Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Senate Races on the Issues

In a recent post, Marc Korman noted that prior to this year, the last time a sitting MoCo Delegate challenged a Senator was in 1994, when then-Delegate Chris Van Hollen defeated Senator Patricia Sher in the District 18 Democratic primary. Now, no fewer than three Delegates are taking on their Senators: Karen Montgomery vs. Rona Kramer in District 14, Saqib Ali vs. Nancy King in District 39 and Roger Manno vs. Mike Lenett in District 19. This is great for issue-oriented voters since all of these candidates have served in the General Assembly over the last term. Normally, challengers make claims and incumbents recite their records. But in each of these races, both candidates have voting records that are subject to scrutiny.

MPW’s Research Department has taken advantage of this opportunity on behalf of our readers in these three districts. We have examined the records of all six candidates from the perspective of three progressive advocacy groups that release regular legislative scorecards: Progressive Maryland, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and Equality Maryland. Progressive Maryland is an umbrella group representing a variety of labor and civil rights organizations. Their 2007, 2008 and 2009 scorecards track votes on labor and campaign finance bills. Maryland LCV is an environmental advocacy group whose 2007, 2008 and 2009 scorecards track votes on environmental bills. Equality Maryland is a civil rights group whose 2008 and 2009 scorecards track co-sponsorship and votes on LGBT rights bills. Between these three groups’ rankings, a good chunk of issues important to Democratic primary voters – especially liberals – can be evaluated.

The groups typically use two measures of voting behavior: scores and vote tallies. Scores, expressed as percentages, are mostly based on votes but differ a bit because Progressive Maryland and Equality Maryland weight some votes heavier than others. Progressive Maryland also uses a “leadership score,” which is a subjective measure assessing the non-voting behavior of legislators, that accounts for twenty of their 100 score points. Equality Maryland uses co-sponsorship of particularly important bills, like those allowing gay marriage, in addition to votes. The organizations also occasionally use committee votes in addition to floor votes. We will report both scores and votes and let the readers decide which is more important, though the two track each other pretty closely.

And so over the next three days, we will assess how the actual records of the candidates in the District 14, 19 and 39 Senate races stack up. There will be no running, no hiding and no propaganda from the candidates – just their real-live votes. Voters rejoice and politicians beware!