Monday, May 04, 2009

Consequences from the Special Election, Part One

The ramifications of the District 4 special election go far beyond one County Council seat. The entire layout of Montgomery County’s government will be affected, as well as several races in 2010. In this series, we’ll look at the ripple effects one at a time.

Today, we examine the fate of the Kramers, Delegate Ben and Senator Rona. Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19) came within 62 votes of winning the Democratic primary for the District 4 County Council seat. But his performance in the race exposes significant vulnerabilities affecting his current office. Consider the following statistics:

1. In the 22 District 19 precincts that overlap District 4 outside of Leisure World, Kramer lost to Nancy Navarro by 1,434-1,372 (45-43%).

2. Of the 24 District 19 precincts in District 4, Kramer lost 15.

3. Five of the 7 precincts in District 4 that are at least 20% Latino are also in District 19. Kramer lost all of them.

4. Navarro blew out Kramer in the 10 precincts along the alignment of the Intercounty Connector (ICC) 51-34%. That means Kramer’s efforts to mitigate the ICC’s impact on traffic in the district have not made up for his original advocacy for the project.

Kramer was pummeled by numerous events in the race. First, the fact that his record in Annapolis is the least progressive of any Montgomery Delegate has been spread far and wide. Second, his broken pledge to not take developer money was seen by thousands of voters and was never rebutted by his campaign. Third, Navarro’s negative mailings may not have helped her, but they dented him. Fourth, if Kramer runs for re-election, he will now have to explain to District 19 voters why he should be re-elected Delegate when he tried to leave for the County Council. Finally, the more than $50,000 Kramer loaned himself for this race is now unavailable for next year.

Throw in the fact that Kramer won election in 2006 by only 307 votes in a year when MCEA squandered the Apple Ballot on a non-competitive primary challenger and the true scope of his weakness is apparent. Ben Kramer is arguably the most vulnerable elected incumbent Delegate in the county. If Delegate Hank Heller (D-19) retires as expected, Kramer may well face a progressive slate backed by the Apple Ballot and numerous allied liberal organizations. If he runs for County Council again, he will be running in a much larger electorate that is not dominated by Leisure World. As we have previously written, Leisure World accounted for 14.9% of the votes in the 2009 special election but only 9.7% of the County Council District 4 votes cast in 2006.

Senator Rona Kramer (D-14) may also be at risk. In 2002, she defeated Tod Sher in the Democratic primary by 469 votes and ran unopposed in the primary four years later. In the 2009 special election, she appeared in her brother’s mailings vouching for his record on women’s issues. But her support did not help him at all.

Sixteen precincts are in both District 14 and Council District 4. In 2008, Don Praisner defeated Nancy Navarro in these precincts by 1,147-1,017 (42-37%). In 2009, Navarro defeated Ben Kramer in these precincts by 1,339-941 (49-34%). While Mr. Praisner won 8 of these precincts, Ben Kramer won only 3. So not only did Rona Kramer not have any coattails in her own district, she saw her brother lose it by 15 points. Ben’s loss of Rona’s home precinct (8-06) by 114-71 just adds to the humiliation.

Our series on Ben Kramer’s record in Annapolis found that only one state legislator in Montgomery has a worse record than he does on labor and environmental issues: Rona Kramer. Labor and its progressive allies would love to find a candidate to run against her. The fact that her weakness in the district has been so nakedly exposed significantly increases the chances of a credible challenger emerging.

Tomorrow, we’ll examine the fate of Nancy Navarro.