Politics After the Gazette, Part II

The following post is by Adam Pagnucco:

When I used to work for a Montgomery County Council Member, there were three beat reporters on county government – one each for the Post, the Gazette and the Examiner.  They were competitors.  Each wanted to scoop the others.  One of them would glance at another’s laptop at the press table to see what the competitor was writing – an act that was decidedly unwelcome!  I dealt with them all.  And now the Gazette and the Examiner are gone.

Bill Turque of the Washington Post is the sole survivor.  Turque is an experienced pro who is respected and feared by those he covers.  Recent articles of his that had significant impact include one exposing an operative connected to the county employees union as the source of a website targeting a Council Member and one about campaign finance late in the 2014 election season.  But as skilled as Turque is, there is only one of him.  Fifteen years ago, the Post assigned multiple reporters to cover various aspects of Montgomery County.

Bethesda Magazine is the other outlet that regularly covers the county.  Lou Peck is a veteran political reporter who writes highly detailed articles about local elections.  Andrew Metcalf and Aaron Kraut are prolific local reporters.  Despite its name, Bethesda Magazine covers subjects in many parts of the county.  Its close attention to the county’s Department of Liquor Control has been outstanding.  But let’s remember that the Gazette used to have dozens of reporters in and around the County and Bethesda Magazine does not have that kind of scale.

That’s about it.  WTOP has occasional local coverage, though they are a regional outlet.  Local papers like the Sentinel and Takoma Voice have small audiences.  Patch came and went quickly.  MarylandReporter offers statehouse reporting but not much in-county coverage.  Center Maryland has the great columnist Josh Kurtz but no staff reporters.  The Sun does not pay much attention to Montgomery or Prince George’s Counties.  The local TV stations focus more on crime and weather than on detailed reporting of state and local governments.

Then there are the blogs.  Whatever you think of them, there are several features that distinguish them from mainstream news outlets.  1.  They tend not to have clear and consistent standards for publishing.  2.  Most are driven by opinions, sometimes with facts to back them up and sometimes not.  3.  Many posts are derived from mainstream news articles, which act as original sources of content.  4.  None of them have the reach of news sources like the Gazette, which once dropped hundreds of thousands of papers in front of doors around the region.

The hierarchy of the past is gone.  Yes, Bill Turque and Bethesda Magazine are probably at the top of the heap – but there is no heap.  There are no longer dozens of reporters patrolling the county for stories on civic events, restaurant openings and closings, local sports, transportation projects, school programs, politics or anything else.

We will examine what that means for state and local politics in Part Three.


Politics After the Gazette, Part I

The following post is by Adam Pagnucco:

Quick.  Name a key difference among the following local congressional races.  Connie Morella vs Stewart Bainum.  Chris Van Hollen vs Mark Shriver.  Connie Morella vs Chris Van Hollen.  Al Wynn vs Donna Edwards.  And the current races in Congressional Districts 4 and 8.

The latter two are the only ones not covered by the Gazette, because the Gazette no longer exists.

The Gazette has been gone since the Washington Post, its parent company, killed it in June 2015.  It’s worth remembering what it was in its heyday.  The Post’s 2001 annual report summarizes how extensive its operation was in the time of Josh Kurtz, its statehouse bureau and its paid spin-off, the Gazette of Politics and Business.

The Company’s Gazette Newspapers, Inc. subsidiary publishes one paid-circulation and 35 controlled-circulation weekly community newspapers (collectively known as The Gazette Newspapers) in Montgomery and Frederick Counties and parts of Prince George’s, Carroll, Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland. During 2000 The Gazette Newspapers had an aggregate average weekly circulation of approximately 554,000 copies. This subsidiary also produces 11 military newspapers (most of which are weekly) under agreements where editorial material is supplied by local military bases; in 2000 these newspapers had a combined average circulation of over 200,000 copies. The Gazette Newspapers have approximately 125 editors, reporters and photographers on their combined staffs. The Gazette Newspapers, Inc. also operates a commercial printing business in Montgomery County, Maryland.

That same year, the Post bought eight community newspapers in Prince George’s, Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties and consolidated them into Southern Maryland Newspapers.  Those papers added 40 employees and tens of thousands of copies to the Post’s local media empire.

But a decade ago, financial pressures led the Post to start trimming the Gazette.  The newspaper endured several rounds of layoffs.  It withdrew from Howard, Carroll, Anne Arundel and Frederick.  It ended its paid Gazette of Politics and Business, consolidated local editions, dropped most of its statehouse coverage and dismissed its political columnists.  By the time the paper finally shut down, it was down to just twelve reporters and two photographers.

Twenty years ago, the Gazette was one component of a large, official local media.  Montgomery County had its own daily newspaper (the Journal).  The statehouse was jammed with four full-time reporters from the Sun, three full-time reporters from the Post and countless more reporters from local papers.  The Montgomery County Council building had a press bullpen in which legendary Doug Duncan operative Jerry Pasternak would trade tips with reporters over games of darts.  Print drove television and radio coverage.  Reporters had a career path leading from small local outlets to medium newspapers to the big guys, the Sun and the Post.  An official network of veteran reporters and long-time editors would judge what was newsworthy, and stories that didn’t pass muster went unreported.  There was no other way for them to get out.  But those that did were circulated to hundreds of thousands of readers, viewers – and voters.

Almost all of that is now gone.  The Gazette was one of the last vestiges of the old world.

What is left?  And how does that affect local politics and government?  We’ll have more in Part Two.


Matthews Oversaw Donation of Over $700,000 to Republicans

Kathleen Matthews received a lot of political heat for her personal donation of $2,600. But yesterday the Washington Post highlighted that she oversaw the donation of over $700,000 to Republican candidates in her role as overseeing Marriott International’s PAC:

At Marriott Matthews oversaw the company’s political action committee, which contributed more than $1.4 million to candidates between 2008 and 2014, including nearly $700,000 to Republicans, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Matthews tried unconvincingly to distance herself from the many donations to Republicans:

Matthews said in an interview last week that Marriott employees were free to designate which party they wanted to receive their money. She also said decisions about specific contributions were made by lobbyists who reported to her.

As the lobbyists reported to Matthews, she retained responsibility for the donation decisions. Her explanation makes it look like she is attempting to push off that responsibility on to her subordinates.

So who received the donations from Marriott? Based on information from the Center for Responsive Politics, here are the highlights:

2014 Cycle Total to Republicans: $148,500

Total to House Republicans: $92,000

  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor: $5,000
  • Renee Ellmers: $2,500
  • Andy Harris: $1,000
  • Kevin McCarthy: $7,500
  • Paul Ryan: $5,000

Total to Senate Republicans: $56,500

  • Roy Blunt: $7,500
  • Joni Ernst: $1,000
  • Mitch McConnell: $7,500
  • Marco Rubio: $2,500

2012 Cycle Total to Republicans: $160,400

Total to House Republicans: $83,900

  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor; $5,000
  • Darrell Issa: $1,000
  • Kevin McCarthy: $2,500
  • Paul Ryan: $2,500

Total to Senate Republicans: $76,500

  • Scott Brown: $5,000
  • Mitch McConnell: $2,500

2010 Cycle Total to Republicans: $152,700

Total to House Republicans: $56,200

  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor; $4,500
  • Darrell Issa: $1,000
  • Kevin McCarthy: $2,000
  • Paul Ryan: $2,500

Total to Senate Republicans: $96,500

  • Roy Blunt: $10,000
  • Scott Brown: $5,000
  • Carly Fiorina: $5,000
  • John McCain: $2,500
  • Marco Rubio: $5,000
  • Pat Toomey: $7,500

2008 Cycle Total to Republicans: $220,300

Total to House Republicans: $144,800

  • Roy Blunt: $6,500
  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor; $5,000
  • Paul Ryan: $1,000

Total to Senate Republicans: $75,500

  • Mitch McConnell: $7,000

Hogan’s Empire

I remain grateful to Adam Pagnucco for writing so many guest posts while I am out of town. Hello from Uruguay.

Governor Larry Hogan and the General Assembly Democrats are debating a lot of issues these days, including transportation projects, spending mandates, voting rights for people on parole and gerrymandering. Regardless of who’s right or who’s wrong, one thing can be said for sure: many people are only hearing one side of the argument. And that side belongs to the Governor.

Policy debates in Annapolis, and their political implications, are increasingly occurring in the context of a shrunken mainstream media. The Sun and the Post have dramatically cut back on their statehouse coverage. The Gazette is no more. The Daily Record is hidden behind an expensive paywall. Many local outlets don’t have staff in Annapolis. The TV and radio stations offer sporadic statehouse coverage. Maryland Reporter and the blogs have small audiences. Most people who pay close attention to these remaining news sources are firmly in one partisan camp or the other. Those people who pay only casual attention – a much larger group – are getting less content than ever.

The Governor and his supporters have adroitly prepared for this world by constructing a huge social media empire. They don’t have to worry about declining news coverage – they can and do cover themselves. Like his predecessors, the Governor has an official communications operation. But he also has Change Maryland, a policy/politics/PR entity started by the Governor in 2011 that has since morphed into his campaign organization. And he benefits from Red Maryland, a conservative blog started a decade ago that serves as a discussion platform for the ideas and politics of the right. The Democrats have no counterpart for either group.

Change Maryland and the Governor together rule the state’s social media, or at least that portion of it which is dedicated to state and local politics. Following are their Facebook likes and Twitter followers on March 9, as well as those of the Democrats and potential gubernatorial rivals.

Facebook Likes, March 9, 2016
Change Maryland: 262,559
Larry Hogan: 113,988
Heather Mizeur: 23,168
Anthony Brown: 17,659
Ken Ulman: 8,959
Doug Gansler: 8,949
Maryland Republican Party: 8,442
Maryland Democratic Party: 8,059
Peter Franchot: 7,692
John Sarbanes: 5,665
Maryland Senate Democrats: 5,169
John Delaney: 4,424
Brian Frosh: 3,994
Maryland Senate Republican Slate: 3,821
Mike Miller: 2,858
Kevin Kamenetz: 2,297
Rushern Baker: 1,915
Maryland House Republican Caucus: 1,748
Young Democrats of Maryland: 1,677
Mike Busch: 1,633
Maryland Young Republicans: 1,135
Maryland House Dems: 248

Twitter Followers, March 9, 2016
Larry Hogan: 18,830
Ken Ulman: 8,902
Rushern Baker: 8,506
Maryland Democratic Party: 8,341
Maryland Republican Party: 7,936
Heather Mizeur: 7,228
Peter Franchot: 6,846
Change Maryland: 6,796
Doug Gansler: 6,529
Anthony Brown: 3,640
Brian Frosh: 3,093
Young Democrats of Maryland: 2,235
John Sarbanes: 2,037
Kevin Kamenetz: 1,492
Maryland Young Republicans: 1,490
John Delaney: 1,112
Maryland Senate GOP: 1,107

The Governor’s advantage on Twitter is substantial, but not insurmountable. His advantage on Facebook over the Democrats is astounding. His Facebook page and Change Maryland’s page combined have a better than 40-1 edge on the state Democrats and a more than 80-1 advantage over potential rivals like Congressman John Delaney, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. And as for how he compares to General Assembly Democrats…? There is no comparison. Not. At. All.

In an era of disappearing statehouse coverage by the mainstream media, the Governor’s social media empire dominates policy debates, at least in the eyes of the public, and gives him a tremendous political edge. His positions on the budget, transportation, criminal justice, taxes and more are seen by MANY, MANY more people than those of the Democrats. Low cost Facebook ads can quickly spread them to 100,000 people or more. (With his campaign fundraising, he can easily afford them.) And while Democratic state legislators may have been outraged by his “spring break” remarks, how many people saw their hashtag rebuttals? Almost certainly far fewer than those who saw the Governor’s original statements.

Much attention has been paid to the Governor’s favorable poll ratings, which he trumpets non-stop through his communication outlets. That may or may not be warranted because polls go up and down, sometimes because of factors outside of a politician’s control. But to the extent that the Governor’s poll results are meaningful, consider this.

Could they be due in part to the fact that much of the public is getting only one side of the story, and that side is not the one told by the Democrats?


MoCo Dems Who Don’t Vote, Part Four

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post by Adam Pagnucco:

If Montgomery County Democrats want to substantially increase their turnout in the 2018 election, they are going to have to reach out to Democratic non-voters who are disproportionately young, Latino, African American, low income and who live far from the party’s traditional Downcounty strongholds.

How can that be done?

First, this is not a job that can be entrusted to candidates alone.  Candidates are in the business of winning elections, and for them, that means targeting regular voters.  That’s perfectly understandable.  Asking candidates to do things that don’t maximize their chances to win is a non-starter.  So this is a job for the party.

Montgomery County’s Democratic Party is in some ways the envy of the rest of the state.  It is large and well-financed.  It can draw on lots of volunteers and activists, many of whom have substantial campaign experience.  It has a system of precinct officials that most county parties don’t have.  But in recent years, it has presided over declining turnout.  Like any organization, even successful ones, the party can improve.  Here’s how.

1. Buy an email list and use it.

At the moment, the party does not have an extensive email list.  It needs one – badly.  The party should purchase an email list of regular voters – including unaffiliated ones – and start pumping out regular blasts.  The state party does this and the county party should start doing it too.  But in addition to the frequent attacks on the GOP that appear in state party emails, the county party can also celebrate the successes of local government.  The Montgomery County Council regularly passes progressive legislation, often on unanimous votes, and the County Executive leads a progressive administration.  The declining local media misses out on a lot of these things, so the party should step in and spread the word.

2. Get stronger on social media.

The county party’s Facebook page needs to be bolder and more topical.  It should be aggressive about going after the GOP and it should also trumpet Democratic successes.  Ads should be used to spread particularly good posts and to build the like count.

3. Contact non-voters and new voters directly.

Years ago, before the spread of e-recruitment, the party had a system for welcoming new voters.  That system should be reinstated and updated.  The party can use its precinct officials to reach out to non-voters and new voters on the ground.  One way would be to send precinct officials lists of all of these voters and have them circulate an online survey through flyers in their neighborhoods.  Do they vote?  If not, why?  Is it lack of information?  Are there important issues they want addressed?  Ask them to sign up for the email list and Facebook page to stay in touch with the party.

4. Spotlight new Democrats.

Non-voters and new voters don’t look like Mike Miller or Mike Busch.  They look like many young, new Democratic state legislators like Senator Craig Zucker and Delegates Eric Luedtke, David Fraser-Hidalgo, Ariana Kelly, Marc Korman, Marice Morales, David Moon, Will Smith, Pam Queen and Shane Robinson.  (And those are just the ones who first took office in 2010 or later.)  Let new Democrats like these do guest communications in the blast emails and also on a county party blog.  Then spread them through Facebook and Twitter.

5. Get rid of the sample ballot.

The above items will cost money, and a good place to get it is by getting rid of the sample ballot.  This drab, antiquated pamphlet mailed to all Democrats before the general election looks worse than a typical coupon book and is probably discarded promptly by most recipients.  The party spends tens of thousands on printing and mailing it every cycle.  Besides causing headaches for no good reason, the sample ballot distracts from the party’s central duties because it is the vehicle for communicating party positions on ballot questions, and that can cause problems.

One example was the party’s decision to go against labor on the police effects bargaining ballot question in 2012.  Regardless of who was right or wrong, the decision caused labor to picket the party’s spring fundraiser and resulted in wholesale turnover on the party’s central committee.  The party’s primary duty is to market its candidates and their successes.  It should not concentrate on making policy decisions outside of its stated platform; those should be left to elected officials.

The sample ballot has been around for a long time and it has its defenders, but party strategists need to ask themselves the following question.  How many email addresses, Facebook ads, staff hours and other voter touches can be purchased by freeing up money from the sample ballot?  And what mix of all of these factors generates the greatest cost effectiveness for outreach?

If all of these things are done, will that guarantee higher turnout among MoCo Dems who currently don’t vote in 2018?  Well, there are few guarantees in politics, folks.  But I will guarantee this: if none of these things are done, turnout will not improve and Governor Larry Hogan will get a second term.


MoCo Dems Who Don’t Vote, Part Three

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post by Adam Pagnucco:

Age is the biggest difference between MoCo Democrats who always vote in gubernatorial general elections and those who don’t.  Here are a few other differences.

Household Income

The voter registration file contains the addresses of all registered voters.  The Census Bureau tracks household income over the 2009-2013 period by zip code, municipality and owner vs renter status.  We integrated Census income data with the voter file and found these voting patterns.

MoCo Democrats Average Household Income

Super-Dems and non-voters can be found in every income group but there is a correlation between voting and income.  The average household income of super-Dems is 17% higher than non-voters.  Super-Dems are more likely to have household incomes of $200,000 or above (19%) than are non-voters (11%).  Conversely, non-voters are more likely to have household incomes of under $100,000 (23%) than super-Dems (12%).


Super-Dems and non-voters also tend to have different residence patterns.  Below are their distributions by city and town.

MoCo Democrats Residence

Super-Dems are most likely to live in Kensington, Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Potomac, in that order.  Non-voting Dems are most likely to live in Germantown, Clarksburg, Montgomery Village and Gaithersburg, in that order.

Below is the same data presented by council and legislative district.

MoCo Democrats by District

Super-Dems are most likely to live in Council District 1 and Legislative District 16 – again, in the BCC-Potomac vicinity.  Non-voting Dems are most likely to live in Council District 2 and Legislative District 39, which contain Germantown and Montgomery Village.


The voter file does not contain racial data.  But the Census Bureau does have racial data by Census tract, and we integrated that into the voter file.  Below is the distribution of super-Dems and non-voters in the precincts that have the highest percentages of black, Hispanic and Asian residents.

MoCo Democrats Race

Voting patterns in Asian precincts don’t vary much.  But non-voters are significantly more likely to live in precincts with high black and Hispanic populations than super-Dems.

In summary, the following characteristics apply to super-Dems in order of likelihood.  Super-Dems are most likely to:

  1. Be age 60 or over
  2. Be age 50-59
  3. Live in Kensington
  4. Have average household incomes of $200,000 or more
  5. Live in Chevy Chase
  6. Live in Bethesda
  7. Live in Potomac
  8. Live in Council District 1

Non-voting Dems are most likely to:

  1. Be age 39 or younger
  2. Live in Germantown
  3. Live in Clarksburg
  4. Live in precincts that are 33% or more Hispanic
  5. Live in Legislative District 39
  6. Have average household incomes of less than $100,000
  7. Live in precincts that are 33% or more African American
  8. Live in Council District 2

How can the non-voting Dems be turned into voting Dems?  We will conclude with a few suggestions to do that in Part Four.


MoCo Dems Who Don’t Vote, Part Two

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post by Adam Pagnucco:

Who are these registered MoCo Democrats who don’t vote?  Let’s find out.

The table below presents data on registered Montgomery County Democrats from the January 2015 voter registration file.  As of that date, there were 360,427 registered Democrats in MoCo.  The file contains their voting histories in the primary and general elections from 2006 on.  Most MoCo Democratic candidates running in primaries, which tend to decide elections here, concentrate their voter contact on the 42,692 people who voted in each of the last three primaries.  (They account for 12% of MoCo Dems and 5% of the county’s voting age population.)  But for the purpose of this analysis, we will be examining three groups: all registered Democrats, those who voted in each of the last three gubernatorial general elections (Super Dems) and those who have voted in no gubernatorial generals (Non-Voting Dems).

MoCo Democrats by Voting Pattern

The first fact that stands out is that the non-voters are a larger group than the super-Dems.  There were 98,791 Democrats in the file who voted in each of the 2006, 2010 and 2014 general elections.  But there were 127,851 Democrats who did not vote in any of them.  That fact alone should worry state and county Democratic strategists who are looking to generate more turnout to defeat Governor Larry Hogan.

Another fact that stands out is that of the 127,851 Democrats who did not vote in any of the gubernatorial generals, 73,306 voted in at least one of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.  This group accounts for 20% of all MoCo registered Dems.  Why are they voting for President and not for Governor?  Let’s remember that Hogan’s statewide victory margin in 2014 was 65,510 votes.  If half of these presidential-voting Democrats showed up in 2014 and voted for Anthony Brown, Hogan’s margin would have been cut by more than half.  If half of all of the non-voting MoCo Dems had showed up to vote for Brown, Hogan’s margin would have been nearly eliminated.

Let’s zero in on a few demographic factors pertaining to MoCo Dems.


Women account for majorities of registered MoCo Dems, super-Dems and non-voters.  No surprise here.  Women dominate the rank and file of the Democratic Party even if they account for less than a majority of its elected officials.

MoCo Democrats Gender


Age is the single most meaningful variable differentiating super-Dems from non-voters.  The average age of super-Dems is 61.  The average age of non-voting Dems is 39.  Fifty-three percent of super-Dems are age 60 or older.  In contrast, sixty percent of non-voting Dems are 39 or younger.

Here’s a different way of looking at age.  Following are the turnout rates for Democrats by age group in the 2014 general election.

MoCo Democrats Age Turnout

Democrats in their 60s and 70s were at least twice as likely to vote as Democrats in their 30s or younger.  Nearly 100,000 MoCo Dems in their 30s or younger did not vote in the 2014 general.

Low turnout among young people is not exclusive to MoCo – it’s a nationwide phenomenon.  But because so many young Democrats in MoCo are not voting, that suggests the party needs a strategy to get them to the polls to realize significantly higher turnout in 2018.

We will look at more differences between super-Dems and non-voters in Part Three.


MoCo Dems Who Don’t Vote, Part One

I’m following the lead of my students and heading out of town on Spring Break. Fortunately, Adam Pagnucco has written a series on Montgomery Democrats who don’t vote. Today, I am pleased to present the first part:

General Assembly Democrats have decided to pursue automatic voter registration in this year’s session.  There’s a good policy rationale for it and efforts to increase resident access to voting are generally commendable.  There is also a fair dose of politics here. Democrats are pursuing this because they think it will net them more votes, and Republicans are opposing it for the same reason.  Yet, there’s little evidence in our state that increasing registration will automatically increase votes for Democrats in gubernatorial elections.

Instead of concentrating on people who don’t register, Democrats should look at a different group for the purpose of expanding their turnout: people who register as Democrats but don’t vote.

Why do people register but don’t vote?  Part of the explanation lies in how relentlessly targeted modern political campaigns are.  In a context of scarce resources, campaigns strive to touch voters who a) are likely to actually vote and b) are potentially receptive to the candidate’s message.  That means orienting mail, email, field operations and even social media towards voters with regular histories of voting.  Those voters who vote regularly get inundated with candidate communications.  Those who don’t get much less of it.

Consider me.  I moved to the county in 2003.  I had a long history of voting in D.C. and New York but that didn’t show up in my Maryland voter registration record.  I voted in the 2004 primary and general elections.  In my first state-level election of 2006, only two candidates sent me mail: Hans Riemer and Duchy Trachtenberg, both non-incumbents running for the County Council.  Both had well-financed operations and perhaps they felt they could take a chance on appealing to a wider field of voters than just those who had voted in 1998 and 2002.  County Executive candidates Ike Leggett and Steve Silverman, who raised over $3 million between them, didn’t contact me.

Now, if I was feeling ignored, that didn’t last!  I continued to vote regularly and by 2010, I got lots of mail.  Don’t ask me about 2014.  My recycling can is still recovering.

So what is likely to happen to all the new voters who are automatically registered under the state Democrats’ proposal?  They will probably be ignored by Democratic candidates for state and local office because they don’t have voting histories.  Some of them might vote in presidential elections because information on those candidates is easy to come by.  (Who on Planet Earth has not heard of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?)  But a combination of declining local media coverage and micro-targeted local campaigns will give them no information on local races and lots of them will sit out.

That is exactly what is happening in Montgomery County.  From the 1990 general election through the 2006 general election, voter registration rose from 365,960 to 507,924 – an increase of 39%.  At the same time, the actual number of general election voters rose from 211,199 to 308,429 – an increase of 46%.

Now let’s remember what happened around the end of that time period.  The presidential campaigns of Howard Dean and Barack Obama took voter targeting to a new level with email, data-mining and (later) social media.  Campaigns became much more efficient at reaching small groups of likely voters.  And all of this filtered down into state and local races, especially in MoCo, where so many candidates and campaign staffers have ties to the national level.

This had an impact in Montgomery County.  From the 2006 general election through the 2014 general election, voter registration rose from 507,924 to 634,663 – an increase of 25%.  But the actual number of voters dropped in 2010 and again in 2014.  The 2006 general saw 308,429 voters while the 2014 general saw 267,456 voters – a decline of 13%.  At the same time, the number of MoCo voters in presidential general elections has been rising steadily in every cycle since at least 1990.

What we are witnessing now is a shrinking snowball effect.  As each gubernatorial cycle passes, the pool of targeted voters shrinks as people who vote regularly pass away or move out.  And those without voting histories are ignored by candidates, and don’t vote, and so their numbers grow.

This should be a major concern for both Maryland and MoCo Democrats, because low turnout in MoCo (as well as Baltimore City and Prince George’s) significantly contributed to Larry Hogan’s winning the Governor seat.  More registration won’t fix it.  More efforts to turn out an ever-smaller group of regular Democratic voters won’t fix it.  But communicating with people who are already registered Democrats and who, for whatever reason, aren’t voting just might fix it.

So who are these Democrats who don’t vote?  We’ll find out in Part Two.


McDonnell Cites Trone on “Buying Access” in Corruption Conviction Appeal

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Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s attorneys cited recent statements by CD8 Candidate David Trone in their brief appealing McDonnell’s corruption conviction:

The consequences of the Government’s construction confirm why it cannot be the law.  Extending bribery beyond efforts to direct a particular resolution of a specific governmental decision would upend the political process, vesting federal prosecutors with extraordinary supervisory power over every level of government.  If “official action”includes anything that could “have the purpose or effect of exerting some influence” on any imaginable sovereign decision (Pet.App.54a), then every official and campaign donor risks indictment whenever heightened access is provided in close temporal proximity to contributions.  That happens literally every day at political fundraisers nationwide.  As one businessman seeking public office recently explained: “I sign my checks to buy access.”  Bill Turque, David Trone Has Donated More than $150,000 to Republicans, Database Shows, WASH. POST, Jan. 28, 2016.

Now, there is an important legal difference between buying access via campaign donations – referenced here by Trone – and through direct gifts to the official. Nevertheless, McDonnell’s attorneys cite Trone’s statement as an explanation for why it’s acceptable that McDonnell used his powers as Governor to aid a businessman who gave him a Rolex and helped to pay for his daughter’s wedding.

Cynicism about the process is helping to power both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ campaigns in very different ways. Sanders decries the corruption of American politics through corporate campaign donations.

Like Trump, Trone says forthrightly that, of course, he was “buying access.” A central basis of the Trump and the Trone campaigns is that they are so rich that they cannot be bought. Their wealth has become a qualification for office.

His campaign t-shirts even brag “NO PACs, NO Corporations, NO Lobbyists.” While a great slogan, the fact remains that David Trone runs a company that makes exactly these sorts of donations and that company employs lobbyists. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that, for example, Total Wine gave $12,500 to support Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign.

I’m not bothered that Trone has a lot of money or is stimulating the economy by spending so much of it on his campaign. But why Trone thinks that he is a superior candidate because he is the corrupter rather than the corrupted remains a mystery to me.


Profile in Silence: Larry Hogan


Now that Larry Hogan’s man crush Chris Christie has exited the race after his presidential campaign experienced failure to launch, what is the Governor to do?

Hogan explained to Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post that he does not believe in the transitive property of endorsements, so Hogan is not following Christie’s jump on to the Donald Trump bandwagon. At least not yet. Hogan says that he “hasn’t decided” who to support. Hogan also hasn’t found time to return repeated calls from former BFF Christie who wants to talk Trump.

The Gov has no good options. While the media focuses on to Trump or not to Trump, Rubio and Cruz would be the most right-wing nominees ever and destined to lose Maryland by an even larger margin than McCain or Romney did against Obama.

All three are very anti-immigrant in a state that voted heavily for the Maryland DREAM Act. Both Rubio and Cruz oppose abortion even in cases or rape and incest – an extreme position on an issue that Hogan worked hard to avoid. They also want to continue the now lost marriage equality wars, which would raise the salience of yet another issue that Hogan is on the wrong side of Maryland voters and assiduously avoided in his campaign.

As almost all of the others have been voted off the Island of Misfit Candidates, it looks as if Trump, Rubio, or Cruz will be the nominee. If the nominee is Rubio or Cruz, I imagine Hogan will support them but be really quiet about it in the hope of not having to answer whether he agrees with them on a whole range of issues.

Trump is apparently still in the mix for Hogan, even if he cannot seem to touch base with Christie. But if Trump does as well as expected tonight, he’s not going to be able to stay silent much longer. Not an easy political place to be as supporting Trump could be a career killer but many of Hogan’s supporters will vote for him enthusiastically in Maryland’s primary on April 26th.