On Tuesday night, more than 70 Citizens' Campaign Fund supporters gathered at Kelsey's Restaurant in Ellicott City to attend the Fair Elections Howard Kickoff. From the outset, we could sense that folks were eager to learn more about the issues but even more excited to fellowship with like-minded neighbors.
This event marked the official start of a movement in Howard County that began when the County Council passed the "citizen funded campaign system" resolution in March. With election day now less than two months away, the effort to get citizens of Howard County to "Vote Yes on A" is in full swing.
Joined by Senator Ben Cardin, Congressional member John Sarbanes, and Councilmembers Jon Weinstein, Jen Terrasa, and Calvin Ball reminded the crowd that when office seekers choose to opt into a public campaign funding system, it broadens and deepens their engagement with communities they serve. More simply put, "It changes the company we keep!"
Senator Ben Cardin reminded us all what’s on the line here, insisting that “the integrity of our democracy is at stake.” Congressman John Sarbanes picked up where Senator Cardin left off, underscoring his dedication to this work: “This is the solution that people have been waiting for, to feel like you have a voice again in your politics. Liberate us to talk to regular citizens, rather than fundraise. You are the change that I’ve been waiting for.”
The citizen funded campaign system makes this a reality through public matching of small citizen donations, so participating candidates can stop chasing corporate and Political Action Committee money and spend more time and resources listening to voters. Attendees nodded in agreement and pledged to take action this November to retake our democracy, with above 50% signing up to knock doors, make calls, and host house parties.
The event closed with remarks from several Fair Elections super volunteers who urged their neighbors to go the extra mile between now and November to achieve success on Question A. Even after the launch wrapped, supporters stuck around to discuss what public campaign funding could mean for Howard County and beyond. In the words of one woman, "[We] cannot wait to see what that future could look like."
As Maryland League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Karla Raettig explains, "At the heart of the fair elections movement is the desire to reclaim our democracy and have elected officials who are both accessible and accountable. We can't make progress on the pressing environmental issues of our time without a level playing field for candidates who share those values." We at Maryland LCV could not agree more!