Letter from Greg Johnston
There has been information in the newsletter about making the website available for communication among members. I wanted to make some comments and share some history regarding the issue of endorsing candidates. It hasn’t yet been decided whether the Lodge will make endorsements this fall but enough has come out on the issue that at least some of the candidates think Lodge 88 could be making endorsements.
I see from the minutes of the meetings there are a lot of new faces. This is a good thing but the new faces aren’t aware of the growing pains the Lodge went through regarding the endorsement issue. This was a contentious issue in the Lodge during the late 80’s and early 90’s. I hope there are minutes available if members wish to review them. The endorsement issue first surfaced when Pat Cushwa challenged Don Munson for office. The Lodge was divided on the issue and the meetings weren’t pleasant. Anytime you have democrats and republicans discussing politics there will be disagreement, discord, and probably hurt feelings. Throw in the specifics and partialities toward individual candidates and it is a recipe for real contention. The issue continued to cause tension every time it came up. Finally it was decided a ballot would be sent to every member of the Lodge for a vote to be taken on the issue of whether the Lodge should endorse candidates for election. This was done as it was agreed that this important decision should not be decided at a meeting where only 8-12 members were present. Every member would have a voice if he or she sent the ballot back. Again, I hope the archived minutes have a copy of this ballot that members can review. The members voted to stay out of politics in that no endorsements would be given. I, along with other members, mistakenly thought this was put into the bi-laws.
The only time I am aware the Lodge deviated from this policy was when a member asked in the late 90’s at the Bittinger picnic at the river if the Lodge would endorse attorneys Don Beachley and Kennedy Boone for Circuit Court Judgeships. The members voted to give the endorsement.
I have spoken to MTA Office Administrator Bob Deavers on the endorsement issue and he advised it is the policy of the MTA not to endorse candidates at the local level. He said the MTA gives money to campaigns but does not publicly endorse candidates. There have even been times when money has been given to opposing candidates.
I am unable to see what can be gained by an active or retired trooper or the Lodge as a whole by endorsing a candidate no matter what office is being sought. Our Lodge is fortunate to have had Delegates and a Senator that are pro State Police. They have worked for us in Annapolis even though we have not given endorsements. They have been satisfied with the Lodge’s response that it is policy not to publicly endorse political candidates. Most of our representatives in Annapolis have honored us with their attendance at our legislative breakfasts even though they were getting nothing from us.
Why would we want to upset any candidate for office by changing our policy? Two of the candidates opposing each other this year have been long time friends of the MSP. I can’t see how it
would be in the Lodge’s best interests to “pick a horse”. I understand the proposal for endorsement would alleviate this conflict as the proposal only allows for endorsement after the primary
election. This policy doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If the intent of the Lodge in making an endorsement is to help a candidate get elected, then ride the horse for the entire race. Endorsing a candidate is a controversial issue so why would you try to avoid the controversy by waiting until the primary was over? If you are going to wade into politics, then get in and get wet. If the idea of waiting until after the primary before giving an endorsement is to avoid the controversy/gamble of “picking the wrong horse”, then avoid the controversy altogether by not giving any endorsements. Then no candidate would be upset, disappointed, or angry with us as it would be understood that this is the Lodge’s policy.
Our Lodge, like every other lodge, has always had problems with attendance and participation. I hear the same frustration from our current officers. If you throw controversy into meetings with candidate endorsements, you may see even less participation if members are disappointed or angered by the Lodge’s endorsements. The MTA is a social organization not a political organization. There was much controversy a few years ago during the gubernatorial election and it became clear the endorsement issue was self-serving for some. It was a nasty issue and administrative investigations resulted. There was division not in just the employee organizations but in the department as well. A ballot was sent to members with the choices being for either of the two candidates or making no endorsement at all. One candidate won by a few votes over giving no endorsement. The candidate not endorsed won and many think the MTA has paid a price since.
I have no problem with this issue being revisited as I realize things change. But I do have concerns about 10-15 members making such an important decision for the Lodge. It was important enough 15 years ago to hear each member’s opinion by sending out a ballot. The issue is no less important now. Each member should again be sent a ballot. I know the response will be, “if it is important to the members, they should attend the meetings”. Many members have reasons for not attending. Work, family issues, illness, distance from Hagerstown, and other personal reasons keep members away. Whether they attend regularly or not, each pays dues and should have a voice.
The cost should not prohibit ballots from being sent out. By using the email system, the ballot could be included with the newsletter. A member wishing to vote could print out the ballot, add his/her name and send it back. Ballots would only have to be sent to those not having an email address.
I felt it was important to get the membership started thinking about this issue because I do not feel there is sufficient time using monthly meetings. If something isn’t decided soon, there will not be time if it is decided there needs to be a mail out that needs to be returned in time for the election.