Winners and Losers From the 2020 Election

Photo by Jason Dent/Unsplash.com.

We’re too exhausted ― as we imagine most of you are ― to say anything particularly sweeping or profound about Tuesday’s elections. The nation is riven by division and that’s unlikely to change soon.

It’s looking increasingly like former vice president Joe Biden is going to win the White House election, unless the courts say otherwise. President Trump, even if he reluctantly leaves office, will continue to be prominent.

Meanwhile, if we were a Democratic member of Congress or a Democratic donor, we would demand our money back. WTF, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi?

In Maryland, the elections ran smoothly for the most part ― thank god ― and most results were pretty clear cut. Even so, they had myriad implications for the days ahead. So without further ado, our list of winners and losers and those who, awkwardly, are somewhere in between:

Winners

Baltimore Mayor-elect Brandon M. Scott (D): The kid from Park Heights is fulfilling his lifelong dream and will be tested the second he takes office. In some ways, he has been preparing for this moment for his entire adult life, and in other ways he’ll be surprised by all the challenges and crap he’ll encounter. The big question: Will he be part of the new wave of dynamic young mayors of color who are remaking America’s cities, or will he simply be a younger, more energetic, more social-media savvy version of the old-line urban pol?

Baltimore City Sens. Cory V. McCray (D) and Antonio L. Hayes (D) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City): These three young lawmakers are good friends of Scott’s ― McCray in particular is a longtime intimate ― and the new mayor well rely on them particularly for largesse and wisdom out of Annapolis. It’s good to have friends in high places in the State House, especially when you’ve all known each other since you were in your 20’s.

Maryland Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone: Love her or hate her, Lamone, with fierce critics watching her every move, delivered a fairly seamless election under the most trying of circumstances, following a mountain of criticism during the state primary. Kudos, too, to local elections administrators and vote counters.

Ambitious Montgomery County politicians: They’ve got two additional offices to shoot for, now that a ballot question has passed adding two more seats to the County Council. Thanks, voters! The measure was put on the ballot by Councilmember Evan Glass (D), who has a unique perspective because he ran unsuccessfully for a district seat and then was elected to an at-large seat. His argument: That the county population has grown by 50% in the past 30 years, and the council should reflect that.

Cecil County Executive-elect Danielle Hornberger (R): She has some lingering bitterness to overcome, following an explosive GOP primary. But she’s now poised to put the Trump/Andy Harris playbook to work in county government. And she may also serve as a trailblazer for conservative women looking to advance in county politics throughout the state ― because more are in the pipeline.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D): We have no idea if she plans to run for governor in 2022, but this election offered the umpteenth reminder of how important Black women are to any winning Democratic campaign. If Alsobrooks runs, she’ll be incredibly formidable, would be bidding to become the first Black woman governor in U.S. history, and would have a groundbreaking friend in likely next vice president Kamala D. Harris, cheering her on.

Government reform: Voters opted to embrace changes in the governance of Baltimore City, and Anne Arundel, Frederick and Howard counties, with measures designed to increase accountability and scrutiny in local government. They potentially made Montgomery County more democratic with the extra Council seats, and approved public financing for Baltimore County political campaigns.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman (R): With Biden likely to be in the White House during a time of great political upheaval, the chances of 2022 becoming a good Republican year nationally have increased ― meaning the GOP nomination for governor in Maryland will be worth something. Glassman, a potential candidate for statewide office or Congress in the upcoming cycle, recently ran ads in the Baltimore media market, educating people on the public health threats of COVID-19 and touting Harford County tourism, upping his profile during election season.

Michael Steele: Not only was the former lieutenant governor and former Republican National Committee chairman the very first guest on the launch of our Maryland Chatters podcast, but he maintained a high profile throughout the campaign season with his MSNBC punditry, work for the Lincoln Project, and decision to endorse Biden. There is some talk that Steele is mulling an independent run for governor ― an audacious move, to be sure. But while some Republicans may be mad about Steele’s never-Trumper views, Steele did himself no harm with the broader Maryland electorate.

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County): Jones continues to be a little inscrutable when it comes to understanding her public leadership style. Yet she made her mark on this election in numerous ways ― producing a video that went viral showing voters how to apply for a mail-in ballot, pressuring Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) to expand the number of polling places in the state, producing voting infographics that many Democratic politicians used, co-chairing the group Maryland Women for Biden, and getting her Democratic colleagues to make calls into Pennsylvania on behalf of Democratic legislative candidates there.

Hagerstown Mayor-elect Emily Keller: The first-term city councilmember ran an inclusive, positive, textbook campaign and will become the city’s first woman mayor.

Montgomery County Councilmember Andrew Friedson (D): He authored a ballot question on property taxes that won voter approval and gives county leaders flexibility on taxes and spending ― and best of all for a nerd like Friedson, won praise Thursday from the bond-rating agency Moody’s.

Frederick County Councilmember Jessica Fitzwater (D): Voters offered another argument for the theory that Frederick County is increasingly turning purplish blue, voting for the Democratic nominee for president for the first time in decades. This has got to be heartening for fans of Fitzwater, the likeliest Democratic candidate for county executive in 2022, when incumbent Jan H. Gardner (D) will be termed out. But ideological fissures in the Democratic Party mean Fitzwater will still have to look out for her left flank, where Kai Hagen, the former county commissioner and environmentalist, is also pondering a run for executive.

Unions: Unions like the Maryland State Education Association and AFSCME ran a targeted campaign in favor of statewide Ballot Question 1 ― which Hogan opposed because it took some budget powers away from the governor ― and prevailed.

Social media: Social media is much maligned for their damaging impact on the nation’s political discourse ― and rightly so. Yet voting rights activists, elections officials and elected officials used social media platforms effectively and helpfully during early voting and on Election Day to remind people to vote, alert voters about line lengths and other conditions at polling places, and to report any problems in the process.

Same-day voter registration: According to the State Board of Elections, about 13,000 people turned out on Election Day and simultaneously registered and voted. That’s a good start to this new initiative.

Losers

The Maryland Department of Budget and Management: Beginning in 2023, thanks to a newly approved statewide Constitutional amendment, gubernatorial administration budget-writers will have to work more closely with state legislators. Maryland’s governors have been all powerful on budgetary matters for a little over a century. It’s a brave new world.

Baltimore City Councilmember Zeke Cohen (D): Endorses the Green Party challenger to a fellow council member one day before she loses by a substantial margin. This will not endear him to his colleagues.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D): Thanks to the Democrats’ fumbles in Senate elections across the country, it looks like he won’t become chairman of the Small Business Committee and a transportation and infrastructure subcommittee after all. To his credit, though, Cardin is used to and adept at functioning while serving in the minority.

Baltimore City Council President-elect Nick J. Mosby (D): This should be a time of triumph for the Mosby family, but instead Nick Mosby, the state delegate who is returning to City Hall after a few years away, finds himself under an increasingly darkening ethical cloud amid questions about his taxes, his business dealings, and the side businesses of his wife, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Maryland J. Mosby (D). Nick Mosby is a nose-to-the-grindstone, hard-working politician, but he won’t be able to dodge questions about these matters forever.

U.S. Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D): With Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) ticketed to remain as majority leader in the next Congress, Sarbanes’ sweeping political reform package, which addresses voting rights, campaign finance, congressional ethics, lobbying, redistricting reform and more, is all but certain to remain bottled up.

Robin Ficker: The anti-tax activist lost another push to impose his will on Montgomery County government this year. His overall won-loss record through the years is pretty bad, but he has still had plenty of impact on county affairs over the past four decades.

Ticket-splitting: Hogan’s re-election in 2018 showed that Marylanders are still willing to split their tickets every now and then. But in this election, across the nation, there was next-to-none of it. Will that carry over into Maryland in future elections?

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): OK, he’s not a Maryland a guy, but Senate Democrats have underperformed in the last three elections. Is anyone going to get held to account?

The Maryland political scene: Are we ever going to be relevant in a national political campaign? Would it be too much to ask to have even one competitive congressional election more than once a decade? The nation was in tumult politically all year, but here it was same old, same old.

Push

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R): Yeah, he can claim that center-right Republicans in his mold had a good showing on Election Day, and there will always be some segments of the punditocracy cheering a Republican like Hogan on. But the simple fact is Trump will continue to be the dominant figure in the Republican Party for the foreseeable future and Trumpism the prevailing operating principle. That doesn’t leave much oxygen for whatever national ambitions Hogan might possess. Closer to home, he can take some credit for the well-run general election, but his attempt to influence the election with his opposition to the Constitutional amendment on the budget, fell flat.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez: Yes, his four-year tenure at the DNC culminates with what is likely to be the ousting of a sitting Republican president. But Perez took on plenty of friendly fire throughout his time at the DNC, and those cumulatively take their toll. Though not entirely his fault, Democrats did not meet their overall expectations on Election Day. And good luck, if he is nominated for a high-ranking position in a Biden administration, getting confirmed in Mitch McConnell’s Senate.

Kimberly Klacik: She got smoked by Kweisi Mfume twice this year. But she spent a lot of other people’s money and now she’s famous.

Franca Muller Paz: The Green Party candidate for Baltimore City Council in the 12th District became a sensation among progressives and ran a pretty impressive campaign. But running as a third-party candidate in a Democratic stronghold still seems like a fool’s errand. Muller Paz might have done better had she mounted a Democratic primary challenge to the incumbent, Councilmember Robert Stokes Sr. Where does she go from here?

Robert Wallace: The Baltimore businessman spent six figures of his own money to wage a losing campaign for mayor. But he built up a surprising amount of support and goodwill among older Black voters, and could become a fairly important voice in city affairs if he chooses to. But will he remain on the civic scene or retreat to suburbia and the business world?

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D): Always the bridesmaid to Nancy Pelosi’s bride, and always in an awkward tango with the powerful speaker. On the one hand, he was one of the House leaders counseling compromise during the latest negotiations on a COVID-19 stimulus deal, while Pelosi refused to bend, which may have cost some moderate House Democrats their seats. So he can score some “I told you so” points with his colleagues. On the other hand, it would not be altogether surprising to see Pelosi try to sacrifice Hoyer as she attempts to mollify younger and more progressive colleagues who are becoming disenchanted with the senior House Democratic leadership. Hoyer is a survivor, though.

Gambling interests: Yes, they convinced voters to legalize sports gambling in Maryland. But now the real fun begins ― trying to figure out how, where and when the betting should take place. Prepare for lobbypalooza in the legislature next year.

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Josh Kurtz
Founding Editor Josh Kurtz is a veteran chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He was an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, for eight years, and for eight years was the editor of E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill. For 6 1/2 years Kurtz wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz regularly gives speeches and appears on TV and radio shows to discuss Maryland politics.
Danielle E. Gaines
Danielle Gaines covered government and politics for Maryland Matters for two years before moving into an editing position. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post ― as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at The Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.