When running for office everyone needs to abide by the same rules as spelled out in the law. When individuals try to manipulate things behind the scenes and change or bypass the rules, we have a responsibility to fight back.
My opponent, Dan Sparaco, failed to meet the filing deadline that every other candidate in our city had to follow. You'd think not filing on time would disqualify you from seeking public office. Well not if you're my opponent. My opponent filed to get on the ballot at least four months after the deadline that all other candidates had to adhere to. We were shocked to learn that the Board of Elections had mysteriously let him bypass the rules and get on the ballot.
When we found out about this we immediately fought back. We filed a lawsuit against the Board of Elections for allowing someone onto the ballot who didn't follow the law. We couldn’t let the Board of Elections get away with this level of corruption.
In May, Dan filed a lawsuit to get himself on the ballot, arguing he didn’t agree with the election law deadlines. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with a candidate fighting what he perceives to be an unjust law. But instead of waiting for a judge to make a ruling, he cut a deal with the Attorney General of Maryland and the Board of Elections that allowed him to just add himself onto the ballot. My opponent then quietly withdrew his lawsuit specifically because he got what he wanted and didn't want a judge to weigh in anymore.
What’s even more bizarre about this case is that in previous cases where candidates have sued the BOE to fight what they perceive as injustices, the BOE fights back! In the case of Greg Dorsey just last year, Mr. Dorsey fought to reduce the amount of signatures needed to run for US Senate in Maryland. The BOE didn’t just give him what he wanted, they actively fought against it and tried to get the case dismissed. But that’s not what happened with my opponent. He decided rather than getting a judge to make a ruling he would collude with the Attorney General and BOE to simply get himself on the ballot nice and quietly.
Did the BOE make some sort of announcement about Dan being let on the ballot? Did they publicly announce that others could now get on the ballot? Nope, not at all. In fact, when I contacted the Baltimore BOE they told me they had “No idea what was going on” and the state BOE said “We’re not required to inform anyone about changes like these”. So if you were thinking, well at least this helped others who wanted to file late, apparently that’s not the case either.
It gets worse. So the Attorney General and/or the Board of Elections allowed my opponent on the ballot without any judge weighing in. The deadlines for our elections are written into our state law. This means that the Attorney General and/or the Board of Elections and my opponent colluded to actually change the law without any authority to do so. No judge, and certainly no lawmaker, signed off on this.
I didn’t take this lying down. I reached out to my activist colleagues who work on voter rights issues. In particular two individuals that were in the VOICES group that protested the terrible handling of Baltimore City’s primary elections. For those that don’t know, we had memory cards full of votes mysteriously locked in storage closets and lots of other Election Day chaos in the primary.
What really upset my activist colleagues though is the precedent this sets. If Mr. Sparaco is allowed on the ballot in this fashion it means that in the future the Attorney General, who himself is a political actor, again can change the deadlines that are hard written into the law. This is a dangerous precedent that can’t stand. Imagine starting your run for office with the BOE claiming there’s one set of rules for you to follow that spell out all the deadlines you’ll have to follow and then being told that the BOE simply changes the rules on you midway through your run for office. And of course, the BOE never notifies you of these changes. Good luck trying to figure out if the changes to the law are made because “they’re not required to notify you” as I was told by the state BOE.
Of course I called up my opponent, Mr. Sparaco, to hear why he did this. What he said was shocking!
My opponent said that he was AFRAID of losing the Democratic primary, so that's why he INTENTIONALLY missed the deadline everyone else had to follow. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't believe me. It sounds insane, but he actually wrote that in his original court case. Check out the story on this, it's unbelievable.
After admitting that to me, my opponent then bragged about how rich and well connected he is, and then told me to drop out of the race. Well my team checked, and where does the majority of his money come from? His mommy and daddy back home in New Jersey, of course!
This guy is the Ryan Lochte of political candidates. He thinks he is above the law and he believes that he can manipulate any law or rule as long as it benefits him. We cannot let him get away with this kind of behavior. Candidates should not be able to rewrite election law behind closed doors with BOE. Have your day in court and have the courage to fight for your convictions in front of a judge and in front of the public who have to live with your selfish decisions for many elections to come.
Stand with us as we fight with everything we have until November 8th.
Court Case Updates: Federal -
Our federal court case was submitted and our lawyer asked for an emergency injunction. To be fair to our opponent, Mr. Sparaco, we notified him of these events and invited him to intervene and state his case. In effect, we did the work of re-opening this federal case for him. So now instead of bureaucrats at the BOE deciding if they can re-write laws, a judge in federal court can finally weigh in.
Unfortunately, the judge in the federal case told my lawyer, who is qualified to litigate in federal court on a “Pro Hac” basis, that she’s not qualified to litigate this particular case. So our case was dismissed “without prejudice” meaning it can be brought back to court. My federal court lawyer is working to update her status with the federal bar so she can again litigate cases like this in the future.
Court Case Updates: Maryland –
We found a new lawyer who is willing to take the case in MD court. Let me take a moment to explain why we filed in MD court. There is a period of time to ask for the MD ballots to be reviewed by a judge. This is known as judicial review. I personally called the MD BOE and asked them to give us judicial review. They practically laughed at me and explained that in order to receive judicial review I had to file a lawsuit in MD court. There was no way to simply “request it”.
So our MD lawyer filed for a judicial review and for a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) showing that Mr. Sparaco is not a qualified candidate. The circuit court judge saw the order immediately and agreed to sign off on the Temporary Restraining Order. So at that point Mr. Sparaco was not allowed on the ballot.
One day later the Attorney General went to court on behalf of the BOE and filed several motions in the Court of Appeals of Maryland, the highest court in MD, to get the TRO thrown out / dissolved. Thankfully the case was not dissolved but simply stayed. This means the Court of Appeals choose to suspend the decision of the lower court and will want to be involved in the case to some capacity.
We will continue to litigate this case vigorously. However, given the fact that the General Election is only less than seven weeks away from now and early voting begins on October 27, it is possible that the courts may not be able to review our litigation fully and finally before citizens must cast their votes. If Dan’s name remains on the ballot, please keep in mind that his name should not be there and he only got on the ballot by violating the law and convincing the Attorney General and BOE to look the other way.