On April 26, Maryland will hold its primary election. Both Democrats and Republicans have a stake in this primary, but in different races. In the race for president on the Democratic ballot either candidate is acceptable. I prefer Sen. Bernie Sanders because he has less baggage to weigh him down in the general election.

The Republican presidential ballot is another matter. The leading candidate is unacceptable to the leaders of the party. Donald Trump recently claimed not to know anything about David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.


But in 2000, he spoke thus: "The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. [Pat] Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. [Lenora] Fulani. This is not company I wish to keep."

Whether Trump tardily rejects the Duke support or continues to claim ignorance of Duke and his KKK association he has handed his Democratic opponent an issue to clobber him with. This issue alone will cause most Democrats and not a few independents and right-minded Republicans good reason to vote against him.

Trump has said many outrageous things, like wanting to ban Muslims from entrance into our nation, a clear violation of Article 1 of the Constitution. But this wild reply may be the last nail in his coffin as a candidate.

There are two other national races of interest this year. Barbara Mikulski chose not to run for her Senate seat. There are plenty of candidates on this ballot with 14 Republicans, 10 Democrats and a handful of independents filing for the job, but the real race will be decided in the Democratic primary. Our own representative, Chris Van Hollen, D-District 8, is in a dead heat with Rep. Donna Edwards. The race to fill the 8th District seat previously occupied by Van Hollen as I previously noted is also very close on the Democratic side.

Maryland is pretty much reliably Democratic. Carroll County is even more reliably Republican. The result is that primary elections are the real elections. If you are more concerned with state and national races, then it pays to register as a Democrat. If local races are your main concern then it pays to register as a Republican. In either case it pays to be registered in one major party or the other. Registering as an independent, or worse, failing to register at all cuts you out from having any say in the future of your community, your state or the nation. Leap years like this one feature more on national affairs; the alternate even number years focus more on local and state races. A real political junkie will switch parties between elections.

Americans are notorious for not bothering to vote in primaries or not voting at all. A case can be made for a reverse poll tax, where you pay a small fine if you don't register and vote in every election for which you are eligible. Or a deduction from your income tax for voting might be a more palatable alternative. President Obama proposed such a scheme and predictably the Heritage Foundation declared it unconstitutional. However those who refuse to vote could just turn in an empty ballot.

Hint, hint: The deadline for registering this year is April 5. Before voting it pays to scan the websites of those candidates you are considering. I found one candidate who is running because her husband thought it was a good idea.

She had no platform or qualifications on her website. She wasn't sure if she was running as a Republican or an independent. Well it's a free country.

John Culleton writes from Eldersburg. His column appears every other Tuesday. Email him at cct@wexfordpress.com.