Monday, February 16, 2009

Council District 4 Special Election Preview, Part One

As we did last year, MPW presents its exclusive preview of the District 4 special election. Today, we discuss the district itself.


From last year’s post: District 4’s boundaries are (roughly) the county line on the northeast and east, the outskirts of Olney and Brookeville on the north, Rock Creek and Veirs Mill Road on the west and Randolph Road, Four Corners and US-29 on the south. We reproduce the official district map below.

The district contains two distinct sub-sectors. The western sector includes the neighborhoods between the northern reaches of Wheaton and the southern outskirts of Olney. Much of this sector is accounted for by Aspen Hill. The eastern sector includes the US-29 corridor from White Oak to Burtonsville as well as the areas near the Howard County border. The dividing line between the sectors is New Hampshire Avenue. We make this distinction because these two sectors have very different demographics, as we shall see below.

There are no urbanized downtowns in District 4. The vast majority of the district is covered by single-family neighborhoods with only one Metro station (Glenmont) that is very close to the District 5 border. There are a few commercial strips along Georgia Avenue and Layhill Road in the west, US-29 and Cherry Hill Road in the east, and New Hampshire Avenue. But the lack of density robs the district of any centrally-recognized locations of social, political or civic activity.


The Census Bureau’s 2005-2007 American Community Survey contains data on two Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs) that correspond roughly to the western and eastern parts of District 4. We illustrate the demographics of those areas in comparison to the county below:

While Montgomery County is on the verge of becoming a “majority-minority” jurisdiction, District 4 is already there. It contains 41% of the county’s black population and 33% of its Hispanic population. It has slightly larger proportions of people who were born in other countries and speak a language other than English at home than the county as a whole. It has a lower median household income than the county average (especially in the western part of the district). But none of this diversity has yet reached its political representation. Seven of its eight state legislators are white and its County Council Member has been white since the district was created in 1990.

The 2008 Presidential Election

On a number of key measures, District 4 did not differ substantially from the county as a whole in the last general election.

On the presidential level, Montgomery County’s precincts voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by 71.0%-27.5%. District 4’s precincts voted for Obama by 71.2%-27.5%.

On the slots vote, Montgomery County voted in favor by 52.3%-47.7%. District 4 voted in favor by 54.2%-45.8%.

On the Ficker Amendment, Montgomery County voted in favor by 50.1%-49.9%. District 4 voted in favor by 51.3%-48.7%.

There are some important differences inside District 4. Rural areas in the northern part of the district were less likely to vote for Obama and more likely to vote for the Ficker Amendment than more liberal areas in Silver Spring. But District 4 is not as much of a political outlier in the county as is right-leaning District 2 or super-liberal District 5.

Tomorrow, we will discuss the last special election.