Courthouse Offices: 2018 Results

You can also find the above chart and others on the Seventh State Results Tracker.

The table above shows the party that won the five courthouse offices of State’s Attorney, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Register of Wills, Judge of the Orphans’ Court, and Sheriff. Montgomery and Harford allocate the Orphans’ Court responsibilities to other officials.

Nine counties have all Republican teams: Allegany, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Garrett, Harford, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, and Worcester. In Frederick, all but one judge of the Orphans’ Court are Republicans. In Somerset, the Sheriff is the only Democrat.

Six jurisdictions have all Democratic teams: Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Charles, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s. In Dorchester, all but the Clerk of the Circuit Court are Democrats.

There are at least two officials from each party in six counties: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Kent, Talbot, Washington, and Wicomico. Calvert, Talbot and Washington are a bit of a surprise to me, as they lean heavily Republican in other county and state elections.

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Autopsy Part III: Was Jealous Just Too Left Wing?

Jealous was among the most left-wing candidates running for governor this year. While Jealous took offense at being asked if he is a socialist, it’s hardly an out-of-the-box question for someone who was a co-chair of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. Sanders has been a proud socialist for decades. Moreover, Jealous ran as the most left-wing candidate in primary, consistently outbidding his opponents as the most uncompromising progressive.

The Jealous campaign promised that his hardline positions would motivate minority and progressive Democrats to vote and to elect him over Larry Hogan. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way. But did Jealous’s left-wing positions matter?

Why Did Jealous Perform Markedly Worse Than Abrams and Gillum?

 Jealous performed far worse than strong progressives like Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Andrew Gillum in Florida who faced much more hostile political environments. Why?

For starters, Adams and Gillum ran not just as progressives but as pragmatists who wanted to make a real difference instead of hardline ideologues. While Jealous promised single-payer healthcare and attacked the Affordable Care Act for its high premiums in comments eerily similar to those of Republicans, Abrams and Gillum wanted to take advantage of the ACA’s Medicare expansion to cover more people in their states.

Abrams and Gillum’s experience and accomplishments in government gave them fluency on the issues and heft to their plans to make government work better for ordinary people. Jealous’s pie-in-the-sky plan to pay for single-payer health care by legalizing marijuana and reducing the prison population lacked similar credibility.

Candidate Choices Matter

Centrist Democrats had the luxury of a real choice. While they would have voted for Jealous against a right-wing kook, they voted in large numbers for Hogan against a left-wing Democrat. Georgia and Florida Democrats didn’t face the same choice and voted for less dogmatic Abrams and Gillum, who also ran better campaigns, in huge numbers against Trump Republicans.

It turns out that perhaps centrists need even more attention than progressives, as centrists are more likely to have somewhere else to go. While the ultra-progressive strategy works great in primaries, it leaves Democrats extremely vulnerable when the Republicans present less kooky options like Hogan.

Overreliance on Republican Racism

Hogan has shown once again that minority voters are perfectly willing to consider Republicans when presented with non-racist non-wingnut choices. Ironically, the former NAACP leader appeared to assume that he would automatically gain massive African-American support and that other people of color would also line up behind his banner.

Neither happened. Hogan’s acceptability on key racial issues freed up African Americans, who hold diverse beliefs on many issues just like everyone else, to look at other questions. Jealous was not well known in the African-American community and a good chunk of black voters found Hogan’s attempts to keep taxes stable and reduce burdensome fees more appealing than Jealous’s promise of radical expansion of Maryland government.

Jealous’s Strategy Ran Counter to Voter Trends and Maryland Demographics

Jealous’s hardline left-wing campaign was ill-equipped to take advantage of the major winds benefitting Democrats among well-educated white women. While not the only group to shift Democratic this year, they moved blue most sharply and they make up a disproportionate share of voters in well-educated Maryland compared to other states.

Usually middle or upper-middle class, many of these voters are moderate or even former Republicans put off by Trump’s constant violation of norms and extremism on social and environmental questions. Though repelled by Trumpian radicalism, they are unsurprisingly also chary of more radical and less pragmatic Democratic plans. Hogan’s preemption on many issues, such as health care and community college, made Jealous’s plans an even tougher sell.

This didn’t cost Jealous the election but did help pad Hogan’s margin.

Progressives v. The Establishment

 This explanation is a bunch of hooey but serves as a convenient excuse for disappointed Jealous supporters looking to blame anyone except the candidate. Large numbers of current Democratic officials hold the same positions as Jealous or are certainly willing to consider them. As I’ve detailed previously, the party was fully behind Jealous. Remember also that the full weight of the establishment didn’t manage to elect Anthony Brown four years ago.

To the extent that some elected officials didn’t hug Jealous tightly, it was for far more practical reasons. Most thought was a lousy candidate and seemed certain to lose. Why on earth would Democratic candidates for the legislature tie themselves to a sinking ship, especially if they aspire to represent areas where Hogan was about to win big?

Notwithstanding Jealous’s claims to be at the center of progressive accomplishments in Maryland, legislators didn’t know him and Jealous evinced little desire to know them, as his skipping the MACO meeting in Ocean City made plain. Jealous also didn’t endear himself to members of the General Assembly by bashing their progressive credentials in the primary and then taking credit for progressive legislation in the general.

At the end of the day, however, these problems had little to do with Jealous’s loss. Indeed, Jealous’s loss had far more to do with candidate choices, his lack of money, and the failure to get out any message that could rally Democrats in the general election.

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Del. David Moon Touches the Third Rail of Maryland Politics

Delegate David Moon (D-20) may have done his political career irreparable harm and further cemented Takoma Park’s reputation as a very strange corner of Maryland when he tweeted the following joke the day before Thanksgiving:

We joke about lots of things in Maryland. Crab cakes and Old Bay aren’t among them. I won’t even eat “Maryland” crab cakes outside of the Old Line State because they are just a sad, pale shadow and about as real as Trump’s skin color.

Reaction has been swift:

If we don’t have an official state seasoning, someone needs to get on this ASAP. When politicians attack our core values, we need to take action. Or is this one of the terrible consequence of same-sex marriage that have finally come home to roost?

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Thanks, Adam

Thanksgiving seems a perfect time to say thanks to Adam Pagnucco. For many years, Adam wrote many wonderful posts for Seventh State and its predecessor, Maryland Politics Watch. Combining his penchant for bringing hidden information to light with his wicked sense of humor and insightful analysis, Adam kept everyone jumping and uncovered many stories before the local news media.

Adam has now moved his writings over to Bethesda Beat, an invaluable online news source for all things Montgomery County. He’s already doing an excellent job of ruffling feathers over there, most recently with his column asking if Montgomery is becoming a second-class county.

I’m incredible grateful for all that Adam has contributed to Seventh State over the years from his smart private insights to his great blog posts. I’m even more thankful for his generous friendship, which I know will continue no matter where he hangs his hat.

Happy Thanksgiving to Adam and to all of Seventh State’s dedicated readership.

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Eight White Majority Districts Elected Black Members of Congress. That’s a Breakthrough

Read my piece in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog:

This year, Americans appear to have elected a record 53 African Americans to the House.

Forty-four were reelected. Of those, four-fifths won reelection from majority-minority districts — defined here as districts where non-Hispanic whites form a minority of the voting-age population according to the 2010 Census. That’s what we’ve seen in the past: Historically, black representatives have been elected from majority-minority districts.

But here’s the big news: Eight of the nine newly elected African Americans won in districts dominated by non-Hispanic whites.

Read the full piece online over at the Post.

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Autopsy Part II: Why Did Jealous Lose?

Continuing my analysis of why Jealous did so poorly in the gubernatorial election, today’s post examines factors that contributed to Ben Jealous’s defeat.

Larry Hogan

This is really the key factor. Gov. Larry Hogan was a good candidate. Throughout his tenure, he’s had an eye for the small politically popular act. He didn’t make any major changes, which also meant that few were offended. His cancer made him all the more sympathetic. Democrats thought that reaction to Trump would bring him down but Hogan proved a nice contrast. On top of that, the Governor raised a ton of money for his reelection campaign.

Connection to Maryland

Notwithstanding the lie on his campaign website that he “lived in Maryland throughout his career,” Ben Jealous’s ties as an adult to Maryland are quite weak. He only began voting here in 2012 and the 2018 gubernatorial primary was his first. Even when Jealous headed the NAACP he lived in Washington, D.C. Especially outside of the D.C. suburbs, Jealous came across as a member of the Washington establishment rather than a Marylander. Marylander has a history of rejecting candidates viewed as having parachuted into the state.

Ironically, the repeated reference to Jealous as the “nationally known” leader of the NAACP only reinforced this impression. Moreover, Jealous is well-known in elite Washington circles but not so much among ordinary African-American Marylanders who ended up voting for Hogan at far higher rates than usual for Republican candidates. During the primary, Jealous didn’t tout a single endorsement from any local or state officials of any race. His campaign repeatedly brought in national politicians.

Knowledge and Previous Impact in Maryland

Jealous’s knowledge about Maryland was painfully thin at times. He made ending mass incarceration a central plank of his campaign. Except the General Assembly working with Gov. Hogan had already taken action on this issue. As David Moon mentioned in a recent blog post, Maryland now has the fastest rate of decline in its prison population.

Similarly, Jealous tried to bring the federal fight over judicial nominees to Maryland and make voters fear Hogan’s appointees. Hogan’s judicial appointments have been neither radical nor politicized, as evidenced by the lack of Democratic opposition. It didn’t help that Jealous mistakenly referred to the Court of Appeals as the “Supreme Court.”

Jealous massively over claimed about his political impact in Maryland. He touted frequently his leadership in fights to eliminate the death penalty and pass marriage equality. I spoke with Sen. Bobby Zirkin, one of the pivotal senators on the death penalty question, and he still has never met Jealous. Similarly, none of the General Assembly leaders on marriage equality met or strategized with him during the lengthy battle on this issue.

The campaign repeatedly relied almost exclusively on an increasingly shopworn citation from the Baltimore Sun as “Marylander of the Year” to buttress his claims. But neither Jealous nor his campaign backed up these claims convincingly or had Marylanders ready to attest to them.

Finally, even his record as leader of the Baltimore-based NAACP was mixed. Jealous liked to talk about all the money he brought in to the NAACP and his role in building up the organization. But he left it facing a financial crisis. Revenue was down by roughly one quarter in his last year and the organization is now about the same size as when arrived but poorer, as the NAACP’s assets declined substantially during his tenure.

Poor Fundraising

 The love of money may be the root of all evil but campaigns need it to get their message out. In Montgomery County, the campaign almost did not exist until the very end when we were treated belatedly to a bushel of low-quality television ads. I never saw any online ads for Jealous. Nor did I receive any mail from the campaign.

I don’t know why Jealous didn’t have the money. During the primary, Jealous used his vaunted ability as a fundraiser to convince many endorsers to support his campaign. He delivered in the primary, but the general was a bust notwithstanding his claims that he could raise in excess of $10 million.

Despite being labelled inspirational and transformative by supporters, the Jealous campaign’s fundraising contrasted dramatically with even average Democratic candidates around the country who outraised their Republican opponents. Did he just not engage enough in the necessary evil of call time?

Part III continues this analysis of this year’s Democratic gubernatorial defeat.

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$6.7 Million Embezzled from the County

Montgomery County prides itself on its good government reputation. So it’s a bit of a shock to hear from the Washington Post that a county employee managed to steal $6.7 million:

A local official embezzled $6.7 million from Montgomery County through a years-long scheme of diverting county money meant to grow local businesses, federal prosecutors said in court filings unsealed Friday.

Byung Il Bang, the former chief operating officer for Montgomery’s Department of Economic Development, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and making a false statement on a tax return at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md.

He is set to be sentenced Feb. 2, and agreed in court to seek treatment for a “gambling addiction.”

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Evaluating Floreen’s Run

A Mason-Dixon poll done for outside groups at the end of September shed some light on why Councilmember Nancy Floreen’s independent campaign for county executive was ultimately unsuccessful.

Specifically, gender played far less of a role than people focused on it thought. She did little to split either the Democratic or Republican bases. Finally, her inability to take public financing didn’t hurt Floreen much. Reliance on developer money was a greater issue.

The Gender Argument Didn’t Work

Voters found gender a largely unpersuasive reason to vote for Floreen. In response to learning that she was the only female candidate, 22% were more likely to support her, 16% were less likely to support her, and 62% didn’t care. In other words, Floreen didn’t win or lose due to her gender.

More tellingly, Elrich had higher rates of support among women (58%) than among men (52%). In contrast, Floreen had more support among men (17%) than among women (12%). There is often a gender gap in favor of Democratic candidates, but Floreen was unable to close it as the sole female candidate.

Splitting the Vote?

In a guest blog post, Seth Grimes argued that Nancy Floreen split the Republican rather than the Democratic vote. The poll suggests that she didn’t really split either party’s vote. According to the survey, Floreen did far better among independents (26%) than either Democrats (12%) or Republicans (7%).

Both Elrich and Ficker had support of roughly three-quarters of their party’s voters. In heavily Democratic Montgomery, that worked to Elrich’s great advantage. Perhaps highlighting her history as a Democrat and photos with Hillary Clinton limited Floreen’s ability to make inroads into Republicans.

Does Campaign Financing Matter?

It has always been hard to get the public interested in the role of money in political campaigns. Elrich’s participation in public financing made 39% of voters more likely to support him but 29% less likely and didn’t matter to 32%. It’s a net positive but not a huge one.

The public, however, is much more interested in who donates to a candidate. Telling voters that Elrich “will take no contributions from the real-estate development industry” made 64% more likely to vote for him and just 17% less likely.

In contrast, telling voters that Floreen “will raise over 1 million dollars for their campaign with over 90% coming from the real-estate development industry” made 76% of voters less likely to support her and only 7% more likely. No wonder Elrich’s campaign worked hard to promote that story in the media.

As the following graph shows, the impact of linking her contributions to messages that Floreen has been too favorable to developers at the expense of taxpayers had an extremely negative impact on support for Floreen, especially among undecided voters.

Note that the messages were tested after initially gauging support for the candidates, so as not to taint these results.

Conclusion

Nancy Floreen has long been one of the most adept members of the county council. She has unquestionably been one of its leaders. For example, she led the fight to revamp the zoning code. This is a major accomplishment.

On the good news front, gender just didn’t matter much in the election. It was a slight positive, if anything, for Floreen and voters appeared more focused on other concerns. This should encourage more women to run in the future. After all, we want candidates to be judged on the merits.

In this political cycle, Floreen’s past advocacy for developers wasn’t advantageous. Her arguments that we need to give them freer rein and not make them pay more in order to have stronger economic growth didn’t gain traction. By running on them, she helped turn County Executive-Elect Marc Elrich’s decisive 64% victory in a mandate for his side of the argument.

Regardless of what you think of her issue positions, Councilmember Nancy Floreen has been exactly the type of smart and hardworking official we need in public office. I’ve always appreciated her willingness to be direct and defend her positions. Running and serving in public office is not easy. She has done it more than ably for four terms on the Montgomery County Council and one term as Mayor of Garrett Park. I wish her well.

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Mary-Dulany James Catching Up

In District 34, Republican Sen. Bob Cassilly’s lead over former Del. Mary-Dulany James has narrowed. Yesterday, MDJ trailed Cassilly by 446. After today’s count of provisionals, she now trails by 259. There is still one more round of absentee ballots to count.

Meanwhile, in District 34A, Republican Del. Glen Glass now lags 129 votes behind Democrat Steve Johnson. Seems small but several multiples more than his lead yesterday.

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Marc Elrich Has a Mandate

Mason-Dixon conducted a poll for outside groups supporting Marc Elrich’s campaign for Montgomery County executive at the end of September. Beyond predicting the outcome accurately, it indicates that Marc Elrich not only won the election but also a mandate for his development agenda.

One of Marc Elrich’s central issues has long been making developers pay more towards the county infrastructure needed to support the expanded population that development brings. Indeed, voters are quite mistrustful of the existing relationship between government and developers.

Developers Have Too Much Influence

Mason-Dixon asked voters, “Do you feel there is or is not a ‘quid pro quo’ relationship between county politicians and the development industry, where campaign contributions from developers result in county approval of development projects without proper planning for infrastructure, such as roads and schools?”

Notwithstanding the endless handwringing by the Washington Post as well as Councilmember Nancy Floreen that Elrich would kill economic growth in Montgomery, voters were far more worried about developer influence than limitations on them. Fully, 60% said there is a quid pro quo compared to just 14% who said there is no and 26% who weren’t sure.

As the following graph shows, this is a widely shared belief with far more people thinking that there is a quid pro quo relationship among all groups, including Republicans and supporters of both Nancy Floreen and Robin Ficker.

Infrastructure is Overburdened

Unsurprisingly, 72% of all voters agreed that the “current pace and type of growth in Montgomery County has overburdened our roads, schools and other infrastructure and public services.”

Again, there was wide agreement on this question across gender and party lines with 68% of Republicans and even 56% of Floreen supporters concurring.

Developers Need to Pay their Fair Share

Fifty-four percent agreed that “developers don’t pay their fair share.” Here, there was greater disagreement:

At 67%, Elrich supporters were much more likely to think developers need to pony up more than the 50% of Ficker supporters, and 35% of Floreen supporters. Sixty percent of Democrats agreed as opposed to 51% of independents an just 37% of Republicans. There was also a gender gap with women agreeing 5% more than men.

Conclusions on Development

Marc Elrich ran on this issue directly, highlighting it in campaign literature and his campaign commercials. Voters strongly agree with County Executive-Elect Elrich that insufficient infrastructure in a major problem and a majority like the idea of developers kicking in more money to help pay the costs associated with development.

People who disagree with Elrich need to ask why they have utterly failed to convince voters. It’s especially striking because incredible sums of money have been spent trying to persuade them otherwise. Even leaving aside the millions spent to support pro-developer candidates in the primary and the general, blogs like Greater Greater Washington, lobbyists, the region’s dominant newspaper, politicians and many others have argued mightily against far less well-funded opponents.

One problem is the false narrative about Elrich regarding development. As he regularly points out, there is plenty of buildable space in Montgomery County already under existing Master Plans. He supports higher density and smart growth development centered near transportation.

Elrich’s BRT plan will greatly expand development opportunities by easing transportation bottlenecks. It’s a positive sum solution that helps expand economic growth, get people – especially poorer residents – around the county, and helps take cars off the road – good for the environment and traffic. It’s also spending smart because it is just a fraction of the cost of either light rail (e.g. the Purple Line) or heavy rail (e.g. Metro).

So maybe it’s time to throw the “Elrich hates development” meme into the bin along with all those campaign flyers.

The idea that voters want developers to chip in more for the infrastructure needed to maintain the high quality of life that makes Montgomery County so attractive strikes a majority of voters as utterly reasonable. Here’s a radical thought: if we have more of that infrastructure, then voters would be less likely to oppose additional development.

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