January 11, 2024
A Republican member of the Maryland State Board of Elections resigned this week after federal authorities announced his indictment for allegedly participating in the 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Carlos Ayala, 52, of Salisbury, was charged with criminal disorder, a felony, as well as several misdemeanor offenses, according to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.
Ayala, a former Perdue Farms executive and the stepson of Frank Perdue, was sworn in as a member of the state board last year. State officials were informed Thursday morning that Ayala had resigned from the state board.
Ayala’s attorney James Trusty said he had no comment.
According to federal prosecutors’ news release, Ayala was among a group of rioters who gathered on Capitol grounds near some scaffolding erected for the upcoming inauguration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat. Ayala wore a sweatshirt decorated with the American flag and a painter’s mask with large filters. At times, he carried a flag that read “We the People” AND “DEFEND.” The flag, which also included an image of an M-16-style rifle, was attached to a PVC pipe, according to court documents.
After climbing a police barrier, Ayala could be seen on video footage waving the flag inside a window next to an exterior Senate door, according to court documents. Security cameras captured a rioter near the same area, jabbing a flag and a flagpole as a U.S. Capitol Police officer. The officer pulled the flag into the building. The flag matched the description of the flag Ayala was seen carrying, according to court documents.
Less than 30 seconds after the flag altercation, a nearby door was breached by rioters, according to court documents. A PVC pipe without a flag attached was thrown through the open door, striking an officer.
Court documents said Ayala left the area immediately afterward.
Ayala was one of several new election board members sworn in last year. He was an appointee of Democratic Gov. Wes Moore. Governors typically solicit candidates to nominate for the board from the state’s Republican and Democratic parties. The volunteer position is unpaid.
A spokesman for Moore’s office referred comment to the State Board of Elections and said it would not be issuing further statements Thursday.
Michael Summers, chairman of the Maryland State Board of Elections, confirmed in an emailed statement that he had accepted Ayala’s immediate resignation. The board remains committed to “maintaining the security and integrity of our elections in Maryland in a non-partisan manner,” he said.
“The State Board will remain steadfast in our mission to oversee our elections process and serve as a trusted source of information for all Marylanders during this presidential election year,” Summers said.
A biography of Ayala published shortly before his confirmation by state Sen. Mary Beth Carozza called Ayala a “very well-respected business and community leader.” The biography said Ayala held several positions with Perdue Farms including director of international operations, general manager for Perdue China and vice president international. Carozza also cited Ayala’s work with the Maryland Cancer Society and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Ayala is the son of Mitzi Perdue and stepson of Frank Perdue, the former head of Perdue Farms, according to a 2005 obituary.
During a brief appearance before a state Senate committee last year for his confirmation, Ayala said he regarded the election board position as “extremely important.”
“After having lived in multiple different counties, after having worked with a bunch of different cultures both abroad and here in the United States, I recognize the importance of this,” Ayala said.
The senators present asked Ayala no questions. They rejected, however, a second Republican candidate also nominated by Moore. Christine McCloud was not approved after she said she was uncomfortable with mail-in ballots and refused to rule out widespread fraud during the 2020 election.
State Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat who works closely with the election board, said she was devastated by the charges against Ayala. Ayala was an “eager student” who seemed to ask thoughtful questions about elections during their regular interactions, she said.
“I am just stunned that a nominee who was unanimously approved by the Senate to oversee our elections process was one of the attackers on Jan. 6, was wearing a ‘stop the steal’ button, was attacking our courageous public safety officers,” Kagan said. “I am dumbfounded.”
The charges against Ayala are allegations. He has not been convicted.
Kagan noted that Ayala was one of nearly 1,000 nominees senators were considering at the time. It would have been impossible for the senators on the Executive Nominations Committee to more thoroughly vet each one, she said.
“If he was on the acupuncture board or massage therapists board, it might have been a little bit embarrassing,” she said. “But this is fundamentally the backbone of our democracy, and we have on this five-member board someone who was attacking the symbol of our democracy.”
Common Cause Maryland, a good government group, said the Maryland General Assembly should consider changing the selection process for board members in the wake of the charges against Ayala, arguing they are a “wake-up call.”
“It is sickening to think that Ayala was making decisions about our elections after allegedly participating in the attempted insurrection,” said Morgan Drayton, the group’s policy and engagement manager. “His disrespect for the voices of Maryland voters and his disregard for the peaceful transfer of power stands in direct contrast to the duties of the Board of Elections.”
The Maryland Republican Party, which submitted Ayala’s nomination to the governor, changed leadership in 2023 following the loss of far-right Republican Dan Cox in the gubernatorial election. Nicole Beus Harris, wife of Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Harris took the reins in place of Dirk Haire.
Ayala has been a regular campaign donor to Andy Harris. Federal records show Ayala contributed $9,400 to his campaigns between 2016 and 2023. Ayala also gave $6,000 to former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in 2018 and $1,826 to Cox in 2022, according to state records.
Nicole Beus Harris did not respond to a request for comment.
The full list of charges against Ayala includes:
- Knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority
- Knowingly and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of government business
- Disorderly conduct in a Capitol building
- Parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building
- Obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder
Ayala was arrested Tuesday in Salisbury. He was released but had to surrender his passport and agree to get permission before traveling outside the country, according to court documents. He is next due to appear in court Feb. 8.
Political news website Maryland Matters first reported the connection between Ayala’s arrest and his position on the election board.