Time to reform Maryland’s primaries with a runoff

Time to reform Maryland’s primaries with a runoff

Democrat John B. King (center), went after fellow Democratic candidates for not being aggressive enough in their timelines for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. King's plan calls for net zero emissions for Maryland by 2035. (Christine Zhu/University of Maryland)

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This year’s Democratic primary for governor is taking me back to the Democratic primary of 1966. There were eight candidates, including two very strong candidates, at-large Congressman Carlton Sickles and Attorney General Thomas B. Finan. And there was segregationist George P. “Your Home Is Your Castle” Mahoney. Sickles at 29.84%  and Finan at 27.31 % split the majority of the vote, but Mahoney got 30.21% and won by 1,839 votes. Mahoney lost in November to Republican Spiro Agnew, who ran on an Open Housing platform.

Agnew was a good governor, although his ethics left a bit to be desired. I doubt, though, that the primary election results reflected the real wishes of Maryland Democratic voters.

Ten candidates have filed for the Maryland Democratic primary for governor this year, and there are a number of well qualified contenders. Voters, even those who pay pretty close attention, are having a hard time making up their minds.

On the one hand, I guess that is good.  On the other hand, unless a number of candidates drop out, I would not be surprised if the winning candidate gets less than 25% of the vote.   Do we really want the Democratic candidate chosen by such a small minority? Fortunately, I do not see any George P. Mahoneys on the ballot, but I am not confident that the winner would necessarily be even the second choice of most voters.

If we want the November general election candidates to reflect the voices of each party, it is time we require that the candidate receive at least 50% of the primary vote or be subject to a second primary between the two top vote-getters.

It is too late for the legislature to reform the primaries for this election cycle without a special session, but if we wait until we have a problem to take action on the subject it will always be too late. This situation merits a special session so we can handle the issue now, but if we do not take care of it this year, it should be high on the agenda in 2023.

We are talking about the leadership of our state, and we cannot guarantee there might not be another George P Mahoney in our future.

Editor’s note: Here are some other stories related to problems with Maryland’s primary system.

Maryland’s LG problem

Voter suppression, Maryland style

About The Author

Angie Boyter


Angie Boyter is former president of the Saint Johns Community Association and the Howard County Citizens Association. She is a longtime resident of the Dunloggin neighborhood in Ellicott City.

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