Analysis: Van Hollen Wins Rural Straw Poll

Chris Van Hollen received 80% support in a straw poll for the U.S. Senate primary held at a summit of rural Democrats. So far, only Van Hollen and his colleague in the U.S. House, Donna Edwards, have jumped in the race for the Democratic nomination.

In heavily suburban Maryland, how important are rural voters in a Democratic primary? The following table shows the share of all Democratic primary voters in Maryland’s three rural regions in the 2008, 2012, and 2014 Democratic primaries:

RuralPDemFor purposes of this table, Western Maryland includes Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick and Carroll Counties. Southern Maryland is Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s Counties. The Eastern Shore includes the nine counties east of the Bay. (Of course, these counties also include some urban and suburban areas.)

Together, these three regions hold approximately one-sixth of Maryland’s Democratic primary voters. Despite their reputation as mostly Republican turf, no candidate will want to ignore this many voters. Moreover, the media market centered on Salisbury is also far cheaper than the other Maryland markets.

Democratic primary turnout in rural Maryland has differed by 2.1% or less than the State as a whole and has not been consistently higher or lower than the rate for all Democrats:

RuralPDemTOThe difference hasn’t varied that much regardless of the overall level of turnout. However, the 2012 results suggest that, perhaps, rural voters are slightly less likely to stay away in low turnout contests. In that race, rural turnout exceeded the rest of the State by 1.5%. In contrast, rural Democratic primary turnout was lower than the State as a whole in the higher turnout 2008 and 2014 primaries.