This story was updated Jan. 25.
After a tumultuous selection process that dragged on for more than two months, Gov. Martin O’Malley appointed former Del. Darren M. Swain to fill a vacant Prince George’s County House seat Friday.
“With experience as a former legislator, support from county and local partners, and his dedication and commitment to moving our state forward, I am confident that Darren Swain will serve the people of Prince George’s County with distinction,” O'Malley said in a statement Friday.
The county’s Democratic Central Committee had suggested three new names to fill the vacant delegate seat last week, but some lawmakers from the county were urging the governor to appoint Swain.
Swain, who represented District 24 in the House from 1999 to 2003, offered his name for consideration to fill the seat vacated by Tiffany T. Alston last year, and was the favored choice of Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-Dist. 24) of Landover, with whom he worked when she was in the House.
“[Swain] served four years here, and worked with me wonderfully well,” Benson told The Gazette this week. “He has his arms wrapped around the process. He knows how things should be done here.”
Benson said her support of Swain had met with the approval of her constituents.
County senators trusted Benson’s judgment on the matter, said Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly, adding that Swain had many good qualities and had been elected before.
County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) wrote to O’Malley in support of Swain, indicating that Swain’s prior experience in the House, where he served alongside Baker, “uniquely qualifies him to meet this challenge.”
Even Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach weighed in, saying this week that there was a clear choice that the governor should appoint, someone who had served in the General Assembly before and had the backing of elected leaders in the Senate and House, but stopped short of giving a name.
Alston’s seat has technically been vacant since October, when she was given a year’s suspended sentence for misusing General Assembly funds and pleaded ‘no contest’ to a separate charge of misusing campaign funds. The committee chose businessman and community activist Greg Hall to fill the vacancy, but O’Malley asked members to withdraw the nomination after criminal charges Hall faced as a younger man — including his implication in a 1992 shooting that left a teenage bystander dead.
After a legal battle that included Hall suing to prevent his name from being withdrawn and Alston suing to reclaim her seat — both unsuccessfully — the committee rescinded Hall’s nomination and offered three nonbinding suggestions to O’Malley: Orphans’ Court Judge Vicky L. Ivory-Orem, attorney Clayton Aarons and IT project manager Phillip Raines.
Swain was passed over, in part, because of two traffic violations in his past — a criminal speeding charge, for which he was fined $100, and a charge of failing to obey a traffic control device, for which he was given probation before judgment — according to a member of the central committee.
Committee members were reluctant to recommend candidates with anything questionable on their records, and Swain did not disclose the charges at the meeting last week, the committee member said.
Swain said he didn’t believe traffic violations should be a basis for preventing someone from holding office.
“If we start to disqualify people in Annapolis for traffic violations, there would be nobody there,” he said.