Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Time to quit, Henry 
Henry Hamel was one of the foot-soldiers in Fred Profeta's takeover of the Maplewood Democratic Party organization 2 years ago. He was subsequently appointed as a party District Leader when the position in his district went vacant last summer, and then won a 2-year term in this year's primary. By accepting the appointment and then running for election he tacitly accepted the duties associated with the position.

The job of District Leader is not onerous. They are expected to support and campaign for all Democratic Party candidates. The bylaws of the Maplewood Democratic Committee list the duties of members. Among those duties, District Leaders are expected to:
  • register to vote any new residents who move into the member's district.
  • encourage residents in their district to support Democrats in the general elections.
  • provide active assistance to local Democratic candidates who have won the Democratic primary election for the position of Township Committee person.
  • work for the election of Democratic candidates on the Local, County, State, and National level in the general election.
In some ways, Hamel has done those things - he's certainly been effective in getting out the vote for his candidates when that suited him, as it did the last two years. But not this year.

Hamel is an active participant on the Maplewood Online discussion boards under several identities, most notably (as he made known to several of us who attended the very first MOL face-to-face get together in spring 2001) as user Dytunck. It is as Dytunck that he is doing exactly the opposite of what is expected of a District Leader. In one of the catfights that passes for discussion on the MOL Soapbox these days, re: the Bette White/Police HQ/Polling controversy, Hamel (as Dytunck) wrote of Democratic candidate for Maplewood Township Committee (and current Vice-Mayor) David Huemer:
This is not the first time Dave Huemer has lied to people for his own political gain. The minute Huemer smells a potential controversy for Profeta, he seizes the opportunity to make waves.

I'd hardly call that support and active assistance of his party's TC candidate - it sounds more like a political hatchet-job.

If it were merely an issue of his personal animosity towards Mr. Huemer, keeping his opinion to himself might be sufficient restraint on Hamel's part. Party loyalty doesn't preclude a distaste for the party's chosen candidates. If Hamel is unable to muster any enthusiasm for the nominee, he should make his excuses to his party colleagues, in private, and leave it at that.

Unfortunately for the Maplewood Democratic Committee and his Party constituents, Hamel does NOT leave it at that. Besides his public disrespect for the candidate he is pledged to support, he also seems uninterested in fulfilling another of a District Leader's few responsibilities: encouraging new and/or otherwise unregistered voters to register and participate in elections. Again, in Hamel's words:
People choosing not to register are voting with their feet. If they want a stake . . . shouldn't they bother to voice their opinion as to who makes up the TC in the first place? By choosing to not register, they certainly must realize they're abdicating their stake.

It's a district leader's obligation to identify unregistered voters, seek them out, and assist them in registering - NOT to publicly criticize them and deny them a voice in civic decision-making.

Since Hamel seems so intent on trashing Mr. Huemer and so happy to limit voter participation in elections, I'd suggest that his unwillingness to fulfill his party duties, even passively, makes him ineligible to hold his District Leader position. His actions may constitute "Leadership" but, if so, he's leading his district's Democrats in the wrong direction.

In the United States, private citizens are entitled to say pretty much anything they want - but, as officials of the Democratic Committee, District Leaders are obliged not to say certain things in public. As a lifelong Democrat, I find Hamel's statements and attitude to be offensive. I may not be a member of the Democratic Committee anymore, but it's still my party. I'm not really sure it's Hamel's. MDC Chairman Doug Bland should demand Mr. Hamel's resignation and find someone who is able and, more importantly, willing to fulfill the obligations of the job.

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