Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. What You See Is What You Get.

This morning’s Washington Post, the concluding edition of 2014, carries a photo taken on Tuesday.

At the bottom of Page B6 you can view the picture: Maryland Governor-Elect Larry Hogan behind a lectern, flanked on his right by two American flags and two political appointees, and on his left by two Maryland flags and two more appointees.

Official and patriotic. Looks like a picture straight out of the 1950s.

To summarize, five white men in dark suits, middle-aged or older, in a row at the front of a press conference. If anyone was wondering what Maryland voted for in the 2014 General Election, there you have it. Old, white men in suits. What you see is what you get.

(I resemble that remark, “Old, white men in suits.” Please hold the hate mail. Being an old, white man myself, I claim privilege to ridicule. Please sentence me to time served, and release me to the supervision of my parole officer and the nursing home and/or asylum. To clarify: I am an old, white Democrat. I wear a suit and tie under duress, and only after all appeals have been denied.)

Let the record show that all the Hogan appointments to date appear to be well-qualified for their positions.

You may have heard that Maryland is a diverse state. Numerous races, ethnic groups, two genders, more than two legal sexual orientations. The Maryland Republican Party gets all that. I’m giving them the presumption of the doubt. Mr. Hogan has inoculated himself against the very point I raise by choosing an African-American to be his running mate, and now, by virtue of electoral success, the next lieutenant governor.

I won’t venture any predictions for 2015, much less the entire four-year term of the Hogan administration. Let the photo on B6 speak for itself. Such is the state of politics in Maryland on the cusp of 2015.

Have a Merry New Year. Choose to drink, or to drive. One only, not both.

— John Hayden

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Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 4. Grandfather Figures, Tax Cuts, And Negative Campaigning.

Earlier this week, Sen. Barbara Mikulski assembled a rather exclusive Democratic leadership meeting in Annapolis. Democratic leaders remaining in office in 2015 only. It was billed as looking ahead to 2016 and beyond; but the day-after reports suggested more time spent pondering what went wrong in 2014. The leaders seemed to be looking for some secret, hidden answer. Or maybe, for a scapegoat.  Continue reading

Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 3. Democratic Turnout

(Updated 11-16-2014 to include alternative solutions in the conclusion.)

It’s past time for Democratic leaders in Montgomery County to snap out of their funk over the amazing shrinking turnout of MoCo voters.  Continue reading

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

Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 1

Governor-elect Larry Hogan begins a statewide victory tour on Tuesday with a Veterans’ Day parade appearance in St. Mary’s County, one of many counties that contributed to his somewhat surprising victory over Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown last week. Brown, who was supposed to be the next Maryland governor, won’t be having any parades in the near future.  Continue reading

Maryland Democrats Snooze Three Weeks Before Election

The election is three weeks from today. Why does my Democratic gut feel like it needs an Alka-Seltzer?

This is the saddest year for Maryland Democrats since Spiro Agnew won the governor’s mansion. At least Bob Ehrlich was a seasoned Maryland politician with years of service in Congress and the General Assembly. Who is this year’s Republican candidate? He’s the son of someone by the same name who was a congressman when I was a teenager, in the last century.

This year, we have two candidates who look sort of gubernatorial, no election for the U.S. Senate, and no contest in any of the state’s eight congressional districts. In Montgomery County, my home county and the largest jurisdiction in Maryland, there’s no visible sign of an impending election. I mean “no sign” literally. You see a few lonely lawns sprouting signs for Republicans. But Democratic signs, nada. And why should there be? Ike Leggett has a lock on the county executive’s office and nine Democratic council candidates are cruising to Election Day on automatic pilot. It’s no wonder the voters are disconnected. This is no way to run a democracy.

Not a single political message in my mailbox since the primary. (Email is a different story. Messages every day from Democrats begging for contributions.) The only candidate to be seen or heard from in Montgomery is Robin Ficker.  Seriously, Ficker is the only candidate I’ve seen since the June primary. I attended three Saturday-night outdoor concerts at Black Rock Theater in Germantown during the summer, and Ficker was working the crowd all three times. I seriously doubt, BTW, that Ficker can win, but stranger things have happened. If any Republican has a snowball’s chance in MoCo in 2014, it would have to be Ficker.

I chalk up the political disinterest to two factors.

First, there’s not a single exciting contest to stir the voters’ blood, not in MoCo, and not in Prince George’s County or Baltimore City, the state’s two other Democratic redoubts. If anyone knows of a General Assembly cliffhanger in Central Maryland, please let me know.

The second reason is related to the first. The Democratic Party in MoCo, P.G., and The City is the victim of its own success. Democrats so dominate politics in the big three that all suspense, energy and conflict has been drained from the system. Could you write a good novel or screenplay without CONFLICT?

Without conflict, there is no story. If there is any conflict left in the Big Three, it would be in the primaries, not the General Election. Alas, the entrenchment and almost certain re-election of Democratic incumbents in the local and legislative races has drained excitement even from the primaries. The turnout in June’s Maryland primary is Exhibit A.

With the days ticking down to the start of Early Voting, and the electorate snoozing, a Republican has been creeping slowly up behind the Democrat in the only statewide race that matters, the governor’s race. The candidates are Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the Democrat who should be the runaway favorite; and Republican Larry Hogan, who unlike Agnew, Ellen Sauerbrey and Bob Ehrlich, the other serious Republicans to run for governor in modern history, has never held elective office.

That’s right. Agnew was county executive of Baltimore County, at that time one of the three most populous jurisdictions. Sauerbrey was minority leader in the House of Delegates, and Ehrlich was a congressman. What are Larry Hogan’s credentials? I can think of two: Hogan looks old enough to be governor, and he promises to cut taxes. Now, even Brown, the Democrat, is promising no new taxes.

Taxes is the only issue on the voter’s minds this election season. I’ve been making some phone calls to voters — a lot of phone calls, actually. When I ask about issues, the answer is taxes. It’s the next thing to unanimous. I’m calling on behalf of a Democratic candidate on the Eastern Shore, where Red Republicans are thick as mosquitoes, but Democrats and unaffiliated voters in the Blue counties have nearly as much antipathy to taxes this year. Just ask Brown.

So there you have it. Democrats in Central Maryland are in a self-induced coma. Republicans in the provinces are hopping mad, as always. I don’t think it will happen, but we could wake up with a Republican governor on Nov. 5.

— John Hayden

Maryland’s Election Outlook From A Statewide Perspective

For an excellent and concise report on the recent history of gubernatorial politics in Maryland, see “Looks Like We Have A Governor’s Race” over at David Lublin’s blog.

Last weekend, The Washington Post reported poll results showing Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the Democratic candidate, with a relatively slim lead over Republican Larry Hogan.

Slim, but hardly surprising. The Brown candidacy has seemed eerily reminiscent of KKT from the beginning. The one encouraging difference is that Brown chose a much stronger candidate as his running mate than did KKT.

The political view from Montgomery County and Prince George’s County exaggerates Democratic invincibility in the state as a whole. Baltimore County remains the critical swing county.

Martin O’Malley, Peter O’Malley and County Executive Jim Smith worked to strengthen the Democratic position in Baltimore County, producing a safe margin of victory for O’Malley in 2010. It will be interesting to see how many of those Democratic votes show up in Baltimore County returns in 2014.

— John Hayden

 

Political Apartheid In America

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IT’S NO SECRET.  America has devolved into Red State/Blue State political apartheid. It’s based on geography, lifestyle and issues, not on race or color.

The Northeast and Pacific coast are Democratic Blue. The South, Great Plaines and Rocky Mountains are Republican Red. The problem is abetted within states by gerrymandering.

Development of political apartheid in America was accompanied by the hollowing out of the American industrial base, the demise of labor unions, and growth of the financial sector. A deepening divide between rich and poor is salt in the wound.

Red/Blue apartheid is largely responsible for gridlocking the government in Washington. Some states and cities are also experiencing gridlock and financial trouble. If not for the Great Recession and continuing economic decline, perhaps political dysfunction by itself would not be serious.

Now, the sputtering engine of taxation and government finance is running out of gas, as many American corporations scurry to abandon the sinking  ship. The technical term for this particular form of treason is “corporate inversion.”

Bill Clinton, campaigning this week with Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, a Red state, made the following comment, as reported by The Washington Post.

“It would be wrong to try and build a future for America that leaves rural America and small-town America out.”

That’s an understatement. If we Americans allow the pathology of political apartheid/ government dysfunction/ economic decline to fester, we will be inviting collapse of democratic government.

Remember, In our hyper-complex world, the speed of change is balls to the wall. We’re constantly vulnerable to black swans. Or if you prefer, Murphy’s Law.

“Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.”

Exactly what would replace democratic government, I do not know. I don’t want to think about it, but the words “fascism” and “communism” come too readily to mind.

In the next post, I’ll consider Red/Blue political apartheid in my own home state, Maryland.

John Hayden

What do you think about political apartheid? Your comments are welcome below.

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. www.jimmathias.com

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. www.judydavisforshore.com

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

Most Montgomery County Districts Still Need Political Candidates

Maryland State flag

John Hayden photo

The Feb. 25 deadline for candidates to file to run in Maryland’s 2014 state and county elections is near, and the candidate list in Montgomery County is looking pretty thin.

As of Feb. 17, only two of Montgomery County’s eight State Senate seats will be contested. The other six Senate candidates in MoCo will get a free ride.

The two districts with contested Democratic primaries for Senate, as of Feb. 17 are:

  • District 17 (Gaithersburg and Rockville) Del. Luiz Simmons vs. former Del. Cheryl Kagan.
  • District 18 (Silver Spring, Kensington, Wheaton, Chevy Chase, Garrett Park) Sen. Richard Madaleno vs. Dana Beyer.

Six of MoCo’s Senate candidates will run unopposed in the Democratic Primary. Even worse, it looks like all eight Democratic candidates after the primary will be able to take the summer and fall off. Not a single Republican has filed to run for Senate in MoCo. It’s not as if we have no Republicans living in MoCo, but the Republican Party has few candidates who wish to sign up to be sacrificial lambs. The Republican Central Committee may yet twist some arms to field a few more candidates.

Few Candidates Means No Choice For Voters

The lack of opponents in both primary and general elections for State Senate is not unusual anywhere in Maryland, but it’s not good for the candidates, voters, or democracy. Competition would make all the candidates sharper and more forthcoming on the issues. Given a selection of candidates, rather than just one, voters might over time improve the overall quality of the General Assembly.

The two main reasons for the dearth of Senate candidates: gerrymandering and money. Most of Maryland’s legislative districts are drawn so that one or the other party has a clear edge. It takes a brave candidate to run against heavy odds. Did we say money? It can take $250,000 to $1 million to fund a quality campaign in a contested Senate race in Maryland, whether it’s a primary or a general. Raising that amount of money is daunting for anybody, and nearly impossible for any new or unknown candidate. Of course for incumbents who run unopposed, campaign expenses are not much of a problem.

You don’t need quite so much money to run for House of Delegates, so we sometimes have the luxury of choosing from as many as eight or 10 primary candidates for three delegate seats in a district. In the few districts where both Democrats and Republicans can expect some reasonable prospect of winning, the general election often has three Democrats and three Republicans facing off.

Delegate Races Generate More Interest

As it stands now, there’s plenty of room in Montgomery County for additional delegate candidates in some districts.

The two districts with contested Democratic primaries for Senate also have good competition for the delegate seats. District 17 has six Democrats and one Republican candidates for delegate. District 18 has seven Democrats but no Republicans.

Districts 14 and 15 have a minimum level of competition, four Democrats and one Republican in each district. District 16 has five Democrats and one Republican running. District 20 has the largest field, nine Democrats and one Green candidate. No Republicans.

Districts 19 and District 39 are candidate poor. YOU, reading this at home right now, could provide a public service by running for delegate. District 19,  overwhelmingly Democratic, has only four Democrats running in the delegate primary so far, and none of them are incumbents. Think of it. Three wide open seats and no incumbents! It’s a rare opportunity for newcomers. But I can understand why no Republicans want to run in 19. (Two incumbent delegates have not filed.)

District 39 is the district most in need of candidates. Only three incumbent Democrats running unopposed for delegate, and one Republican. District 39 is north and east of Gaithersburg, that is, Germantown and Montgomery Village.

District 39 doesn’t have the long history of Democratic activism that you find in the southern part of MoCo, Districts 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. Unlike Gaithersburg, Rockville, Chevy Chase and Takoma Park, Germantown has no municipal government and is the most recently developed part of the county. With no local officials and few candidates for legislature, there’s not much reason for the newer residents in Germantown to become active in community or politics.

MoCo County Council

I’ve saved the worst news for last. Put your fingers on the wrist of the County Council race, and you can hardly feel a pulse. As of Feb. 17, we have only one Democratic candidate filed to run in each of the county’s five council districts. Not an indication of a healthy democracy. We’re still waiting for at least one more shoe to drop in Council District 3. No Republicans in any of the five districts.

For the four at-large County Council seats, we have exactly three Democratic candidates. They are incumbents Nancy Floreen and George Levanthal, and newcomer Vivian Malloy. Also, there’s one Republican and one Green bidding for the at-large seats. We can certainly expect at least two or three more Democrats for the at-large seats. Several incumbents have yet to file.

Also Doug Duncan has still not filed officially to run for MoCo County Executive.

For information about how to become a candidate (it’s cheap and easy to sign up, costly and difficult to win) look at the Maryland Election Board web site. You can also find information on voter registration and results of previous elections.

To see a map of Montgomery County legislative districts click here: Montgomery_County dist map

— John Hayden