Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

What we learned from Harry Dunbar

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, September 14, 2006

It is interesting to compare the Baltimore Sun article to the Baltimore Examiner article regarding the Howard County Democratic primary for County Executive.

Dunbar’s success indicates residents want growth to slow down (The Baltimore Examiner)

Thousands of Howard County voters sent a message to the county executive hopefuls — by casting ballots for Democrat Harry Dunbar and his campaign to slow growth.

In the Democratic primary race, underdog Dunbar stole more than 20 percent of the unofficial vote count from primary winner Kenneth Ulman for Howard County executive in his first campaign, according to the Howard County Board of Elections on Wednesday.

Democrat Ulman wins nomination (The Baltimore Sun)

An election campaign destined to produce a new Howard County executive and at least four new County Council members began yesterday with what appeared to be an easy victory in the Democratic primary by Columbia native Ken Ulman in his quest for the county’s top job.
With nearly all of the votes counted early today, Ulman, 32, who represents west Columbia on the council, had a more than 3-to-1 margin over Harry M. Dunbar, 62, who campaigned against development.

Dunbar’s anti-development campaign never caught fire.

What did Ken Ulman have to say about Harry Dunbar’s success at the polls?

“It’s not surprising at all. If you look at primary elections, the lesser-known candidate always gets a chunk, especially when they are first on the ballot,” said Ulman.

I guess he wasn’t looking at the Democratic Primaries:

  • District 13.  Nina Basu the lesser known candidate on top of the ballot only got 7.31%
  • Adam Sachs on the bottom of the ballot got 1/3rd of the vote in Council District 2
  • Josh Feldmark on top of the ballot lost to Mary Kay Sigaty

Please understand that I fully expected that Ulman would win hands down.  I don’t think he did win hands down.  However, the real test will come when we can look at the results precinct by precinct to determine who voted.

What do I think this mean? 

  • I think Ken is just talking to the papers.  He, like any candidate, needs to keep a positive spin on this.
  • I think his campaign does understand how successful Harry Dunbar was in the primary and what that means to his general election campaign.
  • Ken should not dismiss Harry Dunbar’s campaign message, which is closer to Merdon’s position than it was to Ulman’s
  • Dunbar was not a fringe candidate.  He hit a nerve and was smart to exploit the issue in his campaign.  Not because he wasn’t sincere but because he didn’t feel the presumed nominee didn’t represent. 
  • I hope we have not heard the last of Harry Dunbar.

Finally, the one message that Ken should listen to is this comment from Harry Dunbar:

“Despite the political establishment’s endorsement and the media’s support of my rival, despite being outspent over 100 to 1 — as my opponents take money from developers and foreign interests — over 5,000 Howard County citizens came out to support the slow growth campaign of which I was a candidate,” said Dunbar, who spread his “slow growth,” anti-developer message tirelessly at county functions.


10 Responses to “What we learned from Harry Dunbar”

  1. Reader said

    Is Ken Ulman deaf or just taking a “positive spin” on the primary results? The primary vote was clearly an attempt by a frustrated electorate to send a message to Ken about his development positions. Ken could save his campaign by announcing that he is ready to listen. If he continues in this vein, he will lose.

    I’m a consistent Dem voter but it looks like I will probably be breaking my streak this November.

  2. mary smith said

    I’ve been patiently waiting for people to ask these questions, the same questions I’ve been asking into the blank stare of partisans.

    Ah, yes. Patience. And Dave Wissing, you have your head deeper in the sand than David. No good can come from that.

    David, remember, we’re here for ya:

    Give us the oft ignored, the shuttled classes, yearning to be seen.
    The laid off worker, the professionally employed, both voices muted clean.
    Send these, the old ones, young ones, everyone in between.
    We’ll lift the light, restore the ideal, to a time lately unseen.

  3. Fran said

    I’m better looking that Mary Smith, and after this babble, it appears that I make more sense, too.

  4. “And Dave Wissing, you have your head deeper in the sand than David.”


  5. mary smith said

    Dave Wissing:

    I’m surpised by the ‘playing dumb’ role you’re taking. Fran, I get, she/he is not playing.

    But you, Mr. Wissing, surprise me. I guess that the assumption was you had the history on what’s happening with voters. They’re not being heard by our elected government, ie., paying salaries to people who are not following our laws, Hatch acts, Comp Lite, totalitarian DPZ mandates, etc… Many people see political parties as one more organization that wants to develop rules that only they can break. This is so, in part, because parties seem to support the candidates who support the party, not the citizens.

    Surely you’ve heard. Republican registrations are third in the county. Independent/unaff is second. To voters, this is not a game or a contest, but deadly serious.

    The trend is a reflection of voter perspectives, and the parties are lagging in understanding how this will affect them.

  6. observer said

    I believe it is too late for Ken to changes his postions on this issue, he has already shown his true colors. Even if he says he is for slow growth now, HOW CAN YOU TRUST HIM? Just like his good pal Bill Clinton, he is just holding his finger up in the breeze to see which way the wind is blowing. When he gets into office, he’ll make sure COMP LITE and more COMP LITES keep rolling through. He’ll make sure GGP gets their BILLIONS of dollars worth of zoning changes to build an urban Columbia. He’ll make sure, he uses every one of your tax dollars to make sure he gets re-elected and set himself up for a run at a better office. Do we really need another career politician who is just looking out for himself, I’d rather have a public servant.

  7. Oh, you moved our conversation from the other thread to here. Pardon my confusion….

    Everything you stated about the parties and the voters in those parties that select the nominees may be true, but I’m not exactly sure what that has to do with my point about how nominees should be chosen by the parties. If enough people feel the way you do about the two parties, and as you have stated more and more people are registering as indepdendents, then the voters themselves will cause the parties to go defunct on their own and a new system will rise.

    I still stick by the theory that, as long as the current political system is in place in Maryland, the members of the political parties should be the only ones to have a say in who represents their party in General Election.

  8. mary smith said


    I do see your perspective regarding remaining exclusive.

    I’m trying to prompt understanding a different perspective but maybe less than successfully, ie., part of the reason for the head in the sand item. Also, there is the possibility that readers who are not blogging do understand.

  9. Mary Beth Tung said

    There has always been a two-party system in the US – it is what created and protected our democracy. Our two party system could be worse – we could have one party rule – oh wait – in Maryland we do.

    Part of Mary’s apparent frustration – and that of other unaffiliated voters, I think is that the Democrats have been running amok and the Republicans have not had the numbers to create the debate that is needed in Annapolis or at the county level. When the Merdon/Feaga/Rakes “coalition” formed and a Republican governor elected, the Dems almost blew up – they weren’t used to being challenged. That is how run-away growth, capricious decisions on variances, and unconstitutional voting laws occur. Nobody was there to force them into a meaningful debate that would allow for better bills and more input from citizens.

    If your vote is taken for granted, then your elected officials won’t listen. Vote Republican in the General election, and then both parties will have to listen.


  10. Freemarket said

    Why is it that if you are not a republican or a democrat, you are automatically marginalized? I rarely see Wallis mentioned in the press. Everyone who donates to political campaigns wants something in return, and rarely is that something of an unselfish nature. I suppose that since I love democracy so much, I hate to see it high jacked by politicians willing to yield to corporate interests and partisanship. Politics does not have to be a zero sum game. And for all the pissing and moaning, neither of the two major parties have a candidate that has done anything to be terribly proud of on the development front.

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