Glendening owes city, P.G. for winning margin

November 22, 1998|By Barry Rascovar

WE have delivered the mother lode of votes for Glendening and the Democrats." Thus spoke an exuberant Douglas Duncan, the re-elected Montgomery County executive on election night.

According to Mr. Duncan, mighty Montgomery is now "the California of Maryland," the sine qua non -- the indispensable county for a statewide Democratic win.

Forgive Mr. Duncan his giddy platitudes on the evening of a sweeping Democratic triumph. He had, indeed, delivered his county for Gov. Parris N. Glendening. He had, indeed, masterminded the Democrats' sweep of House of Delegates races in Montgomery.

But Mr. Duncan had better throttle his enthusiasm. The numbers show that while Montgomery is clearly a key player in determining the outcome of any election, it isn't the biggest factor. His cry of "we're No. 1" is more accurately "we're No. 3."

The operative strategy for Maryland Democrats has been to win big in Baltimore City and win by lesser margins in the populous Washington suburbs of Prince George's and Montgomery counties. It worked for Mr. Glendening four years ago, when these were the only jurisdictions he carried.

This time, Mr. Glendening again won these Big Three subdivisions by lopsided margins. He fared better everywhere else, too. His election was assured, though, in Baltimore and in Prince George's County.

Comparing votes

Yes, Montgomery County contributed the largest number of Glendening votes. But his winning margin in Montgomery was fTC 67,000 votes -- compared with a winning margin of 96,000 in the city and 95,000 in Prince George's County.

Thus, even without Montgomery County's support, Mr. Glendening would have beaten Ellen R. Sauerbrey by better than 90,000 votes.

The difference was the one-sided nature of Democratic support among African Americans. That's why the city, despite its shrinking population, and Prince George's County, remain the heavyweights.

In the governor's race, majority-black Baltimore gave Mr. Glendening a stunning 81 percent (he got 75 percent in Prince George's). Contrast that with Montgomery, where Mr. Glendening won 62 percent of the vote in a far more competitive atmosphere.

Look at it this way: For every 10 city voters, Mr. Glendening came away with a six-vote lead; for every 10 Montgomery County voters, he came away with a far narrower two-vote lead.

Despite casting 120,000 fewer votes than Montgomery -- and having the fourth-worst turnout in the state (56 percent), the city delivered far more of the winning margin to the Democratic candidate than Mr. Duncan's county -- nearly 50 percent more. This despite Montgomery's 62-percent voter turnout.

As long as the city casts a lopsided vote for a candidate, Baltimore will retain its pivotal role.

Mr. Duncan may think the election earned him the lion's share of political rewards from Annapolis, but he'd better get in line. Ahead of him are the two jurisdictions that gave the governor an impressive 191,000-vote margin.

Of course, Mr. Glendening harbors vengeful thoughts against Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke for their lackluster and belated endorsements. They won't get many favors.

But Mr. Glendening still has to look kindly on Prince George's County and the city. Voters there won him the election.

Friendly pols

He'll probably deal with state senators and delegates from the city and Prince George's, not the mayor and Mr. Curry. Since legislators were his strongest supporters, they will have the most to say on aid packages.

Mr. Duncan, though, can call in his own chits. He campaigned diligently and relentlessly for Mr. Glendening. He will demand -- and deserves -- special consideration. He'll probably get it, though he's likely to come away with far less than he wants.

In the end, all three jurisdictions -- plus Howard and Allegany counties, which also went for Mr. Glendening this time -- will be big winners. They backed the right candidate this year. Mr. Glendening is likely to have a soft spot in his heart for them when it is time to hand out budget goodies.

To the victors always belong the spoils. As a savvy Boston officeholder once put it, "politics ain't beanbag."

Barry Rascovar, deputy editorial page editor, is the author of "The Great Game of Maryland Politics."

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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