Howard County's Democratic executive suffered a slow, painful political death as the absentee ballots were tallied and she came up 450 short. Liz Bobo, who had struggled for four years to find a middle ground in the contentious battle over growth and development managed, in the end, to alienate the business community as well as the no-growth advocates. That, plus an almost compulsive preoccupation with her work, which could appear to constituents like arrogance, finally proved her undoing.
In hindsight, some Bobo supporters say there were probably a lot of protest votes cast last Tuesday. Republicans argue, on the other hand, that the quality of Chuck Ecker's candidacy and the dearth of responsiveness from the Bobo camp were behind the GOP's victory. No matter. Bobo, who had 99-plus percent name recognition in the county, clearly suffered from pervasive voter discontent with incumbents.
She also was the victim of a dramatic upsurge in Republican Party strength in Howard. Today, Republicans are closing in on parity with the Democrats in voter registration. Republicans voted in lock-step in this election, and the Democratic seepage put not only Ecker over the top but also brought the party three new seats in the House of Delegates and one in the state Senate. With the independents counted in, Howard is unequivocally no longer a Democratic bastion.
The specific policy results of all this are unpredictable. But it is clear that the end of the Bobo era marks not just a changing of the guard but also a change of direction.