Maryland’s 2018 primary election has come and gone, and what an election it was! Democrats selected Bernie Sanders-lite, Ben Jealous, to challenge Gov. Larry Hogan. Four Democratic legislative leaders, Sens. McFadden, Conway, Middleton and Del. Vallario, lost their primary races, which means they won’t be returning to Annapolis in 2019. While these were shocking developments, some of the most exciting action occurred right here in Carroll County.
June 26 in Carroll County was an election day unlike any other. Live animals prowled the polls including a pig in a candidate’s shirt at Mechanicsville Elementary and a lizard latched to a volunteer at Manchester Valley High. There were rumors a candidate was planning to have a plane fly a giant banner like businesses at the beach. Sadly, the rumors remained mere flights of fancy. President Trump even made several appearances — as a cardboard cutout, but comical nonetheless. Election day looked more like a game in the defunct American Basketball Association, where wacky promotions and gimmicks took precedence over the actual contest.
As with every election, there were both winners and losers. Win or lose, there were lessons learned. Looking past all the shenanigans that occurred, the three biggest takeaways were: grassroots campaigning conquers money, endorsements are important (depending on who is doing the endorsing), and the race for Board of Education resembles a battle royal where it may be impossible to predict which three candidates will be left standing in November.
We often hear that “cash is king.” Not in Carroll. In this county, grassroots campaigning is king.
Many first-time candidates learned this expensive lesson. Carroll roadways were plagued with billboards designed to increase name recognition of candidates. One candidate for delegate spent over 100,000 smackaroos on his campaign, with the lion’s share coming out of his own pocket. No expense was spared by these hopefuls who spent like drunken sailors on billboards, mailers and even umbrellas. However, most voters were struck by amnesia when casting their ballots for those spendthrifts, and instead voted for candidates with long ties to Carroll. Folks who have been a part of our community for decades, not those who dropped in for a cup of coffee after they decided to run for office. In the end, the people of Carroll did not follow the money. Instead, they followed their instincts and valued those with true connections to Carroll.
Endorsements can go a long way, but only if the candidate gets the right one. Those who received endorsements from the sheriff and the local delegation walked away winners, but many who received the support of sitting county commissioners did not fare as well. We are all familiar with the “Badge Ballot” listing the Fraternal Order of Police’s endorsements and the “Apple Ballot” listing the teachers’ union’s picks, but this year we saw shadowy coalitions and Facebook community group pages make endorsements on social media, via robocalls, and at the polls with photocopied flyers. Who were these groups and what endorsement criteria did they use? Ultimately, such endorsements turned out not to be worth the cost of the copy paper they were printed on.
Voters could choose up to three candidates from a list of 11 for BOE. The top six now move onto the general election, where only three will walk away winners. Given the results of the primary, it could be tough to find anyone to give odds on who will survive. Some candidates who had well-organized campaigns fell flat, while others who appeared to do very little managed to skate by. It is hard to determine the direction voters want the BOE to head based off the six who made it to the general. Some of the teachers’ union’s endorsed candidates won, but one did not. Some fan favorites of concerned parents were victorious, but others of the same ilk were not. Who walks away with his or her arm raised high in November is anyone’s guess.
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For the most part, the primary in Carroll County is the election, but for the competitive elections that are still up for grabs in November such as governor and BOE, it is time for voters to pay attention and stay educated so that the best candidates win the championship belt.