The country and the state got a little more red Tuesday night. Going into Election Day, there was an anti-incumbent frustration that was palpable among voters across the country. Nationally, Republicans secured majorities in the Senate and House in what was a stunning show by voters that they are dissatisfied with the direction of the country.
The question for local political pundints was whether that feeling would affect Howard's races. Well, it did. And that was somewhat of a surprise.
Voters tend to cast ballots based on quality-of-life issues. With great schools, higher incomes, top libraries and communities that are nationally recognized, people here live in a place that's generally immune from the troubles the rest of the country feels. That seemingly would advocate for the status quo.
But they didn't in the races at the top of the ballot.
The surprise wasn't so much that Republican Allan Kittleman defeated Democrat Courtney Watson to become the first Republican to win the Howard County executive's race since 1990. Consensus was that race was going to be close and it was, with Kittleman's victory coming by fewere than 2,800 votes, not counting the absentee ballots.
The real evidence of the Republican tide hitting Howard was that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and running mate (and Howard County executive) Ken Ulman finished more than 5,000 votes behind Larry Hogan in the county. Statewide, the Republican Hogan had a surprisingly easy victory over Brown to win Maryland's governor's race.
Ironically, everywhere else local voters generally stayed on track. County executive's race aside, the county council continued to have a 4-1 Democratic edge and the makeup of the county legislature stayed basically the same .
And while we'll have time to analyze the reasons why the voters did what they did, we'd like to hope that what the future holds is a little more bipartisanship. That may be naive thinking on our part, considering the rancor we saw during the last two months.
But we were encouraged by Watson's words Tuesday night when she conceded, telling Kittleman that she would "do what I can to help him be successful and help Howard County move forward."
The election is over. The voters have had their say. Now it's time for our elected officials to stay focused on the job at hand, not partisan politics.