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Government & Politics

Analysis: Lessons From Tuesday’s Elections

Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam leads a chant of “Blue! Wave!” at an Election Night watch party in Richmond, Va. Photo by Parker Michels-Boyce/Virginia Mercury

National pundits have been falling all over themselves, dissecting Tuesday’s election results and trying to determine what lessons they hold for 2020 and beyond. Believe it or not, there may be some lessons for Maryland as well.

The most obvious: How suburbs and even exurbs have turned blue. We saw plenty of evidence of that in Maryland last year, when Republican county executives were ousted in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, and Democrats made gains in suburban seats in the General Assembly.

Whether those trends hold all the way to 2022, when the next big round of state and county elections take place, is anybody’s guess. It could come down to who is occupying the Oval Office then.

If it’s still President Trump, or even another Republican like Vice President Mike Pence, Republicans in Maryland will remain strong in rural areas but aren’t likely to be making gains anyplace else. If we’re looking at President Elizabeth Warren then, the whole narrative of suburban voter preferences, nationally and at home, could change swiftly and dramatically.

Municipal elections in 2017 in Maryland provided some clues about 2018, after Democratic candidates upset Republicans in mayoral elections in Frederick and Annapolis. Maryland’s municipal elections Tuesday produced a couple of interesting results that could be harbingers of things to come.

In Bowie, the establishment candidate for mayor, attorney and lobbyist Leonard Lucchi, who racked up endorsements from outgoing Mayor Fred Robinson and a host of other Democratic luminaries, including former Prince George’s county executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), lost. The winner was Timothy Adams, a businessman who unsuccessfully challenged a popular state senator in the 2018 Democratic primary and will become Bowie’s first black mayor.

The racial aspect of the vote in a city that’s majority-black is not to be discounted, especially when there were two white candidates running against Adams. But the fact that the establishment candidate lost is not insignificant, either. [DISCLOSURE: Lucchi serves on Maryland Matters’ Board of Directors.]

Down the road in Greenbelt, a first-term city councilman, Colin Byrd, finished first in the at-large council race, ahead of the three-term mayor, Emmett Jordan.

By tradition in Greenbelt, the council candidate who receives the most votes becomes mayor. So there will be a changing of the guard in that city’s top office, with the 27-year-old Byrd taking over as mayor. Jordan will remain on the council.

Fresh faces and anti-establishment candidates advancing: That’s a storyline in Maryland that could extend into 2020 and 2022. Insiders vs. outsiders and generational battles could certainly come into play in the two marquee races of 2020 in Maryland: the special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D), and the Baltimore mayoral election, where the top contenders, for now, are Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D), who is 65, and City Council President Brandon M. Scott (D), who is 35.

In Rockville, meanwhile, a new vote-by-mail system doubled voter turnout – so attention must be paid. And it was something of a split decision: Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton was re-elected despite a vigorous challenge from City Councilwoman Virginia Onley, but she could not lead her entire ticket to victory.

A raft of progressive groups got behind Onley, but even in liberal Montgomery County, they are not as effective as they like to think they are. That’s something else to be mindful of as we look ahead.

Lastly, Maryland fans of ranked-choice voting, discouraged when efforts to adopt it in Baltimore City and Montgomery County fizzled during this year’s General Assembly session, should take heart: almost three-quarters of New York City voters embraced the concept Tuesday, and as a result, instant runoff voting will be utilized during primary and special elections in Gotham beginning in 2021.

If ranked-choice voting can make it there, it can make it anywhere.


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Analysis: Lessons From Tuesday’s Elections