And although Western Maryland hasn’t been a Democrat stronghold in recent years, party leaders said they were buoyed by significant gains made in the 2012 election such as a strong showing by U.S. Congressman John Delaney.
“It is a good time to take stock, and talk about the session (the 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis) that just concluded,” said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington. “Having it here in Hagerstown is also a shot in the arm for the community.”
This is the ninth annual summit of Western Maryland Democrats and the first time the event will be held in Hagerstown.
In previous years the meeting has been held at the Rocky Gap resort in Allegany County. The meeting was moved to Hagerstown this year because of ongoing construction at the resort.
Donoghue said the meeting is an opportunity to focus and discuss core issues affecting the Democratic party in the state.
Numbers provided by Delaney’s campaign office for the 2012 elections where he beat the incumbent, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., in the race for Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District show that Delaney beat the former Congressman in the cities of Frederick, Hagerstown and Cumberland and in Washington County.
“John (Delaney) made it a priority to speak to residents in Western Maryland,” Will McDonald said in his capacity as a campaign spokesman for Delaney, who is speaking at Saturday’s meeting.
Elizabeth Paul, chair of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee, said the meeting would help build on the momentum that Delaney’s performance generated.
“I think this year’s meeting will be a little more exciting than it has been in previous years,” Paul said “We also did well in the city races in the last elections. The question is, “How do we build on that?’”
The meeting was also important, Paul said, because it enabled Democrats in the western part of the state to discuss issues and perspectives that may be different from other parts of the state.
“It is a chance to hear from our elected officials,” she said.
Hagerstown Mayor David S. Gysberts is also scheduled to speak at the meeting.
Others expected at the gathering include U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., U. S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, state Attorney General Doug Gansler, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md.
For political observers statewide, the meeting also holds significance because it features a straw poll on possible Democratic candidates for the governor and attorney general’s position in 2014.
The agenda for the day’s meeting includes discussions on prospects for “Democratic victories in 2014,” the state’s future and lessons learned from the 2012 elections and a discussion on bipartisanship.
About 150 people are expected at the summit, which is being held at the Hager Hall Conference and Event Center.
Paul said holding the meeting in Hagerstown was a “nice way to advertise the county” and hoped that the meeting could be held in the city in the years to come.
Bill DuVall, chair of the Allegany County Democratic Central Committee, said that could be a possibility.
“We may alternate between Rocky Gap and Hagerstown,” he said.