All posts by David Lublin

Surprise Roger! Duchy Files.

DuchyfilesFormer At-Large Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg has now filed to run against incumbent Roger Berliner in the Democratic Primary for the Montgomery County  District 1 seat, which ranges from Chevy Chase to Whites Ferry. Roger will be seeking his third term while Duchy will be seeking to return after losing reelection for an at-large seat four years ago. My previous post on Duchy here and great analysis by Adam Pagnucco of why she lost four years ago here.

My immediate guess is this race will be ugly. Neither minds throwing a rhetorical punch or arguing their case. Duchy will probably try to paint herself as the true progressive woman as opposed to insider lawyer Berliner.

Roger has $52K in his campaign kitty while Duchy has $123K. Both will raise more. Each has their set of fans but also have developed some enemies in the district. It will be interesting to see if any of Duchy’s former colleagues endorse her over Roger, their current colleague.

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Henry Takes on Conway in D43

D43New

District 43 is the first African-American-majority district (63% black) in this series previewing the upcoming 2014 elections. Like District 46, District 43 survived redistricting with relatively little change despite the need to reconfigure Baltimore City’s districts due to its usual decennial loss of representation. District 43 remains roughly the same area between N. Charles and Harford Rd.

Sen. Joan Carter Conway served on the City Council for two years before being appointed to the Senate in 1997, when incumbent Sen. John Pica chose to retire. In 2010, Conway easily turned back challenger Hector Torres who ran to her left and won 30% of the primary vote.

This year, she faces a challenge from Baltimore City Councilman Bill Henry (D 4). Sen. Conway along  with slate mate Del. Maggie McIntosh have supported Henry’s opponents in his previous City Council races, so alliances are already drawn.

Councilman Henry was an early, vocal, and valuable ally for marriage equality who testified repeatedly for the bill. Sen. Conway came to support it later in 2011, but she stuck firmly with the pro side in votes on the issue from that point onward.

Probably more salient for the election in terms of issues is a likely clash over liquor regulation–an issue cited by Henry is his announcement. Conway’s late husband was a city liquor board inspector. Her past opposition to allowing Marylanders to have wine shipped to their homes is indicative of her close ties to the liquor lobby.

Conway received some bad press in the wake of her involvement in a dispute at a property action. The man who owned the property prior to its sale at the public auction accused her of assault and posted this cellphone video:

However, the video did not substantiate his case well, at least to this viewer. Sen. Conway and two other people were walking away from the camera when he followed them. At one point, Conway appears to put her hand on the camera lens but it’s not clear from the video that she did anything to the camera. In another moment, you can see Conway trying to dissuade her companion from escalating the argument. You watch and draw your own conclusions.

Regardless of a bout of negative media attention and though he would otherwise be a promising challenger and senator, Henry’s lack of campaign funds severely hinders his campaign. He has only $8K in his campaign account compared to Conway’s $106K–a nice amount in a district where “walking around” money is said to remain a valuable resource. And Conway will have the strong support of all three incumbent delegates who will form a united slate for reelection.

The elections for delegate are quiet. Incumbents Del. Curt Anderson, Maggie McIntosh, and Mary Washington are all seeking reelection. Their one filed opponent, Timothy Vance, has not filed a campaign report. He describes himself on Facebook as a “regular citizen of Baltimore” and will remain so after the election.

Del. McIntosh is the senior pol in this district. She was first elected to the House in 1992 and served as U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s campaign manager and state director in the previous four years. A former House Majority Leader, she has chaired the Environmental Matters Committee since 2003 and is close to Speaker Michael Busch. McIntosh is seen as one of the most likely–possibly the most likely–to succeed him but many less senior delegates are also restless after ten years of a largely unchanged leadership.

Del. Anderson served in the House from 1983-95. In 1994, he ran for the Maryland Senate but lost with 44% to incumbent Pica.  Anderson rejoined the House in 2003. Del. Washington first ran for the House in 2006. Though she lost, she came in a respectable fourth in the primary and easily won the nomination for the open seat in 2010 on a slate with the other incumbents.

While McIntosh has $77K in her campaign account, her colleagues have little–just $5K for Anderson and less than $1K for Washington. But Vance did not even file a report and has no record of even having a campaign account.

No Republicans have filed for any of the legislative seats.

UPDATE: I mistook Mary Washington’s account for that of another candidate. Del. Washington has $50K cash on hand, which renders her a well-funded candidate.

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How Electoral Rules Shape County Council Partisanship

maryland-county-map

Maryland counties use a number of different methods to elect their county legislatures (see below for a description of how each county conducts its elections). The rules of the electoral game influence the outcome, as at-large elections facilitate one-party sweeps.

Twelve counties elect their councils entirely at-large throughout the county. The number will decline to eleven when Frederick elects its first charter government this year. Cecil and Garrett have district residency requirements for candidates but still elect them at-large. Cecil also staggers its elections.

Nine of the twelve counties with solely at-large elections have legislatures with members from only one party. In the remaining three, there is only one minority (Democratic) representative. (Of course, Kent has only three commissioners so the minority has to consist of only one commissioner.)

Eight counties elect their councils entirely from single-member districts. Districts can help with compliance with the Voting Rights Act by preventing the submergence of minorities among larger minority populations. Worcester County, for example, has a black district that resulted from voting rights litigation.

Districts also facilitate minority party representation. Only two of the eight counties elected entirely by district have single-party governments. Districts enable minority party representation so long as the minority comprises a majority within one of the districts. Minorities can still fail to win representation if their support is evenly distributed or just too weak, as in Carroll and Prince George’s Counties.

Three counties and Baltimore City elect their legislatures via a mixture of single-member districts and at-large. Baltimore City and Harford elect all councilmembers from districts except the city/county council president. Frederick will adopt Wicomico’s system of five from districts and two at-large when it elects its first charter government this year.

Uniquely, Montgomery elects four at-large in addition to five from districts. In this populous county, at-large councilmembers represent significantly more people than Members of Congress. And even the district councilmembers have roughly 200,000 constituents.

Among counties with mixed systems, heavily Democratic Baltimore City and Montgomery County have entirely Democratic councils. Harford and Wicomico have Republican majority counties with Democratic minorities.

Next Up: Ideas for creating more competition in Montgomery.

ALL ELECTED AT-LARGE

Allegany: three commissioners.

Calvert: five commissioners.

Caroline: three commissioners.

Cecil: five councilmembers. There are five districts and residency requirements but county voters elect all five. Elections are staggered so that the election of two coincides with the presidential election and three with the gubernatorial election.

Charles: five commissioners.

Frederick: five commissioners (through 2010).

Garrett: three commissioners. There are three districts and residency requirements but county voters elect all at-large.

Kent: three commissioners.

Queen Anne’s: five commissioners.

St. Mary’s: five commissioners.

Talbot: five councilmembers.

Washington: five commissioners.

ALL ELECTED FROM DISTRICTS

Anne Arundel: seven councilmembers.

Baltimore County: seven councilmembers.

Carroll: five commissioners.

Dorchester: five councilmembers.

Howard: five councilmembers.

Prince George’s: nine councilmembers.

Somerset: five commissioners.

Worcester: seven commissioners.

MIXED

Baltimore City elects 14 councilmembers from districts and the city council president at-large.

Starting in 2014, Frederick will elect five councilmembers from districts and two at-large.

Harford elects six councilmembers from districts and the council president-large.

Montgomery elects five councilmembers from districts and four at-large.

Wicomico elects five councilmembers from districts and two at-large.

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Lierman Has Inside Track in D46

D46

Compared to other Baltimore City districts, redistricting left District 46 unscathed and it still encompasses the neighborhoods surrounding the harbor. Like all of Baltimore City, District 46 is Democratic turf. No Republican has bothered to file for the legislature, so the Democratic primary is the election.

Sen. Bill Ferguson demolished incumbent Sen. George Della with 59% of the vote in the 2010 Democratic primary. An impressive accomplishment, as Della had served since 1990 and is the son of a previous Senate President from the district with the same name. Coasting to his second term with only nominal opposition and $121K in his campaign account, Ferguson is just 30 years old. For these reasons alone, he has to be one to watch.

The two incumbent delegates seeking reelection, Del. Luke Clippinger ($52K) and Del. Peter Hammen ($121K), should also be safe. Hammen is the senior member of the delegation, having served since 1994. He is also the most powerful, as he holds the Chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee. Clippinger is an assistant state’s attorney in Anne Arundel and unsurprisingly serves on the Judiciary Committee. He was a real leader in the fight for marriage equality.

Attorney Brooke Lierman, who graduated from Walt Whitman HS in Montgomery County, is the favorite for the open seat for several reasons. First, she is the daughter of former Democratic Party Chair Terry Lierman (and sister of Kyle Lierman, who ran in D16 in 2010). Relatedly, she has $104K in her campaign account and the ability to raise more. My guess is also relatedly, Ferguson, Clippinger, and Hammen have formed a slate with her. Finally, it doesn’t hurt that she is reported to be very nice.

Lierman is not a total lock for the seat. Bill Romani ran for delegate in 2010 and came in a respectable fourth. Romani has good name recognition and will probably raise enough money to run a respectable campaign–he now has $33K in the bank. But all that respect probably won’t be enough to overcome Lierman’s money and the slate, though expect him to do his best to surprise.

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Monopoly County Politics

terpopolyFear this Turtle?

As the last post detailed, a majority of Maryland counties have legislatures with representatives from only one party. Democrats in my home county of Montgomery enjoy their hyperdominant status, and celebrated heartily the electoral demise of the County’s last Republican officials in the 1990s.

One-party monopolies create a number of problems. In this case, I am not referring to unified party control of the legislature and executive, as in the case of the Maryland State Government with Democrats holding both houses of the General Assembly as well as the Governor’s Mansion. Instead, in this context, single-party control references when one party controls government so thoroughly that there is no meaningful opposition.

Political scientists have long observed that problems can arise for democratic governance when one party controls politics so thoroughly that there is no real electoral competition in the general election. (V. O. Key was a pioneer in this area and his classic work on Southern Politics inspired many of my thoughts here.)

First, the party primaries of one party become the key election in place of the general election. Only a small fraction of voters choose the party’s nominee (read: elect the official). In Maryland, turnout is already lower in gubernatorial than presidental election years and turnout is far lower in primaries than in general elections. Moreover, despite one-party dominance, many still remain registered as independents or with another party, further shrinking the share participating in the one meaningful contest.

Think the case is overstated? In Montgomery County, 83,827 voted in the 2010 Democratic primary–just 14.7% of the County’s 569,234 eligible voters. Prince George’s did a little better because the County has fewer non-Democrats with 96,652 casting ballots in the Democratic primary out of 498,718 eligible voters–19.4%.

This same effect also occurs in Republican counties, though the impact is somewhat less drastic. In Carroll County, 19,845 voted in the 2010 Republican primary, 22.8% of all eligible voters. In Garrett County, 5,398 cast ballots in the GOP primary, forming 33.2% of the 16,256 eligible.

Second, it leads to disorganized politics and makes it difficult to hold government accountable. For the all the derision directed at parties and partisanship, political parties serve extremely valuable purposes. The collage of views that animate each party organize politics for voters. In elections, the party label is a recognizable brand, which provides a quick cue to voters looking to cast a ballot. We rely on similar shortcuts in many aspects of life.

Places without a viable opposition party lack these cues and organization because all the action takes place in the primary. Parsing differences between candidates is difficult without party labels. Voters have to work much harder.

The absence of party divisions also makes it more difficult to vote based on the basis of overall satisfaction with the government. When one party is so strongly dominant, it is more difficult to throw out the “ins” and replace them with the “outs” because  there is no viable opposition and the “ins” and the “outs” belong to one party.

Additionally, in single-party places, one party tends to accommodate a  larger range of views as people gravitate to the party of power. Occasionally, clear factions will appear within parties, as with Doug Duncan’s 2002 “End Gridlock” slate. But such linkages tend to be ephemeral and the labels don’t appear on the ballot. It can also make it easier for individual politicians to shift positions over time since there are a panoply of views within one party.

All of this helps explain why the Montgomery County Council is perpetually so factionalized with shifting alliances that are often based on personality conflicts and not issues. There are genuine issue differences in Montgomery but there is no party alignment to help organize them and make it easier for voters to hold officials accountable for their decisions.

The next post on county politics will begin to explore the causes of one-party counties and ideas about what we can do about it to produce better governance.

 

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Madaleno Special Orders Hoskins

Commissioner Hoskins_REVAnne Hoskins

Montgomery Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-18) has special ordered the controversial nomination of Anne Hoskins to the Public Services Commission. In English, this means that the nomination will be discussed separately on the Senate floor.

The purpose appears to be to highlight the problematic approval of trackers by the PSC, which allow utilities to receive rate increases before they make investments rather than the more traditional practice of requesting them afterward.

Concern regarding Hoskins centers on how strongly she will lean toward the utilities– she favors trackers–rather than her past work in industry. After all, industry experience may give her knowledge that strengthens her ability to serve as a good commissioner. And experience in industry is no guarantee of views–the PSC Commissioner who wrote the dissenting opinion opposing trackers came from industry.

I expect that the nomination will pass easily but the special order will usefully highlight the use of trackers and the continuing concern of many Marylanders regarding power reliability and PSC supervision of power utilities.

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Partisan Breakdown of County Governments

CountyCouncils

Pre-2014 Election County Executives and Councils

Maryland has fewer subdivisions than almost any other state with just 23 counties and one independent city. Except Baltimore City, all elect their legislatures–Councils or Commission–at the same time as the gubernatorial election. Starting in 2016, Baltimore’s City will be in sync with the presidential election cycle.

Besides legislatures, eight counties with home rule charters directly elect a county executive, functionally equivalent to that of mayor–the title given to Baltimore City’s executive. Frederick County’s voters approved its charter in 2012 and will elect its first county executive this year.

The above table shows the pre-2014 election partisan breakdown of county executives and legislatures for all counties and Baltimore City, highlighting one party counties based on the party of the legislature with red indicating Republican and blue Democratic counties .

Nine have only Republican legislatures (and executives): Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Queen Anne’s, and Washington. Four are solidly Democratic: Baltimore City, Charles, Montgomery, and Prince George’s.

Most Republican counties are small, though Calvert, Carroll, Frederick, and Queen Anne’s are fast-growing exurbs. Calvert, Carroll and Queen Anne’s are all solidly Republican, though more overwhelmingly in Carroll than Calvert or Queen Anne’s. Frederick leans Republican but has been moving towards the Democrats. Whether the trend will continue strongly enough to push the County away from the GOP remains to be seen.

Three counties and Baltimore City sit in the Democratic camp. All are overwhelmingly Democratic with Republicans having next to no chance.  In Prince George’s, only one Republican has so far filed for a Council seat. Democrats would still hold a bare majority on the Montgomery Council even if every Republican candidate won. Republicans have filed for only two seats on the Charles Commission.

The remaining eleven counties have split councils or commissions, though many lean heavily to either the Democrats or the Republicans. Harford, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester list towards the Republicans, while Baltimore County and Howard favor the Democrats. Anne Arundel leans GOP but seems increasingly marginal for a place expected once to be a Republican bastion.

Due to the plentiful rural Republican counties, there are 75 Republican legislators compared to 65 Democrats in very blue Maryland. Must make politics for officer elections at the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO) interesting.

 

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How Polarized is the General Assembly?

The Monkey Cage has a great post that compares legislative polarization all 50 states. The first graph (credit to Boris Shor) shows polarization averaged across both chambers from 1996 through 2013. As you can see, Maryland is the fourteenth most polarized state in the country, though not that terribly far above American average.

statepolar

Polarization is greatest in California where Democrats are very liberal and Republicans are very conservative, as shown in Shor’s second graph. In this graph, the vertical axis measures conservatism and the horizontal axis shows the year. The graph not only makes it possible to compare the parties within states but across states.

polar by chamber

The change in polarization within each chamber over time is more easily assessed with yet another graph produced by Boris Shor and Nolan McCarty that charts polarization over time for both chambers in 49 states and Nebraska’s unique unicameral legislature.

polarization_chamber_years2

In Maryland, polarization in the House has been relatively flat over the last two decades. Polarization has increased in the Maryland Senate. A bump up around the time of the 1998 elections increased Senate levels to those of the House. The Senate is now slightly more polarized than the House after another smaller increase in Senate polarization after the 2002 elections.

In Congress, heightened polarization has been driven much more by Republicans than Democrats, though Democrats are more liberal than in the past. The changes in General Assembly polarization appear driven more or less equally by both parties. Over the 18 years in the study, Democratic liberalism and Republican conservatism each increased by roughly 0.25 on the scale. (A very close look indicates that Republican conservatism probably increased slightly more than Democratic liberalism.)

These trends are not terribly shocking to followers of Maryland politics. More moderate Republicans like former Del. Connie Morella and Sens. Jean Roesser and Howard Denis no longer sit in the General Assembly, as many moderate Republicans have become Democrats and Montgomery County Democrats are no longer willing to vote for even moderate Republicans in sufficient numbers. Republicans have also seen several mainstream conservative senators defeated by more conservative delegates in primaries.

Conservative Democratic numbers have dwindled. Places that elected conservative Democrats now usually choose Republicans. Though a few, like Del. David Randolph, hang on in territory that is tough for Democrats, the days of the Eastern Shore electing very conservative Democrats like Sen. Frederick Malkus are over.

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UPDATE: Edith Patterson Files for Delegate

EdithPattersonMHEC Commissioner Dr. Edith Patterson

UPDATE: As always, readers provide the scoop and are quick to catch errors–very helpful since situations can quickly change. Since I wrote this piece, Edith Patterson has filed for delegate, thus setting up for a more exciting contest between her and Kelly for the third delegate seat in District 28 (Charles).

While Kelly has little money, Patterson has filed an affidavit attesting to less than $1K. On the other hand, that could change–Patterson was honored by the State NAACP and has a network. Nevertheless, though Patterson is unquestionably a known name, Kelly won the last round.

If Middleton slates with Kelly, as his donation suggests he might (see previous post), that would give her a concrete advantage. It would also require African-American Del. C.T. Wilson to join the slate, as it is politically unthinkable for Middleton to form an all-white slate in today’s Charles County. It gives Wilson some interesting political power. I don’t know Wilson’s relationship with either Middleton or Patterson. However, one could reasonably think that Wilson sees himself as the first African-American senator from Charles in the future.

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