Friday, May 07, 2010

District 16’s Town Hall, Part Three: A Roomful of Candidates

By Marc Korman.

The District 16 Town Hall was not only a chance for the legislators to update their constituents. It was also an opportunity for candidates to be seen and, in some cases, heard.

Councilman Roger Berliner and challenger Ilaya Hopkins both attended the event. Also present was at-large candidate Jane de Winter. Hopkins was called on for a question, but just took the time to thank the delegation for their work on BRAC and did not mention her own candidacy.

I counted at least eight attendees I know are planning to run for the open seat left behind by Delegate Bronrott’s resignation. That includes several of the candidates mentioned in our “Primaries to Watch” series but not Dan Farrington, who Adam pegged as a frontrunner. At one point after the town hall, I saw three potential candidates standing in the back speaking to each other. That is an odd act in a room full of active Democratic voters that I am calling the “circular firing squad.” I am sure they will get better as their campaigns go on.

The most aggressive candidates in the room were the Republicans. Two Republicans planning to challenge Senator Frosh were present and asking questions. There are no sure things in this life, but this may be a good time to note that District 16 is 58% Democratic, 21% Republican, and 21% other. To say the odds for a Republican are long would be an understatement. But you cannot fault Jerry Cave or Meyer Marks for trying, though it is hard to believe they are competing with each other for the chance to be trounced by Frosh.

Cave tried to make hay over the fact that Montgomery County was a donor county, meaning we pay more in state taxes than we receive in benefits. Of course, that is fundamental to a progressive tax code since Montgomery County is relatively wealthy compared to most of the state. Frosh also noted that the mismatch between the benefits we receive and the benefits other places, such as the city of Baltimore, receive has actually been improving in our favor. That is particularly true of our share of education funding.

Marks asked Senator Frosh about Maryland being the most violent state in the nation, allegedly due to lax sentencing guidelines. According to CQ Press’ Crime State Rankings 2009, Maryland is actually the 9th most dangerous state and is a troubling 2nd in murders and robberies. However, we have to be honest and acknowledge that Baltimore, the 13th ranked city for crime, is a big catalyst of those numbers. Senator Frosh also discussed his support for legislation limiting diminution (good behavior) credits for certain crimes such as sex offenses.

Based on the turnout at the town hall, it looks like District 16 will have a crowded Democratic Primary followed by a loud, but ultimately futile for the challengers, general election. At least that’s my prediction.