By Barry Rascovar
This year’s apparently one-sided presidential election in Maryland may encourage some people to consider not voting.
Polls consistently have Democrat Hillary Clinton ahead of Republican Donald Trump by a whopping 30 percentage points – and this was before release of Trump’s X-rated remarks about his sexual pursuit of women.
While there are few other races of consequence on most local ballots, there are plenty of other reasons to show up at the polls or cast an absentee ballot.
This is especially true for Republicans who may have had enough of Trump’s over-the-top sexism and egomania. The worst thing they could do would be to take a pass on voting.
This year’s election will be a good barometer on the GOP’s efforts to build a more competitive party in heavily Democratic Maryland.
The party has a wildly popular governor, Larry Hogan, Jr., who isn’t on the ballot but has endorsed some Republican nominees who share his moderate-conservative philosophy.
How close will these candidates come to pulling an upset?
That could tell us much about Hogan’s “coattail” abilities and set the stage for an even better GOP performance in 2018 when he is up for reelection.
In the U.S. Senate contest, Democrat Chris Van Hollen is a heavy favorite over Republican Kathy Szeliga. But Szeliga, a state delegate, has Hogan’s endorsement. Will voters who tend to support moderate politicians see Hogan’s backing as reason enough to support her?
Or will voters be turned off by Szeliga’s “having it both ways” comment about Trump’s sexism? She has deplored Trump’s outrageous sexual remarks but says she still is voting for him.
Hoeber vs. Delaney
In the 6th Congressional District race (far Western Maryland and a chunk of western Montgomery County), Republican Amie Hoeber, also endorsed by Hogan, is seeking to upend incumbent Democrat John Delaney, who barely won reelection last time. His margin of victory in 2014: less than 2 percentage points.
Hoeber, 74, is a defense expert on chemical and biological warfare and has poured substantial sums of her family’s money into her campaign. A heavy turnout in Republican portions of the district and Hogan’s backing might draw her closer to Delaney than expected.
In Baltimore City, a Republican has a legitimate shot at winning a City Council seat for the first time in 74 years. Democrats outnumber Republicans 10-1 in the city yet Republican Matt McDaniel is competitive in Southeast Baltimore’s First District.
Hogan won this area two years ago, 53 percent to 47 percent, and he has endorsed McDaniel over Democrat Zeke Cohen. Will Hogan’s support prove pivotal? Or will the heavy Democratic registration figures and Cohen’s activism in the community give him a decided advantage?
Questions on the ballot
Two ballot questions hold considerable interest in important counties – Howard and Montgomery.
In Howard County, public financing of elections for county executive and County Council will be up for voter decision. A positive outcome could set a trend in other large subdivisions with a liberal voter base.
Term limits is the issue in Montgomery County. Perennial political gadfly Robin Ficker has petitioned to the ballot a question on forcing the county executive or members of the County Council to step down after three four-year terms. That might benefit outsiders like Ficker and Montgomery Republicans.
There’s also a statewide ballot question on filling attorney general and comptroller vacancies that pits Democratic legislative leaders against Republican Hogan.
The proposal would strip Hogan of his current power to name a replacement of his choice – almost certainly a fellow Republican – if there’s a vacancy in either office (both now held by Democrats).
Instead, the constitutional amendment would require Hogan to name a temporary replacement from the vacating official’s political party and then set a special election to fill the office for the remainder of the term.
So there are plenty of reasons beyond the presidential election to cast a ballot. Early voting in Maryland begins in a little over two weeks.