Carter: Local politics, partisanship and the election

First, I want to thank everyone who came out to the two candidate forums this past week at the Community Media Center — one with the candidates for both commissioner districts 3 and 4, and the other featuring candidates for the state legislature in District 5. The candidates who attended were prepared and gave very genuine responses.

Replays of these forums should begin airing this week on cable channels 19 and 23, and accessed on-demand at carrollmediacenter.org.

At a combined District 3 and 4 commissioner candidate forum, Incumbent Republican Commissioner Dennis Frazier and his Democratic opponent Maria Warburton answered questions about issues in District 3 this week.

One takeaway I had from the commissioner forum was that although there was a Republican and Democratic candidate for each district, when it comes to the truly local issues, there isn’t nearly as much partisan disagreement as you might think. That’s not to say the candidates don’t have different ways of approaching issues like school funding, the opioid epidemic or economic development, but the stances aren’t clearly painted along party lines.

It’s one more reason I think elections at the commissioner level should be nonpartisan, and that the primary should simply narrow down the field to the two best candidates, regardless of political affiliation. It’s a shame that despite all five commissioner districts being up for election, three are uncontested in the upcoming general election. And, of the two that are contested, it’s highly likely the results will be heavily in favor of the Republican candidate because many people will go to the polls and simply choose the candidate of their party.


Having nonpartisan commissioner elections may actually force the voters to pay a little more attention to where candidates stand on the local issues, which often have little to do with party affiliation.

Nonpartisan elections at this level would give Carroll Democrats and independents a chance. I’ve met quite a few Carroll Democrats, some of whom have run for political office, who would probably be considered fiscal conservatives in a vacuum, even if they are more left of center on social issues. These moderates would likely stand a better chance if not anchored by the “D” next to their name at the ballot box.

Conservative Republican voters who make up the majority in Carroll County may take issues with this, but it is more likely that, in a nonpartisan race, two conservative candidates would move on to the general. That gives both candidates the summer months to reach voters at various fire company carnivals and festivals and the like, allowing voters to get to know them better before the November general election.

However, I don’t see this changing any time soon. It is more likely that Carroll will see a shift from the commissioner form of government to the charter form before these local offices become nonpartisan.

With the election and partisanship on my mind, there are some important dates and events coming up I would like to draw to the attention of Carroll’s electorate.

The first is the voter registration deadline, which is coming up on Tuesday, Oct. 16. While there are more than 122,000 active voters in Carroll as of September, according to the state Board of Elections, recall that during the primary there were almost 80,000 voter registration changes that were not transmitted. While those individuals were able to cast provisional ballots, even if you think your registration is up to date, it probably can’t hurt to check.

If you aren’t registered, you can do so online no later than 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Visit the State of Maryland’s election website at www.elections.maryland.gov. If you do miss out, you may register to vote at one of Carroll’s two early voting centers (the Westminster Senior and Community Center and the South Carroll Swim Club) during the early voting period from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1. Just make sure to bring documentation of where you live, such as your driver’s license, a paycheck or bank statement, utility bill, etc.

On Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m., the Times is sponsoring an event at the Eldersburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library called “Facts Matter — Defending your right to the truth.” Richard Kimball, the founder of the nonprofit Project Vote Smart will visit Carroll to give a nonpartisan 50-minute presentation focusing on, among other things, “political commercials and how they manipulate people emotionally instead of informing them intellectually, the people’s acceptance of lies and their crumbling right to facts, and … how to defend your right to the facts, the truth and the reality that our democracy is so dependent upon.”

While Kimball is traveling across the country to make this presentation at various stops, this will be one of only two presentations he is making in Maryland prior to November’s general election.

I’m personally quite excited about this one. I’ve invited a few political groups from both sides of the aisle, but hope that many people attend. If you’re interested, visit the library’s website, library.carr.org to register or call the Eldersburg branch at 410-386-4460.

Better Angels, a national nonprofit founded with the express purpose of getting people who can't stand each other’s politics at the Thanksgiving dinner table sit down and talk politics — and really listen to one another, is holding a meeting in Westminster.

Finally, I received an email from a reader from Sykesville who had expressed interest in the Better Angels political polarization discussion group after reading about it in the Times. He learned from the organizers that while 18 Carroll residents — mainly from Westminster — have signed up to take part, the group is shockingly light on conservatives. It’s hard to believe there aren’t enough conservative Republicans in the county interested in participating in these political discussions. The Better Angels group, which is designed to bring reds and blues together, only works if it has equal representation.

So — calling all Carroll conservatives! — if you’re interested in participating, email volunteer coordinator Keith Kozloff at keith.kozloff@verizon.net or Tom Smerling, the Maryland coordinator for Better Angels, at tsmerling@better-angels.org.


Don’t forget to register to vote and, hopefully, I’ll see you at the Eldersburg library on Wednesday.

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