Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 2. Early and Absentee Voting

More Democrats in Maryland turned out in early voting than Republicans. I believe the early vote proves the superiority of the Democratic “ground game” in Maryland. Especially in close contests, Democratic candidates make a real effort to identify supporters and urge them to vote early or vote absentee. Think of it as “vote banking.”  Continue reading


Republican Hate Mail Angers Eastern Shore Voters

Maryland Republican Party leaders seem to think the Eastern Shore likes hate mail.

Republicans have mailed out a photo-shopped picture portraying Del. Norm Conway in a scary ski mask. They sent the picture, together with glaring distortions of Conway’s stands on issues, to every voter in Conway’s Salisbury district. The reverse side of the mailer continues the theme with a picture shadowed by prison bars. The Times newspaper of Salisbury is on the story like a blanket.

As the newspaper report points out, it’s rare for politics to get this ugly on the Shore, where good manners are the norm. The Times makes haste to note that the hate mail did not originate on the Eastern Shore. The reporter traced the over-the-top negative advertising to the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party in Annapolis. Conway’s Republican opponent in District 38B, Carl Anderton renounced the negative advertising.

Image via The Times of Salisbury.

Image via

Conway, a moderate-to-conservative Democrat, is used to attack campaigns from Republicans.  A former Salisbury city councilman and volunteer fire chief, Conway has represented the Lower Eastern Shore (District 38) in the General Assembly for as long as most people can remember. He was re-elected with little if any opposition until former governor Bob Ehrlich targeted him for defeat. (Ehrlich, of course, is not from Eastern Shore.  He’s a product of the Baltimore suburbs, start to finish.)

Republican negativity startled Conway when Ehrlich first introduced it. But the people of his district know Conway well, and they’ve continued to re-elect him. One reason is that Conway is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. The Eastern Shore relishes the power Conway wields in the General Assembly.

The Times noted that Republicans also have a negative web address targeting Sen. Jim Mathias, who also represents District 38. The url, redirects web surfers to the home page of Mike McDermott, the Republican candidate opposing Mathias. McDermott’s web site, headlined “No mud . . . Just the facts,” has been redesigned to attack Mathias. McDermott must be feeling pretty desperate if his web page has to lead with a denial that he’s throwing mud.

The Times has received complaints from voters about the hate mail, and printed two letters on the editorial page. One letter writer called the ski-mask mailer “despicable and misleading.”

Conway has always been the clear favorite to win in the new, gerrymandered District 38B. The backlash from the hate mail may hand him a landslide victory.

The District 38 Senate contest has been considered tight with Mathias possibly the winner by a nose. But McDermott’s attack web page might turn off people who would otherwise consider voting Republican. Look for Mathias to win by a full length after this episode.

Many people in District 38 disapprove of the Democratic Party. In fact, it’s not difficult to find people on the Shore who truly  hate  Democrats.

But Jim Mathias, former mayor of Ocean City, has about 99 percent name recognition in his district. Most year-round residents in the Ocean City area like Mathias personally, even if they disagree on some issues. In the most recent General Assembly sessions, Mathias has taken pains to reflect the district’s conservative opinions on issues. I once heard a Realtor say, “I love Jim, but I’m voting Republican.” That sentiment might be changing. Under the new circumstances, Mathias could win going away.

The other Democratic candidates in District 38, Percy Purnell (38A) and Judy Davis (38C) have been considered underdogs in elections that probably will be close. They can only benefit from any increase in sympathy for Mathias and Conway.

— John Hayden

Del. Norm Conway Endorses Judy Davis For Delegate



Del. Norm Conway has given my friend, Judy Davis, a big boost of momentum for the final weeks of the 2014 General Assembly election campaign on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Conway, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, had this to say following a weekend fundraiser on the Eastern Shore:

Had a wonderful time enjoying the sunshine at Tall Tales Brewery with my friend, Judy Davis. Such a tireless, selfless worker. She would be an excellent addition to the Maryland General Assembly. Make sure to vote for her November 4th!”

Judy Davis is locked in a tight race for the new, open seat in District 38C. The single-member subdistrict includes the greater Ocean City-Ocean Pines area in north Worcester County and northeast Wicomico County.

Norm Conway is the clear favorite to win re-election in the adjoining subdistrict, District 38B, which includes much of Salisbury and its suburbs. Conway is one of the most respected leaders on the Eastern Shore (and in the General Assembly). He’s one of the few whose endorsement carries enough weight to actually move voters.

If you’re a Democrat looking for a promising candidate to help in the final days before the Nov. 4 election, you might consider making a contribution to Friends of Judy H. Davis, P.O. Box 1222, Salisbury, MD 21802.

You can learn more about Judy Davis and contribute online at You can learn more about Del. Norm Conway and contribute online at

A meet-and-greet fundraiser for Judy Davis will be held at a private home in Montgomery County on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. Montgomery County Del. Anne Kaiser, chair of the House Subcommittee on Education, will be the guest speaker. More information on the Wednesday event is here.

I’ve been calling District 38C voters, and so have more than 20 other volunteers. Judy has been knocking on doors and  talking to voters throughout the district. However, the outcome in District 38C is still in doubt. Financial support from Maryland Democrats could make the difference and help push Judy Davis over the top on Election Day.

This post has not been paid for or approved by any candidate or organization. You knew that, but I wanted to say it.

— John Hayden

Opportunity For A Democratic Sweep In District 38 On The Shore

promo_decision2014In Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties and Baltimore City, the 2014 elections are just about over. The winner of the Democratic primary can take a vacation all summer long and expect easy victory in November. (I don’t recommend that strategy. Repeat after me: “Overconfidence is our enemy.”)

In other parts of Maryland, Democratic candidates don’t have it so easy.  For example, District 38 on the Eastern Shore. It’s a difficult district for both Democrats and Republicans. It leans slightly Republican, but the two parties have about equal success in recent state and local elections. The reason: Democrats have generally fielded stronger and more experienced candidates. Also, the district has pockets of Democratic strength, especially in Salisbury, Somerset County, and Southern Worcester County.

Jim Mathias has never lost an election

In 2010, State Sen. Jim Mathias, former mayor of Ocean City, won a narrow victory in District 38, which encompasses a sprawling territory from the Atlantic Ocean to the Chesapeake Bay, and from Ocean City to Salisbury. His Republican opponent was a respected Ocean City business leader.

This year, Mathias runs as the incumbent senator and faces a far less impressive opponent. Mathias will win by a more comfortable margin, but not a landslide. The Republican, Del. Mike McDermott, showed improbable strength in the 2010 delegate race. But 2010 was an unusually favorable year for Republicans on the Shore. The local unpopularity of Gov. Martin O’Malley and President Obama created a surge of Republican sentiment.

I’m not saying 2014 will be a walk in the park for Democrats. Let’s just say that neither O’Malley or Obama is on the ballot this year. If Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown runs a strong campaign (a big if), he can turn out Democratic voters on the Shore. The Republican candidate for governor, Larry Hogan, is not as popular as Bob Ehrlich was four years ago.

The Maryland Democratic Party has a rare opportunity to gain seats on the Shore. But it depends on the Party’s willingness to provide financial support to local candidates.

Handicapping the District 38 races:

  • Comparing McDermott side-by-side with Jim Mathias, it’s clear that Mathias is the more respected and experienced candidate. Mathias will win.
  • Democrat Norm Conway, longtime chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is the hands-down favorite to win re-election in District 38B (part of Salisbury and its nearby suburbs).
  • Crisfield Mayor Percy Purnell is a strong Democratic challenger for a do-nothing Republican incumbent in District 38A (Somerset County and Southern Worcester County).
  • Democrat Judy Davis is in a dead-even race with Republican Mary Beth Carozza in District 38C (Eastern Wicomico County and Northern Worcester County, including Ocean City and Ocean Pines). Davis is a career schoolteacher who has lived, worked, and raised her family on the Lower Eastern Shore. Carozza is a career political aide who spent her adult life on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon working for former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. She also worked briefly for Bob Ehrlich in Annapolis. We probably won’t know the outcome in 38C until they count the absentee ballots.

A closer look at 38C:

Some political observers believe that Carozza will win in 38C. Their reasoning: She has contacts with Republican donors from D.C. to Ohio, plus the high-visibility support of Donald Rumsfeld. She’s piled up a wealth of contributions. Fair enough.

Judy Davis logoBut I’ve just completed a precinct-by-precinct analysis of District 38C, and I see a clear path to victory for Judy Davis. Sorry, the details are confidential.

Democrats don’t have deep pockets. Davis has less money, most of it raised in Maryland. But Davis also has a stronger network of personal support.

Judy Davis is the only candidate on the Eastern Shore endorsed by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. She also  has the Maryland Teachers’ Apple endorsement. She has degrees from Salisbury University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and she’s a graduate of the first Maryland Emerge program for Democratic women. Carozza graduated from Catholic University in Washington and also attended Harvard. To my knowledge, Carozza has no endorsements and has never had a job on the Eastern Shore as an adult.

Davis has lived and worked on the Lower Shore for the past 40 years; Carozza has worked in Washington, D.C. Davis knows the people of Worcester and Wicomico Counties; Carozza knows politicians in Washington.

Still, it costs money to run a successful campaign. Davis has two fundraisers scheduled in coming weeks, one in Wicomico County and one in Montgomery County. The first, in Parsonsburg on the Eastern Shore, will be on Saturday, Sept. 27.

Judy Davis fundraiser

For details on the fundraiser in Montgomery County, scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 8, click here:  Davis~Montgomery County.

Democrats on the Western Shore should strongly consider contributing to Democratic candidates in District 38 on the Eastern Shore. Remember, even if you don’t have time to attend a fundraiser, you can still buy a ticket.

Your blogger obviously supports the Democratic candidates in District 38. This post has not been paid for or approved by any candidate or organization. (But you knew that.)

— John Hayden

Maryland League of Conservation Voters Endorsements Map

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters map of endorsed candidates is here. Easy to click on your own legislative district for endorsements.

Most of the Maryland General Assembly candidate endorsements are clustered in the Baltimore-Washington urban-suburban area.

The ONLY Eastern Shore GA candidate endorsed is Judy Davis, a Democrat running for the new open seat in District 38C (Ocean City, Ocean Pines, N. Worcester County and NE Wicomico County.)

I’m shore that Judy Davis would welcome campaign contributions from loyal Democrats and green voters. Her motto, “Teacher, Mother, Volunteer.”  (This message has not been authorized or approved by any candidate. Just sayn’)

Del. Norm Conway in District 38B has won environmental group endorsements in the past, but was not selected by the League of Conservation Voters this year.

And in other environmental news, the Green Party of Montgomery County has released a scorecard on how members of the Montgomery County Council voted, 2011-2014. You can see the scorecard here.

Marc Ehrlich is the only MoCo council member to earn a 100 percent rating from the Green Party. He’s followed by Nancy Navarro with 88 percent, and Phil Andrews and Roger Berliner both at 75 percent. And so on. Nancy Floreen earned the lowest rating from the Green Party, with 25 percent.

— John Hayden

St. Patrick’s Day Parades Launch 2014 Election Season In Maryland

Democrats have a good chance to gain seats on the Eastern Shore 

Question: Why do Democrats dominate Maryland elections?

Answer: Democrats have superior candidates.

Democrat Judy Davis (second from right) and supporters at St. Patrick's Day Parade in Ocean City. (John Hayden photo)

Democrat Judy Davis (second from right) and supporters at St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Ocean City. (John Hayden photo)

St. Patrick’s Day parades mark the start of election year in Maryland — more so than ever this year — because primaries have been moved up to June. Three months from St. Pat’s Day to Election Day. Nearly every Maryland city and town had a parade this weekend, and nearly every serious candidate — both Democrats and Republicans — was marching (or sometimes riding in a convertible.) Let the record show that Saturday was a perfect, sunny day for a parade in Ocean City.

Democrats hold a solid majority in Maryland’s General Assembly. Republicans, as always, hope to improve their minority position. They might pick up a seat or two, but that’s about the limit. Democrats have better candidates nearly everywhere in Maryland.

A case in point is District 38, located in the far southeastern corner of the state, the Lower Eastern Shore (Worcester County, Somerset County, and part of Wicomico County). District 38 will likely have some of the closest and most hard-fought elections in Maryland this year. Let me explain.

Many people presume that the Lower Eastern Shore leans Republican, either slightly or severely. History and election results indicate otherwise.

Four years ago, Democrats gained a Senate seat on the Lower Shore when Jim Mathias, former mayor of Ocean City, defeated a Republican businessman. In 2014, Democrats have every reason to expect to hold the Senate seat AND pick up one or even two seats in the House of Delegates. But it’s hardly a foregone conclusion.

Neither party will have competitive legislative primaries in District 38. All the action — and it could be hot– will be in the November General Election. Both sides are already hard at work.

Democrat Judy Davis meeting the crowd at St. Patrick's Day Parade in Ocean City. (John Hayden photo)

Democrat Judy Davis meeting the crowd at St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Ocean City. (John Hayden photo)

Did we mention superior Democratic candidates?

Sen. Jim Mathias has never lost an election. He’s been elected once to the House of Delegates and once to the State Senate. Before that, he was elected councilman and mayor repeatedly in Ocean City. Mathias faces a serious challenge from one-term Republican Del. Mike McDermott. It will be a hard-fought contest, but McDermott simply doesn’t match up well against Mathias in terms of experience, gravitas, or fund-raising ability. Mathias won a squeaker by 640 votes in 2010, and only after a recount. The 2014 results will likely be close, but not that close. I see Mathias winning by 3,000 to 5,000 votes.

Superior candidates for Delegate

After the 2010 Census, District 38 was divided into three single-member districts for House of Delegates. Republicans have two of the three delegates now, but they might be in trouble. In reverse order:

Judy Davis chatting with voters before the parade.

Judy Davis chatting with voters before the parade.

District 38CDemocrat Judy Davis (her brand:  Teacher, Mother, Volunteer) should cruise to victory against Democrat Mike Hindi in the June primary. Davis will probably be outspent in the General Election by her Republican opponent, Mary Beth Carozza, who has not lived on the Eastern Shore since she graduated from high school. District 38C includes northern Worcester County (Ocean City, Ocean Pines, West Ocean City, Bishopville), and the rural northeastern part of Wicomico County.

Ms. Carozza returned to the Shore last year specifically to run for the open delegate seat. Republican operatives from Washington, D.C. where Carozza had a career in Republican politics, are funding her campaign big time. But it will be hard to buy an election in this small-town, one-delegate district, where people know each other. Judy Davis has lived and taught school here for decades. Davis is a graduate of the Democratic Emerge Program, which prepares promising community leaders like Judy to run for public office. I think Democrats, seeing the opportunity to pick up a seat, will give her strong support.

District 38BDel. Norm Conway, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has no primary opposition and is nearly a lock for re-election in November against a Republican named Carl Anderton Jr.  Del. Conway is the only delegate from the entire Eastern Shore with any clout in Annapolis. His support in his Salisbury district is nearly unshakable. (See what we mean by superior Democratic candidates?)

District 38A — May lean by a hair to the Democrats. 38A includes all of Somerset County and the southern half of Worcester County, including Pocomoke City, Snow Hill and Berlin. In 2012, President Barack Obama won Somerset County by a handful of votes. The Democratic candidate, Percy J. Purnell Jr. is a definite threat to unseat one-term Republican Del. Charles James Otto. Otto is quite popular in the Somerset County part of District 38A. I give Otto a slight advantage in a close race in Somerset. But the election will be won or lost in the Worcester County part of the district. The outcome will depend on which party can turn out its voters in this sprawling rural subdistrict.

To recap: District 38 is currently represented by two Democrats and two Republicans. The two Democrats, Sen. Jim Mathias and Del. Norm Conway are likely winners in 2014. The other two delegate seats will be close races. I give the edge to Democrat Judy Davis in 38C and Republican Charles Otto in 38A, with Democrat Percy J. Purnell Jr. making a strong challenge and possibly edging Otto. A Democratic sweep in this district would be a painful loss for the minority Republicans.

— John Hayden

Sunday Photos: A House, Somewhere On The Eastern Shore

Nature reclaims a house by the side of the road, in the middle of a cornfield, somewhere on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

— John Hayden

Rightsizing Your House

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How much living space do I need?

This week, I discovered a new community of  small, bare-bones cottages here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and it got me thinking about how much space is enough.

A lot of folks are intrigued by the tiny house concept. These cottages probably don’t quite meet the standard for “tiny.” Most are one-bedroom, living room, bath, and galley kitchen. Some have two bedrooms. You can look here for more pictures and floor plans.  The rooms are SMALL, but the Web site doesn’t give dimensions.

I estimate the cottages have about as much space as a small,  one-bedroom garden apartment. No doubt, many people in Manhattan live in high-rise apartments smaller than this. And tiny “alley” rowhouses were once commonplace in Baltimore.

This is no-frills living, but I prefer to think of it as a simple lifestyle. You get a front door, a few small windows, a roof. A small closet, but none of the clever, built-in storage niches you find in custom-built tiny houses. You want amenities? The community has a laundry room with  six washers.

Neighbors on both sides. Togetherness. Community! You’ve got as much space as in a modest trailer park, or less. Looking down a row of cottages, I get a flash of a Depression-era work camp. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Not exactly the splendid privacy that many small-house advocates imagine. But I’ve always wondered if the concept of a 12 X 12 cabin on a remote mountainside isn’t contradictory. Elitist even. I mean, a tiny house with your own, private, national park? It is true that when you opt for simplicity, you may also find grandeur. Monks usually take vows of poverty, but sometimes live in impressive old monasteries.

No grandeur is included with the austere cottages pictured above. Don’t be misled because they’re near a beach resort. These cottages are clearly designed for workers, not tourists.

Rent is $600 a month for the one-bedroom models, plus utilities. A modern water and sewer system is paid for by the owners. Your cable TV bill looks like a BIG EXPENSE, in this scenario, especially if you also want Internet access. I’ve been spoiled by cable TV and Internet the past few years. Wonder if I could do without? Remember, we’re talking about simplicity and frugality. TV and Internet are not necessities, like food and water. Or are they?

I could still write on my computer, just not connected to the Net. When I need the Net, I’d go to the library, and use the fast, free WiFi.

I could listen to FM music or news over FREE airwaves. (Imagine that! Free radio. TV signals used to be free, too, but free TV was too good to last forever.)

Long story short, housing is adapting, if only a little, in response to the crash. Are people choosing a simpler lifestyle? Or in the new normal, do people have no alternative? Time will tell, but I doubt that cottages as small as the ones pictured here will become commonplace in America. Other countries, maybe.

For those who want to reduce their carbon footprint, a small cottage is a big step forward. I’m nagged by one reservation: Beware the fine, thin line between simplicity and poverty. Spacious suburban manses — the ideal goal for many Americans — are clearly not a necessity. Space is a nice luxury, if you can afford it.

But I wonder if tiny houses are more a novelty than a viable alternative? Most folks feel more at ease with a bit of elbow room. Space enough for two people to slow dance, at least. An extremely tiny house could be tough on the spirit, it seems to me.

I’m in favor of living space that is, as Goldilocks put it, “Just right.” It’s an individual thing. Or a matter of negotiation, for a couple. Between huge and tiny, a modest cottage might be a reasonable compromise.

— John Hayden

For photos of my own efficiency apartment, take a look here.

You can learn about the Tiny House Movement at  “How I Met My Tiny House Hero,” by Tammy Strobel.

Eastern Shore Blogging: On Coastal Connection, 88.3 FM, Friday (via Ocean City Blog)

Here at Dispatches from Consternation, I write about issues that have no geographical boundary: political and economic change, life after 60, and simple living.

But many blogs have a distinctly local or community focus, reporting on news or life in general in a specific hometown, sometimes even a neighborhood.

I also write one of those community-focused blogs, which I started in 2007 as Maryland On My Mind, and now call simply, Ocean City Blog. I’ll be talking on Friday, April 15, with a couple of other regional bloggers about blogging on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The interview on the local PBS show, Coastal Connection, hosted by Brian Russo, will air at noon and 8 p.m. Friday.

The discussion runs about 20 minutes, and provides a quick general introduction to the subject of community blogging. Details, including a link for Web listening, are in the post below. I hope you can listen in, and perhaps add your own comments below.

Eastern Shore Blogging: On Coastal Connection, 88.3 FM, Friday If youre interested in blogging, particularly blogging on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, youll want to catch Brian Russos Coastal Connection show on 88.3 FM, the NPR news and public affairs station in Ocean City.  The show is scheduled to air on Friday, Apr. 15, at noon and 8 p.m. Brian interviews three bloggers for a sort of round-table general introduction to the state of blogging on the Shore. I was happy to accept an invitation to particip … Read More

via Ocean City Blog