delegation is one-third African-American, 60 percent Caucasian, 3 percent Asian and 3 percent Hispanic.
“Our delegation is a snapshot of Maryland and of the Democratic Party,” said Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Rogers. “We represent a true cross-section of the people, the communities, and the common goals we share as Marylanders.”
The diversity of the delegation contrasts with Maryland’s GOP delegation to that party’s national convention, where African-Americans were about 16 percent of the total, and there were no Hispanic or Asian delegates, although there were several minority alternate delegates.
The Democrats are also more balanced by gender – the male-female ratio is almost one-to-one. The GOP sent a delegation to Philadelphia that was only about 30 percent female.
According to the Census Bureau, the population of Maryland is about 27 percent black, 2 percent Asian, and 3 percent Hispanic. There are slightly more females than males in the state.
Republicans argue that the Democrats use quotas to pick delegates – and in fact, the percentages of delegates from each ethnic and gender group are not accidental. The delegates are selected by gender after the primary so the delegation is balanced – for instance, if a candidate wins two delegate positions, one will go to a man and one to a woman.
National and state parties are directed by the charter to implement an affirmative action program to increase minority and lower-income participation. While the charter and bylaws of the Democratic Party specifically ban mandatory quotas, “representation as nearly as practicable of minority groups . . . as indicated by their presence in the Democratic electorate . . . shall not be deemed a quota.”
There are three types of delegates, Beegle said: delegates elected in the primary, those selected or appointed by the state party and automatic. Generally the party-selected or appointed delegates are used to make up any racial imbalances.
“For the most part,” Beegle said, “the system works itself out . . . there is enough participation that (balance) is not a problem.”
One party official privately conceded, “I don’t know that it is any different than a quota system; it’s just not called a quota.”
The task is more difficult with income level, Beegle said.
“Being a delegate is a significant financial commitment,” she said. It’s a “Catch-22” selecting delegates from a lower income level. “It would be easy to find corporate sponsors for lower income delegates, but then you’re beholden to the sponsor.”
Beegle wasn’t sure if Republicans can back up their bold statements of inclusion at their convention. “They were saying all the right things, but the question is will they do it?”
While the Democrats recently have captured the lion’s share of ethnic minority votes, extending that diversity into the delegate process is still a problem for both parties. The result is that the average Democratic delegate looks very much like the average Republican delegate. He is more likely to be white, Catholic, and about 53 years old – older than the average Maryland citizen.
– 30 – CNS-08-11-00