By Barry Rascovar
On the eve of Maryland’s unexpectedly close gubernatorial election, some tentative conclusions can be drawn:
Pluses for Brown
Anthony Brown did quite well in attracting Democrats to the polls during last week’s early voting.
Nearly one-third of all ballots cast came from three heavily Democratic jurisdictions – Baltimore City, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County. In each, there was a substantial jump in turnout from the June primary.
Overall, 102,000 more Democrats voted than Republicans. Brown should start with a big lead on Election Day.
Another good sign for Brown: The state’s heaviest voting polling place last week was in Randallstown, the heart of Baltimore County’s growing black community.
More good news for the Democrat: Brown’s running mate, Ken Ulman, did exceedingly well in drawing Democrats to the polls early in Howard County with a 13 percent turnout (the statewide average was 8.3 percent).
Hogan’s shore support
Republican Larry Hogan can take comfort in the hefty early voting on the Eastern Shore. That Congressional District cast more votes last week than anywhere else.
Yet Brown must be pleased by the turnout in three of his key Congressional Districts that contain most of the state’s African Americans – the 4th (Prince George’s County and Southern Maryland), the 5th (Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties) and the 7th (black and liberal areas of Metro Baltimore).
The jurisdiction with the largest early turnout, Baltimore County, is likely to favor Hogan, but not by the kind of lopsided Brown margins expected in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City.
Brown got mixed signals in traditionally liberal Montgomery County, which had a weak early turnout. Yet this year’s early Montgomery numbers were 30 percent better than four years ago.
Early voting, still a new trend in Maryland, appears to favor Democrats.
Republicans remain leery of additional ballot days. They see it as a Democratic scheme to use the superior organizing skill of labor unions to convey more minority, poor and working voters to the polls during those seven extra voting days.
Bringing Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama to Prince George’s County seems to have generated enough buzz to generate a 9.5 percent turnout among the county’s Democratic voters.
Hogan’s celebrity politician, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, brought the GOP candidate money and media coverage with his multiple appearances. Christie, though, isn’t a big enough draw to help Hogan’s early vote numbers.
First Lady Michelle Obama’s appearance today in Baltimore could prove important for Brown — if Democrats use it to get more African Americans in the region excited about going to the polls tomorrow. Brown has been focusing like a laser on Prince George’s voting, but Baltimore remains a underappreciated linchpin.
Meanwhile, everyone will be waiting for Tuesday’s weather forecast.
Right now, it looks like it will be a perfect fall day – sunny and warm. That’s great news for Brown, not so for Hogan. The lower the Democratic turnout, the better for the Republican given Democrats’ 2-1 registration advantage in Maryland.
Questions posed by The Baltimore Sun about Brown’s “strikingly dishonest” campaign and his “unrepentant mendacity” (i.e., he’s a serial liar) continue to reverberate. Anyone reading the editorial must wonder how in the world the newspaper ended up endorsing such an ethically flawed candidate.
Even more curious was Del. Heather Mizeur’s op-ed column in the newspaper in which she politely excoriated Brown for snubbing her attempts to get him to run a positive campaign in which she would actively engage her supporters on his behalf.
Yet Mizeur, like The Sun, held her nose and told her backers to vote for Brown, not Hogan.
Mizeur might consider this campaign “an epic disaster,” but she’s willing to ignore Brown’s lying and deception because he is more likely to advance her progressive agenda.
Turnout tomorrow (Tuesday) still holds the key.
Brown needs large numbers in his Democratic strongholds. He’s still a slight favorite due to his built-in voter registration advantage and the trend among black voters to remain loyal to Democratic candidates.
Hogan is counting on a heavier than usual GOP turnout, support from independents and — most important of all — a growing number of moderate Democrats turned off by Brown’s ferocious negativity and his sterile, bubble-wrapped campaign.
Clearly, Hogan’s simplistic economic message (less taxes, less expansive government) has hit a chord with many voters. A win would mark a stunning, surprising turnaround for the state’s underdog GOP.
The election could align Maryland with the Republican trend elsewhere in the nation.