Md.'s secretary of state puts his spin on '96 vote Election: A political adviser to Gov. Parris N. Glendening disagrees strongly with the notion that the governor's low standings in the polls reduced President Clinton's margin in the state.

The Political Game

November 12, 1996|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

ANYONE WHO thinks Gov. Parris N. Glendening's low standing in the polls hurt President Clinton in Maryland should speak with John T. Willis, Maryland's secretary of state, student of presidential elections in Maryland and political adviser to the governor.

Willis says that:

After absentee ballots are counted, Clinton's margin of at least 280,000 votes will rank as second-largest for a Democratic candidate in Maryland's history.

Clinton's share of the vote, 54.23 percent by Willis' calculations, was the second-largest for a Democrat in 56 years.

Clinton did marginally better this year in 23 of the state's 24 jurisdictions than he did in 1992, particularly improving his performance in rural, traditionally conservative areas of the state.

Willis urges attention to these numbers in part because other Democrats have suggested that Clinton might have done even better if he hadn't been laboring against the low regard some in the state have for the governor. Bunk, says the secretary.

Willis also is rankled by what he regards as an incomplete survey of omens in post-election analysis:

If one observes that the candidate Glendening backed in the 2nd District, Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis, fared poorly against the Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., one also should point out that Steny H. Hoyer, relative to his margin of victory in 1994, did better against Republican challenger John S. Morgan in the 5th District.

The Hoyer-Morgan observation is pertinent, Willis contends, because Morgan ran anti-Glendening advertisements and did not do as well as Hoyer's last opponent, Larry Hogan. Still, one would have to note that Morgan was less well-known and still took 43 percent of the vote against an incumbent who is one of the highest-ranking Democrats in the House.

Finally, if there were disturbing straws in the wind for Glendening in last week's results, voter registration was not one of them, according to Willis. He says Democrats have out-registered Republicans since March.

However, over the past four years, the Republicans have achieved the largest increase in registered voters, according to the state Board of Elections. The GOP was up 57,933, giving the Republicans a total of 775,986.

The second-largest increase came among independents or members of smaller political parties -- Libertarian, Reform, Natural Law and Taxpayers. Independents and voters registered as other than Democrats or Republicans now number 293,833 in the state, up 54,970 since 1992.

Democrats still outnumber Republicans by a 1.9-to-1 ratio, but even counting the advantage noted by Willis since March showed a four-year registration gain of only 12,064.

Willis' case for Clinton gains support from Democrat Maggie L. McIntosh, a delegate from Baltimore who suggests that the president's performance in Maryland was more commendable because his campaign budget here was about a tenth of the 1992 spending allowance -- $75,000 compared with $750,000, she said.

TRIM prevails in P.G. election and then some

Prince George's voters declined to repeal the tax ceiling known as TRIM and, in case anyone might miss the point, simultaneously approved a separate ballot initiative requiring county government to put any tax increase to referendum.

Seen by some as a brake on progress and by others as a brake on politicians, TRIM (Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders) keeps county property taxes at $2.40 per $100 of assessed value or lower.

A loser in the repeal effort was Larry Gibson, chief political strategist for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and an ally of Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry. With an organization called PRIDE (Prince George's Revenue Initiative Dedicated to Excellence) Gibson tried to persuade voters to lift the ceiling.

Instead, they delivered a rebuke to government as they have known it, says Stanley B. Fetter, president of the Prince George's County Civic Federation.

Fetter says the results are a vote of no confidence in the County Council, some of whose members "ignored" voter opposition to approve a stadium for the Washington Redskins.

"There are clearly some council members who don't understand anything other than brute force, and people are tired of it," he says.

Now, though, he says, "unintended consequences" may force the county to revisit the issue in two years. Even fees on developers that no one meant to block have to be subjected to a referendum. Fetter says TRIM's defenders "used the only weapon they had" -- a vote against repeal.

And what will the county do to meet new revenue needs? "We're going to have a painful period of adjustment," Fetter says.

Pub Date: 11/12/96

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