Senate Projections

Sen14Summaryratings for individual races are below

Looking over this year’s Senate races in Maryland reveals no threat to Democratic dominance. Republicans have no chance of even winning enough Senate seats to sustain a gubernatorial veto should Republican Nominee Hogan upset Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

The Democrats start with a built-in advantage with the 20 safe districts located in the big three Democratic counties of Montgomery (D15-20, D39), Prince George’s (D21-6, D47) and Baltimore City (D40-41, D43, D45-6). Add in the extremely safe seats in Baltimore County (D10 and D44), Charles (D28), and Howard (D13), and the Democrats reach a majority without breaking a sweat.

However, the Democratic advantage extends beyond structural. The Democrats demonstrate an ability to fight hard and win seats on Republican turf. Republicans don’t exhibit the same ability, which is why virtually all of the toss-up races are seats that Republicans should win but might not due to the strength of Democratic candidacies and support for them.

Here are the top four races to watch:

1. Mathias (D) v. McDermott (R), Toss Up
Incumbent Sen. Jim Mathias has a real fight on his hands to hold District 38 due to a challenge by Del. Mike McDermott in a race profiled earlier this year. Based on the district’s strong Republican lean, Mathias ought to lose but this former OC mayor is a born campaigner and has a huge financial advantage.

2. Dyson (D) v. Waugh (R), Toss Up
Roy Dyson has a resilience rare in politics, holding this seat since 1994 after losing his congressional seat in 1990 following a scandal that attracted national attention. Due to an increased naval presence, St. Mary’s Republican lean keeps getting stronger–Romney won 58% of the major-party vote–which leaves Dyson’s hold on it more precarious. Conservative Democrat Dyson has his hands full in his rematch against Steve Waugh, who came within 3 points of taking District 29 in 2010.

3. James (D) v. Cassilly (R), Toss Up
Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R) has decided to retire and Democrats have high hopes of taking this Harford County seat. Democrats did their best to carve out as Democratic district as possible in south Harford though District 34 still remains Republican territory. But Del. Mary-Dulany James has won elections here since 1998. She campaigns hard and is better funded than former Bel Air Mayor and Harford Councilmember Bob Cassilly.

4. Brochin (D) v. Robinson (R), Lean D
Sen. Jim Brochin has far more money than his Republican opponent, Tim Robinson, and is an indefatigable campaigner. I would rate the district Likely D except that Brochin has a lot of new Republican territory in this reshaped version of District 42. Still, he could be in trouble if a Republican wave hits hard here.



Souls Not at the Polls


After Day 4 of early voting, the rate of Democratic turnout finally pulled ahead of the Republicans. But not by much. As of last night at 8pm, 3.58% of Democrats and 3.56% of Republicans had voted. This gap of 0.02% is far smaller than the 2010 gap of 0.85%.

Any effort on Sunday to bring souls to the polls at African-American churches did not have a major impact. The state’s two majority-black jurisdictions–Baltimore City and Prince George’s–had turnout rates below the statewide level. Indeed, Prince George’s dropped one place in the county turnout rankings.

So far, the share of registered Democrats who have voted early is 52.0% of the 2010 number. The equivalent figure is 57.8% for Republicans, and 53.9% for unaffiliated voters.

Interestingly, the ratio of unaffiliated to Democratic turnout is relatively lower than in 2010. As polls show that Brown trails Hogan among independent voters, that would seemingly be good news for the Lt. Governor. Except that the share of unaffiliated voters has increased sufficiently that they are currently closer than the Democrats in reaching their 2010 turnout.

The best news for the Democrats is that Howard, an increasingly Democratic county, jumped three places in the turnout rankings. In contrast, Harford, a Republican bastion, fell three places. But all of this is small beer compared to Baltimore City’s and especially Montgomery’s consistent under performance.


GOP Still Keeping Pace in Early Voting

early3Saturday was the third day of early voting (see yesterday’s post on the first two days). Nothing changed from the basic pattern of the first two days with the Republicans continuing to lead the Democrats narrowly in their rate of turnout–unlike in 2010.

The gap in the rate of turnout between the two major parties has declined from yesterday, though only from 0.06% to 0.03%. Statewide, 3.08% of registered Democrats have now voted compared to 3.11% of registered Republicans. Just 1.26% of unaffiliated voters have cast ballots.

The big three Democratic counties have not changed their rank in turnout relative to other counties. The best news for Democrats is that Howard County, home to Democratic Lt. Gov. Nominee Ken Ulman, jumped 1 place. But so did staunchly Republican Harford County.

I received some intelligent feedback regarding yesterday’s post that the Democrats could still be improving over 2010 despite the improved rates of Republican turnout. Since there are so many more Democrats than Republicans, the Democrats could gain in raw vote totals even if the gap in the rate of turnout declines so long as the number of early voters rises.

However, it is not at all clear to me by how much the total number of early voters will increase. While roughly 40,000 voters showed up each of the first two days, under 20,000 voted yesterday. So far, the share of early voters is 46% of the total from 2010. Republicans have turned out 50.5% of their 2010 early vote totals compared to 44.7% for the Democrats.

Changes in the share of registered voters will not greatly benefit either party. The share of registered Republicans has declined by 26.7% to 25.7%, and the share of registered Democrats has fallen from 56.4% to 55.0%. While the Democrats drop is greater in absolute terms, Republicans have lost a higher percentage of their voters.


Early Voting Not Going Well for Dems

Maryland has expanded greatly the number of early voting sites around the State this year. Both parties believe that early voting benefits Democrats.

So far, the first two days of early voting are proving them wrong.

In 2010, 13.1% of Democrats voted early compared to just 10.1% of Republicans, and 9.1% of unaffiliated voters. But in the first two days of early voting in 2014 , Republicans have voted at slightly higher rates than Democrats. Among all eligible voters, 1.22% of Republicans have voted compared to 1.16% of Democrats, and just 0.5% of unaffiliated voters.

These statistics may well change over the weekend but they have to hearten Republicans. An examination of where voters have cast early votes at higher and lower rates provides further cheerful news for the GOP:


I have highlighted in blue the big three Democratic counties in which Democrats need strong victories to help compensate for losses in other parts of the State.

Montgomery is the State’s largest county with roughly 1 million residents and increasingly the motor of Democratic victories. Montgomery ranked 19th among the State’s 23 jurisdictions in early voting turnout in 2010.

Right now, it is set to drop two places more to 21st place. The low turnout in Montgomery is fascinating because the County scores very well on the factor that predicts high turnout at the individual level: education.

Turnout in Prince George’s, Anthony Brown’s home county, appears more encouraging. At 2.06%, it is only slightly below the statewide rate of 2.21%. But in 2010, Prince George’s had the third highest level of early voting in the State.

Baltimore City’s comparatively low turnout rate is only two places above that of Montgomery at 19th in the State. In 2010, Baltimore City ranked 11th. Perhaps efforts to remind voters to go to the polls at African-American churches this weekend will change this dynamic.

The top eight counties in terms of turnout will all probably go Republican when the votes are tallied–some very strongly. I suppose Democrats can try and take solace in that the three Western Maryland Republican counties–Garrett, Allegany and Washington–are all voting at low rates. However, they are small and counterbalanced by the low turnout in heavily Democratic Charles.

I’ll try to keep you posted on early voting turnout as it continues.


Republicans Claim Voter Fraud

In an eerie reflection of a past Simpsons Halloween special, Republicans are claiming that the Democrats are trying to steal the election in Maryland:


This sort of claim fits in with the Republican meme (and form of denial) that there is no way Democrats could win elections honestly, even in deep blue Maryland.

Here is why the fraud claim doesn’t make sense to me:

(1) Brian Frosh doesn’t need to steal an election. He is going to win. Easily. And unlike Nixon, he’s not paranoid enough to do it anyway.

(2) If one was going to program the machines to commit fraud, it makes no sense to show it on the final overview ballot page.

(3) But let’s imagine this is how it occurred anyway. Even if only 1 in 5 voters noticed the fraud on the overview page, there would be numerous reports of the problem.

(4) Democrats want to replace the machines. Let’s hope we can get a bipartisan consensus to spend the money in the next General Assembly.

I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories from either party. If something went wrong with this machine or this ballot, I look forward to it being investigated. But the cries from the GOP of fraud have consistently been far louder than their commentary when such claims are debunked.


Only 1 MoCo Candidate Didn’t File Campaign Finance Reports

An examination of the campaign finance reports of Montgomery County General Assembly candidates reveals that all have filed the three required campaign finance reports (or an affidavit attesting to very low fundraising and expenditures).

Except Ed Edmundson

Ed, who I described in a profile as a likeable out-of-the-box candidate and not from Republican “central casting,” has not filed either of the two last reports. One was due before the primary on June 13th and the other was due on August 26th.

While Ed is running a serious campaign, this lapse may prove a stumbling block in his race towards the finish line. As the diligence of other candidates suggests, it just isn’t something a candidate can forget or take lightly.

Late reports are not uncommon, though more often from candidates who are not running serious campaigns and end up filing affidavits that they spent and raised little money. Ed’s June report is now four months late. If campaign finance reports aren’t filed enough in advance of the election, the disclosure purpose of the law is not really being served or respected.

I asked Ed about it yesterday and received this response:

My Treasurer has all the information to file, my focus has been on going door to door. I’m calling him now, and my guess is that everything will be filed tomorrow.

UPDATE: Ed filed his campaign finance reports today.



Fiscal Fantasy

 The Second Gubernatorial Debate

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Larry Hogan has an opening with genuine discontent about taxes. He has certainly pressed it home virtually to the exclusion of all other issues.

Tax Cuts for You, Tax Cuts for Me

Hogan has put out the idea of a panoply of tax cuts. At a forum in a Baltimore populated by retirees, his idea of eliminating all taxes on retirement income was unsurprisingly popular among this demographic that votes at very high rates.

He also wants to lower taxes on corporations as part of an effort to improve the State’s business climate along with cutting back income taxes more broadly. Since he repeatedly talks about repealing all tax increases that occurred over the past eight years, that means that the gas tax and the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fee (a.k.a. the “flush” tax) should also go.

But Before We Even Get to Tax Cuts

However, before engaging in any new tax cuts or spending, the next governor will have to deal with a major revenue shortfall. Tax revenues are often hard to predict. While the federal deficit has declined rapidly, Maryland will need to close a gap of $405 million in order to balance its budget.

Illusory Plan to Pay for Them

Hogan promises we can have it all by cutting “$1.75 billion in waste and abuse that we have identified.” Cutting waste, fraud, and abuse has a long history as the savior of politicians who want to cut taxes or increase spending without making tough choices. Just recall the Grace Commission report 30 years ago.

Hogan has now dusted off this strategy. Except that his figure is woefully inaccurate–inflated by a minimum of $843 million— as a review of just a portion of Hogan’s claims by the Baltimore Sun revealed. Sloppy math, such as a misplaced decimal point, undermines the Hogan meme that as “just a small businessman” who will watch our pennies carefully.

Even more embarrassing is that another error to the tune of $285 million relied on collecting more in property taxes–not exactly the theme of his campaign–but also on the assumption of tax rates of 100%. My guess is that not what they were going for when they unveiled their plan.

Hogan’s campaign concedes that the Sun‘s report is correct, as  Campaign Spokesman Adam Dubitsky creditably acknowledged. (Smart: admit the mistake, move on, and pivot back to the campaign’s core message.)

And the Costs are Unknown

Hogan doesn’t know the cost of all of the various tax cuts that he has proposed. However, the Washington Post reported that a nonpartisan analysis revealed that the cut in retirement taxes alone would cost the State over $1 billion in revenue.

Incredibly, despite the welter of promises, Hogan simply hasn’t looked into it. As Dubitsky explained to the Post, “It’s not going to be until we dive into the budget after we win the election.” An amazing admission about the leader of Change Maryland who just said in a debate “I don’t want to over promise and under deliver.”

Since Hogan promises so much but there is little on the table in the way of real cuts, I worry that they may fall on the state’s universities–not just in terms of tuition but also in other funding that has been vital to its steady positive trajectory. And my view is that any pro-business economic strategy has to rely both on continuing that movement and taking better advantage of it.

Hogan 2.0?

Speaking with Dubitsky and listening to Hogan in the debate, one also perceives a more reasonable version of Hogan. Dubitsky told me that Hogan is committed to maintaining the State’s AAA bond rating and getting the fiscal house in order before moving forward with tax cuts. Makes sense to me.

Certainly, working to make Maryland more attractive to business is  a perfectly reasonable goal, as is the idea of restructuring state government to improve efficiency and focus it on future challenges. But so far, all Marylanders have received is theme and message without an iota of content.

Avoiding specifics may well be the way to go in a campaign–too many Democrats get bogged down in the specifics of plans. Anyone remember the endless and pointless 2008 debates between Obama and Clinton about who had the better health care plan?

Even just the outlines of an approach and concrete examples backed up by facts would put meat on the bones and provide badly needed credibility. Even more welcome would be if Hogan would stick to not over promising by ceasing to hand out impossible tax cuts like lollipops on the campaign trail.


Accountability and Transparency at MCDCC

Despite recent posts highlighting shortfalls of the new Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (see here and here), the new MCDCC has a lot of potential. MCDCC has a lot of energetic new members as well as ongoing members with valuable experience.

The MCDCC meeting last night revealed some additional strengths. New Chair Kevin Walling did a fine job of running the meeting. He made sure that people were heard even as he worked to make sure that the Committee moved through an ambitious agenda.

In general, despite a diverse range of approaches, MCDCC members seem willing to listen and to learn from each other. Many brought good ideas to the table. And even if there were some bad ones, they at least deserved a respectful hearing.

There are gaps on two fronts, however, that need to be addressed if this potential is to be realized.

Accountability and Assessment

Just as a willingness to try out new ideas is important, the Committee needs to collect information on an ongoing basis that will allow MCDCC members to assess their effectiveness. At the MCDCC meeting, reports lack this critical information.

For example, the report on the precinct organization said that more people were joining than were leaving or dying. But there was no information about the number of vacant slots or how many vacancies were filled or created. Other reports similarly referred to success but provided no hard data on accomplishment.

The fundraising committee did not report. Even the budgetary information provided to MCDCC members was highly limited with no basic breakdown on the sources of funds. And that was not provided in advance of the meeting. Trying new fundraising techniques is great but this sort of information is vital to assess whether they should be repeated.

Additionally, since resources are limited, assessment needs to occur not just as to whether a positive outcome occurred but if this was the smartest, best use of resources. In short, members seem very supportive of one another but need to learn how to build a team even as they make dispassionately these sorts of judgements on the value of various activities.

Not everything is going to be a success. So what? It’s often worth trying new ideas and you can still thank the people for running with them. But declaring everything a success won’t help move the Committee forward.

Chair Kevin Walling alluded to this need to make judgements when MCDCC discussed the issue of whether it should mail the Montgomery Democrat newsletter to all members. The costs versus the benefits–as well as alternative benefits that could be accrued by spending the money otherwise–should be examined. Following through on these sorts of tough discussions is exactly what needs to happen.

Transparency and Inclusiveness

MCDCC needs to become more open not just with Democrats and the media but with each other. Currently, information is increasingly kept within the Executive Committee and not even shared with the broader Committee.

This trend seemed to accelerate after my post critical of their fundraising efforts with a flurry of proposals (that fortunately seem to have died down) on how to gag other members even though the subject of the post was discussed at a public meeting and robocalls were made around the County.

So MCDCC needs to be more willing to consult openly with each other not to mention rank-and-file precinct workers–especially on proposals mooted to change the precinct organization–and even pesky bloggers like me. Hunkering down into an ever shrinking circle is the exact opposite of the inclusive approach advocated strongly by all members of the Committee.

I think MCDCC can do it. No doubt there is a steep learning curve, especially just before a general election. And people who have new ideas also need to listen to members who have more experience. But only with more accountability and transparency will the exciting ideas to move the Democratic Party in Montgomery forward and prove Will Rogers (“I don’t belong to any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.) wrong really have a chance to succeed.