Despite my repeated pleas to get people to vote in the primary election, fewer than 25 percent of the registered voters in Frederick County cast ballots. This is really quite pathetic. Based on the election results, I now realize that I cannot trust one in four voters to select the candidates that I think are best for Frederick County.
With such a low voter turnout, we can see that the candidates who earned the most votes are the more conservative Republicans and the more liberal Democrats. Perhaps this illustrates that the people voting in the primary are the party loyalists; but I don’t think that these results are indicative of the general population, which tends to be a little more moderate and closer to the middle ground on most issues.
The power of the slate
I underestimated the power of a slate in the primary. An anti-incinerator group created a marketing piece that was distributed to doors and at local events about the candidates that they were supporting. Four of the five Democrats on their list – Ellis Burruss, Kai Hagen, Linda Norris and Janice Wiles – made it through to the general election in November. It’s hard to tell whether all four of these candidates would have advanced had it not been for the efforts of the “anti crowd.”
A handful of candidates for the Republican Central Committee also used a slate and billed themselves as the anti-tax team. It appears that this tactic was also successful since five of those seven slate members made it into the top nine and earned seats on the central committee, thus giving “their team” the majority.
As registered Republicans, my husband and I received a direct mail piece with the “conservative choice” candidates. The postcard indicated that the four candidates – Blaine Young, Kirby Delauter, Paul Smith and Billy Shreve – had received the endorsement of Congressman Roscoe Bartlett and Sheriff Chuck Jenkins. While many Republicans were probably considering all or some of these candidates already, the endorsement may have pushed one or two over the edge to a win. In a crowded candidate field, this was smart political maneuvering.
Michael Hough advanced over Del. Charles Jenkins by a significant margin. Many predicted a much closer race, but it appears that Mr. Hough’s backing from Sen. Alex Mooney, and his fundraising success, catapulted him into victory. This mini-slate may have secured the win for Mr. Hough.
It will be interesting to see if Mr. Hough can woo the more moderate Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters for the general election. It seems that many in his own party have had a visceral reaction against some of his campaign tactics, including putting campaign materials on cars parked in church parking lots during worship. After being repeatedly attacked throughout the campaign, Delegate Jenkins is not backing Mr. Hough for obvious reasons and may be able to influence the outcome of this race by throwing enough votes behind Democrat Paul Gilligan for him to pull off a win.
With less than six weeks until the primary, expect to see candidates turn up the heat on their campaigning efforts and their rhetoric. There are already ruminations about Republican-only slates, Democrat-only slates and bipartisan slates.
Which will come to fruition and will these groups of candidates be effective in winning in their respective races? We’ll all know soon enough, but make sure that you pay attention. Your vote does matter and we need to make sure that we have enough voters in the general election to elect candidates who are representative of the majority of the population.
I’m hoping for more than a 25% turnout in the general election.