Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Wait...there is a Pulse!

Projected Order of Finish:  Maryland’s 7th Congressional District – Special Primary Election
(As of 11/26/2019)
The top half:
1.     Senator Jill Carter.  22%.  Clear Left choice in a crowded field. Existing electoral base.
2.     Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.  19%.  Party connections & strong policy background.
3.     Former U.S. Representative Kweisi Mfume.  15%. Establishment. It’s not 1996 anymore.
4.     Delegate Dr. Terri Hill. 12%. Good progressive credentials & only top-flight HoCo candidate.  How much vote can her campaign pull out of Baltimore County and the City?
5.     Delegate Talmadge Branch.  8%. Majority Whip in Annapolis but an unclear path to D.C.
6.     Delegate Dr. Jay Jalisi.  6%.  A well-deserved humiliation for a walking embarrassment.
7.     Harry Spikes.  5%.  Cummings connections but faces the daunting challenge of shifting from aide to Member of Congress.
8.     Saafir Rabb.  2%. Interesting business/community background.
9.     Dr. Mark Gosnell.  1.5%.  Been in the race for a while.  Where is his constituency?
10.  Dr. Leslie Grant.  1%.  Good health care credentials.
11.  F. Michael Higginbotham. 1%.  Solid legal/academic background.
12.  Anthony Carter Sr.  1%. Arguably, the strongest of the three candidates running this time who primaried Congressman Cummings in 2018. 
Topline thoughts: 
The top four candidates have a legitimate chance of winning the February primary.   In a likely low-turnaround election, one that is driven by the base D vote, it is difficult to see Senator Carter finishing worse than a strong second place… with an upside that could see her finish with a victory with 30%-33% of the vote.  Overall, her odds of winning: 3-2.
On paper, a candidate such as Dr. Rockeymoore Cummings could absolutely crush it with 40%-45% of the vote but with so many credible establishment candidates in the field, her odds of winning are substantially reduced, 3-1.
Former Congressman Mfume stands to benefit the most if the non-Carter front-runners collapse and Branch & Jalisi (as expected) under-perform.  That said, he is running in a district quite different from the one he represented before he resigned his office in 1996.  Odds of Mfume winning the primary: 5-1
Meanwhile Dr. Hill needs to win Howard County by a resounding margin, be highly competitive in Baltimore County, and pull a respectable double-digit figure in the City to obtain, by a narrow margin, the nomination.  Not impossible, but challenging. Dr. Hill’s odds of winning: 6-1.
And the other 12:
13.  Charles Stokes. < 1%. The second of the three 2018 D primary challengers to Rep. Cummings.  Finished only 20 votes behind Carter Sr.
14.  Paul Konka. <1%.  Finished second (albeit a distant second) in the Baltimore County Board of Education (District 3) race. Lost in the general by a wide margin.
15.  T. Dan Baker. < 1%. Public health background but a virtual unknown.
16.  Darryl Gonzales. <1%. Educator.
17.  Nathaniel Costley, Sr. <.5%. Ran in the 10th House District Democratic primary (same seat as Jalisi) in 2018.  Finished 5th of 6 candidates. 
18. Adrian Petrus. < .5%. Frequent candidate.
19.  Jay Fred Cohen. <.5%.  Why?
20.  Jermyn “Mike” Davidson. <.5%. Does.
21.  Matko Lee Chullin III. <.5%. It.
22.  Alicia Brown. <.5%. Really.
23.  Dan Hiegel.  <.5%. Matter.
24.  Charles Smith. <.5%.  Third of the aforementioned three ’18 D primary challengers.
Note:  Top 4 candidates garner 68% of the vote.  Top 7 candidates account for 87% of the vote.
In solidarity.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Denouement and Conclusion: Retiring Spartan Considerations

Welcome to my “empire of dirt.”  After 336 posts since 2014, including some guest op-eds, I believe now is the right time to retire this platform. 

Of course, in reality, this has been the case since January 2019 when I started a new position in my old field. The statistics may not reveal the full truth, but they do not lie: in 2018, I posted 119 articles.  In 2019, including this one, a lonely 10.

It is with the irony fully embraced that I quote Oscar Wilde, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”  I have always endeavored to present my own voice through this blog.  Right now, it doesn’t feel as though the channel and the voice are aligned.  Perhaps covering two election cycles under the same banner was enough. 

Notice I wrote, “retire this platform.”  I still believe there is much to say about global, national, state, and local matters.  Medium might be a fresh, intriguing way of connecting with audiences, old and new.

And I do believe there should be an active voice of the Left in HoCo politics. There needs to be someone who spends their precious time and energy connecting the dots between public policy making and Big Ideas such as how best to promote economic democracy, empower the average person, and avoid the “regression into Barbarism.”  Perhaps a new platform will help replenish the will to reflect and write upon topics.  Besides, there are officials (elected and otherwise) who need to be held to account…and candidates mercilessly critiqued.  How can I shirk my responsibilities, especially in these times?

But what of your favorite “friends (fiends?) of the blog”:  Dr. Hirum Atus, Clive Hammerjets, and the incomparable Slats MacCune?  What of them?  Stay tuned.

That should just about do it for today.  Look for further updates via social media.  Until then:

In Solidarity.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Single-Member Districts: Why I Support Them

Note: This is a Guest Op-Ed, penned by Richard DeShay Elliott.  The opinions expressed are his own. Enjoy!

Single-Member Districts: Why I Support Them

            At a recent Board of Public Works meeting, Comptroller Peter Franchot endorsed the idea of single-member districts (SMDs) and computer-generated redistricting. I support these ideas, too. According to the University of Vermont, multi-member districts (MMDs) have a greater chance of re-electing the incumbents. Only 10 states in the country currently use multi-member districts, with 2 (Vermont and West Virginia) recently pursuing changes to single-member districts. Only Maryland, West Virginia, & New Hampshire allow as many as 3 representatives per district.

By states' own volition as well as court decisions, MMDs' usage began to decline from nearly half of legislative seats at the turn of the 1960s to 26% of representatives and 7.5% of senators in 1984. In the 1980s, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, South Carolina, and Virginia completely eliminated the use of MMDs and in the 1990s, Alaska, Georgia, and Indiana followed suit; Arkansas, North Carolina and Wyoming continued to use MMDs through the decade. By 1998, the number of states with MMDs had fallen to 13.

            Ironically, the current usage of SMDs and dual-member districts is to protect particular incumbents. It’s very peculiar that Senate President Mike Miller’s District 27, spread across Calvert, Charles, & Prince George’s County, is broken into 3 single-member districts. Ever wonder why Mike Busch’s district was arbitrarily cut into one safe Democratic dual-member subdistrict and a Republican subdistrict, all within D30? Miller’s district, broken into 3 parts in completely different counties, could never have an incumbent Delegate with the name recognition to beat him. Busch’s district makeup meant that even if insurgent Democrats went after him in the primary, his slatemate would likely be the one who lost. Selective single-member districts is just part of the incumbent protection package for leadership.

            With Maryland’s multi-member districts, the costs of running a race and the time needed to cover the 125,000+ population districts is too much for all but the most well-funded insurgent candidates. In many parts of the state, particularly Prince George’s County & Montgomery County, the only way to win is by joining the incumbent slate. This culture is deeply toxic and anti-democratic, as it forces people to be subordinates rather than independent legislators. Single-member districts would have 35,000 or less residents, allowing individual legislators to develop deeper relationships with their constituents and have a better grasp of their legislative needs. Doorknocking campaigns would be significantly more effective. At present, many districts have 2 or 3 legislators who are all from the community. With SMDs, we’d need Democrats from many more communities in Maryland.

If former Judicial Proceedings Chair Joe Vallario (D23B) or current Economic Matters Chairman Dereck Davis (D25) were in single-member districts, activists, unions, and advocacy organizations could target them. Under the multi-member district system, these slatemasters are protected, as their slatemates are the ones who would lose the election instead. For instance, an attempt to oust Judicial Proceedings Chair Luke Clippinger (D46) would threaten Robbyn Lewis. The current slate setup also allows incumbent Senators to win re-election by relying solely on the delegate slate. Reducing the cost of elections, the number of voters needed to win, and forcing every candidate to campaign on their own will yield great dividends for democracy and public accountability for politicians in this state.

            Gerrymandering is done throughout Maryland to protect incumbents as well, at both the federal and state level. Maryland’s 6th District was drawn for former State Senator Rob Garagiola, who lost in the 2012 Democratic primary to now-presidential candidate John Delaney. District 4 was redistricted to remove wealthy Black neighborhoods from Donna Edward’s district and put them in Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s district. District 47 was originally drawn in 2002 specifically for former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, prior to his first run for County Executive. District 34A was crafted following Mary Ann Lisanti’s policies as Havre de Grace City Manager, which have maintained racial segregation in Harford County. In District 23A, incumbent Geraldine Valentino-Smith was able to narrowly win reelection against grassroots progressive Shabnam Ahmed in her racial gerrymandered district. This gerrymandering frequently cuts up communities into having different representatives, weakening their ability to unite in opposition against individual representatives.

            While single-member districts and computer-generated gerrymandering would likely break the Democratic supermajority in the House of Delegates, it would also force the Maryland Democratic Party to become a serious statewide force in the general election. Subdistricts such as the Arbutus/Halethorpe section of District 12, Linthicum/Glenn Burnie in District 32, the northwestern Baltimore base of Yitzy Schleifer & Dalya Attar, Olney/Ferndale in District 19, & the Fells Point & Canton waterfront of Baltimore could be pickups for the Maryland Republican Party. But we could also gain Democratic Delegates from Cambridge, Salisbury, Hagerstown, and in other forgotten parts of the state where energized volunteers, small dollar donations, & a strong social media campaign can oust a sleepy incumbent.

Single-member districts would allow unions and advocacy organizations to target corporate Democrats and would make it easier to elect grassroots candidates. Finally, it would force “safe” Democrats and Republican incumbents to engage their voters or risk being ousted. This would be a positive step for increased democratization of Maryland and the elimination of the current machine culture within both the Democratic and Republican parties. I strongly support single-member districts & computer generated redistricting as electoral reforms in Maryland.

-       Richard DeShay Elliott is a Political Science Ph. D candidate at Johns Hopkins University, a public policy researcher with Delegate Vaughn Stewart, and campaign strategist with Tim Adams for Mayor of Bowie. You can find him on Twitter at @RichElliottMD and on Facebook.