Thursday, November 30, 2006

Forest Glen Claims Bragging Rights

According to Crossing Georgia:

On Monday night, 11/20/06, the Montgomery County delegation to the state legislature held a Joint Senate-House Priorities hearing. Anyone in the county was eligible to testify at the hearing about any issue they wanted the legislators to address in the 2007 session. Over a hundred people testified about issues as diverse as the ICC (both supporters and opponents), the Purple Line, the Corridor Cities transitway, laws to prohibit discrimination against transgender individuals, the death penalty and more.

However, no organization sent more individuals to testify than Forest Estates. And no single issue had more speakers than the need to build a new Forest Glen Metro entrance on the eastern side of Georgia Avenue.
Tunnel supporters have consistently built support for their cause for some time. They have support from local legislators. They even have a photo on the website with three District 18 legislators (Senator-Elect Rich Madaleno, Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, and Del. Jane Lawton) to prove it.

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I'm on Political Pulse

I'm appearing on Political Pulse on November 30th at 9PM and December 5th at 9:30PM. Charles Duffy asked tough but fair questions about the role of money and MCEA in the recent elections as well as Rep. Chris Van Hollen's letter to the Secretary of State on Israel, same-sex marriage, and blogging. You can catch it all on Channel 16 if you live in Montgomery County.

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Saqib Ali is Front-Page News

The Washington Post discusses the election of Saqib Ali (D-39) to the House of Delegates today as part of a larger article about the election of Muslims to public office in the United States.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We Talked, Ike Listened

County Executive-Elect Ike Leggett held a town meeting earlier this evening in the Leland Community Center in Chevy Chase. The room was packed to the rafters with a large number of people (including the Mayor!) standing in the back for much of the meeting. People came not just from Chevy Chase but from all over Montgomery County and even northern Virginia.

Ike, as most people called him, is an amazingly good listener. He opened the meeting with a short set of comments and a list of his top priorities was distributed outside but he spent most of his time listening to comments from county residents. Often, after hearing a comment from the audience, he simply thanked the person without feeling the compulsion to speak to every single issue.

He did not make many promises, which seemed smart as the election is over, demands are many, and the budget will be tight. Ike also complimented outgoing County Executive Doug Duncan and made clear that he saw his job as a matter of "minor adjustments" rather than major change, though he acknowledged that one person's minor adjustment could be another's major change. Ike did promise to improve the accountability of county government and to make it more responsive and accessible to residents. According to my ear, the top (but by no means, only) concerns raised by the audience were:

1. Barry's Magic Shop in Wheaton is threatened with eviction. As part of its effort to redevelop Wheaton, the County plans to condemn the building in which is it located so it can improve the sidewalk. This may sound like small (magic?) beans in a county of one million people but don't be fooled. This issue has serious legs.

Several people from the local wizarding community came to express their support for Barry's, including the gentleman from northern Virginia whose son apparently adores the shop which serves as a meeting place for magicians as well as a store. Muggles in the room were also sympathetic as many lament the closure of unique local businesses due to development.

2. Housing. Almost every aspect of this issue was raised. Unsurprisingly, development remains a big concern. People demanded greater controls on development, including real adherence to planning and construction laws. Mansionization is clearly a major issue in downcounty areas with one resident expressing dissatisfaction that a permit for an addition can be used to radically transform and expand a house.

A Forest Glen resident expressed anger that Metro contemplated a huge development around the Metro stop without neighborhood consulatation. A woman from Silver Spring pointed out that the county guidelines have no practical impact on skyrocketing rents in her area. Others worried that the Purple Line would bring yet more traffic to Connecticut Ave.

Ike spoke out on this one, saying that he wanted to slow (not stop) the pace of development. He also expressed support for more affordable housing, making the point that preserving existing affordable housing has to be a key component of any strategy on this issue as these units are being destroyed even faster than the County can create them.

3. Transportation. The Purple Line was much discussed with many residents stating how valuable they found the existing trail while others explained that the proposed light rail would come way too close, often within feet, of their property. A few brave souls went against the prevailing consensus and said that the Purple Line was a necessary transit improvement with one man saying it would make it easier for him to get to work.

Ike expressed his support for the existing trail but also said that part of his job is to implement the County Master Plan and that the Purple Line is part of it. However, he also vowed to protect the trail. He also mentioned that the money to build it would ultimately have to come from outside sources. My guess is that he is betting (probably rightly) that it will be a long time before the money to build the Purple Line appears and the County faces a real decision about going ahead.

Several criticized the Intercounty Connector (ICC), arguing that it would promote more sprawl and invade the agricultural reserve. No one spoke in favor of the ICC, though I suspect that the ICC has more support upcounty than downcounty. Moreover, as on many issues of this sort, supporters tend to be more vocal than opponents. Unlike the Purple Line, the ICC is becoming a reality with support from both the outgoing and incoming governors.

Of course, traffic remains an enormous issue with one resident articulating support for initiatives to promote telecommuting. Others argued for more public transit, including later and more frequent Ride-On bus services. One guy suggested that the County allow vans to organize taxi services to and from bus and metro stops during rush hour. Ike laudably made clear that this is a tough issue and requires a comprehensive approach.

4. Pedestrian Safety. Like Barry's Magic Shop, I think this issue is vastly underestimated and I was tempted to rank it much higher. Numerous residents came specifically to plead for more efforts in this area. One resident argued in favor of a pedestrian tunnel under Georgia Ave. by the Forest Glen Metro as this is one of the busiest and most dangerous intersections in the County.

Many want more consideration given to pedestrians as part of transportation planning. Major constituencies concerned with pedestrian safety were the young (or more accurately, their parents) and the old (and the future old: the rest of us). One woman explained that the main street of Silver Sprung, which is blocked off on weekends, is a major pedestrian nightmare during the week. One man dreams of being able to walk from Maryland to Virginia over the American Legion (Cabin John) Bridge.

5. Education. Newly elected school board member Shirley Brandman was in the audience (as was Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, Councilman-Elect Marc Elrich, Councilman-Elect Roger Berliner, Del. Bill Bronrott, Chevy Chase Mayor Linna Barnes, and Chevy Chase Councilman Mier Wolf) so audience members got to get the ear of a member of the BoE as well the Exec.

A variety of concerns were expressed on this issue. Ike repeatedly cited the high level of education in the County as a major asset but also said we were resting on our laurels in this area. Criticisms of too much pressure on students and too much focus on testing both received applause. One man argued that the County should recruit or help to build a first-class four-year university. Perhaps we can steal College Park from our neighbors in Prince George's?

6. Immigration was the odd-man out. The second comment of the night was from a man in a suit who cited statistics on the large number of illegal immigrants in Maryland, said they were a drain on public services (no stats cited here), and wanted to know what Ike was going to do about it. Ike challenged the statistics and the assumptions behind the question to applause from the audience who, like me, did not like the demonizing of immigrants. I noticed that the questioner left a short time later.

A business owner expressed support for a day labor center as a means of preventing people trying to make a living from seeking work in retail businesses. Ike said he wanted to work with CASA on this question. One man suggested that the county police check for citizenship when they stop people for legitimate reasons. However, I would say as many people expressed support for working with immigrants as attacked them.

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Arundel Dems Sue Over Provisional Ballots

The Baltimore Sun reports today that two Democratic candidates for delegate who narrowly lost the general election are going to court to demand that Anne Arundel County count provisional ballots excluded from the county by the county election board:

Two Anne Arundel County Democrats who haven't conceded their races for the House of Delegates filed a court appeal yesterday to force the counting of 244 paper ballots that the local elections board had tossed out.

Andrew D. Levy, an attorney representing Del. Joan Cadden of District 31 and County Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk of District 30, said the Anne Arundel elections board incorrectly disqualified three sets of provisional ballots from across the county.

The appeal concentrates on 222 votes from people who, according to the board, were not registered to vote in Maryland; 20 cast by people who also voted absentee; and two cast by voters who declined to use the electronic machines.

No hearing date at Anne Arundel County Circuit Court has been set.

Levy said the court's decision will influence whether the two Democrats will seek a recount. Based on the final unofficial tally, Samorajczyk, of Annapolis Roads, lost by 53 votes to jewelry store owner Ronald A. George, a Republican; and Cadden, of Brooklyn Park, fell to Republican Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. by 28 votes.

Both races were for the third seat in three-member House districts.

George and Dwyer, who had trailed before the counting of Anne Arundel's record 15,600 absentee ballots, declared victory Nov. 17.

The deadline to ask for a recount is Dec. 11, Levy said. The state must certify the election results by Dec. 12.

It will be interesting to hear the basis for the lawsuit. Were the people who voted on the provisional ballots properly registered and legally entitled to vote in this election? If so, why were their ballots not counted?

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Leggett Coming to Chevy Chase

County Executive-Elect Ike Leggett will be holding a town hall meeting at 7:30 tonight at the Leland Center in the Town of Chevy Chase. It's not too surprising that Leggett chose Chevy Chase for a town meeting--the Town gave him 83% in the critical Democratic primary and 81% in the general election. I can't recall seeing a single Silverman sign in the Town, though he and Leggett were both kind enough to campaign here. My guess is that Leggett receives a warm reception tonight even as he hears lots of questions and concerns.

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Duncan Day at the Post

The Washington Post ran an editorial filled with plaudits for our outgoing county executive, who they call Montgomery's "fifth, and best county executive" today:

DOUGLAS M. Duncan, who after 12 years as Montgomery County executive leaves office next week, is easily the most accomplished of the five men who have held the job since it was created in 1970. Somber, hard-driving, thin-skinned and occasionally ruthless, he was not always universally beloved. But he did earn unrivaled respect as a doer and decision maker in a county that by his oft-repeated diagnosis is afflicted with "paralysis by analysis."

Even as Montgomery County was being reshaped by immigration, shifting demographics, swift development and rising prosperity, Mr. Duncan was instrumental in maintaining and improving the assets that have made it one of the nation's choicest (and most expensive) places to live: vibrant neighborhoods, excellent social services, efficient government and first-class amenities. Look around at what has made Montgomery dynamic -- terrific schools, the revival of downtown Silver Spring, the glittery new Strathmore arts center -- and you will see Mr. Duncan's fingerprints. It is an enviable record.

At the same time, the front page of the Post ran a story which eerily mirrors the editorial but points out that county voters opted for a Council with a majority likely to cast a much more critical eye on development than the previous one:

Montgomery County Executive-elect Isiah "Ike" Leggett (D) is vowing to address what some critics describe as a culture of coziness between developers and government officials that has often favored the building industry and marginalized ordinary residents.

That promise could mark a sharp turnabout from 12 years under County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), who will leave office next week.

Duncan, a critic of the county's "paralysis by analysis" reputation, streamlined a bulky bureaucracy he said hindered business. As he turns over the county government to Leggett, Duncan can point to many successes: revitalization of downtown Silver Spring, growth along Interstate 270's high-tech corridor and construction of a world-class concert hall on Rockville Pike, among many others.

But some of the county's incoming leaders -- including Leggett, three new County Council members committed to slower growth and the recently appointed Planning Board chairman, Royce Hanson -- say the pendulum may have swung too far.

A review by The Washington Post of several recent development proposals illuminates an environment in which lobbyists often influence growth policy in private meetings with staff and elected officials.

Leggett, Hanson and council member Marilyn Praisner (D-Eastern County), expected to be elected council president next week, already have begun to look into changing land-use practices.

"The public believes they have given us a mandate to slow growth and come up with some better approaches," Leggett said. "Confidence and respect for the system needs to be restored."

Duncan declined to be interviewed.

The new leaders face a vocal citizenry that has long complained about the development industry's deep pockets and insider ties. The critics say the industry too often has won expedited reviews with minimal public input, avoided requirements for building moderately priced housing and circumvented publicly negotiated community blueprints.

"There really is a network of players in this county who know how to gain advantages and have access and results that are not available to the average citizen," said Stuart Rochester, a longtime eastern Montgomery activist.

The new leaders say the development-approval process should be more open and accountable. They are eager to avoid a repeat of last year's revelations of irregularities at Clarksburg Town Center, where buildings too tall and too close to the road were discovered by a community group, not by government.

. . .

With the election of new council members Elrich, Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) and Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large), the county's slower-growth faction -- which will also include current members Praisner and Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) -- has swelled to a majority. They and Leggett could push policies in a new direction.

Finally, friends of the Rockville Library are resisting a proposal to rename the new Rockville library after Duncan, who grew up in the county seat:

In a celebratory tribute to Douglas M. Duncan in the final week of his 12 years as Montgomery County executive, his supporters planned to name the new Rockville library after him at tomorrow's grand opening.

Then library boosters in Rockville got wind of the plan. Duncan, they said, has been no friend of the libraries.

So the dedication will be delayed until a public hearing is held, and Duncan (D) will leave office without his name on the $26.3 million building in the heart of the city where he was raised.

. . .

But Gayl Selkin-Gutman, chairwoman of the Rockville Library Advisory Committee, warned council members this week that her group and the Rockville chapter of Friends of the Library were prepared to protest the ceremony if the proposal was not withdrawn. She told Leventhal that it would be a "travesty" to name the building for Duncan.

In a letter to Leventhal yesterday, Wayne Goldstein of the Montgomery County Civic Federation wrote: "Mr. Duncan went out of his way, at every critical junction, to delay or minimize county responsibility to help fund the Rockville library."

I am sure that we'll manage to find something to name after Duncan, who served this county very well for three terms and is going to be a very tough act to follow. I have a feeling that Ike Leggett may just find a way to push through the renaming of the Rockville Library, or another building, in Duncan's honor. The concert hall at Strathmore might be fitting choice if it doesn't already have someone else's name attached.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Off to the Senate President Races

Senate President Mike Miller surprised many not by announcing his retirement but by announcing it before he was even sworn in for his last four-year term. Some might suspect that he does not plan to serve out his full term in order to annoint his successor. However, Miller told the Gazette that he plans to serve until the end of his term.

Miller still has four years left on what looks to be an impressive 24-year run as Maryland Senate President. However, potential successors are already jockeying for position. The Baltimore Sun has named practically every veteran Democratic senator with a pulse as a potential candidate for the leadership post:

The generally accepted front-runners in the race are the three veteran committee chairmen: Sen. Ulysses E. Currie of Prince George's County, Sen. Brian E. Frosh of Montgomery County and Sen. Thomas M. Middleton of Southern Maryland.

Sen. Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore, who takes over the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee in January, will also have a strong perch from which to position herself for the post over the next four years.

Other names that have been suggested by current members of the Senate include Sen. P.J. Hogan, a Montgomery County Republican-turned-Democrat who is vice chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee; and Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, a Howard County Democrat who has been Miller's go-to guy on slot machines, BGE rates and other complex issues.

A dark horse possibility is Sen. Robert J. Garagiola, an attorney and Army veteran from Montgomery County who is well-liked and respected in the chamber but who has served only one term and has not held a leadership post.
Frosh is seen as the liberal in the race while Middleton, Hogan, and Kasemayer are seen as relatively moderate candidates. Currie and Conway are both members of the powerful group of African-American senators from Baltimore City.

While it is tempting to size up the race in terms of ideology, the race to fill Miller's big shoes may rest less on ideology and more on personality and regional alliances. For example, the Washington suburbs with 15 of the 33 Democratic senators could unite in an attempt to elect a leader from Montgomery or Prince George's. Alternatively, African-American senators from Prince George's and Baltimore could form a powerful bloc of ten senators.

All of the jockeying for position will make the upcoming session interesting. Sen. Lisa Gladden (Baltimore) had the most apt observation:
But in a chamber where the top job has been locked up for so long - Miller was elected Senate president in January 1987 and is the longest-serving Senate president in the United States right now - it will be all but impossible for the ambitious to contain themselves, said Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat. She, for one, is excited to watch the scramble.

"Now all the chairmen are going to act right," Gladden said. "This might be the most congenial session in the history of the Senate because everyone is going to be so pleasant."
And don't forget an election will intervene before the Democratic Caucus chooses the next Senate President.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Recounts in Anne Arundel

It looks like the races in which Republicans eked out narrow victories in Anne Arundel will go to a recount:

. . . Republican Donald H. Dwyer Jr. and Democrat Joan Cadden, a state delegate, were separated by just 28 votes in the District 31 House of Delegates contest, a result that is likely to prompt a recount and a political recalibration in a county where Democrats hold a lead in registered voters.

Dwyer was one of three Anne Arundel County Republicans to make election comebacks after the absentee ballots were counted, claiming legislative seats that were tentatively in Democratic hands the morning after Election Day.

Republicans say the results are a sign that the county is tilting to the right, but others say that it's just Anne Arundel politics: Republicans vote Democratic, Democrats vote Republican, and candidates who don't court crossover voters are endangered.

. . .

In Senate District 31, where Jimeno is retiring, Republican Bryan W. Simonaire defeated Democrat Walter J. Shandrowsky, who had a 198-vote lead before absentee and provisional ballots were counted.

Voters elect three delegates in District 31, and at the close of election night, Cadden was the third-highest vote-getter. Even so, Dwyer said he was "thrilled" at the prospect of unseating her.

Cadden's lead dwindled to 30 votes after the bulk of the absentee ballots had been counted and then changed to an 11-vote deficit after the provisional ballots were tallied. The final absentee ballots gave Dwyer his 28-vote lead.

Cadden, who has not conceded, accused Dwyer of distorting her record. "I think Delegate Dwyer put out some information that totally distorted some votes," she said. "I ran on my record."

Dwyer said he viewed the election as affirmation of his conservative values and proof that Cadden "does not represent the voters."

"I think this shows clearly that, especially as close as it is -- whether they were Republican, Democrat or independent -- the issues that I hold represent the people of District 31 and the people of Anne Arundel as a whole," he said.

Del. Dwyer obviously went to the Newt Gingrich school of politics. Even though voters nearly turned out the incumbent in favor of two newcomers from his own party, this extreme conservative still thinks his tentative 28-vote victory is a reason to crow that his "ideas" are widely popular in not just his district but all of Anne Arundel.

It's too bad that Del. Dwyer looks likely to return to the House. However, the silver lining for the Democrats, if not Marylanders who like tough electoral competition, is that Dwyer may be the future of the Republican Party. Republican moderates went down to defeat and hard right conservatives like Del. Dwyer and Sen. Mooney (R-Frederick) who are wholly unacceptable to the larger Maryland electorate--and barely hung on even in their own districts--will now be the face of the not-so-grand Republican Party.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The New General Assembly

The results on the State Board of Elections website are still unofficial but hopefully they are near final. Democratic gains in the General Assembly turned out to be smaller than projected based on election night once the absentee and provisional ballots were counted.

In the Senate, Democrats will hold a 33-14 margin over the Republicans. This division is exactly the same as after the 2002 general election. However, I suppose Democrats can claim a one-seat pickup as they reclaimed the seat of Sen. John Gianetti (District 21-Prince George's), who switched parties after he lost the Democratic primary to Sen.-Elect Jim Rosapepe.

Democrats and Republicans traded two other seats. In District 13 (Howard), Democrat James Robey defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Sandra Schrader. In District 31 (Anne Arundel), Democrat Walter Shandrowsky narrowly lost a battle for an open seat to Republican Bryan Simonaire. The seat had previously been held by conservative Democrat Phil Jimeno.

Democrats will have a 104-37 margin over the Republicans in the House of Delegates. Democrats netted six seats more in 2006 than in 2002, reflecting a gain of seven new seats and a lost of one seat. Democratic Del. Joan Cadden (District 31-Anne Arundel) lost her seat by 28 votes to incumbent Republican Del. Don Dwyer. Unusually for an incumbent, Dwyer trailed both of the non-incumbent Republican candidates for delegate.

Democrats picked up seats in seven districts. In District 3 (Frederick), Democrat Sue Hecht beat incumbent Del. Patrick Hogan. In District 8 (Baltimore), incumbent Republican Del. John Cluster lost his seat to Democrat Todd Schuler. Democrat Craig Rice defeated incumbent Republican Del. Jean Cryor by just 152 votes in District 15 (Montgomery).

In contrast, incumbent Republican Del. William Daniel Mayer trailed Democrat Peter Murphy by 5,212 votes in District 28 (Charles). Republican Del. Terry Gilleland lost his seat to Democrat Pamela Beidle in District 32 (Anne Arundel). Interestingly, Del.-Elect Beidle, the only new delegate topped the ticket and Gilleland fell to fifth place behind another Republican.

Incumbent GOP Del. Sheryl Davis Kohl similarly not only lost her seat but fell to fourth place behind the other Republican candidate in District 34A (Harford and Cecil). Democrat B. Daniel Riley will take her place in the House. Republicans held all three seats in District 42 (Baltimore) prior to the election but Democrat Stephen Lafferty won the single open seat in the district.

Democrats now hold 70% of the seats in the Senate and 74% of the seats in the House. Republicans had hoped to win at least one-third of the seats in one chamber so they would have the power to sustain the veto of a Republican governor. In 2006, they not only failed to make any progress toward that goal, they lost some of their relatively small number of seats to the Democrats. As Martin O'Malley will replace Bob Ehrlich as governor, Republican legislators don't even have the high-class problem of worrying about sustaining his vetoes.

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Baltimore City Moves Closer to Smoking Ban

Smoking bans in indoor public places already exist in Montgomery, Prince George's, Howard, and Talbot Counties in Maryland. Washington, D.C.'s ban will go into effect with the new year. Baltimore City inched closer to joining the clean lung club as a city council committee approved a ban which would go into effect in January 2008. However, Martin O'Malley just might veto the legislation if it is passed by the city council:

The measure would prohibit smoking in all public places, including bars and restaurants, bowling alleys and taxicabs. Cigar bars, outdoor seating areas of restaurants, private clubs and certain tobacco shops would be exempt from the ban, if the owners apply for and are granted a waiver.

The mayor has repeatedly said he prefers a statewide smoking ban to prohibitions being passed by individual jurisdictions, which he says could create unfair competition among bars and restaurants.
However, the article in the Baltimore Sun revealingly explains that the General Assembly hasn't exactly rushed to embrace a statewide ban and why action by Baltimore City might stimulate greater action by the legislature:
Maryland's Democratic-controlled legislature has killed a proposed statewide smoking ban four years in a row. New York, California and Massachusetts approved statewide bans after their largest cities passed local restrictions, advocates say.
Of course, the smoking ban might have a shot if it is all in the family. Councilman Robert W. Curran, who chaired the city council committee which passed the ban 4-1 and said that the proposed smoking ban is "something we should be proud of", just happens to be the uncle of the mayor's wife.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Israel Will Recognize Gay Marriages

Israel does not have civil marriage. However, according to Haaretz, the Israeli High Court says that the country must recognize gay marriages performed outside of the country just as it recognizes heterosexual marriages. As in the United States, religious leaders are less than pleased, making the inevitable cliched references to Sodom and Gomorrah. Gay civil rights leaders are naturally jubilant.

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DOJ Won't Investigate Ehrlich-Steele Flyers

According to WTOP and the Associated Press (thanks to Votelaw for the link):

The Justice Department says it won't investigate misleading fliers that Republicans distributed in Maryland on Election Day.

The fliers promoted the candidacies of Governor Robert Ehrlich and Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele.

Acting Assistant Attorney General James Clinger says there's not enough legal basis to support such an investigation.

The fliers were authorized by the campaigns of Ehrlich, who lost his bid for a second term, and Steele, who was defeated by Congressman Ben Cardin in his bid for a Senate seat.

They implied that the two candidates had been endorsed by prominent black Democrats, including former NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume and Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson.

Neither had endorsed the GOP candidates.

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Turnout Analysis (Take 2)

Hoping that the numbers on the website of the State Board of Elections are now a bit more final, I thought I'd take another stab an examining changes in turnout in the gubernatorial election between 2002 and 2006. Statewide, the number of voters who cast ballots in the governor's race rose by 81,054, or 4.8%, from 2002.

Turnout declined in only two Maryland jurisdictions: Baltimore City and Allegheny County. Turnout was down by 7,420, or 4.6%, in Baltimore City, the largest drop in both absolute and percentage terms. Seven hundred fewer people voted in the governor's race in Allegheny, a drop of 3.1% from 2002.

While Allegheny usually votes Republican, Baltimore City is one of the big three Democratic bastions. It has lost population in absolute terms for some time. The loss relative to the rest of the state has been even larger since the state as a whole has been gaining population. Baltimore City once contained over one-half of the state's population. In 2006, its voters accounted for 8.5% of the state's voters in the governor's race.

In absolute terms, voter turnout rose most sharply in Anne Arundel where 11,599, or 6.6%, more voters cast ballots in 2006. Prince George's turnout rose by 9,803, or 5.0%, the second highest in the state. Turnout rose by roughly the same amount in absolute terms in Howard (9,181) and Montgomery (9,013). However, this shift represented an increase of 9.5% in Howard but only 3.0% in Montgomery. Anne Arundel votes Republican in statewide contests but Montgomery and Prince George's are heavily Democratic. Howard has been a swing county but listed decisively to the Democrats this year.

The outer suburbs of Frederick (6,898 or 10.4%), Charles (6,286 or 17.9%), and Harford (5,784 or 6.8%) posted impressive increases in turnout in both absolute and percentage terms. No other jurisdications had an increase above 3,800. At 17.9%, the increase in Charles was the highest in the state in percentage terms--good news for the Democrats as Charles is shifting toward becoming a solid Democratic county. However, Frederick and Harford are clearly in the Republican camp despite Democratic gains this year.

Other than Charles, four counties in southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore had the highest increases in percentage terms. Cecil (3,769 or 15.1%), Calvert (3,727 or 14.2%), St. Mary's (3,313 or 13.1%), and Wicomico (3,192 or 12.8%). All vote Republican though O'Malley did much better in all of them in 2006 than Townsend did in 2002.

In short, the number of votes increased the most in Democratic jurisdictions with Anne Arundel being the notable exception. However, other than Charles, the rate of growth was highest in Republican enclaves.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Dems Gain in County Councils

Maryland has far fewer local jurisdictions than most states. All counties have either a county council or a county commission, though the autonomy and powers obtained vary across the state according to the type of local government. Six counties elect a county executive, effectively the mayor of the county. Baltimore City elects a mayor in addition to its fifteen-member city council. All of the counties, but not Baltimore City, held local elections this year. All seats on the county councils and commissions were up for grabs except in Cecil County, which elected three of its five-member commissioners this year.

Before the election, Democrats held 78, or 57%, of the 138 seats available on the various county councils and county commissions as well as the Baltimore City Council. Democrats gained a net of ten seats in the election, so the share of seats held by Democrats rose to 88, or 64%. Of course, gains and losses by Democrats varied around the state. While Democrats gained control of four new local councils (Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, and St. Mary's), they lost control of two others (Allegheny and Wicomico).

Here is a summary of results from around the state:

In Allegheny, Democrats lost one seat and control of the three-member commission shifted from 2-1 Democratic to 2-1 Republican.

The balance of power remained unchanged in Anne Arundel with Republican maintaining their one seat edge on the seven-member council. However, Republican Del. Leopold gave the GOP one of their best results this year by taking the county executive's office away from the Democrats. Incumbent County Executive Janet Owens could not run for reelection due to term limits and lost the Democratic primary for comptroller.

Baltimore City held no election for the city council though city politics will undoubtedly heat up as the mayor becomes governor.

No partisan change in Baltimore County as Democrats retained both the county executive's office and their commanding 6-1 majority on the county council.

Democrats picked up one seat in Calvert County but Republicans still have a one seat majority on the five-member commission.

Democrats lost their one remaining seat in Caroline County leaving Republicans in control of all three seats on the county commission.

In Carroll County, Republicans kept control of all three seats on the county commission.

Cecil County elected only three of its five commissioners this year. The elections left the partisan balance unchanged with Democrats holding a 4-1 majority of the Republicans.

Charles County Democrats showed their rising power by sweeping all five seats on the county commission. Republicans held two seats before the election. African Americans also gained a second seat on the five-member body--quite a change for a commission which had no black members just a few years ago.

Democrats took control of the commission in Dorchester County by picking up one seat from the Republicans. Democrats now have the same 3-2 majority held by Republicans prior to the election.

Republicans held on to their 3-2 majority on the Frederick County Commission.

The GOP once again won all three seats in Garrett County, long a Republican bastion in state elections.

Harford County has a reputation as a rising Republican bastion. However, Democrats put up quite a fight this year and even gained one new seat on the county council, though Republican still held a 4-2 majority. Republicans held the county executive office but Democrat Ann Helton put up a heck of a fight and won 48% of the vote.

Democrats held the open county executive's office and their 4-1 majority on the Howard County Council.

Democrats picked up one seat in Kent County but that was enough to shift control of the three-member commission from the Republicans to the Democrats.

In Montgomery, Democrats bumped off the last Republican on the Council leaving the County's dominant party with control of all nine seats. Needless to say, Democrat Ike Leggett held the county executive's office.

As usual, Prince George's Democrats won all nine seats on the County Council and incumbent Democrat Jack Johnson retained control of the county executive's office.

Democrats made their most stunning local gains in Queen Anne's where control of the commission shifted from 4-1 Republican to 4-1 Democratic.

Democrats also gained control in St. Mary's where the balance of power tilted from 3-2 Republican to 3-2 Democratic as the Democrats picked up a seat.

Democrats solidifed their control in Somerset where they gained one seat and a 4-1 majority on the county commission.

In Talbot, Democrats lost a seat but held on to a 3-2 majority on the county council.

Democrats gained their first seat on the commission in Washington County, leaving the Republicans with a 4-1 majority.

The torch was passed to the Republicans in Wicomico County as a one seat gain gave the Republicans a 4-3 majority on the county council.

Finally, in Worcester County, Republicans lost one seat but retained a 4-3 majority on the county commission.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Turnout Up 9207 in Montgomery

Time to eat a little crow here. The ballots in Montgomery County have now all been counted, including all provisional and absentee ballots. Turnout in the 2006 gubernatorial election was up 9207 from the 2002 election, an increase of 3.1%. At a minimum, this appears to roughly keep pace with population growth in Montgomery--not a bad achievement at all since virtually all of the growth was concentrated among low-turnout groups. While there is still more work to be done, some belated kudos should go to the Democrats who made sure that Montgomery voters made their voices heard in force at the polls. I'll wait a few days before taking a look to see what the final returns show in other parts of the state.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Turnout Up 250 in Montgomery

Yup, you read right. Turnout in the gubernatorial election was up by a massive 250 votes in 2006 over 2002 in Montgomery. (Note: I just heard that there are a few votes left to count but you get the idea.) While voter turnout was up an anemic 0.08% in Montgomery, the County's population was up by roughly 2.5-3.0% since the 2002 election. One reason that MoCo's population grew but its turnout did not is that Latinos, who often are not citizens, account for approximately one-half of Montgomery's population growth.

African Americans and Asian Americans account for virtually all the rest of Montgomery's population growth. Members of these groups also tend to vote at lower rates than whites. Citizenship also remains an issue for some Asian Americans. Voter turnout tends to be correlated with education and age in the U.S., factors which tend to undermine black voter turnout. However, the core lesson is that Montgomery Democrats still have a lot of work to do in terms of registering and turning out voters.

For all the talk of massively increased voter turnout this year, the numbers of voters in Maryland's gubernatorial election rose by only 52,315, or 3%, statewide. In absolute terms, turnout was up the most in the outer suburban counties of Anne Arundel (11,333), Charles (6,232), Frederick (6,449), Harford (5,288), and Howard (8,684).

Turnout was down in only three jurisdictions: Baltimore City (-11,863), Baltimore County (-2,393), and Allegheny (-785). Baltimore City's turnout was down by 7.4%--far more than anywhere else in the state and far more than the decline in Baltimore City's population. Apparently, neither Ehrlich's endless bashing of the city nor O'Malley's candidacy motivated Baltimore residents to show up.

These shifts show how important it was for the Democrats that O'Malley was able to raise his game in Republican territory. Turnout in the core three Democratic jurisdictions of Baltimore City, Montgomery, and Prince George's just isn't growing nearly as fast as in the rest of the state. In order to maintain their dominance of Maryland politics, Democrats are going to have to keep raising their game elsewhere.

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Steny Wins, Pelosi Loses

The Democratic Caucus voted 149-86 to elect Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) over John Murtha (D-PA) as House Majority Leader, the second highest position in the House of Representatives. Hoyer and Pelosi have been rivals while Murtha and Pelosi have been allies for sometime but Pelosi's public campaign for Murtha was a suprirse.

Pelosi gambled and lost big by backing Murtha. Dethroning Hoyer from the number two slot would have sent a strong message about the consequences of challenging Pelosi. If Murtha had beat Hoyer, any House Democrat would have thought long and hard before taking on Madame Speaker. Instead, the Democratic Caucus sent a strong signal that there are limits to Pelosi's power and their support for her leadership.

Steny Hoyer will be the most powerful Marylander in Congress in living memory and beyond. His rise is also a huge boon to the Washington region which had gotten very used to having Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) look out for its interests. Not bad for a former Maryland Senate President who won his seat in a special election in 1981 after losing the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

(For you trivia buffs, much beloved Rep. Gladys Noon Spellmanwas reelected in 1980 while in a coma. The seat was declared vacant in 1981. Hoyer beat out Spellman's widower in the primary to win the seat. Hoyer's seat used to be based more heavily in Prince George's County but Hoyer migrated east in 1992 to make way for the black-majority Fourth District currently held by Rep. Al Wynn.)

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cardin's and O'Malley's Slightly Different Supporters

O'Malley and Cardin both swept to victory this past Tuesday. However, the exit polls indicate that they had some important differences in their bases related to the race and ethnic backgrounds of the candidates. While 84% of African-American voters voted for O'Malley, only 74% supported Cardin who was opposed by African-American Michael Steele. (One reader has suggested that the exit polls overstate black support for Steele; anyone else have thoughts or evidence on that question?)

On the other hand, while 48% of white voters supported Cardin, only 45% supported O'Malley. Some may suspect that Cardin's extra white votes came from white racists. On the contrary, it appears that Cardin gained extra support from Jewish voters, his ethnic base, just as Steele did better than African Americans usually do among black voters. Cardin won 84% of the Jewish vote, 10% more than received by O'Malley--Jews composed about 7% of the electorate.

Jewish voters are generally more liberal on racial issues than other white voters, so it seems unlikely that the higher support for Cardin was part of some sort of racial backlash. Indeed, Jewish Democrats probably played a large role in assuring that Ike Leggett, who is black, defeated Steve Silverman, who is Jewish, in the crucial Democratic primary for Montgomery County Executive. Leggett did quite well in many of the more heavily Jewish neighborhoods in the Democratic primary.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Newbies

We have a lot of new state and local officials in Montgomery County this year. All are Democrats except the school board officials who do not run with a party label. Here is who they are:

Governor Martin O'Malley
Lt. Governor Anthony Brown
Comptroller Peter Franchot
Attorney General Doug Gansler

County Executive Ike Leggett
State's Attorney John McCarthy
Clerk of the Circuit Court Loretta Knight

Board of Education Member Shirley Brandman (At-Large)
Board of Education Member Judy Docca (District 1)

County Councilman Marc Elrich (At-Large)
County Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg (At-Large)
County Councilman Roger Berliner (District 1)
County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (District 5)

Senator Richard Madaleno (District 18)
Senator Mike Lenett (District 19)
Senator Jamie Raskin (District 20)

Delegate Craig Rice (District 15), final results pending
Delegate Jim Gilchrist (District 17)
Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher (District 18)
Delegate Ben Kramer (District 19)
Delegate Roger Manno (District 19)
Delegate Heather Mizeur (District 20)
Delegate Tom Hucker (District 20)
Delegate Saqib Ali (District 39)

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MCEA and the General Election

I'm afraid that the reputation of MCEA (Montgomery County Education Association) as the omnipotent power in Montgomery County elections lasted only from the primary until the general election. It appears that their endorsement was not enough to save Howie Denis in the District 1 race for the County Council. Del. Jean Cryor (R-15) may yet still pull through but she still trails her opponent by 50 votes. Perhaps the influence of the Teachers is greater in primaries because voters cannot rely on their party identification to inform their decision.

Of course, MCEA must be pleased that all of their Board of Education candidates came through with flying colors. I'm particularly excited about the election of Shirley Brandman, probably because I met her a few campaign events. She has a resume as long as your arm and appears incredibly qualified for the position. Smart too.

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District 15 Delegate Race Tightens

The absentee ballots have been counted and Democrat Craig Rice's lead over incumbent Republican Del. Jean Cryor has shrunk to just 50 votes. The Montgomery County Board of Elections still has to count the overseas absentee ballots and go through the provisional ballots to determine which of those should be counted, so the race is now too close to call. Cryor has a chance to be Montgomery's sole survivor of the Democratic landslide.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Pelosi Backs Murtha Against Hoyer

In the race for majority leader, Maryland's favorite daughter (otherwise known as Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi) has endorsed Pennsylvanian John Murtha over Marylander Steny Hoyer in race for House Majority Leader. Hoyer still claims that he still has the votes to win. Steny is the highest ranking Marylander to serve in the House in over a century. And let's just forget about the only Marylander to serve as president or vice president: Spiro Agnew.

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Steele for RNC Chair

The post-election buzz is that Ken Mehlman is out and Michael Steele may be in as Republican National Committee Chair (see also the Sun story). I'll miss Mehlman. His dogged denial in the face of a mountain of bad news and even his own body language on election night was a credit to his willingness to shill and his spinning abilities.

Steele would be a real gift for Democrats. While the man certainly can be charming, he is not known for his ability to deal with tough questions or his consistency under fire. If he accomplishes as much for the RNC as he did as lieutenant governor, the Democrats simply have nothing to fear. Moreover, his status as RNC chair would make it impossible for him to return to Maryland as a "different kind" of politician. Notice how long that lasted after Election Day.

Of course, Steele is now linked to the deceptive fliers in Maryland which will make it hard for him to give the Republicans a more friendly image. Instead of looking like a serious effort to win over African-American voters, Steele now looks more and more like part of well-funded effort to deceive them. However, onward and upward.

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Details on GOP Dirty Tricks

The Washington Post has done its homework and printed a story on the creation and distribution of campaigns flier incorrectly showing that Ehrlich and Steele were endorsed by prominent African-American Democrats. The fliers also was falsely labelled as a Democratic sample ballot even though the Republican Party was behind its distribution. Here are some highlights from the Post story:

The glossy fliers bore photos of black Democratic leaders on the front. Under the headline "Democratic Sample Ballot" were boxes checked in red for Ehrlich and Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, who were not identified as Republicans. Their names were followed by a long list of local Democratic candidates.

. . .

Republican leaders have defended the Election Day episode as an accepted element of bare-knuckle politics. But for many voters, it shattered in one day the nice-guy images Ehrlich and Steele had cultivated for years.

. . .

This wasn't the first time Ehrlich and Steele had recruited poll workers this way. In 2002 -- when Ehrlich was campaigning to become Maryland's first Republican governor in a generation and Steele was his choice for lieutenant governor -- they bused in homeless people from the District to hand out literature at Prince George's precincts.

. . .

It also was not the first time Ehrlich and Steele had used fliers that some considered deceptive. U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D) still recalls arriving at a polling place in his Baltimore district during the 2002 governor's race and being handed a glossy flier.

"They handed me this big, beautiful piece of literature. It was better than any of the literature I have ever produced," Cummings recalled. "I said, 'Boy this is a wonderful photo.' There's my pastor, and [then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary] Mel Martinez, and [former Baltimore delegate] Tony Fulton and myself. Then I saw Ehrlich in the picture, and I saw the words and I said, 'Uh oh.' "

. . .

On the eve of this month's election, the mailers began landing in Prince George's mailboxes. One was a glossy red, black and green flier -- the colors that represent African American power -- sporting pictures of County Executive Jack B. Johnson, his predecessor, Wayne K. Curry and past NAACP president and former U.S. Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume.

Above the pictures of the three Democrats the flier read, "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats," and underneath it announced: "These are OUR Choices."

None of the three candidates had endorsed the governor, and only Curry had declared his support for Steele.

There were other fliers, too. A similar "Democratic" guide with Ehrlich's and Steele's photo on the front appeared in Baltimore. Another distributed in Baltimore County identified the Republican candidate for county executive as a Democrat.

Fraud is no way to win an election.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Geography of O'Malley's Win

Preliminary election results on the website of the State Board of Elections indicate that Martin O'Malley won 52.5% of the vote compared to 46.4% for Bob Ehrlich. Ehrlich's share of the vote represents a drop of of 5.2% from his 2002 showing of 51.6% of the vote. In contrast, O'Malley's share of the vote represents an increase of 4.8% over the 47.7% received by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002.

The final numbers are not in yet so I won't examine changes in turnout or the absolute numbers of votes. However, the preliminary election results make it possible to gain a sense of where O'Malley gained a higher share of the vote in 2006 than Townsend received in 2002.

In the big three Democratic strongholds of Baltimore City, Montgomery and Prince George's, the Democratic share of the vote rose by just 2.0%. Interestingly, the mayor of Baltimore increased his share of the vote by just 0.3% in his own town. In contrast, O'Malley's vote was up 2.2% in Montgomery and 3.5% in Prince George's.

One reason that Townsend lost in 2002 was that the bottom fell out of the Democratic vote in areas of the state that normally vote Republican. Statewide Democratic candidates usually lose the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland, and Southern Maryland. However, they don't lose by as much as Townsend.

O'Malley made significant gains in each of these regions. In the eight counties of the Eastern Shore, O'Malley won 36.7% compared to the 31.2% received by Townsend. The overall figure masks that O'Malley made much stronger gains in the upper Eastern Shore compared to the relatively two populous lower Eastern Shore counties of Wicomico and Worcester. The Democratic gubernatorial vote went up just 0.6% in Wicomico and Worcester, anemic compared to the thumping 8.1% increase in the other six Eastern Shore counties.

O'Malley increased the Democratic share of the vote from 39.3 to 45.1%--an increase of 5.8%--in the three counties of Southern Maryland (Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary's). Most impressively, the O'Malley won a majority of 51.0% in Charles, a gain of 7.9% over 2002. The growth in the African-American share of the vote signals that Charles is likely to join soon the group of reliably Democratic jurisdictions.

In Western Maryland (Garrett, Allegheny, Washington and Frederick), O'Malley increased the Democratic share of the vote from 32.2 to 38.6%, a gain of 6.4% from 2002. O'Malley didn't carry any of the four counties in this region. Gov. Glendening was the last Democrat to win a county in this region in a gubernatorial election. He carried Allegheny in 1998.

Of course, one should not ignore the big five Baltimore suburban counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, and Howard. O'Malley was long thought to be a stronger candidate against Ehrlich precisely because his strong presence in the Baltimore region would help him undercut Ehrlich's strength in his home base. O'Malley did not fail to deliver as the Democratic share of the vote in 2006 rose 9.0% from 2002. While Townsend won only 34.8% of the vote in this region, O'Malley earned 43.8%.

O'Malley's greatest gains were in Baltimore and Harford County. The son of Arbutus must have been shocked that he carried Baltimore by less than 500 votes according to the results on the State Board of Elections website. Indeed, more complete returns on the Baltimore County website indicate that Ehrlich managed to lose his home county. O'Malley's share of the vote was up 11.3% over that of Townsend in 2002 in Baltimore County.

O'Malley edged out Ehrlich in Howard County, another county lost by Townsend in 2002. The Democratic candidate still lost Harford by a substantial margin. However, O'Malley won 10.7% more in 2006 than Townsend in 2002. As a result, O'Malley won 35.5% compared to the 24.8% received by Townsend. Carroll remains a weak spot for Democrats. O'Malley won just 29.0% of the vote there but that was still up 8.8% over 2002.

The results should discourage Republicans because O'Malley's victory was not a result of the Democrats rallying traditional Democratic strongholds for one last gasp but of making major inroads in areas which Republicans had seen as the future base of a Republican majority. Republicans have their bases in Maryland but Democrats now fight them hard for votes on their home turf and can win the share needed to provide a statewide victory even against an incumbent Republican governor with strong approval ratings and a bulging bank account.

Ehrlich likes to blame his loss on the Democratic tide but the inconvenient fact remains that incumbent Republicans managed to win reelection in the even strong Democratic states of Hawaii and Rhode Island. According to the Baltimore Sun, Ehrlich lost because he just didn't work well with Democrats to rack up accomplishments during his term. Perhaps so, but surely Democrats deserve some credit for mobilizing voters outside of their "comfort zone" to use a favorite phrase of Ehrlich from 2002.

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More State Legislative Results

The result of the state legislative races remains fluid. According to the Baltimore Sun, absentee ballots have allowed Del. William Frank (R) to overtake Tracey Miller (D) for the third seat in District 42 (Baltimore County). In District 8, absentee ballots caused incumbent Del. Joseph Boteler, III (R) to vault from fourth to second place. Ruth Baisden (D) fell into fourth place as Todd Schuler (D) holds a 105 vote lead over his running mate for the third slot.

Gains made through absentee ballots reduce the number of Democratic gains in the House of Delegates from nine to seven. However, the Democrats will still control 105, or 74%, of the 141 seats in the House of Delegates. A few ballots still must be counted so I imagine results could continue to change.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

State Legislative Gains

While the results are not yet final, one can get a firmer sense of political shifts in the General Assembly following the 2006 elections. Contrary to election night information, it appears that the Democrats did not gain any more seats in 2006 than they did in 2002.

State Senate

The balance of power remains the same as immediately following the 2002 elections with 33 Democrats and 14 Republicans. Former Del. James Rosapepe defeated incumbent Sen. John Gianetti in the Democratic primary in District 21 (Prince George's and Anne Arundel). Gianetti became a Republican after his primary loss. Rosapepe defeated Gianetti again in the general election with 69% of the vote to take back the seat for the Democrats.

Elsewhere the Democrats and Republicans traded a seat. In District 13 (Howard), Democratic County Executive James Robey defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Sandra Schrader with 56% of the vote. Republican Bryan Simonaire appears to have narrowly won open District 31 (Anne Arundel) with 50.8%. Democrat Walter Shandrowsky received 49.2%.

The partisan stalemate masks ideological changes which should make the ranks of Senate Republicans more conservative. At the same time, the Democratic Caucus should get a bit more liberal. Schrader's defeat represents another death blow to the ranks of moderate Republicans. The replacement of conservative Democrat Jimeno by conservative Republican Simonaire simultaneously renders the Republicans more conservative and the Democrats more liberal. Gianetti was the most conservative Democrat (then briefly the only Republican) from Prince George's so his replacement by Rosapepe should make Senate Democrats more liberal.

House of Delegates
Democrats gained nine seats in the House of Delegates according to the current results from the State Board of Elections. Some the races are very close so I imagine the outcomes in a few seats could change once the final outcome is determined. In District 3A (Frederick), Democrat Sue Hecht edged out incumbent Republican Del. Patrick Hogan for the second seat. Both of the district's seats are now held by Democrats.

Baltimore County was fertile territory for Democrats who undoubtedly benefitted from Ehrlich's weaker showing in the County in 2006 compared to 2002. Democrats picked up two seats in District 8. Democrats Ruth Baisden and Todd Schuler defeated incumbent Republican Dels. Joseph Boteler, III and John Cluster to join incumbent Democratic Del. Eric Bromwell in the House. Democrats Stephen Lafferty and Tracy Miller picked up two seats for their party in District 42 in an extremely tight contest. Incumbent Republican Del. Susan Aumann also won reelection but Republican Del. William Frank will not return to the House.

Democrats went from two to three seats in three state legislative districts. In District 15 (Montgomery), Democrat Craig Rice narrowly beat incumbent Republican Del. Jean Cryor for the third seat rendering Montgomery's delegation free of Republicans. Cryor's defeat is another major loss for moderate Republicans. Democrat newcomer Peter Murphy defeated incumbent Del. W. Daniel Mayer for the third seat in District 28 (Charles). Democrat Pamela Beidle will join two Democratic incumbents in District 32 (Anne Arundel) but Republican Del. Terry Gilleland, Jr. will not return to the House.

In District 34A (Harford and Cecil), Democrat B. Daniel Riley convincingly defeated incumbent Republican Del. Sheryl Davis Kohl for the second seat. The nine seats gained by Democrats raises the majority party to a total of 107 seats, up from 98 immediately following the 2002 elections. Democrats now control just over three-quarters of the seats in the House of Delegates.

One should also note that incumbent Republican Del. Don Dwyer, Jr. went down to defeat in District 31 (Anne Arundel), though he will be replaced by another Republican, newcomer Republican Nicholaus Kipke. Dwyer was specially targeted by supporters of gay rights. Perhaps Kipke will take a more constructive role in the new House. As far as I can tell from a cursory glance at the returns, Dwyer is the only incumbent who lost in a legislative district where the overall partisan composition did not change.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dems Gain in the State Legislature

Democrats already held two-thirds of the seats in the state legislature going into this election. Republicans bragged that they would take down Democratic Speaker Michael Busch as well as a slew of other Democratic legislators as they made inroads and built a veto-sustaining minority for Governor Ehrlich.

Ehrlich refuses to concede but with a deficit of some 80,000 votes, our governor (who oddly uses the royal "we") will have to sing his concession speech soon enough. There won't be any Republican vetoes in need of sustaining. Busch will return to lead the House after triumphantly winning first place in his district.

Moreover, Democrats actually made gains in the General Assembly despite already holding mammoth majorities in both chambers. According to preliminary results from the Baltimore Sun (and remember there are still ballots to be counted), the GOP will lose at least two seats in the Senate and six to nine seats in the House of Delegates. One House gain appears likely to come from Montgomery as Craig Rice has extended his lead over Jean Cryor though a few precincts still need to be counted in District 15.

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The Dems Won Outside the South

See my post over at The Gadflyer and then go buy Tom Schaller's book, Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's a Great Night to Be a Democrat!

Taking Back the State
The election returns still show Ehrlich and Steele ahead in the votes and Ken Mehlman is still pretending that Steele could win. However, they don't have a prayer. Most of the outstanding votes are in Baltimore, Montgomery, and Prince George's. Maryland is returning to its Democratic roots.

Steele's great hope of a surge in Prince George's just didn't happen. Cardin is winning 75% of the Prince George's vote with 58% of precincts reporting according to CNN. Indeed, Ehrlich is outperforming Steele in Prince George's. Soon-to-be-retired Gov. Ehrlich, however, should not crow. Ehrlich is going to lose his home base of Baltimore County to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

As County Executive-Elect Ike Leggett said tonight at the Montgomery County Democratic celebration, it just goes to show that nice guys finish first. Democrats should not be so nice that they forget the GOP dirty trick of putting out fake voter cards claiming that prominent black Democrats endorsed the Republicans.

Ethnic Cleansing in Montgomery?
Tonight looks to be the end of an era as the last liberal Republicans go down to defeat. The new Montgomery County Council will have no Democrats. Incumbent Republican Howie Denis has been decisively defeated by Democrat Roger Berliner in District 1.

The sole Republican with a prayer of winning reelection appears to be Republican Del. Jean Cryor. While Cryor was leading earlier in the evening, she now trails Democrat Craig Rice by 246 votes with 10 of the district's 35 precincts left to support. This race could still go either way but Rice is certainly outperforming expectations at this point.

Montgomery Flexing Its Muscles
Montgomery will hold three of the top five offices in the state. Montgomery State's Attorney Doug Gansler will soon be the Attorney General of the State. Democratic Del. Peter Franchot will replace Maryland legend William Donald Schaefer as Comptroller. Assuming she is reelected by the legislature, Nancy Kopp will return as State Treasurer and join Franchot and O'Malley on the important Board of Public Works.

Diversity Advances in Maryland
Republicans somehow incredibly managed to claim the diversity mantle with their nomination of Michael Steele and Kristin Cox. Don't believe it. Steele has no accomplishments to his name and made almost no inroads in the African-American community which ultimately realized that he is a spokesman for Bush. The real champion of the idea that quality officials come from all corners of our community remains the Democrats.

Here's why: Anthony Brown, an extremely impressive man who ought to have one of the brightest political futures in our state, will become the first black Democratic statewide official. African-American Ike Leggett is the overwhelming choice of the people of Montgomery to lead this largely non-black county. Craig Rice has a real shot at becoming the first African-American delegate from overwhelmingly white District 15. Saqib Ali has won his race in District 39 and will be the first openly Muslim delegate in Maryland.

Rich Madaleno's 3-1 victory in District 18 will make him the first openly gay senator in Maryland history though I think he is getting even better known for his budget expertise than his strong advocacy for gay rights. Heather Mizeur in District 20 is one the most impressive newcomers in the House and openly lesbian.

No question we still have more work to do here. However, even as I note these milestones, I'm proud that in my county and state we increasingly elect officials based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

The National Picture
The Democrats have taken back the House and it currently looks like that they will even have a double-digit majority. The Senate amazingly remains in play. Although several networks called the Virginia race for Allen (aka Sen. Macacawitz), Democrat Jim Webb just pulled into the lead as more precincts from Arlington and Richmond report in the nearly last results in the Old Dominion.

Virginia remains tight but it puts Democrats on track to win 50 or 51 Senate seats. Democrats now seem certain to takeover GOP seats in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. They are also running strong in Montana. Missouri is close but encouraging. If Democrats pickup six Senate seats, they will have won a stunning 73% of Senate seats up for election this year.

So far, I believe my prediction that not a single Democrat running for reelection in the same district would lose holds true. Republicans will attempt to spin this as an anti-incumbent election. Don't believe a word of it. Their arrogance and disastrous policies have brought this result on themselves. Tonight is a major Democratic victory. Enjoy!

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Thanks Ike! Thanks Chris!

I volunteered during the lunch shift at the Democratic table at my polling place. I was just getting hungry when a volunteer from our precinct dropped off a plate of homemade cookies for all the voters. Needless to say, they disappeared faster than my sample ballots. Then a nice man arrived with a delicious bag lunch courtesy of Rep. Chris Van Hollen. It even came with a pickle. I later discovered that Ike Leggett had done the same for the poll workers at breakfast. Thanks Chris! Thanks Ike!

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GOP Closes in Classless Fashion

According to the Washington Post, the Republicans are bombarding Democrats with phone calls that sound like they are from Democrats. If the caller hangs up, they receive repeated calls during the night to annoy Democratic voters. The calls only identify the message as being from Republicans at the end. Republicans promised not to do this but (surprise!) they are doing it anyway. This is a national phenomenon in close House races.

Meanwhile, closer to home, flyers are being distributed claiming that Kweisi Mfume and Jack Johnson have endorsed Bob Ehrlich and Michael Steele. You can read about the flyer and see a photo of it in the Washington Post. The dailykos.com has an even better scanned image of the flyer which can only be described as fraud.

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One Prediction

Not a single incumbent Democratic senator, representative or governor running for reelection in the same district in which they were elected last time will lose reelection today. The same will not be true for the Republicans. I guess that's two predictions.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Denis and Berliner Close with Endorsements

I received a letter the other day from Democrats for Howard Denis. It is signed by most of the members of the Town Council for the Town of Chevy Chase as well as other leaders in the fight against mansionization. Pat Baptiste, a one-time primary opponent of Roger Berliner, has also signed the letter. The substance of the note links Berliner to Steve Silverman and the Purple Line--not a bad strategy in a part of District 1 which voted heavily against Silverman in the Democratic Primary. Ike Leggett received 87% (!) of the vote in the Town of Chevy Chase.

Roger Berliner closed with a flyer with a very large photo of himself with Ike Leggett. Denis also has a photo of himself with soon-to-be-County Executive Ike Leggett even though Berliner ultimately received his endorsement. Still, it remains telling that lots of key people who were clearly in Leggett's corner in the primary are now behind Denis. The question remains whether Denis can overcome his party identification. We'll find out soon enough.

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Cardin in Deep Trouble?

One the nation's most Democratic states may elect the senator who keeps the GOP in control of the Senate for another two years tomorrow. Why?

The Steele and Cardin Campaigns
Steele has run a classic outsider campaign. Although he is a complete Republican insider, he has run clever ads positioning himself as a "different kind of senator." This is brilliant. First, it turns his race to his advantage among both black and white voters by playing up his potential status as Maryland's first black senator (which undoubtedly excites black voters) and thus not in the mold of past untrustworthy politicians (which plays well with white voters).

Second, he also has used this strategy to deflect any questions about what he thinks about issues as somehow unfair, old-style politics. Not a bad strategy, since the answers wouldn't benefit Steele. Contrary to my hopes and expectations, Cardin performed poorly in the debates. Cardin's far deeper knowledge and greater alignment with Maryland voters on the issues was outweighed by Steele's personable style.

Cardin rightly replies that Steele is a product of Bush and the Republicans. While not bad, his advertisements do not have nearly the punch of Steele's. Moreover, Cardin has not generated nearly the level of excitement as Steele and lacks a clear, positive message. A pity because Cardin would be a far better senator in every way.

The Polls May Underestimate the Vote for Steele
My gut sense is that Michael Steele is going to receive more votes than Bob Ehrlich. This wisdom flies in the face of the polls as well the pundits. According to pollster.com, Steele trails Cardin by slightly more than Ehrlich trails O'Malley.

However, the polls may underestimate support for Steele. Some believe that the polls overestimate support for black candidates because whites are afraid of looking racist. A fair number of whites they lie and say that they are undecided will vote for them even though they plan to vote for the white candidate.

In this case, the reverse may hold true. African Americans may state that they are undecided or voting for Cardin even though they intend to vote for Steele. Democrats are extremely dominant within the black community, so some African-American voters may not want to reveal their support for Steele to a stranger over the phone. Moreover, the extra support received by Steele among blacks because of his race may well more than compensate for the support Steele loses among whites because of his race.

I'd love to be proved wrong on this one.

Black Democratic Defections
Wayne Curry and several other black leaders endorsed Michael Steele on racial grounds. They complain that the Democrats have not put up enough African Americans for statewide office. Interestingly, one doesn't recall them holding endless fundraisers or campaigning their hearts out for either Stu Simms or Kweisi Mfume.

Moreover, Simms lost in great part because he did poorly among black voters in Curry's bailiwick of Prince George's which Gansler carried by a large margin (not to mention that Simms entered the race very late against a candidate who had be planning this run for years). And I guess Anthony Brown doesn't rate with Curry's crowd.

Moreover, while Cardin has carried water for causes supported by African American leaders for decades, Steele has no accomplishment to tout other than his own election. The imagination staggers at the thought of Curry's reaction if a group of Jewish leaders endorsed an empty suit Jewish Republican against an African-American Democrat with Cardin's resume.

I could on at great length but none of this may negate the impact of Curry's endorsements. They certainly helped lend credibility to Rushern Baker's challenge to Jack Johnson. Support from major black local officials lends authenticity to Steele's bid that he could never generate on his own. It makes it much easier for African Americans to press the button for a Republican. Fortunately, Steele's support among black officials remains limited, though Cardin has definitely taken a blow here.

The Uncoordinated Campaign
It has been an open secret that relations between the Cardin and the O'Malley campaigns are not exactly frictionless. The lack of cooperation was openly revealed in comments to a post on Free State Politics which ironically were intended to show the strength of the Democratic GOTV effort. Mdman (of the coordinated and Cardin campaigns) wrote:

I have been working GOTV in Montgomery County for months and it is far and away the best GOTV operation I have seen. As of earlier this week, 900 people had signed up for GOTV the weekend before the election. I have been canvassing at least a half a dozen times already. There have not been masses of people, but it's been pretty steady. There has been phone banking going on for weeks, as well. I'm sure the GOTV could be better, but it's not bad. It takes people, however

It is true that the O'Malley people have their own campaign office and operation running. Time will tell how effective that is. I think coordination is important so that efforts are not duplicated. Interestingly, One day that I was canvassing drop off voters, I saw an O'Malley worker doing lit drop. Not as effective, but still something. I had some free time last weekend, so I called the O'Malley HQ and they were not doing any canvassing, nor was the office even open on Saturday.

The coordinated campaign is working for both Cardin and O'Malley, so they are getting some lift from us. In addition, our GOTV calling is state-wide and is calling some independents and a few Republicans.
Becky of the O'Malley campaign responded:
As part of the O'Malley campaign, I can say that our Rockville office is open EVERY DAY...I don't know where you went last Saturday, but it must not have been our office. We have been phone banking every night for months. We are working very closely with the Coordinated campaign for weeks. It is hard to tell us apart! as it should be. The coordinated campaign with the help of the O'Malley campaign has been identifying voters for weeks not and we have called thousands and thousands of drop off voters.

The most public of GOTV efforts occur the weekend before the election. This weekend we have a massive sign wave on the corner of Colesville and Georgia, Sat am at 10:00 followed by a canvass...we have canvassing all day starting Today, Friday and going through Monday...we have phone banks all day through election night...the Democratic Bus Tour will be in MC 3 days this weekend...today starting at Shady Grove and working it's way down the county, Tomorrow at 3:30 in Downtown SS and then to Blair HS For the Gonzago/St. John's football game, Sun. night at a Candidates forum in Potomac and Monday with a Gore Rally at Leisure World.
Today we flyered at the SS Metro...4th day this week...and again tonight and then to a phone bank. Tomorrow the wave and then canvass and then work with the bus tour and then phone bank until 9:00 pm....start all over on Sunday and again on Monday and then on Election day, up at 4:00 to start checking on the polls...won't stop til they close at 8:00.

As someone who has been working on this campaign for almost 2 years, you really hit a nerve when you said we aren't out there...the real question is: We're out there....WHERE ARE YOU????
The good news from both of these posts is that Democrats are ratcheting up the turnout effort a good deal from 2002. The bad news is that coordination between the two major campaigns is not what it should be. In truth, there should probably be one united turnout effort. We are far from that if supporters of Cardin and O'Malley are openly dissing each other on the net. If Cardin and O'Malley volunteers are blanketing separately the same neighborhood on the same day as Mdman says, one gets the impression the two campaigns aren't that well coordinated despite Becky's claims.

I wonder if the Ehrlich and Steele campaigns are having this problem. I'm betting no.

Conclusion
Cardin still has an excellent chance of carrying it off even if the race is much closer than I would like. I'm certainly pulling for a Ben Cardin victory and have the lawn sign in my yard to prove it. Although polls are tightening around the nation, Cardin still does have a slim lead. This year looks like a good Democratic year so Cardin may come home on the Democratic tide. Maryland still tilts to the Democrats even in a close election year. It certainly doesn't hurt that Bill Clinton is back in the state campaigning for both top Democrats.

Let's work and vote to make sure that substance beats style.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Steeling Votes

The New Republic's John Judis has written a nice piece, called "Steeling Votes", outlining scummy tactics used by Ehrlich and Steele in 2002 and 2006. Push polls have been big this year. However, we shouldn't forget that the dynamic duo stiffed homeless people who had been paid to campaign for them in 2002:

In 1979, Maryland passed a law barring campaigns from paying workers on election day to button hole voters. The law was in response to the widespread use in Baltimore of "walking around money" to buy black votes. On the eve of the 2002 election, candidate Ehrlich complained to State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli that the Democrats were planning to pay campaign workers. Warned by Montanarelli, the Democrats complied with the state law. But Ehrlich and Steele did not.

Part of Ehrlich's strategy was to use Steele, an African American, to attract black votes away from Townsend, who is white, particularly in predominately black Prince George's County, a suburb of Washington, D.C. But to do this, he and Steele took a page out of the old Baltimore playbook. Campaign aides went to predominately black Bowie State College and to Washington, D.C.'s largest homeless shelter to hire African Americans to campaign for Ehrlich and Steele on election day. They didn't try to win them over politically; they offered them between $100 and $150 and free meals to pretend they were backing Ehrlich.

At Washington's homeless shelter, the campaign workers were instructed to say they were "volunteers" and to conceal that they were getting paid. They were told to go into black areas of Prince George's County and tell voters that by electing Ehrlich, they would give Maryland its first African American lieutenant governor. At Bowie State, students who agreed to campaign were given shirts with "Democrats for Ehrlich" written on them and a picture of Steele. One student who was recruited told The Baltimore Sun, "They had young African-Americans standing out there like we were supporting him, when they know most African-Americans are Democrats."

About 250 recruits, drawn by the promise of free meals and a day's pay, participated in what one recruit later called a "scam from the start." The students didn't get their meals, and they didn't get paid. The homeless recruits also weren't paid, and, that night, the van that had taken them at dawn to Prince George's County and was supposed to transport them back to Washington, D.C. never showed up.

Some of the homeless workers reportedly staged a protest that night in front of the Democrats for Ehrlich headquarters in New Carrollton, Maryland. The next day, they enlisted legal help from the homeless center to get the money they had been promised. But the protest had alerted the state prosecutor, and when one of Ehrlich's campaign workers finally showed up with the money, investigators were on hand to witness the homeless recruits being paid.

Ehrlich and Steele, of course, denied any knowledge of the scam. "We did everything aboveboard absolutely," Steele told The Washington Post. But campaign finance records revealed that, on the eve of the election, the campaign made payments to two aides who were implicated in the scandal. Moreover, three days before the election, Ehrlich's campain paid $52,640 to a Washington, D.C. employment agency run by the same person who hired and eventually paid the homeless workers. A grand jury later indicted the agency head, along with the two campaign workers.

And we're surprised by misleading bumper stickers like "Steele Democrat" or that Ehrlich touts his pride in new laws which he didn't support during the legislative session?

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Live from Germany. . .

I'm in Munich today at the end of my trip to Germany. Apologies if I switch "y" and "z" in this post by accident but they are reversed on German keyboards from the usual American setup. I haven't had time to organize my thoughts but here are a few random musings:

1. Michael Moore is over. Last time I was in Germany two years ago, the country was simply enraptured with the lefty that Republicans love to hate. Many of the questions directed towards me about politics referred to him or his movies. This time, he was only mentioned in passing by English teachers who were frustrated with the occasional student who thought they understood America if they had seen his films. However, American foreign policy is no more popular now than it was two years ago.

2. The absolute omnipresence and power of English. America may not be popular but our language is. Almost everyone speaks at least some English and many speak it very well. Since my German is limited to say the least ("ein Bier bitte" and "Haben Sie ein toilette" are very useful), I often end up asking if "sprechen Sie Englisch?" The response if often "of course" even from people doing jobs that don't appear to require much education like selling donuts near the train station.

3. Does George Bush look like as much of a cartoon at home as he does on international CNN and BBC World? I don't think it is a case of the evil left-wing media as they are just excerpting his appearances before Republican audiences where he says things like "The Democrats plan is to leave Iraq and give into terrorists. The Republican plan is to win in Iraq." Is part of the plan to put Moqtada al-Sadr in charge? According to BBC World today, the raving anti-American cleric is effectively in charge of slums containing about half of the capital's population. Oh, and he controls several Iraqi ministries and has a great deal of influence over the Prime Minister--the same guy who dissed the Prez last week.

4. Berlin is not the wealthiest part of the country but is easily its coolest, most metropolitan city. The unified city has lots of exciting new architecture from the redone Reichstag (or Bundestag, parliament) to the recently opened new Hauptbanhof. It is also clearly the most creative and exciting place to be in Germany and in all of Europe for that matter. Munich and Bavaria seem the most relaxed to me with Bavaria being the stereotype most Americans have of all of Germany. However, the regional variations are actually quite strong in this country with no Hamburger wanting to be mistaken for a M√ľnchener or vice-versa.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Polling Madness

If you cannot get enough polls, the website Pollster.com is the place to go. They provide a running tally of all polls for Governor, Senate, and House races.

In the Maryland Governor's race, O'Malley has a 5 point lead in the average of the last five polls. He averages a 6 point lead in the last ten polls. Ehrlich's highest level of support in all of the polls in only 47%. Not good for an incumbent.

In the Senate race, Cardin averages an 8 point lead in the last five polls and a 7 point lead over the past ten polls. Steele's peak is a 48% in one September poll, but nothing higher than 44% in every other poll.

They do not include information on any House races in Maryland. David is in Germany right now trying to explain polling and our mid-term elections to our European friends. I wonder if they are as confused as I am?

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Dueling Polls

The following is from the Post.com's Maryland Moment politics blog. It attempts to explain the difference in the results of recent Sun and Post polls.

OK, so The Washington Post poll comes out Sunday showing the governor's race at a 10-point margin for Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley in his race against Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. And The Baltimore Sun poll today puts it at only a 1-point advantage for O'Malley, well within the margin of error.

What gives?

The timing is a little different (The Post was in the field last Sunday through Thursday and the Sun on Saturday through Monday). And there are doubtless many differences in the methodology each pollster used.

But the most dramatic departure is in the percentage of likely voters who are African American. Because this voting bloc overwhelmingly favors Democrats and, in this race, O'Malley, a small change can mean a big difference in the numbers.

The Sun said its poll is based on a model predicting black turnout will be about 19 percent. The Post did not use a model to predict turnout, but set up questions to screen who is likely to vote Nov. 7. About 25 percent of the 1,003 respondents in the Post poll who screened as likely voters were African American.By comparison, African Americans comprised 24 percent of Maryland's turnout in the 2004 presidential election, 22 percent in the 2002 governor's election and 21 percent in the 1998 governor's race, according to exit polls.

Ehrlich's campaign this weekend said the Post's poll was "demographically skewed" because there were few undecided voters and released internal poll results similar to what the Sun found.

"We are on the offensive and are closing the gap," Ehrlich's campaign proclaimed in an e-mail to supporters this morning.

O'Malley campaign released its own poll, done on the same days as the Sun's, which shows a 6-percent margin for the mayor.

O'Malley played down the results of the poll this morning as he prepared to board a hulking green bus that will take him to all corners of the state in coming days.Standing outside his home in Baltimore, O'Malley noted two other recent polls, one the Post's and another for The Wall Street Journal with a 6-point margin.

"We suspect it's probably somewhere around the average of those three," O'Malley said.

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