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July 1, 2005

Moving the Primary Date – It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again – Part 3

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Westminster – Governor Spiro Agnew was the 55th governor of the State of Maryland since 1776. My research indicates that he was the 14th Republican governor (if you include the five ‘Democrat-Republican’ governors between 1801 and 1812 and you count Governor Thomas H. Hicks (1858 – 1862), who started out a Democrat and later changed parties to Republican. Seems that there have been so few Republican governors, that the Democrats react very badly every time it happens.

Perhaps, for the sake of harmony, we need to elect more Republican governors – so that the Democrats can get used to the idea; or elect 15 more Republican delegates and five more Republican senators so as to have a Maryland General Assembly in which Republicans would be able to kill bad bills in committee, or pass good bills out of committee; and which would prevent automatic overrides of a governor’s vetoes. You take your pick. I choose all of the above.

The bright lights of the USS Maryland Democrat Titanic understand that they need to stop this shift towards a real two-party system. Their political spoils system has already been seriously eroded. Another Ehrlich term would permanently disable it.

Following the election of 2002 there continues to be a considerable defection of Democrats to the Republican Party. Years of pandering, no vision, no plan, just politics, obstructionism and unpleasantness has disheartened and disenfranchised many conservative Democrats and the last several years of the Maryland General Assembly has made a trickle of refugees into a mass exodus. The idea of changing the primary date is a manifestation of desperation, not leadership, and certainly not serving the citizens they were hired to serve.

At least the Democrats only want to change the primary rules and not overthrow the government, as in the Maryland Revolution of 1689, in which the Protestant Associators overthrew the proprietary officers; or change the constitution as occurred in 1864 and 1867.

In fact, not to give anyone any ideas, but President Abraham Lincoln had federal troops "oversee" the Maryland elections in 1863 and 1864, so as to see that the right candidates won the elections. Gee - who controls the Maryland National Guard?

Moreover, in 1867, the office of lieutenant governor was abolished because so many citizens disliked Lt. Governor Christopher Cox. I note this with great hesitancy because I don't want to give the Maryland General Assembly any ideas as there are many local governments in Maryland run by council presidents.

Despite representations in the media; only five (1954 – 1964) primaries in Maryland have been in May or June since the first Maryland primary on August 31, 1911. For most of Maryland’s history, we had no primaries. It was not until Chapter 734 of the Laws of 1908 that primary elections were established in Maryland. That same legislation established that presidential primaries were to be held in the spring. There have been 31 non-presidential primaries in Maryland.

One of those five, June 24, 1946, was due to extraordinary circumstances. In 1945, because there were so many men and women in uniform oversees, it seems that Chapter 934 (HB039) of the Laws of 1945, was enacted to facilitate providing enough time to allow absentee ballots to travel back to Maryland so that folks serving in the military would not be disenfranchised.

In the early days of local government in Maryland, many government charters called for elections every year. Slowly this evolved into every other year. By the 1920s, after even additional elections – primaries – had been introduced in Maryland, the public clamored for fewer elections and an end to the constant campaigning and endless election cycles. Chapter 227 of the Laws of 1922 proposed to make Article 17 and Quadrennial Elections as an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Maryland. Article 17 was ratified in the general election on November 7, 1922, along with four other Constitutional amendments. Responding to the wishes of the voters, fewer elections and shorter election campaigns had now been ratified into law.

I was just in Winchester, VA, recently on a business trip, and no one was more surprised than me to notice a Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist lampooning the State of Virginia for having a primary in June. On June 14, 2005, Ray McAllister wrote, in part: “June's an awful time. Too much else has our attention. The start of summer. Good weather, finally. School letting out… Vacations. Weddings. Graduations…. Few people care… June primaries simply extend the agony that is an election year.” I could not agree more. Apparently, Virginians felt the same way, as the turnout was a near record low.

According to published reports, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D., MD) has admitted that the change is all about politics and helping Democrats. As the food-fight that has become the Maryland gubernatorial and U. S. Senate Democratic primary unfolds, the Democrats understand fully that they will need to extend the general election as much as possible for maximum damage control. Just as in the effort to change the primary date for the 1970 election, the only reason to move the primary date in 2006 is to give the Democrats a better chance of regaining the State House and electing a Democratic U. S. Senator in the election of 2006.

As the iceberg named “Bob-bing” continues to steam closer to the USS Maryland Democratic Titanic, the Dems are getting frantic. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And as we all know, the more desperate they are, the more mistakes they are going to make.

With a primary in June, all the desperate measures (and mistakes), magic and wonder of the 2006 Maryland General Assembly will be fresh on the voters’ minds. There are more Democrat incumbents in Annapolis than Republican incumbents and with the “15 and 5” magic numbers looming and elected officials not being allowed to raise money while in session, (unless they change that law also), many Dems will face serious challenges from their own party, and will be denied the tools of incumbency to thwart their challengers.

This is a win-win for Republicans. After the iceberg hits, I hope that everyone dumped overboard will have a great time trying to get a meaningful job in one of the most anti-business states in the union. Maybe it will be good for them to experience first hand, some of their handiwork.

Can you say; ‘Keep your lifejackets at the ready. Film at eleven.” I, for one cannot wait.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at:

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