The Calvert County Democratic Central Committee hosted its 20th annual Louis L. Goldstein Dinner on Thursday to recognize Democrats for service and commitment.

The theme for the event in honor of Maryland’s 40-year comptroller of the treasury was “Heal America.”

“At times like this, it is really important to have a strong community,” Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews said, referring to Calvert and St. Mary’s counties. “You need strong communities when you face tragedy such as the one we had this week at Great Mills High School.”

St. Mary’s County Democratic Central Committee Chair Kathy O’Brien was in attendance at the dinner and shared the news that Jaelynn Willey, a 16-year-old student who was shot at Great Mills on March 20, was being taken off life support Thursday. O’Brien, also a mental health professional, was at the high school in the immediate aftermath of the shooting counseling students, staff and parents.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) called for a moment of silence for Willey.

“Too many. Too many. Too many young people have lost their lives this year,” Hoyer said, referring to school and other recent mass shootings.

“A moment of silence is appropriate, but we need action,” Hoyer said, demanding a “rational, common-sense gun control bill” be allowed on the House floor for a vote.

Hoyer said 97 percent of Americans believe the country should have comprehensive background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, mentally unstable, spousal abusers and children.

“We can’t get that on the floor,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer, who said he went to Great Mills within roughly 75 minutes of learning of the shooting, said he was amazed with how everyone responded. He credited O’Brien, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, school personnel, emergency responders and school resource officer Blaine Gaskill who exchanged gunfire with the Great Mills shooter.

Despite the growing violence in schools and “chaos” in the White House administration, Matthews was very optimistic about the future of the Democratic Party.

“This is going to be a great year … to be able to celebrate the Democratic blue wave that is going to cascade over Maryland and our country in 2018,” Matthews said.

Mathews pointed to the White House for motivating Democrats in record numbers to run for office.

“Here in Maryland we have 200 more candidates running in 2018 than we did four years ago,” Matthews said, also noting that 562 women are running for office, up from 30 percent from the pool of candidates in 2014.

With many of the gubernatorial candidates in attendance, Matthews vowed that they will defeat Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

“The guy who campaigned saying he was going to change Maryland has shortchanged Maryland,” Matthews said. “We can do better with Democratic leadership.”

Matthews said Goldstein was a “person-to-person politician” and that he believed “that all politics is local,” and said that is how Democrats will win.

“Truly, our nation is falling. We’re falling in backwards policy, ideologies. We’re falling to old antiquated philosophies. We’re only taking care of some parts of society — not all,” said the Rev. Jeff Long Jr. of Communion Church in Prince Frederick.

Long, who is also the Calvert central committee’s secretary, and Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s) presented Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) the committee’s Standing for Justice Award for Frosh’s efforts to look “out for the underserved sectors of populations” and make “sure there are equal rights for everybody in the state of Maryland.”

Miller credits Frosh for the state stepping back from capital punishment, for improving the Chesapeake Bay through environmental laws and regulations and for suing President Donald Trump and his administration.

“The same night that we elected Donald Trump president, Massachusetts legalized marijuana,” Frosh said, recalling an email he received from a friend and then making a reference to a slogan coined by former first lady Michelle Obama: “I think the message may be when they go low, we go high.”

Frosh said over the last year his office has utilized the new law that gives the attorney general authority to take action against the federal government without the governor’s consent. Under Frosh, the state sued Trump over the Muslim ban, dismantling the Affordable Care Act and for delaying or rolling back environmental protections implemented under President Barack Obama’s administration.

Frosh said Trump is violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution by taking money from foreign governments through his real estate holdings and that it impacts the president’s policies.

Frosh said these are the darkest times he has seen and the only era comparable was the 1960s and the fight for civil rights during the middle of the Vietnam War.

“’What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion for one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer in our country,’” said Frosh, reciting excerpts from former senator Robert F. Kennedy’s speech on the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Those are the things my office stands for. Those are things we are going to continue to fight for. We are going to continue to protect Marylanders. We’re going to continue to sue the bastards and continue to fight for justice,” Frosh concluded.

Central committee chairman Hagner Mister presented vice chair David Salazar with the Chairman’s Award for his commitment to the committee in his first year in office. Salazar is a supervisor for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Washington. Several union workers were on hand to witness his achievement.

Cindy Yoe received the Dan Pike Volunteer of the Year Award for canvassing and voter registration work. Pike, the award’s namesake, was a longtime central committee volunteer who died in 2013 while in service to the committee.

Tricia Powell, who is running for county commissioner, recognized posthumously Clara Mae Buckmaster and Pearl Miller for their long-term commitment to the central committee. Both Buckmaster and Miller died in 2017.

Several other state and local candidates for office were among the nearly 300 attendees.

Hoyer was filling in as the event’s keynote speaker for Sen. Ben Cardin (D), who was on the U.S. Senate floor voting on a spending bill intended to avert another federal government shutdown. Cardin sent his apologies along with a statement encouraging the Democrats in the upcoming elections.

Twitter: @CalRecTAMARA

Twitter: @CalRecTAMARA