Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. What You See Is What You Get.

This morning’s Washington Post, the concluding edition of 2014, carries a photo taken on Tuesday.

At the bottom of Page B6 you can view the picture: Maryland Governor-Elect Larry Hogan behind a lectern, flanked on his right by two American flags and two political appointees, and on his left by two Maryland flags and two more appointees.

Official and patriotic. Looks like a picture straight out of the 1950s.

To summarize, five white men in dark suits, middle-aged or older, in a row at the front of a press conference. If anyone was wondering what Maryland voted for in the 2014 General Election, there you have it. Old, white men in suits. What you see is what you get.

(I resemble that remark, “Old, white men in suits.” Please hold the hate mail. Being an old, white man myself, I claim privilege to ridicule. Please sentence me to time served, and release me to the supervision of my parole officer and the nursing home and/or asylum. To clarify: I am an old, white Democrat. I wear a suit and tie under duress, and only after all appeals have been denied.)

Let the record show that all the Hogan appointments to date appear to be well-qualified for their positions.

You may have heard that Maryland is a diverse state. Numerous races, ethnic groups, two genders, more than two legal sexual orientations. The Maryland Republican Party gets all that. I’m giving them the presumption of the doubt. Mr. Hogan has inoculated himself against the very point I raise by choosing an African-American to be his running mate, and now, by virtue of electoral success, the next lieutenant governor.

I won’t venture any predictions for 2015, much less the entire four-year term of the Hogan administration. Let the photo on B6 speak for itself. Such is the state of politics in Maryland on the cusp of 2015.

Have a Merry New Year. Choose to drink, or to drive. One only, not both.

— John Hayden

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The Future Of Air Transportation in Montgomery County

What can be done to meet the present and future needs of Montgomery County citizens and businesses for air transportation?

We’re in the second decade of the 21st century.  Aviation is not a recent discovery. In the modern era, folks get from point A to point B by airplane. Is there any future for air transportation in Montgomery County, Maryland? Or is the concept of “Montgomery County” and “airplane” an oxymoron?

Private jet (via misleddit)

Private jet (via misleddit)

In early December, a two-engine jet plane crashed short of the runway at Montgomery County Airpark, about three miles northeast of Gaithersburg. It was a foreseeable and preventable tragedy. Three people were killed on the ground — a mother and two children inside their home — and in the airplane, the pilot and two passengers perished. Six dead total. (Washington Post story)

The Montgomery County Airpark (GAI) is a public use general aviation airport operating 24-7. FAA technical information about Montgomery County Airpark is here.

The following summary is from the Airpark web page, where much additional detailed information can be found.

“Montgomery County Airpark presently hosts approximately 100,000 operations yearly and is considered to be the fourth busiest Maryland general aviation public use airport. We base over 200 aircraft of all types – from sleek modern jets to Piper Cubs. About 15% of all traffic is of the commercial type or Part 135 air taxi consisting of a variety of modern-day aircraft such as Cessna Citations, Lear Jet, Beechcraft (both jet and turbine), and Falcon Jet. We also are home to a Part 135 air taxi firm that specializes in transporting air travelers to various destinations in the east coast and the mid-west on a regular “on demand” basis.

Our 4,200 foot runway, which has three instrument approaches, makes us the closest “jetport” to the Nation’s Capital.”

I remember visiting the Montgomery County Airpark as a teenager, shortly after it opened in 1960. I remember many single-engine propeller planes, mostly very small planes with the wing above the cockpit and fixed landing gear. I may have seen a small two-engine propeller plane. I think most of the planes were two-seaters. I doubt if any could accommodate more than four people. The airport was way out in the boondocks of northern Montgomery County. That’s the way it seemed to a kid from Wheaton Woods.

Let the record show that the Montgomery County Airpark was not then and is not now within the Gaithersburg town limits. Gaithersburg was a small town in 1960; now it’s a small city with high-tech businesses. The airport was once surrounded mostly by farmland. A wayward single-engine plane could hardly miss the runway; but even if one did, the most damage it could do was to mow a few rows of corn. As The Washington Post noted, the once-isolated airport has become surrounded by suburban sprawl in the half-century since it was built.

The private plane approaching the runway this month was a two-engine jet. The pilot was a 66-year-old executive from North Carolina, not a professional pilot, but a well-qualified and experienced pilot nevertheless.

In May, I wrote a long essay, published in The Seventh State blog, about Montgomery County as a so-called “economic engine.”  Toward the end of that long article, I pointed out that MoCo is a jurisdiction of 1 million people without a major airport. I was thinking of ordinary air travelers, who depend on airlines flying out of Baltimore-Washington International and Dulles International.

The Montgomery County Airpark has now come under intense scrutiny. Is it adequate to safely handle corporate jets, charter flights, air taxi services, and other types of general aviation? Does the 4,200-foot runway need to be lengthened or improved? I’ll leave those questions for the experts, of course.

Montgomery County Airpark (via Wikipedia)

Montgomery County Airpark (via Wikipedia)

If it became necessary to limit flights at the MoCo Airpark, how would that affect local economic development? Other general aviation facilities are the Carroll County Regional Airport (5,100-foot runway), on Rt. 97, three miles north of Westminster; and the Frederick Municipal Airport,  (two runways, 5,219-foot and 3,600-foot) near the I-70 and I-270 interchange.

The more I think about transportation infrastructure for the 21st century, the more complicated it gets. And it’s all interrelated. One of the benefits of the Intercounty Connector is that it brings BWI closer to Montgomery County. By the same token, a new Potomac River bridge linking MoCo to Virginia would bring Dulles closer. It’s all infrastructure, and it’s all expensive. Just thinking.

— John Hayden

What do you think about access to air travel in MoCo?

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Bus Rapid Transit Summit Meeting in Rockville Dec. 3

mocorts-system-4corridors Elected leaders and transportation staff members representing Montgomery County, Rockville, and Gaithersburg will meet Wednesday, Dec. 3, to consider plans, hopes, and dreams for Bus Rapid Transit in Montgomery County. The meeting will be at Rockville City Hall at 7 p.m. Focus of the meeting will be plans for Bus Rapid Transit on the Rt. 355 corridor from Bethesda to Rockville to Gaithersburg to Germantown to Clarksburg, according to a report in the Gazette Newspapers. Bus Rapid Transit is being considered as a less-expensive alternative to light-rail lines, and as a way to reduce traffic congestion along the corridor. County Executive Ike Leggett is expected to attend, along with County Council members and mayors and council members from Rockville and Gaithersburg. Officials of the State Highway Administration are also expected to participate. For information on Bus Rapid Transit, see the MoCo web page here. — John Hayden

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Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 4. Grandfather Figures, Tax Cuts, And Negative Campaigning.

Earlier this week, Sen. Barbara Mikulski assembled a rather exclusive Democratic leadership meeting in Annapolis. Democratic leaders remaining in office in 2015 only. It was billed as looking ahead to 2016 and beyond; but the day-after reports suggested more time spent pondering what went wrong in 2014. The leaders seemed to be looking for some secret, hidden answer. Or maybe, for a scapegoat.

The election answer is simple. More people voted for Larry Hogan.

But why did folks vote for Hogan instead of Brown? Let’s not overlook the obvious. Politics is often more about image than substance.

Larry Hogan won because he looks and sounds like a governor.

A truism of American politics is this: Voters prefer a father figure for president.

Even better, a kindly grandfather figure.  Strong, protective, reassuring. Someone to look up to. Retired generals are perfect.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower is the quintessential grandfather figure of the modern era. See also: George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulyesses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt. President Ronald Reagan wasn’t a general, but he was the grandfather figure from central casting.

What voters like in a president is the same thing they want in a governor, when it’s available. Martin O’Malley came closer to being a rock star than a grandfather. You can see how a rock star might be appealing once in a while. But after eight years of a rock star, the voters were ready for a grandfather.

Anthony Brown reminded the voters not so much of a rock star as a backup singer. Brown tried to run in part on the image of a returning war veteran. But he was clearly a junior-level officer, not a general. He was a lieutenant governor, not a governor, and Marylanders have never promoted a lieutenant governor. He was a father, but not a grandfather.

BTW, the father or grandfather concept doesn’t preclude female candidates. Voters will just as readily vote for a grandmother figure. Think Prime Minister Golda Meir in Israel, or Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany. Will Hillary Clinton fill the grandmother role? Chelsea and her husband have done their part. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s first grandchild was born in September. Can you see the opportunity for updating the Bill and Hillary brand?  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Moving right along to our second point, Larry Hogan had a simple message: “Cut taxes.” Anthony Brown’s message was a work in progress. He never quite figured out how to step out of O’Malley’s shadow. His grand policy proposal was universal pre-K. A popular idea, but it wasn’t clear how he was going to pay for it. The prospect of cutting taxes was more appealing to the average voter than the prospect of raising money for pre-K.

More damaging, in the absence of a coherent Democratic program, the Brown campaign went negative. Nobody likes negative campaign advertising, but most political operatives seem to think it works. It didn’t work for Brown in 2014.

Maryland Democrats need to get over their 2014 rejection by the voters. Sure, the party was overconfident, start to finish. Sure, candidates and the party failed to get out the vote. Sure, individual Democrats didn’t bother to vote. Or if they did, they voted Republican.

But 2014 was, in the end, a Republican year. Republicans also won the governor’s race in Massachusetts. Maryland and Massachusetts are usually mentioned in the same breath as the two most Democratic states in the Union.

I’ve strayed far from Sen. Mikulski’s leadership meeting. Now that we’ve ruminated over the election returns, the leadership of the Democratic Party is a subject that needs sorely to be addressed. Watch this space for a future post on Democratic leadership in Maryland. I’m hoping to get to it before Christmas, but not before Thanksgiving.

— John Hayden

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Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 3. Democratic Turnout

(Updated 11-16-2014 to include alternative solutions in the conclusion.)

It’s past time for Democratic leaders in Montgomery County to snap out of their funk over the amazing shrinking turnout of MoCo voters.

Nancy Floreen says everyone’s scratching their heads about it.

Marc Elrich says people simply don’t want to vote.

The simple explanation for low Democratic turnout in Montgomery and Prince George’s County and Baltimore City is right in front of our elected leaders eyes, but they can’t see the obvious.

Democrats vote in presidential elections.

But off-year election results in Montgomery County are foreordained. We’re talking about the General Elections for governor, and other state and local officials.

If you already know who’s going to win, why waste your time voting?

In Montgomery County, voters know the outcome is not in doubt. Democratic candidates will surely win, and Republicans will lose. Isn’t that what happened last week? Isn’t that what’s happened in most recent elections? Every Democratic candidate in the Montgomery County General Election won. Every Republican lost. Case closed.

Same exact conditions apply in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City. Together, MoCo, PG, and The City provide most of the Democratic votes that paint the whole state Blue.

The flip side of the story is: Republican voters are spread all over the map. And those pesky Republicans vote with more discipline than we Democrats.

Ironically, Democrats are victims of our own success. The outcome is a foregone conclusion in the Big Three, where most of the Democrats live. If your party is going to win, regardless of whether you vote or not, why make any effort to go vote?

Democratic apathy in MoCo, PG and The City translates to disaster in the statewide totals for governor.

Did Larry Hogan really win the governor’s election. Yes, he really did.  Would Anthony Brown have won if all the Democrats came out and voted? Yes, of course.

Democratic apathy is worst in the Big Three. But we also have plenty more Democrats throughout Central Maryland who sit out the non-presidential  elections. I’m talking about  suburban Howard County (Purple) and Anne Arundel County (Red). Also, to a lesser extent, Charles County (Blue). Every Democrat who stays home, wherever they live, is a Democratic vote subtracted from the grand total. Larry Hogan won the grand total.

Baltimore County is a special case. It’s Maryland’s swing jurisdiction. It can go Blue or Red. This year it went Red in the governor’s race. Nonetheless, I know we have lukewarm Baltimore County Democrats who often vote Republican. And real Democrats who simply don’t vote at all.

Meanwhile, in the outlying suburbs, Harford County is Red, Frederick County is Red, but maybe trending Purple. And Carroll County!  Carroll is so Red it’s in danger of spontaneous combustion. The rural counties of the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland, and Southern Maryland are all Red. Their populations may be small, but the votes add up.

Our Democratic problem is a lack of suspense, especially in Montgomery and Prince George’s. We need to inject some doubt into the outcome of General Elections so Democrats are motivated to vote.

One solution to this conundrum is for Democrats in the Big Three to lose one or two County Council seats and the occasional General Assembly seat to Republican candidates. Lose a few seats in MoCo, PG, and The City, and  Voila! Your turnout problem is solved! Democrats retain control of the General Assembly and local councils, and our statewide candidates cruise to victory. As an added bonus, Republicans would have to stop bellyaching about Maryland being a “one-party state.”

The above “solution” sounds about as appealing as swallowing a tablespoon of political poison.  A better solution would require  much greater awareness of local politics in the Washington suburbs, creation of a broader, more inclusive Democratic organization, and deployment of a more effective GOTV campaign. (Get Out The Vote) Quite a challenge! Organizing Democrats in the suburbs is like herding cats.

— John Hayden

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Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 2. Early and Absentee Voting

More Democrats in Maryland turned out in early voting than Republicans. I believe the early vote proves the superiority of the Democratic “ground game” in Maryland. Especially in close contests, Democratic candidates make a real effort to identify supporters and urge them to vote early or vote absentee. Think of it as “vote banking.”

In Maryland’s headline event, the Brown/Ulman ticket was leading statewide, 164,219 to 136,781 for Hogan/Rutherford at the close of early voting. But of course Larry Hogan won with a superior turnout on Election Day.

Perhaps more surprising, Anthony Brown also led Hogan in the absentee/provisional ballot tally, 19,715 to 19,250. That statewide edge of 465 absentee ballots seems small, but I think it’s quite significant. Your best source for all the Maryland General Election results is the Maryland State Board of Elections web site.

Republicans do a lot more traveling, for both business and pleasure, than Democrats. Therefore, in many locales the absentee ballots often break for Republicans.

However, in recent years Maryland has adopted a “no-excuse required” policy for absentee ballots. You don’t have to be traveling to be eligible for an absentee ballot. Any registered voter can request one. In some places, candidates or parties actively encourage supporters to vote absentee. It avoids any Election Day events that might prevent a voter from voting. Many people also feel more confident that their vote is being counted accurately when they vote absentee.

Long story short, more people are voting absentee than ever before. In my experience talking with voters, it’s especially common for elderly people to vote absentee, because they don’t want to risk going to the polling place in bad weather on Election Day. Of course folks who have limited mobility, whether old or young, often vote by mail. People with very hectic work/commuting/childcare schedules often prefer to vote by mail. The absentee ballot should now be called the “convenient, early, mail-in ballot.”

(Note: The Maryland Board of Elections reports the absentee and provisional ballot count as one number, so it’s impossible to know how many of the votes came from absentee ballots or provisionals. However, I believe it’s mostly absentee ballots.)

The Democratic lead in early voting and absentee ballots is even more pronounced in some of the close legislative races.

For example, Del. Norm Conway, a Democrat with deep support in District 38B (Salisbury), got his people to the polls in early voting 1,244-1,086. Conway also won the absentee vote, 198-133. Unfortunately, Republican Carl Anderson outpolled Conway 4,309-3,584 on the one day that matters most, Election Day. Adding the early vote, Election Day vote, and absentee vote resulted in a total giving  Anderson the win, 5,529-5,028.

Another example: In hotly contested District 38 on the Lower Eastern Shore, Sen. Jim Mathias sweated out the absentee vote to win by a narrow margin in 2010.

This year, Mathias carried the early vote, 3,846-3,426. Mathias also defeated Republican Mike McDermott on Election Day, 15,287-14,479.

So Mathias was leading by more than a thousand votes on the night of Nov. 4. At least one Eastern Shore news outlet mistakenly reported that the race could not be called until the absentee ballots were counted. Nonsense.

I called the District 38 Senate race in favor of Mathias on Nov. 3.  When Mathias came out on top Election day, I had no doubt that he had also banked sufficient absentee ballots to survive any recount.

An even more interesting example in a close race: Rep. John Delaney, the Democrat, lost on Election Day to Republican Dan Bongino by about 500 votes. The media briefly thought  Bongino was the winner. (Congressional District 6, Western Maryland and Montgomery County.)

Surprise! Delaney had defeated Bongino in early voting by a larger margin, 12,996-9,306. To complete the victory, Delaney also edged Bongino in the absentee ballots, 2,768-2,723.

What did the Mathias, Conway, and Delaney campaigns have in common? All three had access to more than adequate campaign financing, and they had excellent paid and volunteer organizations. The superior ground game was enough to win for Mathias and Delaney, but not quite for Conway. You can’t win ’em all.

Wrapping up this session of inside baseball, one final observation. Gerrymandering does not guarantee success.

The Martin O’Malley districting plan to win seven of eight Congressional seats for Democrats nearly backfired for Delaney in District 6.

In District 38, O’Malley’s legislative districting map may have added a few Democrats to vote for Mathias. But Democrats decided to divide District 38 into three single-member subdistricts for House of Delegates. It appeared that the new map would give Democrats a fighting chance to win two of the three seats, 38A and 38B. Subdistrict 38C was sacrificed to Republicans in redistricting.

I’m afraid the District 38 subdistricts were miscalculated. Republicans won all three delegate seats, even as Mathias held the Senate seat. Because of Conway’s name recognition, I believe he would have retained his seat if three Democratic candidates and three Republicans competed on the ballot district-wide.

Vote totals in my rearview mirror may be larger or smaller than they appear.

— John Hayden

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Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 1

Governor-elect Larry Hogan begins a statewide victory tour on Tuesday with a Veterans’ Day parade appearance in St. Mary’s County, one of many counties that contributed to his somewhat surprising victory over Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown last week. Brown, who was supposed to be the next Maryland governor, won’t be having any parades in the near future.

On election eve, I wrote the following:

“If no more than 1.5 or 2 percentage points separate Democrat Anthony Brown and Republican Larry Hogan at the end of election night, it’s at least a moral victory for Republicans.”

It turned out to be something more than a “moral” victory for Hogan and Republicans. The Hogan-Rutherford ticket won by more than 4 percentage points, 51.4 percent to 46.9 percent. A Libertarian candidate siphoned off 1.4 percent of the vote. Hogan deserves his victory lap. He reportedly plans to visit every jurisdiction in Maryland. Meanwhile, let’s begin to put the 2014 election in perspective. If you take away anything from this election, take this:

The Democratic Party is not invincible in Maryland.

We should all write that sentence on the blackboard 100 times. Even the casual observer knew that Hogan ran a good campaign and he might possibly eke out a slim victory. The four-point margin was surprising, but no one need act shocked. Republicans did well throughout the state. In key county executive races, Republicans came out ahead in Howard, Anne Arundel, and Wicomico counties; the Democrat won in Frederick County. Democrats maintained solid control in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, as expected. Republicans picked up a handful of seats in the Maryland General Assembly, but no more than would be expected in the sixth year of a Democratic presidency and the eighth year of a Democratic governor. Nonetheless, Republicans set a new “Personal Best” for the party when they won 50 seats in the House of Delegates, more than ever before.

The number 50 may give the party a psychological boost. But Republicans remain the clear minority, far behind the Democratic majority in the 147-seat House of Delegates. Most of the seats that changed parties are in Baltimore County.  Democrats also suffered painful losses in Harford County and on the Eastern Shore. I suppose the results confirm that Baltimore County is the swing county in Maryland elections. Anyone paying attention has known that for a decade. You might even say, “As Baltimore County goes, so goes Maryland.” Martin O’Malley understood this.

Taken together, Republican victories in the governor’s race and gains in legislative and local contests do not constitute a turning point in history. The Republican victories are a little surprising. They are not a landslide. Hogan doesn’t have a “mandate” for anything. Except, of course, cutting taxes. Taxes are never popular. But tax-cut fever was hotter than usual in 2014. It’s the issue that turned the election.

By the final week of the campaign, Lt. Gov. Brown, along with nearly every  Democratic candidate in the state, was ready to take a tax pledge. Your best source for all the Maryland General Election results is at the Maryland State Board of Elections website.

We’ll take a closer look at what the election results mean in Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this series.  But it’s far too early to answer the most important questions: What, if anything, does 2014 portend for 2016, 2018, and beyond? And will Republicans be able expand further in the House of Delegates, or is 50 seats the high water mark? — John Hayden

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