Friday, November 5, 2010

Montgomery County Votes Democratic again!

It may be no surprise to a lot of county residents that the County Council remains in Democratic hands as do all of our county elected offices from Sheriff on up through the Court House to the entire State House delegation.  County Executive Ike Leggett easily won another 4 years in office, but given the budget problems he faces, this may be a pyrrhic victory.  For the first time in quite a while, the Republicans actively contested many of the offices across the county; none of the races were closely contested, even though the Party was more visible this season.  The top vote getter from the County Council race was apparently at-large Councilmember Marc Elrich, who was also the top winner in the Democratic Primary.  Hans Reimer, the newcomer, who came in second in the Primary, won the fourth spot as Floreen and Leventhal took the second and third spots, respectively.  Governor O'Malley won another four years in the Governor's seat defeating former Governor Ehrlich by about fourteen percentage points, a much wider margin than had been predicted.  Our Congressional delegation stayed the same with Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congresswoman Donna Edwards both winning easily.  Senator Barbara Mikulski returns again with another big win as Maryland's senior Senator.

Elsewhere in Maryland, Democratic first-term Congressman Frank Kratovil, who won a squeaker in 2008, was not as lucky this year and lost in a rematch with seriously conservative physician, Andy Harris.   Harris will now represent the Eastern Shore and northern reaches of Maryland.  The state will be bookended by conservatives as octogenarian Roscoe Bartlett, who represents the sixth congressional district in the western part of the state, is also a Republican.  Bartlett defeated veteran Andrew Duck in a rematch from 2006.

Looking at the state as a whole, this division between east and west is borne out in the way the counties broke in the Governor's race.

Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles, Howard, Baltimore City and Baltimore County all voted for O'Malley.  Every other county went for Ehrlich, so we have a blue center and red peripheral areas.  Of course the counties that went for O'Malley are the most populous in the state, even though they are fewer in number.  Does this preface Maryland becoming a true purple state in the future?  Or is the state actually two separate entities with little exchange of ideas between the center and the edges?  One surprise comes from Frederick County as the nemesis of progressive thought; Senator Francis X. Mooney apparently went down in defeat to his Democratic opponent, Ron Young.  (Absentee ballots have yet to be counted and the spread is currently only about 600 votes, so stay tuned, folks!)  But Democrats had little room for jubilation in Frederick County, as the entire County Commissioners slate went to the Republican candidates.

Can we draw any conclusions from these results?  Maryland has always been reliably blue, but has rural pockets of conservatism.  As a state we have been somewhat shielded by our strong economy from many of the ravages of the downturn, although there has been a strong dip in expected resources among the income tax base, real estate revenues and sales taxes.  Foreclosures have been a significant problem in many areas locally and the housing market has not yet bounced back.  If Democrats cannot bring in more business income to the state, then local and state elected officials will have a very hard time balancing the budget. Subsequently, many financial expectations will not be met.  This could cause more dissatisfaction among voters in 2012.  The upcoming legislative session in Annapolis may well be a very difficult one with significant regional divisions.  Many in Montgomery County believe the County is seriously short-changed with state dollars -- perhaps the margin of victory given the Governor here may have some impact in the future.  We may see rises in the gasoline tax and the additional of a modest alcohol tax to supplement future transportation and health care changes, although funding for the both the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transit way are not likely.  The looming teacher pension transfer, the loss of the ambulance reimbursement fees, and the Maintenance of Effort concerns in the county means that a lot will be asked of our state delegation. 

What do you think the County delegation should address as the top three priorities in the next legislative session?

What are your conclusions about state politics this week?

What would your advice be for the County Council?  Let's hear from you!

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