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The election is over, my yard has been freed of campaign signs by a thoughtful neighbor and now all of us of whatever political stripe need to figure what to do next.

The split between executive and legislative branches continues at the national level. Now there will be a split at the state level, between governor and the legislature.

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The national media were caught flat-footed. None of the well-known talking heads even mentioned the gubernatorial race in Maryland until after it was won. Those of us who live here knew the Democratic candidate was in trouble. How did this happen? Well, it happened the same way it occurred the last three times we had a Republican governor in our Democratic-majority state.The Democratic Party managed to come up with an unacceptable candidate.

There is an old saying amongst those of us who worked in government,to wit: First rate leaders pick first-rate subordinates. Second rate leaders pick third rate subordinates who in turn pick fourth rate people. Martin O'Malley was not a terrible governor, but he wasn't top-drawer either. After he was elected twice he repeated the same mistake that allowed Robert Ehrlich to become governor earlier. He settled on his Lieutenant Governor, Anthony Brown, to be his successor, and then assigned Brown a very tough assignment, the implementation of the health care marketplace. This task was well beyond Brown's capability or experience to perform. The assignment was made in the vain hope of padding Brown's resume. Instead, we had the worst health care rollout in the nation.

Selecting an information technology vendor for a government contract and supervising their performance is a challenging set of tasks even for experienced IT professionals. This I know from personal experience.

If Brown's failure with health care sounds just like the disaster that befell then Lt. Gov. Catherine Kennedy Townsend some years back you have it right. Her near-impossible assignment was reforming the juvenile justice system. Her flawed candidacy opened the doors of the governor's mansion to Ehrlich.

It can also be suggested that the qualities that make a good number two are not necessarily the qualities that make a good number one. A county executive or a member of Congress might make a better choice than a sitting lieutenant governor.

Even earlier, in 1966, another way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory was practiced by the Maryland Democratic Party. There were many candidates in the Democratic Primary. Two were liberal candidates who drew about 29 percent and 27 percent respectively. Another was a Dixiecrat candidate named George Mahoney. His campaign slogan was the putatively racist chant of: "Your home is your castle, protect it." He won the Democratic Primary with less than 31 percent of the vote. In the general election, the Republican candidate, Baltimore County Executive Spiro Agnew, won with, among other advantages 80 percent of the African-American vote in Baltimore City. A third candidate, Hyman Pressman, drew 10 percent of the total vote. If all Pressman's votes had gone to Mahoney he would have won. Agnew later went on to be vice president of the nation, and fell from grace when his alleged penchant for collecting bribes became known.

Our Governor-Elect Larry Hogan has pledged to govern in a bipartisan manner. Lately bipartisanship has become like the weather, everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it. But we can always hope.

Meanwhile, my fellow Maryland Democrats need to think long and hard about picking an electable candidate for 2018. We know what doesn't work. We need to figure out what does.

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

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