Democrats Honor Volunteer of the Year

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Kent County Democrats, at their Kennedy/King dinner, May 2, heard statewide and local officials outline strategies to win over voters in upcoming elections. Comptroller Peter Franchot, Attorney General Brian Frosh, and Kathleen Matthews, interim chair of the Maryland Democratic Central Committee, and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenitz were among the speakers. Joining them were Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino and County Commission President William Pickrum.  Dr. Mel Rapelyea of Betterton acted as MC. The dinner was held at the Frank M. Jarman Post #36, American Legion, with food provided by Occasions Catering of Chestertown.

The highlight of the event for many attendees was the presentation of the first annual Martha A. Holland Award for Volunteer of the Year. Rapelyea characterized Holland, who died at the beginning of April, as “the wind beneath my political wings, but in a gentle way.” He described her as part of Kent County’s Democratic “think tank,” who recruited members to set up the Democratic booth at Chestertown market during warm months. Holland was also instrumental in getting the local party to set up an official headquarters, and she was a fertile creator of political buttons and signs, many with a sly sense of humor. Her smiling face appeared numerous times on a slide show of local Democratic activities projected behind the podium during the evening.

Kathleen Matthews presents the first Marth Holland Volunteer-of-the-Year award to Frances Miller. Mel Repelyea applauds.

Matthews presented the award, which went to Holland’s sister, Frances Miller of Chestertown. Matthews noted that Miller, who had been asked to nominate candidates for the award, named six people but did not include herself. She praised Miller’s energy and conviction, and mentioned some of her many efforts for the club, including organizing a bus to carry local Democrats to Washington for the Women’s March – and getting everyone safely home again.

Miller, clearly moved by the recognition, said, “All of you in the room are volunteers for the Democratic Party – I think you all deserve this award.” She received a standing ovation.

The theme of the evening was “From Grassroots to Victory: Inspiring and Supporting Future Candidates,” and most of the speakers addressed the theme in their remarks. Matthews said the state party was working to reconnect with Democrats in rural counties, many of whom she said voted for Republican candidates in the most recent elections. She encouraged attendees to adopt a “neighbor-to-neighbor” approach to spreading the word about how Democrats are the ones working to better their lives. She mentioned two attendees at the dinner: Brian Welter, who is planning a run for District 36 delegate, and Alison Galbraith, who has announced her candidacy for the congressional seat now held by Andy Harris.

Alison Galbraith, Democratic candidate for Maryland congressional district 1.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenitz

MD Attorney General Brian Frosh

The other speakers, including Frosh, Franchot, Cerino, Pickrum and Kamenitz, also hammered on the need for Maryland Democrats to strengthen their appeal to voters in rural counties such as Kent. Franchot said the party needs to field credible local candidates with strong roots in their communities, and not to hold local candidates to a litmus test on national issues. He stressed the need for elected officials to “show up” and learn what issues their constituents are concerned with, and to take responsibility for doing the job they were elected to do.

Frosh summarized some of the work his office has done to fight scammers and corrupt business practices, including “sham” charities and predatory lenders. Like all the speakers, he expressed anger and dismay at the record to date of the Trump administration and the congressional Republicans.

William Pickrum, Kent County commissioner

Chris Cerino, Mayor of Chestertown

For more information, see the website of the Democratic Club of Kent County, MD  The Democratic Club of Kent County meets most months in Chestertown, on the third Thursday of the month.  Locations vary; please check the website calendar for details.  Doors open at 5:30 pm for social time, drinks, and a meal; business meeting at 6:45, speaker/program at 7:00 pm, ending around 8:00 pm.  Iced tea and diet soda provided free — all are welcome!  Visit the club on Facebook. 

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