Monthly Archives: April 2016

Campaigning works: some primary numbers from my county

Getting out there and campaigning for your candidate can make a difference. How do I know? In part, by scanning Frederick County’s precinct-by-precinct unofficial results from Tuesday’s low-profile GOP Senate primary.

As politically aware Maryland readers may know, I was rooting for my friend Chrys Kefalas in his bid for the U.S. Senate nomination, but he fell short, running third after the winner, House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, and Chris Chaffee. Chrys (the one I know, the one with the “y”) campaigned several times in Frederick County and ran about a point higher here than his statewide average, almost but not quite enough to take second place.
Frederick County map
I had a close view of some of the campaigning Chrys’s friends did for him in my part of the county in recent weeks and on election day. To see whether this campaigning made a difference, I decided to check out various precincts from the more suburban parts of the county, where Chrys ran stronger than he did in the rural sections.

In suburban precincts where we made no special campaign efforts, a typical outcome would be for Chrys to finish neck and neck with Chris Chaffee for second place, but well behind Szeliga, with from 30% to 80% as many votes as she got. Thus Orchard Grove, Kemptown, Linganore High School, Monocacy Middle School, North Frederick Elementary, and so forth. At some of these polls Kefalas had good sign displays, others not, but it didn’t seem to matter much.

In a few precincts, efforts were made in the weeks leading up to Primary Day but nothing special other than signs was done on the day itself. These generally outperformed the norm a little: thus Spring Ridge (where Chrys’s literature had been included in a door-to-door literature drop) registered Szeliga 113-Kefalas 78-Chaffee 69 (combined A and B), while New Market Middle came in at Szeliga 117-Kefalas 74-Chaffee 51.

On Primary Day itself, while Chrys’s campaigners swung by a number of other polling places over the course of the day, they targeted two in the southeastern part of the county for sustained efforts in which more than one volunteer distributed literature and talked to voters: Deer Crossing Elementary School, in the Lake Linganore vicinity, and Twin Ridge Elementary School, in Mt. Airy. And these wound up in a class by themselves results-wise. Here are the results from those two precincts:

  • Deer Crossing (covered by Kefalas workers tag-team-style over much of the day): Szeliga 153, Kefalas 152, Chaffee 80.
  • Twin Ridge (one Kefalas worker for most of the day with a second joining in during the evening rush): Kefalas 190, Szeliga 140, Chaffee 53.

Your results, as they say, may vary. In this particular race, candidates tended to lack strong name recognition and many voters had not formed strong opinions; that makes it different from, say, a presidential race, in which few voters arrive at the polls with minds not made up. But if you were wondering if you can make a difference by getting out to canvass in person to help your candidates, the answer is: you bet you can.

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The Maryland primary vote

Despite Maryland’s geographic diversity, the Donald Trump sweep last night was convincing and across-the-board. According to preliminary results, he ran up crushing margins in the parts of the state where he was known to be leading, including the Eastern Shore, with Worcester his best county at 73%, Dorchester at 71, and Somerset, Caroline, Wicomico, and Queen Anne all in the 64-68 range. In Western Maryland, he carried Allegany with 65 percent and Washington with 60. He broke 60 percent in Harford, Charles, Cecil, and Kent.

Equally impressive was Trump’s performance in carrying every suburban county as well as Baltimore City. Although one poll had showed him lagging Kasich by 20 points in the D.C. suburbs days before the election, he won both Montgomery and Prince George’s and even succeeded in carrying Howard County by four points over Kasich. Those three counties, plus Baltimore City, were his only under-50-percent showings; Frederick County, at 51 percent, was his next weakest. (Disclosure: I did some volunteering with Kasich’s effort in the final weeks of the contest.)

Despite talk of strategic voting for Kasich by Cruz supporters, Kasich finished only 4 points ahead of Cruz. And despite talk of a highly regionalized race between the two, Cruz was not as weak in the D.C. area, nor as strong in rural Maryland, as all that. Cruz did top Kasich by 5 to 10 point margins in Hagerstown and points west, and led him by modest margins in Southern Maryland. But Kasich’s vote exceeded Cruz’s in five of the nine Eastern Shore counties. Of the big suburban counties, Cruz managed to beat Kasich by 4 points in Frederick and one point in P.G., and otherwise trailed him by margins of 4-10 points in Baltimore, Harford, and Anne Arundel, 13 in Montgomery, and 17 in Howard.

My friend Chrys Kefalas’s bid for U.S. Senate proved no match for that of House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, whose well executed campaign occupied much the same ground Kefalas had tried to stand on, combining plucky biography with Larry-Hogan-style cheerful problem solving. Between a fund-raising edge, broadcast, 5 mailings, a raft of endorsements from influentials, and solid debate performances, Szeliga did exactly what she needed to do to lock down the nomination, and will now face the heavily favored Democrat Chris Van Hollen in November.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton’s convincing win is not unexpected, nor is that of Democratic Senate nominee Chris Van Hollen. It’s worth remembering that Van Hollen was deeply involved in the partisan Democratic push for an IRS crackdown on conservative-leaning nonprofits that led to the Lois Lerner scandal.

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On the “Transgender teen asked to leave Frederick Ted Cruz rally” story

Organizers of yesterday’s Ted Cruz rally in Frederick, Md. asked a 16-year-old high school student and his mom to leave the rally because the student was wearing a cape and shirt bearing a message challenging Cruz’s opinions on an issue in the news. According to reports, the organizers cited a rule against bringing into the rally visible messages other than those of the Cruz campaign. The student was wearing a transgender pride cape and a t-shirt with the logo of the National Center for Transgender Equality. In a Facebook post shared more than 1,300 times since the rally, he is seen holding a sign that reads, with perhaps a hint of irony given his complaints, “Human Rights Are Not Up For Debate.”

Some persons I know in the Frederick area are raising a fuss about this. I’m not. That’s not because I’m voting for Cruz on Tuesday (I’m supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich) and not because I agree with Cruz on the group of issues in question (I mostly don’t) but for the simple reason that it’s his rally and his rules. Each presidential campaign reserves similar rights and each campaign enforces them. That’s why persons with messages, even not-necessarily-antagonistic messages, have been required to leave rallies for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and the rest. That’s why the ACLU, not exactly hostile to protesters, acknowledges that each “campaign has the right to control its own political theater” and can mandate the use or non-use of signs.

Happily, we live in a free country in which there are plenty of ways to express disagreement with Ted Cruz’s opinions. Neither Cruz nor the management of the Weinberg Center are obliged to guarantee that you get to do so from inside a Ted Cruz rally.

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In miniature, April 22

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Weaker oversight for school construction?

Good for Comptroller Peter Franchot: if the school systems are trying to wriggle out of budget oversight, it’s time to make that oversight stronger, not weaker. Note that it was Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Theresa Alban, “who also serves as president of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland,” who sent the letter to Mike Miller and Mike Busch asking them to limit the power of the Board of Public Works to check and balance the demands of the school construction lobby. More: Frederick News-Post.

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Gov. Hogan’s “Dear Mr. President” letter on redistricting reform

Gov. Larry Hogan has written a letter to President Barack Obama and it’s great:

March 31, 2016
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington DC, 20500

Dear Mr. President,

It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet with you at the White House last month during the National Governor’s Association winter meeting in Washington DC. I am grateful for the commitment you made at the time to partner with the NGA to review burdensome federal regulations that may create unnecessary obstacles to economic development and job creation. That we can find common ground on this matter gives me hope that I may also be able to count on your support on another issue.

On April 11 the Maryland General Assembly’s 2016 legislative session will conclude, and with it Maryland’s best hope to reform what is widely regarded as the worst gerrymandering in the nation could also come to an end. As you said in your most recent State of the Union Address: “We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. Let a bipartisan group do it.”

On this issue, we are in complete agreement. Last year, my administration assembled a bipartisan task force to study redistricting. After months of work and public comment, the task force recommended that the state establish an independent commission to draw Congressional and legislative districts, eliminating the influence of elected officials and political parties. Unfortunately, this legislation has stalled in the Maryland General Assembly, and may not even come to the floor for a vote.

There are only days left in the legislative session, and next year, we may not have as strong an advocate in White House as you have been on this issue. With your intervention, I believe we could set things right in Maryland.

Of course, I will continue to fight for Marylanders regardless of what happens over the coming days or years. However, with the weight of the White House behind independent redistricting in Maryland, I know we can deliver real change and I am hopeful that you can take action to encourage Maryland’s lawmakers to bring this matter to the floor for a vote.

If there is anything I can do to help you or members of your administration make a case for fair redistricting in Maryland in the days ahead, my administration is at your disposal. I look forward to any steps you may be able to take and I offer my thanks for your attention to the matter.

Larry Hogan
Governor of Maryland
State House, Annapolis, Maryland

I’ve taken the text of the letter from Washington Post reporter Josh Hicks’s Document Cloud posting, cleaning up errors arising from scanned character recognition when I spotted them; apologies for any errors I didn’t catch. Hicks’s coverage of the story is here. Excerpt:

Six states use nonpartisan redistricting committees to draw their voting maps, and the idea is broadly popular among Maryland residents. But leading Democrats, whose party holds large majorities in the House and the Senate, say they will not consider making Maryland’s system more balanced unless other states whose maps favor Republicans do the same.

More from Erin Cox at Baltimore Sun/Capital Gazette:

Leading Democrats have said they’re disinclined to approve a plan that changes Maryland’s congressional districts absent a national plan for all states to draw them differently.

The nonpartisan, voter-advocacy group Common Cause supports Hogan’s proposal, and executive director Jennifer Bevan-Dangel said Wednesday she was pleased the governor asked Obama to help.

And from Tamela Baker at the Hagerstown Herald-Mail:

But lawmakers also need to forward the administration’s redistricting-reform bill for “an up or down vote,” he said.

“There can be no possible excuse for keeping this bill hidden in a drawer and simply ignoring the will of nearly every person in Maryland,” he said.
Hogan’s bill, filed in both houses, would create an independent commission to redraw congressional and legislative district lines after each new census. But the measure has languished in committee in both chambers….

“This is a bipartisan issue supported by nearly all Marylanders. It’s time for the legislators to join with us and set an example for the entire nation,” Hogan said, challenging legislators to “set this bill free.”

More: video with the governor!


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