Sunday, November 9, 2014

One County, One Ballot, Two Very Different Votes

There has been so much commentary on last Tuesday's race, very little of which I have read.  I've been plowing through Happiest Baby on the Block as if the secret of life is written somewhere therein (which may be true for the father of a four day old).  But I've obviously thought about the election a lot, particularly what it means for the next two years, four years, and beyond.

First, my own.  For all the hard work, money, and spirit we invested, at the end of the day the voters get to make their choice.  And between Bob and I, I don't think there was a choice that could be considered "wrong".  We had two different philosophies, two different approaches to governance, and two different party affiliations.  In this race, I think it was the latter that moved the dial.  And as much as it hurts to lose, I'm proud to have lost because I was a Democrat.  I spent four months being called a liar and a "Democrat In Name Only" by people who ignorantly thought this seat was "made for Democrats".  On Tuesday, I lost because I was a Democrat running for a seat that was assuredly not made to be won by a Democrat in 2014.  If I had to lose, I am fine with losing for that reason, fighting for policy that I genuinely believe in, and never turning my back on my friends.

Second, Governor-elect Hogan.  This may bother some of my Republican friends, but I think Maryland voted against Anthony Brown more than they voted for Larry Hogan.  And that's a shame.  I had a chance to get to know Anthony a little bit over the past year and found him to be a truly down-to-earth, good man and a good leader.  Whenever I would talk about Anthony on the trail, I would also bring up the fact that he's a foster parent.  That's walking-the-talk in ways most of us cannot imagine, much less replicate.  And similar to the analysis of my own race, I don't think any other Democrat wins the governorship in 2014.  Not Gansler, not Mizeur, and, sadly, not even Ken Ulman.  Maryland Democrats had the fortune and misfortune of governing in crisis.  We can debate whether the choices they made on taxes and spending were appropriate, but there is no question that they were unpopular.  Beneficiaries of sustained spending are likely none the wiser, while those who bore the cost of increased taxes certainly noticed every penny.  I am positive that Republicans who voted for Larry Hogan were excited about his candidacy and his policy positions.  But this is Maryland.  He won because Democrats were disinterested and Unaffiliated voters were ready for a change.

Third, County Executive Kittleman.  During the campaign, I didn't have sleepless nights thinking about losing.  I lost sleep because I was intimidated by what would happen if I won.  When you talk about "fundamentally changing government as we know it", you better have something to show for it if you win.  I hope that doesn't come across as self-aggrandizement.  I had big plans (still do) and unlike many candidates, even those who won, I had an obligation to produce big change if provided the chance.

I think Allan Kittleman may lose some sleep over the next few weeks, and I say that as someone who considers him a friend.  He has promised so much.  To Republicans, he has promised to be their leader and do everything they've always wanted to do, but were unable to due to Democratic dominance.  Things like OPEB make for great campaign fodder, but are empty accounting gimmicks once you take the wheel.  Concern about year after year budget increases make sense in a sound bite, but are actually a product of state mandates and population growth, which will be difficult to reverse.  And while it may have been great to lionize those counties who rejected the "stormwater management utility fee" (i.e., "rain tax") as a candidate, I don't think Howard County has ever sought the mantle of rebellion.

To Democrats, he's promised to represent their interests and not put ideology over office.  That is a difficult promise for a Republican to maintain.  Not because it was a lie, but more because those who took that promise as true will be looking for any variance from that path as betrayal.  While it was characterized as "negative campaigning" to point out Allan's party affiliation (and related votes) during the race, Allan Kittleman is a Republican and it is his right to govern as such.  Voters are foolish to think otherwise.

This is a very full plate and Allan is going to need to deliver early to avoid buyer's remorse.  As we've seen with our own President, the image you spend an entire campaign building will crumble months after you begin to govern.  Not because you lied, but because votes cast with optimism and idealism carry with them greater expectations than those cast with anger and fear.

But if I know Allan, I know he is motivated and excited by this challenge.  He will have every opportunity to succeed.  And that's the most intimidating thing of all.

Have a great Sunday doing what you love!