Friday, April 29, 2016

So What's Next? '16/'18 Edition

Now that Maryland’s 2016 Primary Election is in the firm and unforgiving grasp of the past, shrewd Howard County political observers are now focused on the Long Slog to the General Election…not only for the importance it has in and of itself, but also as a harbinger for 2018 (and beyond).

At the precinct level, there were some quirky voting patterns evident in the 2014 returns.  Were they the by-product of a weak Democratic gubernatorial candidate? Second presidential term, mid-term fatigue with the party that holds the White House?  A local Republican Party that is showing signs of life in not just the West but in the swing First County Council district and generally reliably Democratic Columbia?  Was 2014 a once in a decade (or generation) event, or a sign of votes to come?

Thought experiment.  Trump is so idiosyncratic, it would be difficult to construe a Trump victory in Howard County in November to mean that we are on the precipice of a local liberal/conservative realignment.  Even if he obtained a majority of the local vote, and managed to win election to the Presidency, Trump would have plenty of time between January 20, 2017 and November 2018 to completely wreck the GOP brand.  In such a scenario, the over/under for County Executive Allan Kittleman to call for a 2020 primary challenge to the Donald would be June 30, 2018.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

That said, with the County Exec up for re-election, multiple state legislative and Board of Education races of interest, and four open County Council seats in the ’18 cycle, you better believe that local operatives, activists, and power brokers will spend many chilly November nights pouring over the ’16 Official General Election Results data, searching for portents that will inform their decision-making processes.  

Amidst all of this uncertainty, all we can rely upon is mercurial human nature itself. 

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Obligatory Post Election Post

Highlights with 110 of 124 precincts reporting:

-       Once again, the HCEA demonstrated its electoral intelligence and clout.  They endorsed three strong Board of Education candidates, who emerged as the top three vote-getters.  45.7% of the total BoE votes cast (179, 469 and counting…bearing in mind that voters could vote for up to three candidates) were for HCEA-backed candidates.
-       Coombs, Delmont-Small, and Ellis were smart to focus their campaigns on positive, reform-centric themes. 
-       Giles clearly made an attempt to create some distance between herself and the other incumbents.  One could argue that this modified triangulation strategy succeeded only in reinforcing the anti-incumbent frame.
-       With two Board of Education incumbents losing their re-election bids, the question becomes:  what is the best vehicle for ensuring Siddiqui’s defeat in November?  With five very good challenger options, some strategic voting might prove necessary in the general election to ensure a clean sweep.  
-       It’s time for Sanders voters (I was one) to recognize that Clinton is the best and only hope for progressives who wish to build upon the Obama Administration’s successes. 
-       I was hoping that Edwards would be more competitive in Howard County.  That said, Van Hollen's nomination should ensure that Maryland is represented by two Democrats in the U.S. Senate in the next Congress.   

 Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ambulatory Guidance

“Don’t step on your own balls.” – Paul Welday, 1995

The Michigan-based Republican strategist who uttered these words passed away yesterday, at the age of 57.

He said this phrase at an organizational meeting for Ronna Romney for U.S. Senate, which was her second bid for that high public office.  He was the Campaign Manager and the attendees were, like me, relatively young operatives.  He was in his late 30s and thus at least a half-generation older than the others in the room.   

In his own earthy way, he was advising the assembled to be mindful, to reflect before acting, to minimize the risk of unforced errors.   It remains good counsel.

Welday remained in the political consulting and government affairs arenas.  He worked hard and was well-respected.   He sought elective office a couple of times and while he helped many other candidates win, he couldn’t quite grasp that particular brass ring for himself.  That said, he would have made a darn good Member of Congress.

On this Primary Election Night, I will hoist a tumbler of Dewar’s, his beverage of choice, in his memory.  He was one of us.

Stay tuned as more will follow.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Uncommonly Brief

“One good thing about the sameness of America’s suburbs, you can always imagine that you are someplace else.” – S. MacCune (circa 1992)

Nostalgia is a persistent companion…and his reflections on homogeneity and city planning revisited me after nearly a quarter century.

Of course it would be easy to veer off in the direction of Columbia triumphalism.  And these thoughts did occur as I was jaunting back to the Home Office in Wilde Lake.  Northbound on Broken Land.

Frozen in one moment in time, the nascent development on the real estate known as the Crescent may appear to be a move in the direction of uniformity.  Hopefully, as the nearby Inner Arbor takes shape, our evolving City Center will retain a unique character.

Turning from the structures to the people, I am looking forward to reviewing the Primary Election results on Wednesday morning. I am doubly hopeful that our citizens will demonstrate, at the ballot box, that they want something new, different, and better.

Howard County Board of Education:  Coombs, Ellis, Miller
U.S. Senate:  Edwards
President:  Sanders

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Unfinished Business - Wilde Lake Edition

With Alta Wilde Lake transforming the landscape of our community, I thought I would take a moment to focus on some other developments for which the populace is clamoring:

- Progress on the Howard Community College-Wilde Lake pathway connection.  Our Village Center should be the default go-to for HCC staffers and students looking for a near-by, off-campus, non-Mall dining and hang out destination.  Our "tucked away" geographic positioning requires a clear link between the College and the Center.  Even without the soon-to-arrive new residents and retail options, Wilde Lake's Village Center feels considerably more alive than it did five years ago.  The pathway would help expedite the ongoing revitalization of our Village.

- Bringing in the new tenant for the old KFC space, sooner than later.  I have been hearing teasing statements about possible interest in this location for months.  I am getting tired of seeing the dilapidated structure that lingers across the street from our brand new CVS.  The eyesore-ness is bursting past the warped fence intended to minimize the aesthetic impact of the old building on passers-by.  Let's open up the new shop as soon as possible.

- Better grocery options in West Columbia.  David's Natural Market is boffo.  Safeway is pathetic: the ironically named "customer service" desk is sparsely staffed, Manager [name not disclosed, identifying descriptor redacted] is largely invisible, and the loitering situation - while better - remains an issue.  Nearby folks deserve a clean, safe, efficient, and value-oriented grocery store.  If Safeway can't manage this, perhaps we need to find a new grocery store tenant in the Harper's Choice Village Center, or more bus lines running from that community to the Giant off of Cedar Lane.  That store is far superior to the HC Safeway.

Yes, I got hyper-local for a minute. It was overdue.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.



Friday, April 8, 2016


I have to admit, the Barcelona excursion was quite restorative.   It feels good to have a fresh cup of perspective.

I will keep it short, my third vote in the upcoming primary election for the HoCo BoE will be going to Robert Wayne Miller.

In terms of his personal attributes, as I discussed previously, he is a thoughtful individual with a deep understanding of education issues. 

He deserves to be on the general election ballot.

I expect that Ellis and Coombs will advance to the top six.  Moreover, I anticipate that Siddiqui and Giles will also be on the November ballot.

That leaves two remaining positions.  I believe it is likely that Delmont-Small will be a leading vote-getter, so that is one member of the Slate of Two. 

Hopefully, DeLacy will finish seventh (or worse), so either Miller or Cutroneo will compete in the general election.  Of the two latter candidates, for me, Miller has the edge. 

Stay tuned, as more will follow.