Thursday, July 24, 2014

And So It Begins: TV Ads and the County Exec Race

As was covered here, Republican State Senator & County Executive candidate Allan Kittleman launched his air game this week.

I believe this represents the first major strategic mistake by his campaign.

I don’t believe a critical mass of voters, a number likely to comprise a sizable portion of the November 2014 electorate, are paying attention to political news in late July.  Some voters are keyed in, but not enough to warrant a significant television ad buy in the post-primary/pre-Labor Day weekend timeframe.

From a strictly technical perspective, the “[select] person-on-the-street” approach of the 30-second spot I viewed last night makes sense.  Third party validation by a few Independent and Democratic voters is smart, in light of the HoCo party affiliation numbers.  The production quality of the ad was…OK.  Not polished, not terrible. Somewhere between Steven Spielberg and Mark Borchardt.  The messaging construct was straightforward “I am a [D/I] but I am voting for Kittleman...” About what one would expect from this sort of commercial.

Personally, I think he is flushing cash.  These spots are what you run in September… with a heavier, more concentrated, advertising buy.  I am assuming the Kittleman high command discussed the timing and the explored the merits of an early launch. There is a legitimate case to be made: frame the narrative of the fall campaign now, save some funds by going up when it is less expensive, maybe/hopefully get a spike with Name ID and a more favorable ballot test to help improve fundraising sooner than later, etc…

Note that I said that there is a legitimate case, but not a compelling one.  There are other, better ways to spend time and resources in July and August...especially when:

a) Funds are limited (Watson enjoys a substantial fundraising advantage over Kittleman) and 
b) When the ad is not a game-changer.  The ad I watched did not fall into that category.   

The bottom line: if too few people are watching, what impact are the TV ads really having?   

By October, the Kittleman campaign is going to wish they didn’t go up on the air so early.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.      

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

HoCo BoE & HCEA (On Apples and Ballots)

A follow-up on my post from yesterday:

There is enough general mishegas going on in and around the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS to you and me) that could lead to a major upheaval in the Board of Education race. Given the players and issues involved, there is sufficient atmospheric volatility that might generate some unexpected outcomes.    

Nevertheless, I would still wager that both incumbents seeking another term in office will be re-elected.  Perhaps one of them ends up in third place but, as of this writing, Vaillancourt and French are good bets for a one-two finish in November.

Regarding the impact of the Howard County Education Association (HCEA) on the HoCo BoE primary election results….well, I thought I already wrote about this.  A long-time reader asked me about it and I was 95% certain it was covered in another post.  So I searched for it online, nothing. 

I have a folder containing about a dozen half-written posts…just random paragraphs sitting around, waiting to be shaped into something, or discarded entirely.  As it turns out, the BoE/Apple Ballot text was right there. So let me combine that (brief) review with the precinct analysis I conducted recently.

In short, the HCEA endorsement of Altwerger, Beams, Furman and Vaillancourt were significant vote drivers, and were of particular importance for the first three names in this sentence.  Given the amount (of dollars) spent on the race by the candidates themselves (negligible), the HCEA money and muscle that went to work for the four constituted a major voter information delivery vehicle. And it produced.

Let us look at this another way.  If you collapse all of the candidate votes (at the polls, absentee, provisional and early voting center) into one bucket and divide it by the number of precincts in Howard County (118), you end up with the following votes in this artificially constructed “average” precinct:

1.     Vaillancourt   134 (HCEA backed)(Incumbent)
2.     French             124 (Incumbent)
3.   Altwerger       108 (HCEA backed)
4.   Furman          101 (HCEA backed)
____________________________________Top Four Vote-Getters
5.   Beams              85 (HCEA backed)
6.   O’Connor         72
7.   Dyer                  65
8.   Smith                57
____________________________________Top Eight Advance to the General Election
9.   Kornreich         54
10. Butler                50    
11. Evans Arthurs 49    
12. Andrews           49
13. Baek                   47
As always, this is strictly my opinion.  While I don’t have any poll data to verify the following hypothesis, I believe – without the HCEA endorsement – that Vaillancourt would have placed second in the June election.  Her 10-vote per precinct victory margin over French – who is practically a Howard County institution - was supplied by her inclusion on the Apple Ballot. 

And while Altwerger, Furman and Beams are known in certain communities, none of them have the name ID enjoyed by the two incumbents on the ballot; not amongst the primary electorate as a whole.  Dyer is probably better known than those three, even if his Fav/Unfav nets out break-even or negative (again, I have no current data on this). So while they all have strengths, I am inclined to believe that their respective third, fourth and fifth place finishes were driven, in large measure, by the energetic support of the HCEA.

So let future candidates for the BoE – incumbents and challengers alike – take note of that.

Will I be writing about the Kittleman ad blitz soon? Oh yes.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HoCo Board of Education Primary Election - By the Numbers

Warning:  the author of this blog used to peruse the Baseball Encyclopedia, a massive tome, in the early and mid 80s in a quest to learn #allstats (with apologies to a one “M.G.” for using a derivative of her famous hashtag).

So prepare yourself for a cavalcade…a cavalcade of numbers!

As you are no doubt aware, Cindy Vaillancourt secured the greatest number of votes in the June primary election (15,851), followed by Sandie French (14,688), Bess Altwerger (12,733), and Dan Furman (11,880). 

In this election cycle, the top four vote getters in the general election will be elected to four-year terms on the Howard County Board of Education.   So finishing in the top four in November is a Big Deal.  [Note: In presidential election years (since 2008 anyway), only the top three candidates are elected to the Board. The joys of staggered terms of office].

But enough of these Captain Exposition digressions, let us return to the recent primary official returns…Dr. Zaneb Beams (10,042), Christine O’Connor (8,477), Allen Dyer (7,724), and Mike Smith (6,730) secured the fifth through the eighth positions and will also advance to the general election ballot.

Looking at the precincts:

Vaillancourt placed first in 71 of the 118 Howard County precincts (excluding the absentee, provisional and early voting center votes). Sandie French won in 42, followed by Bess Altwerger (3), Christine O’Connor (3), and Dan Furman (1).  In case you were counting, and I know you were, there were ties for first-place in two precincts.

Vaillancourt and French also finished second in 39 precincts apiece.  Altwerger was second in 28, followed by Furman (7), O’Connor (6), Dyer (2), Olga Butler (1), Leslie Kornreich (1) and Smith (1).

So what does this all mean?  Understanding that the general election electorate tends to be substantially larger than (and significantly different from) a primary election electorate, it tells us a couple of things:

Barring a major shake-up, it is likely that the two incumbents seeking re-election (Vaillancourt and French) will be successful.  In 2006, Frank Aquino and Sandie French were the top two vote getters, respectively, in the primary election.  They maintained those positions in the general election.  The same outcome occurred in 2008 with Janet Siddiqui and Ellen Flynn Giles.  In 2010, French secured the greatest number of votes in the primary election, followed by Aquino.  They flipped positions in the general, with Aquino obtaining a plurality with a 1,005-vote margin over French.  The earlier 1-2 pattern was revisited with Siddiqui placing first and Ann DeLacy second in both the primary and general 2012 elections. 

So while both Vaillancourt and French need to expand their bases, considerably, in order to return for another term, recent history would seem to indicate they are better positioned for a top-four finish than the other six candidates.

As non-incumbents, Altwerger (3rd) and Furman (4th) will have to hustle to maintain their in-the-money positions.

Third place finishers in recent Board of Education primary elections have a mixed track record.  Winners include Patricia Gordon (third in both the primary and general election in 2006) and Giles (also third in both elections in 2012).  Both were also incumbents.  On the other hand, challenger Diane Butler placed third in the 2008 primary…only to finish fourth (behind Dyer) and thus failed in her election bid.  Another then challenger and now BoE nominee Larry Walker secured the third position in the 2010 primary, but finished eighth in the general election. 

Those who place fourth in “modern era” BoE primaries have (generally) fared well.  The roster of the victorious includes Lawrence Cohen (fourth in both the primary and general in 2006), Dyer (fourth in the primary but making the cut-off with a third place finish in 2008), and Brian Meshkin (fourth in the 2010 primary; third in the general election of the same year).  In 2012, Jackie Scott held the fourth position in the primary, but went on to the finish sixth in the general.

Pardon as I slip into editorial mode; but I voted for Beams in the primary and I am inclined to cast a ballot for her in November.  From a geographic perspective, Beams tended to perform consistently.  She finished in the top eight in over 100 precincts but finished no higher than third in any precinct. 

I am also taking a good look at Christine O’Connor’s candidacy.  She has more of an identifiable geographic base, securing first or second place finishes in nine eastern HoCo precincts.  

Both Beams and O’Connor will need to build broader coalitions to have any hope of winning a seat this time around.

I am concerned that Dyer will be able to trade off of his relatively high name identification and wind up finishing fourth, or even third.  This author finds that scenario unpalatable. 

Beyond having an easy-to-pronounce last name and a distinctive affinity for alternative neckwear options, I don’t see Mike Smith placing any higher than seventh, sixth on a freakishly good day.

Looking at those who did not advance to the general election:

Kornreich is entering the realm of frequent (dare I say “perennial?”) candidate although, in all fairness, she came close to eighth place and a ticket to the Big Show.  My thoughts on Corey Andrews and electoral politics are fairly well known.  Tom Baek seems like a good, thoughtful person but I don’t believe he possesses a fantastic candidate skill-set.  Not a criticism, just a personal opinion that he is not a Natural politico.    

I believe that Olga Butler and Maureen Evans Arthurs ran decent campaigns and should consider seeking public office down the road.  

But back to 2014, I project that the real action will be for the third and fourth positions and we are going to see a dogfight involving five candidates for those two slots: Altwerger, Furman, Beams, O’Connor, and Dyer.  With slightly over 100 days to go until Election Day, it will be a delight watching this race evolve.

Now where did I put those encyclopedias?

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wine, Wilde Lake and Picnic Watch 2014!

While not a true state of doldrums, the months of July and August tend not to be periods of high drama when it comes to the political scene, at least not in Maryland nowadays.  The new late June primary now provides the opportunity for a pre-Labor Day respite from the crushing grind and manic pace of the trail.  Not a full R & R trip by any means, but a chance to re-group and launch into the General Election with a slightly more humane campaign schedule…at least until September rolls around.

Meanwhile, back in the Great Lake State, a reindeer farmer-and-Santa-Claus-impersonator-turned-U.S. Representative is facing off against a foreclosure attorney-misery profiteer for the GOP nomination for U.S. Congress in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District.  Truth > Fiction. The outcome of that match-up will be decided on August 5.

In other news, Howard County needs some vineyards and wineries.  While not (yet) an expert on the various soils and micro-climates of possible sites (presumably in the western part of the county), I have to believe, given the success of vineyards in and around Mt. Airy (the Frederick Wine Trail), that oenophiles should have some HoCo destinations from which to choose.  It goes beyond wine, of course.  Wineries tend to be excellent sites for weddings, celebrations, family gatherings, live music and a host of other happenings featuring general merriment. 

In other, other news…I am going through the Board of Education Primary Election returns now.  Why? Because I have odd hobbies. Beyond that, I am hoping to uncover some intriguing precinct-level voting results. With any luck, I will post those findings between now and the end of the month.

Turning to my neighborhood, I am delighted to report that my good friend Yolanda Epps has been appointed to the Wilde Lake Village Board.  She is razor sharp and dedicated to our community; I know she will be an excellent member of the WLVB.   

Speaking of the Village, don’t forget that the Second Annual Wilde Lake Old-Fashioned Picnic will occur on Saturday, September 13 and will run from 11 am to 3 pm.  Good people, good food, good entertainment.  Who can ask for more?

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Watson - Kittleman and General Election Forum I

From the east, I rolled into the parking lot adjacent to the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, just ahead of what looked like a derecho tumbling in from the west.  The skies, like the two McDonald’s cheeseburgers I ruefully scarfed down for my dinner-in-a-Honda, added to a sense of foreboding.   Would the power go out at my destination, the aforementioned Center that, at that very evening, was hosting the PFLAG-sponsored Howard County Executive Candidate Forum?  Was my last-minute gastronomical choice something I would regret?  Too many questions, too many onions.

Once safely inside the building, I chatted with some friends, old and new, and after hearing about the transcendence of basil ice cream at Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen (note: must return there soon), I took my seat.   The Forum, featuring Democratic County Council Member Courtney Watson and Republican State Senator Allan Kittleman, was about to begin.
Let’s skip to the key take-away for a moment. Fundamentally, I think both candidates had good nights.   Technically, they both performed at a high level. But this is America and we like winners and losers, victors and vanquished.   Ties are for the World Cup.

So, I thought, if I was a candidate for County Executive, whose evening would I have rather had.  If ties go to the runner, in Howard County, they go to the Democrat.  And I think Watson beat Kittleman by half-a-step, so she would be the winner.  Here is why:

But first, before I get into any specific hits or misses, it is noteworthy that the very first question dealt with development and the Inner Arbor and both candidates voiced support for the Inner Arbor Plan.  According to my hand-written notes, Kittleman said that the Plan would be “a good thing for Howard County” while Watson indicated that she was “excited about the Inner Arbor Plan.”  There you have it, bipartisan support for the Inner Arbor.  Both candidates expressed hope for a productive implementation process moving forward. Let’s hope that everyone is listening on that point.

Rather than do a topic-by-topic summary/analysis, which Amanda Yeager did with her usual skill and panache (the article can be found right here), I will focus on some of the prevailing themes and other notable moments.

Watson’s responses to the moderator’s questions tended to follow a logical progression: respond directly to the query posed, lay out the facts (and figures) as well as the relevant history on the issue, shift to the future by talking about a path forward with specific programs and policy proposals.  Very rational, very efficient.  The message is clear: Watson has a serious command of the issues facing Howard County and the knowledge to work out practical solutions to these challenges.

Kittleman’s replies tended to be broader, with more of an emphasis on a combination of general principles (including “predictability for businesses,” “we need people to have a seat at the table,” and we must “live within our means”) with anecdotal information/mini-vignettes to illustrate/support a larger narrative.  He would frequently pivot to his experience working at both the county and state levels and talk about working across party lines.  Overall, it made for an effective, more story-driven, presentation.

But now we come to the central dilemma facing the Kittleman campaign, in stressing his independence, he is highlighting that from which he is running away – an increasingly conservative Republican Party, a party to which he still belongs, a party that is out-of-touch with the values of many Howard County voters.  To listen to him speak is to hear a voice from the past…a reminder that once-upon-a-time there was a Ford/Rockefeller wing of the GOP.  He states he is running to reclaim the party, but why should the electorate get involved in his realignment efforts? Voters already have a progressive choice in Courtney Watson and the Democratic Party.  Why vote Republican in light of the GOP's platform and priorities?  I don’t believe that Kittleman has a compelling answer to that query, so he triangulates, hoping that his identification with, and advocacy for, certain progressive causes will peel away just enough votes in November. 

Ultimately, I believe Kittleman is asking for voters to take one leap too many, and in the wrong direction.  I understand the frustration he is experiencing with today’s GOP and commend him for wanting to bring the party back from the brink.  But given a choice between a candidate representing a progressive party; and a candidate from a conservative party, who is more likely to be cross-pressured by a right-wing base of supporters, I think the vast majority of Democrats, most independent-minded moderates, and even some Republicans, will choose Courtney Watson.  At least this is where I believe we are headed.  Kittleman has approximately 118 days to shake things up and, personally, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes.

Highlights for both candidates:

I thought Watson showed some passion when talking about mental health as a public crisis in “Howard County and beyond.”  The listener came away with the impression that she really wanted to work on this challenge, and that same determination carried over to her response on the next question, which focused on LGBTQ homelessness.

Apparently some in the audience came away with a different perception of Kittleman’s closing remarks.  They thought he sounded too strident, too defensive, and/or talked too much about himself.  I get where they are coming from, but I thought he demonstrated genuine passion (there is that word again) when he discussed equal rights and the importance of those values and his fight to defend such principles (with his support for Maryland’s Question 6 being the focus of his statement).  

I believe the highlights of both candidates elevated the discourse.  Kudos to both.  
Question from the mailbox: “So did anyone go negative?”

Not too many elbows were thrown.  Kittleman was the first to venture in what could be described as comparative campaigning.  In response to a question that centered about how best to preserve the character of our communities, in light of development in certain areas, and what would the candidates do in terms of housing options, he basically said that the County’s plan regarding housing “is not working.”

Watson decided to shine the spotlight on some votes that Kittleman took; votes against funding a local public safety training center and against a police helicopter.  Kittleman’s response came across as just a little defensive, just a bit shaky. 

Both statements were well within the bounds of fair play.  No low blows. The exchanges allowed the voters to learn a little more about the two candidates.

Overall, it was a well-organized event that covered a wide range of important issues and those in attendance heard some substantive responses.  Both candidates probably walked away feeling as though they largely accomplished what they set out to achieve. It marked a strong start to the General Election Forum season.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

On Brown and the Case for a Maryland Deal

From time to time, a political campaign comes along that features a serious but relatively uninspiring candidate, who is nonetheless supported by citizens who are inspired by his or her candidacy.  As of this writing, unfortunately, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown falls into that category.

I am offended by those who claim that the Brown/Ulman campaign has been "gutless" (as one columnist recently opined).  They did run a rather small-c conservative effort.  Avoid high risk & high reward.  Three yards and a cloud of dust. Assume Doug Gansler is too flawed and his positioning too conservative to emerge as a palatable alternative; anticipate that Heather Mizeur will generate a great deal of excitement with the Liberals, but no one else. Don't panic.  Don't deviate from the strategy. Let the fundraising, the ad buys and the institutional/organizational support carry the day.

And it did.  Which might tempt someone in the Brown/Ulman orbit to shout out, "Second verse, same as the first!"  And why not?  Surely the battle for the Democratic nomination would be the tougher fight...why expend political capital against a B-tier GOP gubernatorial nominee like Lawrence "Uncle Lar'" Hogan?

The reasons are straightforward.

First, Hogan may be a second-stringer but, as was witnessed across the state in the primary election, odd things can happen in elections with lower voter participation rates.  Historically, general election turnout is considerably lower in mid-Presidential term election years; and it tends to favor the party that does not control the White House.  I don't have the statewide data in front of me...but in Howard County, in recent cycles, turnout has been just north of 80% in presidential elections and 60%-65% in mid-term elections.  Could a national GOP wave elect Hogan? Highly unlikely, but not impossible.  Running a simple, narrowly-focused turn-out-the D base effort probably puts a hard ceiling of 55% on the Brown/Ulman ticket, and increases the dangers of a handful of missteps knocking the campaign further to the left, away from the more independent-minded voters that will constitute a larger percentage of the November 2014 electorate.  

Second, there is a link between election outcomes and the ability to govern effectively.  Lt. Governor Brown, if elected our next Governor, will want a governing mandate.  I know the ticket has a vision for Maryland, a version of it can be found on the campaign site here. That said, I believe the communications effort behind the advancement of said vision (the overarching narrative and the supporting policy proposals) has been...a little too cautious.  This is a time for boldness, send a clear message that the Democratic Party has substantive ideas to improve the lives of working and middle class Americans.   Folks in Annapolis - and beyond - will take note if Lt. Governor Brown obtains 57%+ of the vote in what is presumed to be a decent year for Republicans nationwide.  O'Malley's high-water mark was 56.2%, and Brown won't exceed that percentage playing small ball.

There was a New Deal and a Fair Deal...why not a Maryland Deal?   Package a combination of progressive ideas on economic growth/job creation and education reform with some populist good government proposals and a renewed call for civic engagement and public service (build upon the Compact with Maryland Veterans).  An amalgamation of red meat for the base and policy positions that appeal to the unaffiliated, the post-partisan, and other persuadables who can be convinced that a Hogan Administration in Maryland would be a recipe for the kind of stagnation found in the District.  
 Moreover, a resounding win will better enable Brown to advance his legislative agenda, and better position him (and his running mate Howard County Executive Ken Ulman) for whatever opportunities might present themselves a bit further down the road.  

If nothing else, having Brown and Ulman out on the campaign trail across the State - in Democratic strong-holds, swing districts and even some marginal R precincts - actively and consistently promoting a larger and compelling vision for the state, offering up the perfect measure of Change and Continuity, well, that would be inspiring.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

District 12 - By The Numbers

Digging through the weeds today.  Reading through the unofficial primary election results, looking for anything that local political geeks, such as this author, might find to be of interest.  Bear in mind that these are the unofficial numbers.

[I cited the location of the polling places, in certain instances, to provide an additional layer of geographic specificity…and for future trivia questions for those who delight in the incredibly obscure].

Looking at the overall vote totals in Howard County reported to date (which include 35 of 37 precincts, including 31 physical election-day precincts, one of two absentee vote precincts, zero of one provisional vote precinct, and three early voting center precincts), here is where we stand:

Candidate                  Votes

Lam                             4,719
Hill                              4,454
Ebersole                     2,839
Dongarra                    1,617
Stewart                       1,408
Bailey                          785
McGuirk-Spence        777
Gisriel                         621
Sachs                          486
Cohen                         346

Topline observation: As many observers expected, Lam and Hill crushed in HoCo.  Ebersole’s margin over Dongarra in Howard County enabled him to overcome Dongarra’s lead in Baltimore County.

Among voters who cast their ballot at the polls in Howard County, on Election Day:

Terri Hill and Clarence Lam flat-out dominated Howard County, finishing first or second in all thirty-one precincts.  Lam carried 20 precincts while Hill won 10 precincts.  They tied in one precinct (1-005, the Worthington Elementary School Gym).  

Rebecca Dongarra came close to a second place finish in precinct 1-011 (the Ilchester Elementary School Gym), garnering 34 votes compared to 35 for Lam.

Nick Stewart obtained the third slot in precinct 02-21 (the Northfield Elementary School Cafeteria), but there were few votes reported out of that precinct (a total of 38 votes cast, with Stewart’s name checked on 15 of those ballots compared to 16 for Lam).

As one might expect based on the overall numbers, Eric Ebersole finished third in most precincts, with Dongarra and Stewart obtaining more votes than Ebersole in a handful of precincts, primarily in the eastern part of D12 in Howard County.

Still in Howard County: Lam and Hill also tied with 100 votes apiece on the first absentee vote canvass.  Lam edged Hill for first place among early voters (1,585 to 1,501). Ebersole was third among this early voting population with 970 votes.

Turning to D12 in Baltimore County, with 22 of 25 precincts reporting (including 14 physical election day precincts, eight of eight early voting center precincts, zero of two absentee vote precincts and zero of one provisional vote precincts), here is where we stand:

Candidate                              Votes

Dongarra                                2,027
Ebersole                                 1,490
Stewart                                   1,485
Hill                                          1,472
Lam                                         1,433
McGuirk-Spence                    1,048
Bailey                                      738
Gisriel                                     578
Sachs                                      239
Cohen                                     212

Topline observations:  The race for second place was tight, with the second through fifth place finishers all garnering between 1,433 and 1,490 votes.  Most likely unsurprisingly, relative to the number of votes cast in each county, McGuirk-Spence and Bailey fared better in Baltimore County compared to Howard County.

Starting with those who cast their ballots at the polls on Election Day in Baltimore County:

This is where Rebecca Dongarra ran strongest, capturing a plurality of the vote in five of the 14 precincts.  Nick Stewart also carried five precincts.  Hill placed first in two precincts, with Ebersole and Bailey winning one apiece.

Dongarra won in precincts such as 1-13 (the Hillcrest Elementary School Gym) and 1-14 (the Catonsville High School Gym), winning the former by a decent margin over the second place finisher, Eric Ebersole (by a margin of 263 votes to 189 votes).  She also won in 1-16 (the Charlestown Retirement Community Conference Center), 13-1 (the Maiden Choice School Gym) and 13-4 (the Relay Elementary School Gym). 

Stewart carried 13 – 2 (the Arbutus Fire Hall), 13-3 (the Arbutus Middle School Cafeteria), 13 -5 (the Halethorpe Elementary School Gym), 13 – 6 (the Lansdowne Middle School Cafeteria), and 13-8 (the English Consul Volunteer Fire Department Hall).  He broke into the top three in a couple of the other precincts, most notably a solid second place showing in the aforementioned 13-4.

Hill won 1- 9 (the Banneker Community Center Gym) and 13-7 (the Baltimore Highlands Elementary School Cafeteria).  She finished in the top three in several precincts.

Ebersole won in 1-10 (the Hillcrest Elementary School Cafeteria) by a narrow 217 – 212 margin over Dongarra.  He ran a solid second to Dongarra in 1-13 and 1- 14 (both precincts mentioned above).

Brian Bailey carried 13-9 (the Riverview Elementary School Cafeteria) while finishing second behind Stewart in 13-8. 

Broken out separately from the overall Baltimore County figures reported above, Dongarra placed first in the first absentee vote canvass (51 votes with Lam the second place finisher at 49).  Dongarra also obtained the greatest number of early voting center votes (441 with Lam again placing second with 402, slightly ahead of Ebersole at 399….with Hill (329) and Stewart (294) fourth and fifth, respectively).

So what does this all mean?

If Dongarra gained eight votes, and Ebersole lost eight votes, in each of the 45 physical precincts, Dongarra would be in third place.  Candidate skill-sets and other variables aside, I believe the endorsements by the MSEA (and to a significant but somewhat lesser extent the SEIU) helped propel Ebersole into the top three…and, barring a highly improbable upset, a ticket to Annapolis.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.