First, although there are four score and three D candidates (from Avenatti to Zuckerberg) on the Very Long List, I don’t want to hear about their 2020 plans, musings, and/or aspirations until after November 6, 2018.
I haven’t conducted any formal surveys of the Howard County electorate concerning the Board of Education race. That said, over the past few weeks, I have engaged in a number of casual conversations with voters, both those within and outside of the “activist class” (I am not talking about strictly partisan activists either). Understanding far too well the dangers inherent in small sample sizes, non-randomized survey populations, the framing of questions, etc…I have noticed a few trends.
In terms of the BoE candidates who are either already top-of-mind, or who are receiving an increasing measure of favorable buzz, Sabina Taj and Jen Mallo stand out. While some (but far from all) down-ballot candidacies can be reliant on external institutional support, both Taj and Mallo have been running active campaigns. This is one reason why their Name Identification has increased and they are both part of the Conversation, which is critical. If this trend continues, I believe both will be elected in November.
If you paid me to field a poll this week, I would anticipate that Vicky Cutroneo, based on her experience, her 2016 BoE run, and the somewhat unusual coalition that supports her candidature, would 1) have the highest Name ID & favorability numbers and 2) fare best on a cold ballot test. The discussions in which I have engaged, at least, support this hypothesis. Recognizing that the primary and general electorates are not identical, it would be shocking if she fell outside of the top 4. Her awareness levels extend well beyond the HoCo Echo Chamber and the depth of familiarity goes beyond basic name ID, folks can attach an issue to her and/or cite a position she has held.
There seems to be a correlation between social media activity and awareness of Danny Mackey’s campaign, which could also indicate a relationship between a voter’s age and their awareness of/perception regarding Mackey. Oddly enough, I have not run a regression analysis on this point. I have a sense that Mackey voters have bought into his unique value proposition, at least the one presented by the Mackey campaign. That said, I don’t believe his support is particularly wide.
I am not hearing as much about either Bob Glascock or Robert Miller. Why did I almost type Steve Miller? Does he know of the pompatus of standardized testing? In any event, I think Miller – based on his 2016 candidacy as well as his early backing by the HCEA, has the edge over Glascock. I know Glascock outpolled Miller in the primary, but this goes to the deep-but-not-wide argument. Glascock is very well known in education/activist circles, but how will this translate in a General Election with a turnout around 60%, including many casual voters as well as voters who are relatively new to the County? Furthermore, I don’t see Glascock’s campaign as being as active as the ones being run by Mallo and Taj. I am starting to believe that Glascock will finish 5th in November, behind Miller.
Chao Wu – credit where it is due, he is not running a passive campaign. I don’t think his name identification is that high outside of West Columbia/River Hill/Clarksville. He might crush in a few precincts but I don’t believe he has the strength of support, county-wide, to finish in the top 4.
Anita Pandey. Again, she isn’t as well-known as some BoE candidates (which should be troubling for her campaign, as we stand 35 days away from Election Day). But, the consensus amongst that segment of the electorate that spends their late summer days reading up on BoE issues and platforms is that Pandey has “improved” as a candidate. There is no denying that she is an intellectual heavyweight, but her pre-primary communications could be very, very scattershot. There is a sense that she is offering up a considerably more coherent narrative at campaign events these days, but (again) most of the electorate will be comprised of voters who don’t trot out to candidate forums during the week. I would be surprised if she finished higher than 7th.
Beyond these conversations, I have been taking a look at some numbers re: down-ballot under-voting patterns and the closeness of past BoE races (especially between the last candidate winnowed in and the person who could be described, unfairly and uncharitably, as the Top Loser). I feel as though I have already posted at least part of such an analysis recently. I need to look this up. Stay tuned, as more will follow.