The curse of the one-party state

November 10, 2014

Election-map-results-620x350Republican Larry Hogan Jr.’s stunningly easy romp over Democrat Anthony Brown in Maryland’s race for governor can’t be written off as a fluke.

Fundamental changes are taking place that could give Republicans a strong advantage down the road in what is generally considered a deeply blue state.

You can call it the curse of the one-party state.

Common wisdom has it that given the Democrats’ 2-1 commanding lead in Maryland’s voter registration, Democratic victory in big races is a foregone conclusion.

But the common wisdom often is wrong.

Lack of competitive races depresses turnout

In three of the state’s biggest jurisdictions, Democrats hold such a massive registration lead that the local Republican Party is on life support. Big turnouts in Baltimore City, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County should be enough to ensure statewide Democratic triumph.

Yet that didn’t happen this year because turnout in those three locations was terrible.

Only 36% of city voters went to the polls; 38% in Prince George’s and just 39% in Montgomery.

Compare that with the turnout in counties where Hogan piled up big numbers: Baltimore County, 49%, Frederick County, 51%, Harford County, 54% and Howard County, 52%.

Democrats must be scratching their heads. This shouldn’t be happening!

If the Big 3 jurisdictions had turned out in force, Brown would be addressing invitations to his inaugural ball.

More registered voters, but fewer come to the polls

Even more puzzling is the fact that all three of those jurisdictions have seen big jumps in registered voters over the past 12 years — 79,000 more voters in the city, 168,000 more in Montgomery and 178,000 more voters in Prince George’s — nearly all Democrats.

With 1,553,000 Big 3 registered voters, who usually support the Democrat by 4-1 or 5-1 margins, how could Brown possibly lose?

Blame it on the Democrats’ greatest strength — their huge advantage in people identifying with the party. In this case, it is a curse rather than a blessing.

In Big 3, no elected Republicans for decades

Here’s what’s happening: In Baltimore City, there hasn’t been a Republican mayor in 50 years. There hasn’t been a Republican state legislator or councilman from the city in 60 years. No Republican has held elective office in Baltimore in half a century.

So it’s no surprise Baltimore voters don’t take the mid-term general election seriously. All the local races this year were decided in the June Democratic primary. Indeed, only one of the city’s six state Senate districts even had a nominal Republican on the ballot. He got 6% of the vote.

The situation is similar in Prince George’s, where the last Republican county executive was Larry Hogan’s father and namesake — 34 years ago. No Republican has held a local office for decades.

Montgomery is following that same trend. James P. Gleason was the one and only Republican county executive, last elected in 1978. Republicans used to capture local seats in the upper sections of the county, but no more. It, too, is now a one-party monopoly.

The downside of monopoly

That should be good for the Democratic Party, right?


One-party rule turns general elections into mere formalities. Local political clubs don’t get energized. Local politicians don’t bother campaigning. The local party is on cruise control.

Democratic voters feel the same way. Why go to the polls in November when all the local races already have been decided?

This trend started decades ago and we’re now seeing the corrosive effects.

The last time there was an open seat for governor – 2002 – the general election turnout was 53% in the city, 52% in Prince George’s and 64% in Montgomery.

Contrast that with this month’s turnout and you see a precipitous plunge in voters going to be polls. The decline in Baltimore was 18%, 14% in Prince George’s and a huge drop of 25% in Montgomery’s voter participation.

That last figure is the most stunning number of all.

So low in MoCo

Montgomery County is famed for its acute awareness of a citizen’s obligations to cast a ballot and take an active role in the political process. Good government and close attention to local government issues is deeply rooted in this county.

Yet even with 168,000 more registered voters than 12 years ago, 48,000 fewer ballots were cast this month in Montgomery.

The ennui in Montgomery should deeply disturb state Democrats. A 25% decline in turnout over a 12-year period is a calamity.

Add that to similar trends in Prince George’s and Baltimore and you begin to understand why a Republican is hiring the Kane Company to move his furniture to the Governor’s Mansion.

Is biggest attribute a fatal flaw? 

It’s ironic. The Democrats’ greatest attribute is now a potential fatal flaw.

Without competitive, two-party elections, the party in power relaxes. It gets sloppy and complacent. It gets lazy and even arrogant. It can’t energize its members.

Hogan capitalized on this chink in the Democrats’ armor because his strongholds turned out in big numbers. His supporters were highly motivated. They showed up to vote.

What will happen four years from now? Or in eight years?

One-party Democratic rule won’t change in the Big 3 any time soon — if ever. The one-party mentality could grow even stronger, with lackluster turnouts in mid-term November elections.

It’s an Achilles heel that the Democratic Party, despite its huge edge in identified supporters, doesn’t know how to protect.

Barry Rascovar’s blog is He can be reached at

By Barry Rascovar


19 Responses to The curse of the one-party state

  1. dissident on November 10, 2014 at 10:19 am

    It is economy, stupid. Democrats and Republicans are like drunk sailors running our economy. Republican won because democrat screwed Maryland so badly through taxes, fees, corrput system, and everything that goes around to democrats. Republicans will not last long, and I hope a third party will win in next election so we could bring America back. We need to elimante “the two party only” menality in America, then America will be bright again.

    • Anonymous on November 11, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      As a retired Sailor, I take offense to your comment. Most drunken Sailors quit spending money once they have run out of said money.

  2. anonymous on November 10, 2014 at 11:07 am

    You are forgetting that Hogan capitalized on one word “taxes” and drummed that word into people’s heads over and over. The Republicans are much better skilled at poisoning voters than Democrats which is what we are seeing across the nation. In addition, Lt. Gov. Brown was not a very effective or charismatic candidate, he just doesn’t have it. Hogan also lacks charisma, he just knew how to play his hand at the right time and I’m sure it helped to have a father who is a former Maryland legislator.

    “One party rule” in Maryland is not the only factor in play, people are worn out with politics, primarily with the dysfunctional US Congress and that trickles down. Obama is blamed because ultimately, the buck stops with him but it has been the Republicans’ refusal to do any work for the country that has brought any progress to a grinding halt. On a side note, let’s not forget that Obama took Maryland twice in stunning numbers and it will happen again when Clinton takes Maryland in 2016 and that should help with the current apathy. But still, the Democrats will have to work to rekindle the fires for the next round of state and local elections. To add, regarding voters in southern Maryland, St. Mary’s and Calvert Counties have also been infested by conservatives (often extreme) and the apparent undead Tea Party crowd through employment with the military and its adjuncts which in turn affected election results. Hope these folks don’t regret their votes when the federal government is slashed even further, oh well.

  3. Fluttergma on November 10, 2014 at 11:30 am

    I didn’t vote for governor because there wasn’t anyone on the ballot that I believe would have the interests of the citizens of Maryland as their main focus. Anthony Brown might have increased his chances if we heard more on his differences from the Gov.
    I wanted a “None of the above” option.
    I don’t believe our choices will improve until money becomes less important part of who runs. Rep. Sarbanes is sponsoring a Government By the People bill that is based on a system is working in NT and Conn to help with this problem.
    For now, I vote for the one who will do the least damage. This time I couldn’t decide who that was.

    • anonymous on November 11, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Absolutely right, Fluttergma, with regard to campaign financing. “Corporations are people, too” is one of the worst decisions to come down from the conservative US Supreme Court. A decision which further opened the floodgates of financing campaigns. The amount of money spent on elections sickens me, what a waste. Essentially, money buys elections, nothing new in the history of the United States, it’s just obscene now. It takes away the sanctity of one’s individual vote.

  4. Steve on November 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Cuba, North Korea, Russia, China and many others have no parties, so expecting it to happen here is foolish, so comrade when you moving????

  5. Barry on November 10, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    One thing is for sure with a republican – no more new taxes.

    • anonymous on November 11, 2014 at 11:02 am

      Barry, you are a dreamer. Hope it is not too painful when you fall back to earth and reality.

  6. Rick Diculous on November 10, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Ohhhhhhhhhh, I know why the low turnout; it’s because Obama wasn’t on any of the ballots!!

    • Rick Diculous on November 10, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      How do you think the Republicans won the House in 2010?

      • firefoxrocks on November 11, 2014 at 12:22 am

        How did they keep it in 2012 then?

  7. randomtask on November 10, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Yeah well The short bus is heading too the cliff And prop wont matter whos driving the bus The prob is were just waiting for it too happen..Cause its went on for too long..We the people own the drunk sailors…

  8. fred50 on November 10, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Apparently people that are on welfare and under achievers cannot be deepened on to go to the effort to vote. You writers can spray perfume on the pigs of the democratic party but face it the majority don’t work. The Republicans work for a living and have a horse in the race as they are tired of paying takes so others can eat and fornicate to make more underachievers! You can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear so get your members to get jobs!

    • anonymous on November 11, 2014 at 11:00 am

      You do release don’t you, Fred, that most people on welfare are people who lost jobs or need to supplement their wages with food stamps. And just to make sure you know, the majority of people on welfare are white. During the Clinton administration, a bi-partisan approach was taken to overhaul welfare and modify requirements for those who applied. You might want to do a little research vs. spouting off ignorant words that are used from uninformed Republicans, the “welfare blame game and stereotyping” doesn’t ring true anymore.

      • MarineVet on November 12, 2014 at 9:26 am

        Im sorry but other than YOU, who mentioned race?

        “Murland” is the most Gerymandered state in the country.
        The Soviet Socialist Republic of Maryland will find a way to change the rules so this never happens again… tisk tisk tisk

        • anonymous on November 12, 2014 at 12:39 pm

          It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to read between the lines of junk posted by ill-informed (and often racist) Republicans who simply spout rhetoric they hear on FOXNews or conservative radio. Sort of like your “Soviet Socialist Republic of Maryland” reference. You must be one of the “jar-headed” Marines. A smart Marine knows a little something about the various forms of government on this planet. Hope you enjoy those cuts to your pension and any other benefits you may have. BTW, gerrymandering is partly why the Democrats are under-represented in the US House and in state government in places like TX, NC, IN, and VA to name a few.

      • Anonymous on November 12, 2014 at 11:02 am

        I think the term “under achiever” as used in the previous paragraph was illustration describing that a person who foolishly believes they can support a family on a menial job like a “paper route” or being a “clerk at a convenient store” are not career oriented. And said low effort for a future for one’s family only leads to further disenfranchised people. Furthermore I would google welfare recipients and the breakdown as to sex and ethnicity I think you might get better information.

  9. There really should be a place on November 12, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    for losing candidates in an Administration, it is simply an acknowledgement that they had substantial support. There were quite a few write-in votes for Charles Sheriff, even though there wasn’t a registered write-in, and yes, Coffey should be considered for Asst. Sheriff, if it is mutually agreed upon. It is an acknowledgement of the Primary results, if nothing else. The Rs and Ds furthermore need to stop the broad name-calling and mud-slinging and get specific, although theres nothing wrong with mud slinging because the contents of it are analyzed. Which Ds feel which way, which Rs feel which way? Ds and Rs are both capable of voting on and introducing legislation, the differences are the Central Committees, thats the only place they don’t serve side-by-side. An elected person can even changes parties, from R to D/ D to R and keep their position. If the blame and credit were on an individual basis, as it should be, then we could really get down to the nitty gritty and problem solving and get some things done. The only time Ds should be accused is it was actually all Ds, every last one of them, and yes, to be fair, the only time Rs should be accused is if the same.

  10. Kristin on November 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Excellent! Just wanted to respond. I thoroughly loved your post. Keep up the great work on