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Donoghue's late-night text message a bad idea

February 24, 2013

Parents routinely tell their children that nothing good happens after midnight. Local lawmakers perhaps need a similar reminder that the witching hour is a bad time to fire off ill-considered text messages.

Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, let fellow Del. Andrew Serafini have it in a text message sent at 11:45 p.m. Tuesday (copied to a broad list of interested parties), taking issue with Serafini’s lobbying efforts as they pertained to downtown Hagerstown redevelopment.

Donoghue wrote, “well aware of your efforts behind my back. You are looking for developers to come into my district for redevelopment. I am trying really hard to do things for Hagerstown and I do not appreciate your interference. … Please focus on your districts and let me focus on mine.”

First, we recognize the history that exists between Donoghue and the Republican members of the delegation, and that neither can claim the high ground. Serafini once wrote a letter trying to keep state grant money out of Hagerstown, an unthinkable breach of in-county courtesy.

Second, Donoghue is correct that, historically, the home delegate is permitted to take the lead in any state venture. Were the roles reversed, Serafini might take a dim view of Donoghue furthering a Smithsburg initiative without Serafini’s inclusion.

But as a responsible elected official, there are times when saying nothing is the prudent course. Or perhaps a quiet word in the House cloakroom would serve.

Hagerstown is already fighting an image of dysfunction, as it tries to get local governments and development groups to read out of the same playbook. Donoghue’s text only adds fuel to those who distrust our ability to keep our own house in order.

Donoghue has served more than two decades and needs no lecture on this point: Rural delegations are at a serious disadvantage as it is; they cannot afford to fight among themselves if they are to have any hope of advancing their agendas.

Moreover, what is good for Hagerstown is good for Smithsburg and for the county at large. Some initiatives are bigger than any one district. If Serafini can lure development to the city, it will matter little how he went about it or whose toes were stepped on. Nor should it.

Serafini also has added responsibilities as the chairman of the Washington County Delegation.

It is true that Serafini has been a delegate long enough to recognize the sensibilities involved when crossing into someone else’s district, and it is also true that the GOP delegates seem to enjoy pushing Donoghue’s buttons.

But knowing what’s at stake for downtown Hagerstown, this was a terrible time for Donoghue to air his gripes.

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