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

 

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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

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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

U.S. Government Shutdown Might Continue Indefinitely

Both sides now have reason to dig in and refuse to budge. Both sides think they’re on the verge of achieving a cherished goal, if only they hang tough.

For President Obama, the Affordable Care Act is taking effect even as we speak, despite the so-called “partial” government shutdown. Health care for all has been a Democratic goal for 60 years or more. Obama has a passed bill, a signed law with his name on it. The president and Democrats believe that once Obamacare is implemented, people will decide they love it — just like Social Security and Medicare — and will refuse to give it up.

The Republicans are dead set against Obamacare, just as they were against Social Security and Medicare. Continue reading

“America Is Splitting Apart”

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“Many blue states are moving further left, while red states are heading rightward. In effect, America is splitting apart without going through all the trouble of a civil war.”

Robert Reich, June 8, 2013 (Read Mr. Reich’s three-page essay here.)

If you want more scary reading about the divide between red states and blue states, here’s an essay I wrote earlier this year: “America Divided.” Also see the related articles below. — John Hayden

Maryland’s Political Divide Part 2, Gun Control

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If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series, you can find it here.

The House of Delegates gun control vote yesterday, 78-61, looks strangely familiar. It’s nearly a carbon copy of the recent gas tax vote, 76-63. What’s up with that?

If you think Maryland is a deep-blue state with an invincible Democratic majority, those two votes seem hard to explain. Democrats hold a majority, 98-43, in the House of Delegates.

But looking closer, it’s clear that Maryland isn’t immune from the blue-red divide afflicting the rest of America. Far from it.  Continue reading

Maryland’s Political Divide Part 1, Gas Tax

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PART ONE OF A SERIES

The vote on the gasoline tax in the Maryland House of Delegates gives us an interesting snapshot of the political balance in Maryland, a state considered to be among the bluest of the blue. The picture might not exactly match the popular perception.  Continue reading

The Truth About Sequestration And Democracy, According to One Humble American

“Sequestration” went into effect in America this week, reducing U.S. government spending by $85 billion.

What does it mean? It means that the United States has accepted “Austerity.” 

It’s not the end of the world. The vast majority of U.S. government spending will continue as usual. The government will not grind to a halt, at least not because of sequestration. It’s still possible that Congress could force a shut-down of government sometime in the future, but not likely this year.

Failure of Government Decision-making

Most interestingly, Austerity was NOT imposed by the normal processes of legislative or executive action.  Continue reading

Republicans Self-Destruct; Speaker Boehner Is Finished; Or Maybe Not

The Republican Party has exacted a pound of flesh from the people of New York and New Jersey.

It’s more than a slap in the face. It’s a kick in the teeth.   Continue reading