Speigner Resigns as Leader of Prince George's Democrats

James Wright | 8/11/2010, noon

In a move that surprised many in Maryland Democratic Party circles, the chairman of the Prince George's County Democrats resigned less than six weeks before the crucial Sept. 14 primaries. Terry Speigner, who has served as chairman of the Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee since 2006, said he is leaving his post to attend to personal matters.

"I resigned to take care of my business and my family," Speigner, 43 and a resident of Mitchellville, Md., said. "I am essentially a volunteer and I was finding it hard to run my business, deal with my family and run the Democratic Party in Prince George's County."

Prince George's County is considered by some political experts to be the most reliable Democratic voting bloc in primary and general elections. The county has 532,000 registered voters out of a population of 834,000 according to statistics compiled by the Prince George's County Board of Elections.

In 2006, Democratic Baltimore City Mayor Martin O'Malley was elected governor by defeating incumbent Republican Gov. Bob Erhlich by 6.5 percent. It is widely known fact that had it not been for the turnout for O'Malley in Prince George's County, the race would have been a lot closer.

In 2008, Barack Obama won Prince George's County by 88 percent of the vote, the highest percentage in Maryland. When Speigner sent out his e-mail to members of the central committee, political leaders and key activists in the county and state on July 26, there was a great deal of concern.

"Terry was a good chairman and he did a good job," Former State Sen. Tommie Broadwater said. "I think he was a good leader and the best chairman we ever had."

Broadwater, 68 and a resident of Upper Marlboro, Md., is considered the "godfather of Black politics in Prince George's County." In 1974, he was elected to the Maryland State Senate, the first Black to be in that body from outside of Baltimore City.

It is customary for Black political aspirants to seek Broadwater's advice on the county's electoral landscape. Broadwater said that Speigner bought many skills to the table as chairman.

"He is an excellent fundraiser and he is an excellent team-builder. I was surprised that he stepped down and I hope we can pick up where he left off," he said.

Belinda Queen, a longtime activist in central Prince George's County, was also concerned.
"He is a very smart man and I guess that he has his reasons," Queen, 46, and a resident of Wilburn Estates, an area located near Capitol Heights, Md., said.

"I guess my question is whether this is the time to do it. Should we leave the Democratic Party hanging like this?"

Speigner's temporary replacement is Arthur Turner, a county and political activist who is seeking the Prince George's County Council District 6 seat on Sept. 14. There have been questions about Turner serving in that capacity since he is running for office, despite the fact that he is the vice chairman of the central committee.

Speigner said that questions about Turner in the position are baseless.

"Arthur Turner is running for the District 6 seat but he is not a candidate for the central committee on Sept. 14," Speigner said. "There is no conflict of interest there."

There have been rumblings among some county political activists that Speigner favored certain candidates in some races. In response, Speigner said that he thinks there are some candidates who would be good office holders and he would like to see them succeed.

"I will say that there are candidates who have a track record of working in the community. These are candidates that have worked in the vineyards and they deserve to be in public office," he said.

Speigner said that he has met with most of the Democrats running for elective office in Prince George's County and has voiced his opinion on their chances as well as the issues that he thinks that they should focus on.

"I have not refused to meet with anyone. I have talked to anyone who wants to talk with me, whether it is for 30 minutes or three hours. I have been open to everyone," Speigner said.

An unstable Democratic Party in Prince George's County might mean trouble for the re-election efforts of O'Malley, some political observers and activists have said. Broadwater said that O'Malley should be fine, but that the party needs to be united in order to defeat Bob Erhlich.

"The Democrats in this county need to get together after the primary and do what needs to be done to make sure that we Democrats win in November," he said.

Speigner is confident that O'Malley will be victorious in November, but stresses that the reason he resigned is because of personal commitments.

"I need to focus on my business and my family," he said.

"I have lost a lot of revenue dealing with the party and it has been a tremendous sacrifice. I can still help the party by helping those folks who I believe will move Prince George's County forward -- and I do not have to be the chairman to do that."