Friday, December 30, 2016

Prelude to a Prelude

Greetings HoCo Readers.

So now that I have the voice of Bill Hader in my head, intoning the words in a TimeLife Announcer persona, "The music...of John Denver..." I am far too mellow to re-visit the 2018 Election Preview.  Tranquility is a scarce commodity, so I will ride this train until the tracks end.

The trouble with the Preview is that it means naming names.  That leads to assessing strengths and weaknesses.  With multiple friends, acquaintances, and non-bitter enemies considering public office in the next cycle, I am loathe to delve into such critiques.  Not during this Holiday Season, not after this long and yet unfinished year.

I will say this, in terms of the County seats upon which I am likely to focus (blog coverage-wise) in 2017-2018, I would say they are, in precisely the following order:

1) County Council District #4.  With a strong probability of a multi-candidate field (as is the likely scenario for all open Council seats), I am most concerned about my home district.  I want a good, smart, progressive, and electable Democrat to emerge as the nominee.  Someone who is running for a Greater Purpose.  I know some very interesting folks who are looking at this seat,  some who I don't know as well, and one or two complete non-starters who need to ask themselves, "am I doing this to promote the common good or am I just on a massive ego trip?" Unfortunately, those in the last group tend to lack that measure of self-awareness.

2) County Council District #1.  Big Jon W. in the only legit swing Council District.  If re-elected, as he should be since he has been an excellent, grassroots-focused, and very practical Good Government public servant, he will be the sole returning member of the Council.  The partisan breakout of the First would appear to invite a top shelf, or at least second tier, R opponent.  So I will probably write about this race a fair amount.

3) County Executive. To be honest, i am just not that focused on the County race that is likely to draw the most attention in 2018.  Oh sure, I could go on about the Trump/Kittleman Republican Party, but is my heart into it at the moment?  Nope.  Perhaps post-Announcement(s).

4) (tie) County Council Districts #2 and #3.  Some interesting potential candidates for both seats.  For now, see my tagline.

6) The Board of Education (4 seats).  As of this writing, I have no idea if all four up for re-election will run again, or if no one will.  My assumption is that two will.  If some interesting challengers leap into the fray, I may spend some time on the BoE, especially when forum season rolls around.

7) County Council District #5.  Wake me up in 2022.

That will do it for today.  I hope everyone has a Happy New Year!

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Crisis of Legitimacy

Originally posted in mid-December 2016.  I pulled it for a variety of reasons. Here is the post, as it was written:

Of the seven closest presidential elections in U.S. history, as determined by requiring the fewest number of vote flips to give the other major candidate a majority in the Electoral College (since the popular vote began to be recorded in the 1824 presidential election), three have occurred in the last five elections.

In eras of relative partisan parity at the national level, close elections will happen.  Such was the case in the late 19th century.  Such is the case now. 

Of those seven closest elections, the losing candidate won the popular vote in three of them, Gore in 2000, Tilden in 1876, and Clinton in 2016.

Small, and sometimes large, events can make a difference.  Gore’s lackluster debate performances, Ralph Nader, and some ballot design choices in Florida cost him the 2000 election.    Tilden was defeated in an election marred by violence, threats of violence, and fraudulent activities throughout the unreconstructed South, requiring an Electoral Commission to resolve the matter (along with some backroom dealing better known as the Compromise of 1877). 

However, these issues were home-grown. 

Clinton’s case is different from the other two as it represents a situation where a foreign power apparently sought to influence our presidential election and, by doing so, potentially changed the outcome.

This author supports the bipartisan call to investigate Russian involvement in our presidential elections.    Foreign interference in our electoral process cannot be countenanced.  Further, if after taking office, it is proven that the current presumptive PEOTUS was aware of, and actively supported, such efforts, the U.S. Congress, in accordance with their Constitutional responsibilities, should begin impeachment proceedings.

Closest presidential elections in U.S. history:

             National Popular         National Popular         Votes to Flip  
              Vote Difference          Vote % lead               

1.     2000    Gore + 543, 895          Gore + 0.5%                269 (.00025%)
2.     1884    Cleveland +57,577      Cleveland +0.6%         524  (.0052%)
3.     1876    Tilden +254,235          Tilden +3.0%               445 (.00529%)
4.     1916    Wilson +578,140         Wilson +3.1%              1,711 (.009%)
5.     1960    Kennedy +112,827      Kennedy +0.17%         12,236 (.018%)
6.     2016    Clinton +2,840,337      Clinton +2.1%              38,599 (.028%)
7.     2004    Bush +3,010,610         Bush +2.5%                 59,300 (.048%)

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Friday, November 4, 2016

On Depression and Packaged Goods

I generally abhor the confessional-style of writing, so please bear with me.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with dysthymia.  It is perhaps better known by the less-snappy moniker, “persistent depressive disorder” which the Mayo Clinic defines as a “continuous long-term (chronic) form of depression.”  It is not adjacent to awesome.

Having possessed a ruthless penchant for melancholy for many years, I wasn’t surprised when the verdict was handed down.

Unlike the popular depiction of depression as being a dark cloud that hovers above one’s noggin, I have a slightly different take on it.   It comes across as more insidious.  Fans of Tolkien know of Grima Wormtongue, the character who provided ill counsel to King Theoden of Rohan. Depression, as least as I know it, operates in a somewhat similar manner.  It whispers.  It prods.  It suggests.  The messaging is rarely, if ever, life-affirming…even though it sometimes passes under the guise of “well meaning.”  It plays on resentments and fears, and it does so flawlessly.

“You can’t do this project. Why would they even ask you? You should focus on what you do best.”

“You’ve been working hard.  You deserve some quiet time, why not stay in your home office all weekend?”

“Vacation?  You have too much going on.  Who wants to spend time traveling? Between client projects and class assignments, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy it anyway.”

I know I shouldn’t indulge the disquiet, but I do.  A check of my Pandora account will show artists like Elliott Smith on heavy rotation. 

Oh the list goes on as this grim counselor is ever-present and always ready to offer its perspective.

In terms of behavior, I am generally able to push past the siren song and accomplish what needs to be done, more so at the job than in my personal life.   That said, it is exhausting, which feeds into the inclination to disengage in a (typically futile) effort to recover.  Of course the fatigue endures, which makes me less likely to run, write, meditate, or do anything else that might conceivably improve my state of mind.  Coupled with anxiety issues, well, double the lack of pleasure, double the dearth of fun.

Medications?  On and off them for years. Some worked for a while.  Others gave me disquietingly vivid dreams (see: sleep, lack thereof). I am taking something now, and it seems to be helping me stave off the lower lows.

Counseling helps.  Having someone to talk through the issues and challenges helps take off some of the edge.  It can offer a positive anticipatory effect (“today is tough, but at least I can talk with Dr. X tomorrow”) and real world advice on how to handle the rougher patches.

So why this topic? Why now?  I don’t know. Perhaps the recent loss of my Dad triggered something.  Perhaps I am square in the midst of a mid-life existential crisis.  Perhaps I am scarfing too many Little Debbie Zebra Cakes. 

It would be easier to say I am writing for some high-minded, altruistic reason, to help others who suffer similarly.  But honestly, at this point, I am just trying to stay above the waves and this blog is a piece of driftwood that I grabbed.

That seems sufficient for today.  Anyway, for the good of our Republic, don’t forget to vote.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Taking Names

Due to (primarily) professional and (partially) personal circumstances, I haven’t been able to focus on local events of late.  So here is a short missive:

Sheriff James Fitzgerald has got to go.  I read the report.  If only 10% of the allegations are true, that should be sufficient for him to vacate the office.  He has lost the moral authority to lead, and should step down immediately.

On another issue, Mike Smith, perhaps gearing up for another spectacular failed run for the Board of Education, crossed the line in his recent testimony before the Howard County BoE.  He should be ashamed of himself.  Should he decide to seek public office again, this blog might decide to focus a fair amount of time and attention on his candidacy.  Such a campaign would probably not enjoy that level of scrutiny.  Speaking of 2018, I probably already have five posts on the sundry limitations of Christine O’Connor.  That is just scratching the surface.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Initial Numbers: Code-Breaking 101

First, it is important to reiterate that this author is not a journalist.  I am not restricted by the SPJ’s Code of Ethics, although I tend to abide by most of its provisions, sometimes deliberately.  Bear this in mind.

Second, I assume some of the names will decide to not seek public office in 2018.  If someone passed along a solid tip or a random musing, I gave each equal weight for the purposes of this exercise.  So, don’t get freaked out.  Or do.

So, here are the first six races of note.   

1. CE: R (2), D (9).  Multiple if/then statements on the D side.

2. CC1: R (2 ½ ) , D (1 ½ ).  Only CC race with an incumbent.
3. CC2: R (1), D (5).  I think the Conventional Wisdom in this race misses the mark.
4. CC3: R (5), D (5).  Might end up being the most interesting race in the County in ’18.
5. CC4: R (?), D (8). My home district.  I will be very active here. Very.
6. CC5: R (3), D (3). I don’t see the flip yet, but ’18 will be more competitive.

Beyond the above, I also heard another four names for CC, but not attached to any specific district.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

So Here’s the Deal: A Preview, a Review, and an Update


First, I would like to thank everyone who submitted names for consideration for local 2018 races.  I deeply appreciate the thoughtfulness and enthusiasm of those who offered up some possible candidates.

The good news:  dozens of names rolled in and while I believe the information largely aligns with what passes for common knowledge, there are some intriguing individuals and scenarios being floated.  Informed wisdom or wild speculation? You decide…eventually.

The bad news:  this post will have to wait.  I don’t want to run the risk of my 2018 post being a distraction, even in the slightest, from the important 2016 election.  Game 1 of the double-header is well underway, I don’t want to start thinking too much about Game 2 now.

What I can do is, at some point, and most likely in August, list the number of candidates who are connected with a particular race, perhaps even including their party affiliation (for the non-BoE races).  No names or other identifying information will be provided…yet.  The full post, with all of the tantalizing details (and initial analysis?), will be posted in mid-November.


So I ordered my copy of Adam Gordon Sachs’ book, “Don’t Knock, He’s Dead: a Longshot Candidate Gets Schooled in the Unseemly Underbelly of American Campaign Politics” off of Amazon a few days ago.  As you may know, he ran for Delegate in Maryland’s 12th House District in 2014.  

It is three parts campaign dairy, one part policy tract, one part biography, and one part of musings on politics as it is practiced, nationally and in Maryland, in the modern era. 

As a big fan of the political campaign journal genre, I quite enjoyed Sachs’ tome.  There are so many candidates for state legislature, yet one rarely has the opportunity to hear their stories. 

Clocking in at around 340 pages, it is a surprisingly quick read.  The chapters are largely short and story-driven, this is a good beach book.

There are, unsurprisingly, a number of familiar names in his narrative, including this author.  If you like reading about local personalities and issues, then I highly recommend “Don’t Knock, He’s Dead.”

There was one editorial decision I found curious; he chose to provide sobriquets for candidates.  It isn’t challenging to decipher who is who, if you followed the race.  Some nicknames are complimentary, others less so.

I suppose I should disclose that I voted for Sachs, along with two others, in the vote-for-no-more-than-three lively multi-candidate Democratic primary election.  And I wrote about his campaign, as did other bloggers who are also mentioned in Sachs’ work.

Overall, this is the kind of book that makes me think Mr. Sachs is unlikely to seek elective office in the future.  His observations and anecdotes will amuse some and infuriate others.  It reads like an honest account of his perspective on health care, campaign finance, and politics…so, in my opinion, it’s worth picking up.


Between 1999 and 2015, I held two jobs.  Over the past 20 months, I shifted from a decade of self-employment as a pollster and strategic communications counselor to an SVP role with a global market research agency back to heading up my own communications and research firm (along with a very, very brief stint in the non-profit world).  Beginning on August 1, I will be assuming the role of Managing Director, North America of a media analysis company (details to follow).   I do not yet know what this means in terms of this blog.  I imagine my posting frequency might be somewhat less than it is now; and I may focus more on HoCo as opposed to national issues which, based on my page view counts, is probably fine by my readers.  Do I still plan on covering Election ’18? Absolutely.  Will I be talking about local issues? Of course.  Will some articles focus on Slats?  I can’t imagine otherwise.  

As long as I can locate the proper balance between serving some form of public good, while having a creative outlet for personal expression, I believe this blog will continue to exist, in one form or another, for some time.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.