Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Consequences from the Special Election, Part Three

Ben Kramer and Nancy Navarro were not the only two people affected by the special election. The rest of the county’s politicians will see the consequences too.

County Executive Ike Leggett

In 2008, Leggett-endorsed Don Praisner won District 4 by just 370 votes. This time, Leggett-endorsed Ben Kramer lost by just 62 votes. What a difference a few hundred votes can make.

The smart move for Leggett would have been to stay out of the special election. He already had four County Council Members – George Leventhal, Nancy Floreen, Valerie Ervin and Mike Knapp – growing increasingly restive. Now he has a fifth Council Member assuming office after running against his sponsored candidates twice. Furthermore, Leggett’s weakness inside the district with his oldest constituency – African Americans – is hard to miss. Eleven District 4 precincts had a black population percentage of 30% or more in 2000. Kramer won only 1 of these precincts and was blown out by Navarro by a 54-36% margin despite the fact that Leggett’s image with Kramer on a mailer was sent everywhere. In the black community, the trio of Navarro, County Council Member Valerie Ervin and Congresswoman Donna Edwards trumped Ike Leggett.

We still believe that Leggett himself will face no real challenge in 2010 in large part because no credible opponent has emerged. But unless he forms some new alliances on the County Council, his influence over the government will fade.

County Council

Ben Kramer’s candidacy was part of an informal design affecting the rest of the council. Council Vice-President Roger Berliner is scheduled by custom to be Council President next year. Duchy Trachtenberg is lined up to be next. Kramer’s vote would have cemented this procession. If Kramer had won, rumor had it that Trachtenberg would have sought to push aside her mortal enemy, George Leventhal, for the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. Kramer may very well have taken over the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee, Marilyn Praisner’s old domain that Trachtenberg currently chairs. And if Kramer ran to succeed Ike Leggett in 2014, the District 4 seat would have been freed up for Alison Klumpp, the Praisners’ daughter who strongly backed Kramer and previously expressed interest in the office.

Now none of that will happen. Trachtenberg will not be Council President as long as the opposing coalition of five holds. Berliner too may not get his chance. Nancy Floreen and Valerie Ervin will both want the President’s place at the dais. Ben Kramer will face a tough race to retain his Delegate seat or run again for County Council, so thoughts of the County Executive’s chair will be remote at best. And everyone in Rockville will have to adjust to the new realities, at least until 2010.

Duchy Trachtenberg

No county politician supported Ben Kramer more than Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg. She was the only county incumbent other than Ike Leggett to endorse him, calling him “a critical voice for fiscal responsibility, tax fairness and prevention of government waste, fraud and abuse.” She stated in his mailers, “Ben is a talented, energetic lawmaker who has made advancing women’s rights, protecting seniors and caring for the most vulnerable touchstones for his career in Annapolis.” She stood in for him in at least two debates. His victory would have been her victory. And now his loss is her loss.

Trachtenberg never had a strong presence in District 4. She won just 4 of its precincts in 2006. In 2008, Don Praisner won 3 of these precincts over Navarro and outpolled her 138-133 (42-40%). In 2009, Navarro won all four precincts and outpolled Kramer 162-128 (45-36%). Trachtenberg’s hard work for Kramer did not stop Navarro from expanding her vote in Trachtenberg’s old stomping grounds.

Now Trachtenberg must explain her decision to endorse Kramer to her former progressive base. Trachtenberg lauded him for “tax fairness” despite his vote against the millionaire tax and against Governor O’Malley’s progressive income tax reform. Trachtenberg hailed him for his “bold and courageous leadership” on women’s issues even though he voted for the abuser expungement bill. And Trachtenberg chose to support him over a qualified female candidate who was endorsed by Donna Edwards, the Sierra Club, Progressive Maryland, NARAL and the Maryland Democratic Women’s PAC. All of that is fair game for at-large challengers next year.

Elections have consequences, as all of the above parties will find out. On to 2010.