With the shocking and tragic passing of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz a mere half fortnight ago, and with the calendar and Democracy stopping for no one, former Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin announced today that she would run for Governor (with former Baltimore County School Board Member Marisol Johnson joining her on the ticket as the LG candidate).
So what do we know and what do we deem likely?
With the first televised Democratic gubernatorial debate slated for Monday, there will probably be considerable movement over the next several days as the new field finds an initial (and completely fleeting) equilibrium. So let’s do some back-of-the-envelope handicapping.
Without the benefit of recent public polling, let’s say that Kamenetz was at 20% of the Democratic primary vote. Informed instinct tells me that around one third of that number isn’t going to settle on another candidate right away. I know where I think they will go, but let’s hold off on that speculation for now. I estimate that one third to forty percent of the 20% will shift (at least temporarily) to Ervin, as the standard-bearer of the original ticket. That leaves, roughly, a quarter to one third of the vote that will gravitate to another candidate…will they stay there? Some will, some won’t.
If I had to divvy up the remaining slice of the Kamenetz electorate in this model, I would anticipate that Shea and Ross would be the first stop for many (call it a combined 15% of the total between the two). I would place Vignarajah in the same ballpark, pulling in around 6% - 8% of the Kamenetz vote. Finally, a couple might opt for Baker as another Establishment/Executive candidate (although voters had this option previously and went with Kamenetz), another handful might go for Madaleno, and I don’t see much overlap between Kamenetz and Jealous.
That still leaves 80% of the vote – which was either with other candidates or undecided. The last publically available poll back in February showed 32% undecided, that still sounds correct but that number will start dwindling, rather quickly and very soon. Tack on another one percent apiece for Jaffe and one percent for Jones, add it to the 20% for Kamenetz, and we are at 54% of the Democratic primary electorate. Let’s look at the other 46% for a moment, those who have indicated a preference for a particular candidate other than Kamenetz, before going back to the Undecideds…
Short-term (and possibly long-term) impact:
Ervin is a Montgomery County progressive, I believe she chips away significantly at Madaleno’s geographic base, which will compel him to focus his resources and energies in MoCo at a time when he should be expanding his support elsewhere. She has solid left credentials that could appeal to a number of Jealous voters, particularly if his campaign stagnates or implodes. A known figure in the DC Metro area, she can pull some votes out of PG County as well, giving voters another solid alternative to Baker.
Yes, clever and oh-so-dear readers, the present author is well aware that Ms. Ervin is a woman. So yes, Ms. Vignarajah is no longer the only woman seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. However, Vignarajah…as talented as she is…was never going to secure 100% of the women’s vote in the primary. And with @ 60% of the Democratic primary electorate being women, there is plenty of room for both candidates in the field (not to mention the other @ 40% of the D electorate that are men - since both candidates are not competing solely for the votes of women). It makes the road to Annapolis perhaps slightly more challenging for Vignarajah, temporarily (not permanently), but Vignarajah has proven that she is a serious contender who is skilled on the campaign trail. That is why I believe the biggest losers, as a result of Ervin’s entry into the race, are Madaleno and Jealous.
Turning to the Undecideds, so much will be decided between now and Election Day, as voter interest increases and folks enter decision-making mode. I still maintain that Vignarajah is extremely well positioned to capture the lion’s share of the Undecideds, as well as pull votes from other candidates, and thus rise rapidly in the polls in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Ervin will pull votes from other progressives, but not nearly enough to make her the consensus liberal choice. This is why I believe that Vignarajah and Baker will end up being the top two vote-getters in the Democratic field, followed by Jealous, Ervin, and possibly Shea or Ross (one of these two will catch a favorable wind, but not both), and Madaleno all clumped together.
Let’s end with both taglines. Stay tuned, as more will follow. In Solidarity.