First Take: Night of the Plutocrats

At first glance, tonight was a great night for Democratic candidates of rich people (not necessarily for rich people). Consider.

Ben Jealous and Susie Turnbull cast themselves as the left-wing progressive leaders but ultimately received huge sums of money from wealthy Californians. They also benefited enormously by being part of very elite Democratic circles that provided invaluable connections in bringing in national money and support.

In the Sixth Congressional District, David Trone is set to win the nomination after having shifted over from the Eighth. He spent over $10 million on each of his bids. This time, he beat two experienced and well-respected state legislators, Aruna Miller and Roger Manno.

The Montgomery County Executive race is now neck and neck between Marc Elrich and David Blair. As I write this, Elrich has a lead of 452 votes based on the preliminary count over Blair. Like David Trone, David Blair is a very successful businessman and self-funded his campaign, which was also heavily backed by developer interests. Elrich, a local progressive county councilmember, relied on public financing but was also backed by a large IE from progressive groups.

Blair’s campaign sidelined that of experienced politicians, including Roger Berliner, Bill Frick and Rose Krasnow, running in a  similar lane. Essentially, Blair’s ability to write himself large checks helped convince people leaning towards his point of view to back him over other choices.

In Montgomery County Council District 1, well-funded Andrew Friedson prevailed easily over his rivals for the open seat. The Friedson campaign had close ties with Trone and Comptroller Peter Franchot, another very wealthy politician. Franchot also endorsed Blair, and both Blair and Friedson appeared on the Blair-funded Washington Post sample ballot.

Of course, these facts may be totally irrelevant as to how they perform in office. In particular, I look forward to watching Friedson, an energetic budget wonk, in office. But it also reminds me why E. E. Schattschneider once said “The flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper-class accent.”

So we can debate how good a night it was for the establishment, which usually seems defined as whomever one personally doesn’t like at the moment. But it doesn’t seem a bad night at all for wealthy candidates and the people they support.