Baltimore Votes in Primary Elections

George Gulino, JHU:

Tuesday, April 26, was primary day across Maryland, with contests deciding each party’s candidates for a range of elected offices. Baltimoreans elected party nominees for spots on the City Council and the Mayoral race. In most cases, especially in the mayoral race, the Democratic candidate for the office is simply assumed to win the November general election in deep-blue Baltimore. That is why the primaries are seen as the deciding race. The Republican mayoral candidate Alan Walden stands little chance of mounting a successful challenge. There are also some notable statewide races, including Anthony Brown’s triumphant return to Maryland politics, both parties’ primaries to replace retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski, and of course the presidential Primaries.

Starting with our own city, the biggest headline is State Senator Catherine Pugh’s victory in the crowded Democratic primary. She is now presumed to become the next mayor of Baltimore. In closely contested race where the top three finishers were women, Pugh won with 37% of the vote and was even endorsed by Congressman Elijah Cummings. She emerged only three percentage points ahead of former mayor Sheila Dixon, who tried to make a comeback several years after resigning and pleading guilty to a misdemeanor embezzlement charge. One struggles to understand how she had the gall to run again and how she came so close to succeeding. Sheila Dixon may have plead guilty to stealing $600 worth of gift cards intended for families in need, but she has also been investigated and charged over substantial evidence of perjury, bribery and other acts unbefitting of an elected official. Prosecutor Elizabeth Embry came in third. In fourth was David Warnock, a Baltimore businessman whose campaign included a “Turnaround Tour” through all 276 of Baltimore’s neighborhoods, which he completed in the now-emblematic Chevy S-10 pickup truck he bought out of college.

Baltimoreans also joined fellow Marylanders in the statewide races. Anthony Brown, the democrat who was surprisingly defeated by Larry Hogan in the 2014 Maryland gubernatorial race, won his primary with 41% of the Democratic vote in the blue 4th Congressional District. Assuming he doesn’t again suffer a shocking upset, it’ll be interesting to see what he can do on Capitol Hill. The race for Senator Mikulski’s seat was perhaps the most interesting statewide race. Republicans selected Delegate Kathy Szeliga by a wide margin, although many expected a closer result. Third place finisher Chrys Kefalas is an openly gay thirty-six-year-old attorney who had previously worked for Attorney General Eric Holder before moving to the National Association of Manufacturers. Only a couple of weeks ago he was within the margin of error of first place in the polls.

Still, the Democratic primary was the more hotly contested race throughout between two of Maryland’s Congressional Representatives: Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. After a contentious and bitter primary fight, Van Hollen bested Edwards. Race and gender became the defining issues of the race, almost to the point of ugliness. Edwards persistently made the case that she was more qualified to represent Maryland as an African-American woman. She repeatedly pointed out that, ““There are only 20 women in the Senate. There are no black women … what I would add to the U.S. Senate is a different kind of life experience and that would inform how I feel about public policy.” Had she won the primary and gone on to win the general, she would have been only the second black woman to serve as a Senator. Ambassador Dennis Ross mentioned her as one of a small handful of members of Congress who very consistently vote against Israel when he visited Hopkins earlier this month. Senator Edwards’s would-be colleague Senator Ben Cardin was one of the few democrats to vote against the Iran deal, and Israel is a contentious topic in Maryland politics especially given the significant Jewish vote. As the race got more and more competitive, Van Hollen and his supporters tried to make the case that he was a results-driven moderate while Edwards and her supporters tried to paint a vote for her as a vote for diversity and inclusivity. This is a dangerous dichotomy because we do not tend to think of these factors as mutually exclusive when electing leaders, but it’s been put to rest in this particular case for now.

Despite the national attention surround the Presidential primaries, neither the Republican or Democratic contests in Maryland were close. Donald Trump won with an impressive 54.4% of the Republican vote, with Governor John Kasich coming in second with 23%. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did even better against Senator Bernie Sanders, winning with 63% of the vote compared to his 33.2%. Baltimoreans didn’t vote very differently than their fellow Marylanders in this contest, with Trump only winning 43.9%. Clinton was even more dominant in Baltimore than elsewhere in the state, winning 65.4% of the vote. Trump largely improved his chances of preventing a successful challenge to his nomination at the convention, as he took all thirty-eight delegates. The full impact of all of these primary results remains to be seen, but it was certainly an interesting primary night in Baltimore.



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