No Republican has won election to any local or state legislative office in Montgomery County since 2002. Even 15 years ago, the County was not exactly awash in a sea of red, as the two sole elected Republicans were liberal Del. Jean Cryor (R-15) and Councilmember Howie Denis (R-1).
After three electoral cycles of coming up empty, the MoCo GOP’s chances of ending this electoral drought look bleak in 2018. Why is the only viable alternative to the long-governing Democrats in so much trouble?
Trump was a disaster for Montgomery Republicans. Both John McCain in 2012 and Mitt Romney in 2008 won a paltry 27% of the vote in Montgomery—down from 33% won by Bush in 2004 and 34% in 200. Trump managed to drive the Republican share of the vote down another 8% and gained just 19% of the vote in Montgomery.
Tarnished National Brand
The Republican brand at the national level is now toxic in Montgomery. Many people who might be open to an alternative will not vote for anyone associated with a party that is as socially conservative on issues like gun control, abortion and LGBT rights as the Republicans. Trump has identified the party with racism that renders it even more anathema and helps explain its further slide in 2016. Even on economic issues, national Republicans are far more extreme than more moderate Montgomery voters.
In the not too distant past, people were reasonably willing to defect from their preferred party to vote for attractive candidates, especially incumbents, of the other party. No longer. Voters are now much more likely to cast a straight party ticket. In 2016, not a single state split their tickets for U.S. Senate and President. Republicans are on the wrong side of this equation in Montgomery.
Poor or No Candidates
Right now, the only declared Republican candidate for county executive is gadfly and perennial candidate Robin Ficker. When a major party in a county with over 1 million residents is reduced to running a guy who has lost 13 elections and is a frequent flyer at judicial ethics hearings, it has a problem.
Ficker’s antics attract a lot of attention—he makes Nancy Grace look press shy—but he doesn’t do more electable Republicans any favor. Beyond explaining whether they voted for Donald Trump in 2016, Republican candidates will also have to answer if they plan to vote for Robin Ficker for county executive in 2018.
Even though no candidate might benefit other Republicans more than Ficker in the county executive race, the inability of Republicans to find candidates in many races is the sign of a weak party. Democratic primaries, in contrast, tend to be extremely crowded for open seats—a signal of the value of the party’s nomination and a deeper candidate pool.
One might think Montgomery Republicans would respond to their repeat rejection through moderation. However, its base is now much more extreme than in the past. This note I received in response from a locally active Republican to my post over the weekend calling for more attention to the plight of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands exemplifies how massively out of step local Republicans are with Montgomery voters:
[T[his post below I find extremely offensive and lacking in the usual factual rigor that you seem to usually try to bring to bear.
You are making hateful accusations against President Trump that have ZERO basis in fact and which only serve to undermine your credibility.
I hope you will write an apology and a retraction and stick to facts instead of ad hominem attacks against President Trump moving forward.
Here is the “extremely offensive” attack with “ZERO basis in fact” on Donald Trump referenced in the email:
We know the President virtually does not care. Between his ravings on other topics, he barely had time to spare a tweet for Puerto Rico. He did have time to feed red meat to an all-white hard-right crowd in Alabama by attacking African-American NFL players.
In general, I try not to rush to “go there” because there enough hate in the world without suspecting it in ambiguous situations. But Donald Trump has enough of a record that it seems more than fair to ask if he might express more than an iota of interest if these were not overwhelmingly Latino and Black territories?
Donald Trump has now followed up his lack of interest with a new tweet criticizing of Puerto Rico for its debt crisis–amazingly oblivious from a man infamous for welshing on debts from massive loans for casinos to payments owed small businessmen.
As usual, the response from other Republicans is silence.