Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Why Ken is in trouble…

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, October 9, 2006

The Howard County Blog went to a great deal of trouble to create this analysis.

This would explain Ken’s aggressiveness regarding Chris Merdon’s record.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun, Tactics More Aggressive in Executive Campaign


22 Responses to “Why Ken is in trouble…”

  1. Freemarket said

    I think it is interesting that I saw Ken Ulman at the last two community breakfasts held by the Lisbon Volunteer Fire Department. I complain that Ken Ulman does not know there is a county outside of Columbia, but there he was outside of his comfort zone. Ken’s wife was even working the crowd a little bit with the youngest child. She even introduced herself and the baby to some elderly people from Carroll County that were sitting near me. There was also a gentleman in a yellow Wallis shirt talking to people. I am really surprised I have not seen Merdon there at all.

  2. hocomd said

    I saw Ulman in Glenwood and admired the fact that he entered enemy territory.

    Merdon has been in Ulman’s backyard too, recently Harper Choice.

    As far as I know Merdon was in Lisbon for a forum about 1.5 months ago. If he has been their since then I would not know.

  3. Ann said

    The Fire Department is in his “comfort zone,” go to his website, and see who is on the front page…Firefighters. He is still running a “Front Porch” campaign, trying not to shake things up to much, and not get himself into trouble, relying on the Dem’s majority in the county.

    Evan’s article was great, very good analysis on the election, one of the better blogs that I have read.

  4. hocomd said


    “One of the better blogs I have read”. Thanks a lot.

    Seriously, Evan put some time in to the analysis. No one knows what the numbers really mean – but I agree with Evan’s conclusions.

  5. Numbersgirl said

    The firefighters union may be his comfort zone, but definitely not the volunteer service. There is a BIG difference. As Merdon pointed out to the Sun a little while back, Merdon used to have the support (although unofficial) of a lot of the volunteers. So Ulman’s going to Lisbon was very much going into enemy territory.

    This was all before the training center fiasco though.

  6. Ann said

    What can I say, I like numbers, followed by a good analysis! Hocomd – don’t worry I like your blogs too..

  7. SeldomSeenSmith said

    This is cross posted at Evans blog and hedgehog.

    Man have you bought the Republican line hook, line and sinker. Your analysis of the numbers and the situation is shaky at best. Aren’t you the same guy who thought Nina Basu was going to come in the top three? Even Nina Basu didn’t think that. Let me see if I can dispel the stuff you’re putting forward.

    Under votes – you talk about under votes as indicators which they rarely are except in much higher numbers. Some small percentage are certainly protests but it’s a much smaller number then those of us politically inclined tend to admit, mostly its folks who don’t vote for the county elections ESPECIALLY in primaries. With that said let’s analyze the under votes. Across the county, the under vote for County Council was 22% in the Democratic primary and 15% in the Republican. In the exec race the Democratic under vote was 10% and in the Republican 15% meaning Chris got the same as the County Council candidates and Ken/Harry got less than half. In District 4 (which you seem to think holds the key to Ken’s “struggle”) the exec and Council under vote were both 7%. Just for good measure, Liz Bobo, the most beloved politician in West Columbia had a 14% under vote this year – up 3 points from last primary. Maybe it’s an indication of dissatisfaction. Then again maybe not.

    You including under votes with Dunbar votes as “anti-Ken” votes may make some common sense but simply don’t hold up in election common sense. History just doesn’t play that out. Let’s take as a perfect example: Merdon’s first race for County Council in 98. Merdon was running against a guy name McCoy who was an underdog against the better financed, better connected, and all around better candidate, Merdon. I remember it pretty well and I remember it being thought of as, though not the biggest gimmee of the year, pretty close (at least outside the political bourgeoisies). In the primary Chris took 68% (1980) to McCoy’s 32% (929) with an under vote of 16% (567). That means (by your standards) a troubling 43% of the vote was NOT MERDON. The result in the general was Merdon taking 59% of the vote. His percentage was nearly as good as incumbent Gray in District 2 and better than incumbent Lorsung in District 4. I could do a ton of these (and will if you dare me) but I think you get the idea.

    The Feldmark Factor – you didn’t bring it up but considering your new tendency to take on the Republicans job I figure it’s only a matter of time, so I want to address the idea that Sigaty beating Feldmark is somehow a bad sign for Ken. Again, going to the numbers, it seems to me to indicate that all it’s a sign of is someone (Sigaty) who has built support while being on the ballot 4 times now in the last 4 years. Not as a perennial candidate like Pierpont but one who actually won two of the three fairly easily (coming in first in all but 2 of the precincts in District 4) and in her one loss, to Ken of course, took 13 of 22 precincts. She then, this year, predictably, won her fourth. Truthfully the surprise is that Feldmark did as well as he did (54%-45%) making it the closest County Council race in either primary (much closer then the expected nail bitter of Fox v Livesay).

    Finally – the growth vote.

    Everyone seems to forget that slow/no growth candidates ALWAYS pull some percentage – a reliable set of voters that rarely if ever make a majority. Though the last contested Democratic primary for executive – in 1998 – saw Susan Gray (who, like Harry ran solely on the slow growth message) beat the party favorite and well known Sue-Ellen Hantman – now a district court judge – for the right to get obliterated by fairly reliably pro-growth Chuck Ecker. Even in Montgomery County where growth is a MUCH bigger issue, Doug Duncan, who is the most predictably pro-growth executive in the state, is beloved as an Exec. and continually won by large margins.

    The real issue is not whether or not Ken stops running a front porch/rose garden campaign which is not only not the issue but so patently untrue as to be laughable as Ulman is frickin everywhere. The real issue is whether or not Chris can successfully woo that small percentage of slow/no growth voters and add them up to a slim victory. The truth is though, that historically slow growth voters tend to be pretty finicky and I just think that Merdons new found salvation in slow growth has got to ring hollow after 8 years, not to mention a Merdon sign on damn near every piece of property owned by a developer that screwed or tried to screw a community (Mangione, Merritt, Williamsburg).

    On every issue besides growth – Ulman, it seems clear to me, has the advantage with Howard County voters. So I do think that if slow growth voters do ANYTHING but vote for Chris (stay home, vote for Wallis) Ken wins.

    Let me just end by saying this – your post, and a few others, seem to me like classic Democratic cannibalism. The Republicans continually react to things their candidates say and do by praising it like it came from the Almighty himself no matter how offbeat (middle school sports? Are they serious?) and Democrats are FAR more critical of our own – we love to hate on Democrats. If he does lose Evan, I encourage you to look in the mirror for reasons.

  8. Ann said

    Dear Seldom Seen,
    Regarding Merdon’s first race in ’98, he was not better connected, he did not grow up in Howard County, and his opponent did (check your memory banks – since you stated you “remembered it very well”). Also, Merdon was only 27 years old! How can someone 3 years out of college be “connected” in a county that he did not grow up in? He just ran a better-smarter campaign, worked harder and focused on the issues, just like he is doing in this race.

  9. hocomd said

    Ok, thank your for your opinion. You are certainly a lot more passionate about the issue than Evan is. I thought he did a rather cold and unemotional analysis. But you jumped right in there rippin’ it up.

    Anyway, Middle School Sports? Are ya tryin’ to pick a fight? What is wrong with Middle School Sports. Are you familiar with the data behind it?

  10. Freemarket said

    I think that Merdon’s proposal to build athletic fields at middle schools would be a colossal waste of money, so if anyone has some type of evidence to suggest otherwise please let me know.

  11. hocomd said


    Merdon never suggested that we build fields.

    Anyway, relative to middle school sports in general he quotes a number of authorities on the subject in his press release on the topic.

    Additionally, the BoE supports the idea of middle school sports although they were looking to go the Intramural Sports route.

  12. Numbersgirl said

    I personally would like to see the money that would be spent on middle school sports be redirected to hiring better teachers and securing better books.

    Granted, it has been 10 years or so, but my education at Howard County Public Schools was disappointing to say the least.

    And why not invest in students that are not college-bound? The new auto-shop class is a start, but Howard County schools all but toss out those students not planning on attending college. They should bring back Vo-tech.

    Sports should be at the bottom of the barrel.

  13. hocomd said


    I think sports is a good idea. It helps kids physically and socially. However, I think vocational education is a better idea.

    If I had to pick between the two I would pick vocational education.

    If my kids want to be carpenters, plumbers, or what ever that is fine. We need to start them on the path. I would encourage them to gain the skills and then start their own business. They would need the business skills to do so. I also think that the social skills they learn in sports programs would help them build a viable business by teaching them how to work with peers, superiors, and eventually employees.

    I have family that after high school struggled with “what next”. High anxiety. Getting in trouble. Drinking. Then they finally latched on to something. A mentor introduced them to a trade. I have two cousins who went on to be well paid and highly skilled carpenters. There services are in great demand. They lost years of their lives trying to figure it out. Thank God they finally did and thank God someone introduced them to wood craft work and allowed them to apprentice.

  14. tomkidd said

    wow look at the owner of this blog protect merdon so much

  15. hocomd said


    I make no bones about where I stand. Are you just figuring that out?

  16. hocoterp said

    FYI: Merdon introduced a new education initiative yesterday with Josh Kaufman, current Chair of the Board of Education. I think there’s a post on it here, but you can see the details at

    Numbersgirl, I’m sorry you thought the education you received from the Howard County Public School System was disappointing. I graduated from the school system more recently, and I think I received a great education. Maybe I was lucky and had great teachers for most of my classes, but I know the classroom instruction I received and the extra curricular activities that I took advantage of prepared me for success in college.

    I do like your point about the vocational technology training. There’s nothing wrong with being a carpenter, plumber, or auto mechanic, but as a society we need to be able to admit that. I don’t see that happening in Howard County any time soon.

    What I do see, and this is part of Merdon’s education announcement, is support for more technology in the classroom and making sure all students are computer literate. You don’t need to go to college to be a carpenter, but try being an auto mechanic and not know how to use a computer. Tech skills are essential, and I think Merdon’s plan will help prepare kids for college and/or the workforce.

  17. Numbersgirl said

    HoCo, I absolutely agree. My brother, who is a good kid, smart, but wasn’t college-bound, just found his first “real” job. Took him 8 years of part time job-hopping to find a full-time benefitted, skilled position.

    I agree that sports teaches kids life skills. And of course this country’s ever-expanding waist size could use the help, but I just think that other initiatives should come first.

    I remember reading a quote from some school official (it’s been YEARS, so I can’t be more specific than that) when they decided to close the Vo-tech program. The quote was “How many brick layers does Howard County need?” Obviously this was before the housing boom, but just think of how many students would have benefitted from vo-tech?
    Carroll County seems to have a good program. I’ve spoken with some of the students who have graduated from vo-tech with their cosmetology licenses. Having this job skill allows them to work their way through college, in jobs that pay better than minimum wage. In these cases, it opens up doors that would otherwise not have been open to students.

  18. Freemarket said

    Merdon said that he would support the funding of 2 turf fields per year for the next six years, but that was not specifically part of his proposal on middle school sports, so thanks for the clarification HoCoMD. Did he ever say how he intends to fund the sports program and additional athletic fields? Higher taxes? Cut something else? I believe that Merdon’s expectation of higher academic achievement as a result of this program is dubious, so the whole thing seems like a waste to me.

    I echo the support for Numbersgirl’s suggestion that investment be made in a vocational technology program. I attended Howard County Schools from Kindergarten to the end of high school, and I can confirm that kids who are not college bound are written off. A vo-tech program would be a much better use of funds than a sports program.

  19. hocomd said

    I don’t think he did say how he would fund it. Probably the same way that Ulman said he would fund it.

    He said it would cost between $300,000 and $350,000, with $200,000 going toward transporting youth to and from away games,  would support one sport for girls and one for boys at each of the county’s 18 middle schools.

    He said two artificial-turf fields built in one year would cost $600,000 each, and he supports installing fields at all 12 high schools over six years

  20. jen said

    Turf fields- in theory- pay for themselves relatively quickly as they hold up longer and take less maintenance. The world of athletic fields and stadium lighting has come a long way in the last 1/2 doz. years. I wouldn’t reject the proposal out of hand without seeing the data.

    If you are supportive of sports and athletics for kids, however, I’d consider spending money on better support for the “no-cut” sports at the high school level, or for Freshman teams. Students who participate in cross country swap uniforms between races, and raise funds to provide enough buses for transportation to away meets. Larger sized schools still only have 10 spots on a Varsity basketball team- but if you reintroduced Freshman basketball teams and funded them- you’d create opportunity for more students. (Basketball is just an example).

    Don’t forget healthcare training when you speak of Vo-tech. We have a tremendous shortage of nurses, rad techs, phlebotomists, nursing assistants, respitory therapists, etc. Most of these only take one or two years of training. They pay well, are benefitted and are in great demand. Of course, one of the reasons nurses are in demand is because there aren’t enough and one of the reasons there aren’t enough is because there isn’t enough classes and teachers to teach them. Did you know that there is a waiting list to enter all of the local RN programs?

  21. hocomd said

    My sister-in-law is changing careers at the age of 42 and going to nursing school.

    She claims that there is a shortage of “Practicing” nurses. Nurses are going into medical/drug sales and administrative positions in greater numbers than before.

    If these nurses went back to nursing we would have a glut.

    Needless to say, we need to address the shortage of “practicing” nurses.

    Just an interesting footnote.

  22. Concerning Chris Merdon’s two recent education intiatives:

    1. Middle School Sports: Great idea if it means intramurals and other activities to keep middle school kids busy after school. Bad idea if it just means interscolastic sports. Unfortunately it seems to mean just the later. Chris needs to do his homework. Diane Mikulis is working on an intramurals/activities program for middle schoolers with Parks & Rec. She could use a hand, not grandstanding. Chris needs to do his homework and check with his friends.

    2. School of the Future: Great idea in the abstract; incredibily unrealistic in reality. This is the school district that can’t run its basic information management functions. And this isn’t the first time. They are walking away from a multi-million purchase of student support plan software. They have revereted to excel Spread sheets and hand written entries. Paperless office, linked laptops for every student, hardware inventory and network security controlled, or even functional? Not these guys now. Maybe in a few years with good leadership. Oh yeah, Josh Kaufman is going to handle that.

    Come on Chris, think! Remember who has been doing the heavy lifting! Remember who your friends are! Expedience is not much of a policy. Get back to thoughful decent guy we all know.

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