Weathering the Perfect Storm
Posted by Jim Walsh on Tuesday, November 28, 2006
With a little bit of time to sort out the results of Black Tuesday, I’m gradually returning to my normal optimistic self, who believes that maybe Maryland can be at least a 1-1/2, if not a full 2, party state. Please bear with me as I briefly touch upon several issues along this line.
Despite my earlier comment in evaluating Gov. Ehrlich’s loss that a Republican needs a perfect storm to win statewide in Maryland, I think that I might have actually got it backwards – O’Malley beat Ehrlich only because the Democrats had a perfect storm in their favor. Nationwide, voters were fed up with Republicans in general and they took out their anger against Republicans at all levels. Voter turnout was higher among Democrats and lower among Republicans. In any “normal” year, even in Maryland, Ehrlich would likely have won re-election.
Despite the Ehrlich ads to the contrary, anyone who has been in downtown Baltimore or waterfront neighborhoods can’t help but be impressed with the massive redevelopment and rehabilitation that is going on in the City during the time of (but not necessarily due to) O’Malley’s tenure as mayor. In an earlier post, I mentioned that I thought Ehrlich ran a good, near-perfect campaign. IMHO, the imperfection was the TV ads that could be seen as bashing Baltimore City. Despite the debacle that is the Baltimore City Schools, those ads ran counter to what most people saw when they visited Baltimore. As governor of all of Maryland, I think Ehrlich could legitimately have stepped in and taken some of the credit for the Baltimore City renaissance. Sure, he would have been denounced by O’Malley and the Sun for political opportunism, but wasn’t he being denounced by them for other things already? If you’re taking heat anyway, you might as well enjoy some of the sunshine.
Other thoughts from looking back at Black Tuesday:
Three big jurisdictions – Baltimore City, Montgomery and Prince George’s – are Democratic locks. Baltimore and Howard Counties are swing jurisdictions, and just about everywhere else goes Republican. Howard County, though, is the true bellweather jurisdiction in Maryland. This year O’Malley barely won in Howard County (Ehrlich narrowly carried Baltimore County); Ehrlich carried Howard in 2002. Glendening won Howard County in 1998; I believe that Sauerbrey carried it in 1994. (I think the 1994 results do not disprove my theory of Howard County as bellweather, but rather speak to what really happened in 1994.)
The most visible elected Republican official in Maryland right now is new Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold. Here I’ll insert another plug for Ehrlich to run for Baltimore County Executive in 2010.
Two of the larger Republican leaning jurisdictions in Maryland – Carroll and Frederick Counties – do not live up to their potential in influence in statewide politics. I believe that in no small part that is because both of those counties have county commissioner forms of government, so that political influence is diluted among several commissioners rather than a single, highly visible county executive. I realize that these are hot button issues in both counties, but the Maryland Republican Party would likely benefit from charter-county executive styles of government in those two counties, which would likely produce two Republican county executives.