Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Why Incumbents Lose, Part Two

Incumbents don’t go down very often, but they do go down. Of the last 126 races in which an incumbent ran in Montgomery County, 17 lost. Why do they lose their seats? We took a shot at answering that question, aided by some of our shrewdest and trustiest spies.

Partisan Races

As recently as the 1990s, the GOP was a viable minority party in Montgomery County. They tended to be concentrated in the western and northern areas, primarily in Council Districts 1 and 2 and Legislative Districts 14, 15 and 39, and were even able to elect some candidates there.

Council District 1 (Bethesda-Chevy Chase-Potomac) was represented by Republicans Betty Ann Krahnke and Howard Denis for its first sixteen years of existence. Both were supported by crossover Democrats who only came home when Roger Berliner defeated Denis in 2006. Council District 2’s (Upcounty) Nancy Dacek held on for three terms until she was defeated in 2002 by Mike Knapp, a moderate Democrat with business experience.

State District 14 was split with Howard County and had two subdistricts for Delegates, only one of which was wholly inside Montgomery. In 1994, its delegation was entirely Republican. In 2002, it was redistricted out of Howard and entirely into Montgomery and its delegation went totally Democratic.

State District 15 was once the most competitive district in Montgomery. Its Senate seat changed hands from Democrat Larry Levitan to Republican Jean Roesser in 1994, and then to Democrat Rob Garagiola in 2002. Republican Delegate Richard LaVay did not run for reelection in 2002 and Republican Delegate Jean Cryor was defeated by Democrat Craig Rice in 2006, completing the district’s transition to all-Democratic.

State District 39 was first created as an all-Montgomery district in 1994 with its area extending all the way to the Frederick County border. It initially had an all-Republican delegation. But Senator P.J. Hogan later switched his party affiliation to Democrat and the Republican Delegates were defeated in 1998. The district’s restructuring to a “C” configuration around Gaithersburg and Rockville took out some of its GOP voters and helps it remain Democratic today.

Seven of the seventeen incumbents who have lost since 1994 were Republicans who were defeated by Democrats, and one more (Levitan) was a Democrat who was defeated by a Republican. Since the GOP is almost extinct in Montgomery County, this form of competition to incumbents has been eliminated.

We’ll look at another reason why incumbents lose in Part Three.