5 Takeaways From Maryland's 2018 Primary Election

June 27, 2018

by Baltimore Sun Staff

Elections can be chaotic affairs. The fliers. The endorsements. The problems at the polls. At the end of the night, what have we actually learned? Here are five takeaways from Maryland’s primary election.

1. The establishment lost and the progressives won

Ben Jealous' progressive bid for the Democratic nomination for governor hinged on a bet that the Maryland Democratic party's left wing had enough force to put him over the top.

He won that bet by a big margin — more than 55,000 votes.

Tuesday night's results show that the traditional Maryland establishment lost out to a candidate who could unite unions, Bernie Sanders-style Democrats and African-Americans. Rushern Baker, the Prince George's County executive supported by most of the state's Democratic leaders, started out as the nominal front-runner in the contest but ultimately surpassed by Jealous' turnout machine and message that energized party activists.

The race offered Maryland's Democratic primary voters a chance to say what direction the party wants in the future, and the answer was clear: someone far to the left of anyone they've ever nominated for governor before.

The Republican Party in Baltimore County is more of a Hogan party than a Trump party.

Gov. Larry Hogan’s favored candidate in the Baltimore County executive’s race, insurance commissioner Al Redmer Jr., rolled to victory over outspoken Del. Pat McDonough, who at times has embraced the moniker “the Trump of Baltimore County.”

Like Trump, McDonough has advocated tough policies on immigration and a law-and-order approach to crime. Redmer publicly shied away from such polarizing topics and inflammatory rhetoric and embraced the Republican governor, who has distanced himself from Trump. Redmer promoted his executive-level experience and put Hogan’s name on his campaign signs and literature.

Redmer rolled to victory with 56 percent of the vote, compared to 44 percent for McDonough.

- Maryland primary 2018: Election results

3. Turnout was up slightly.

Four years ago, with contested primaries in both major parties for governor, turnout in the primary election was about 22 percent. With thousands of votes still outstanding, turnout for this primary stood at about 24 percent.

That’s a step in the right direction for folks who want to see more voter engagement, but it’s hardly the 56 percent increase in turnout the state saw during early voting this year.

Once again, it appears, early voting is making going to the polls more convenient — not necessarily driving up turnout.

The SEIU is a force

The Service Employees International Union was one of the most active and visible backers of Ben Jealous for governor. But it also played a giant-killer role in the defeats of Baltimore Sens. Nathaniel McFadden and Barbara A. Robinson and the apparent defeat of Sen. Joan Carter Conway.

Throw in ousted Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton of Charles County, whom the SEIU also opposed, and that would come to four allies of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. The SEIU failed to beat Miller himself, but it surely ruined his night.

5. Getting a bridge named for you doesn’t guarantee victory

Middleton’s colleagues honored his many years of working for the replacement of the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River by passing a law tacking his name onto the new bridge.

The Nice/Middleton Bridge will be there for decades to come, but Middleton won’t be chairman of the Finance Committee any more. He lost to a progressive insurgent.