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November 12, 2012

Winners and Losers

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Once again, political prognostication turns out to be a dangerous game. At the national level, President Barack Obama will make a return visit to the west front of the U.S. Capitol in mid-January to recite the oath of office.


His electoral victory was sweeping in all facets; he won the popular vote, almost all of the "swing states" and the most important vote of all, the Electoral College.


Obsessing over the numbers, the real problem facing the Republican Party becomes very clear. The skin tone of the American electorate is increasingly brown, and with literally thousands of young Latino-Americans turning 18 each day, the GOP's problem will get bigger.


George W. Bush beat Al Gore in the Electoral College vote with 40% of Hispanics voting for the pro-immigration reform Texas governor. In 2004, that number dropped to 30%. In 2012, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney barely made it to double digits with this key voting bloc.


If the downward trend in Latino voter preference continues, future presidential elections might eliminate Republicans altogether from serious consideration for the White House.


Without a serious look at comprehensive reform, those Hispanic voters have fewer reasons to look at the GOP. Sure, many are passionate Catholics, so social issues do matter. That said, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both felt strongly enough about creating a path to legal citizenship for undocumented immigrants. They were right back then, and now there's even more reason to examine the policy.


The Democrats national hand was strengthened by several key U.S. Senate victories. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., NV) will preside over a larger caucus, and might even contemplate exercising power over filibuster rules and establishing agenda-setting that favors the majority even more than currently exists.


House Speaker John Boehner (R., OH) will now become the titular leader of the Republican Party as the most senior elected party member. In the past, he's been known as a back room deal-maker. Will the Tea Party wing of the House GOP caucus allow him the flexibility to follow that course? Will House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA) seize the chance to unseat Mr. Boehner? What role will GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (WI) play in the new House majority? He returns as chairman of the House Budget Committee, but his aspirations probably go far beyond that seat.


In Maryland, the big winners are:


·        Gov. Martin O'Malley. Not content to just sit back and watch the referendum voting, Mr. O'Malley actively engaged in advocating for same-sex marriage, in-state tuition of illegals, the redistricting plan and the new casino in Prince George’s County. He ran the table, and that level of victory enables him to boost his national profile as he eyes the 2016 presidential race.


·        Representative-elect John Delaney. After 20 years of incumbency, Roscoe Bartlett will retire to his bucolic Buckeystown farm. The addition of almost 40,000 new Democrat voters into the twisted and tortured redrawn Sixth District proved too big a hurdle for the 10-term conservative congressman.


·        Lobbyists working on both sides of the gaming expansion referendum made more in one six-month period than they normally would in several years.


In Frederick, the local winners are:


·        The Frederick County Teachers Association. In conjunction with the superintendent, the three Board of Education candidates hand-picked by the teachers’ union claimed victory. The difference between third and fourth place was slim, but it seems likely that the status quo will prevail at the school board headquarters on South East and South Streets.


·        The Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, the Board of County Commissioners-appointed Charter Writing Board, and an odd mix of former and current elected officials helped push the charter referendum over the top. The list of opponents was long, names like former Commissioners Lennie Thompson, Charles Jenkins and Kai Hagen joined perennial opponents Paul Gordon, Tim May and publisher John Ashbury. Issues such as the cost of charter government, checks and balances, and the sanctity of the Sheriff's Office didn't deter voters from embracing the new form of government.


The challenge with the new form will be the immediately effective transition from commissioner to charter form. We'll grow from five at-large commissioners to seven council members, two elected at-large and five by district.


Most interesting will be the creation of the office of the executive. Some argue former Commissioner Jan Gardener (rumored to be a likely candidate for executive) and current Commission President Blaine Young have in the past functioned as a pseudo-executive already.


There may be some truth to that, but they still have to find two other votes to enact legislative initiatives and make executive decisions. Under charter, the executive will have considerably more power to run the government.


Questions abound, like will we still need a highly skilled and highly paid county manager? Who will run for executive, and who will run for council? What effect will the voter demographics have on the district elections? Will Democrats dominate the council seats in the City of Frederick while conservative Republicans lock up the rural districts to the north, east, and west?


Following a big election, we hope that we, as voters, are the real winners. In the present case, considering the national, state and local implications of last Tuesdays voting, it will be some time before we know who won and who lost, and by how much!


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