Harford County Council endorsements [Editorial from The Aegis]

June 12, 2014|Editorial from the Aegis

It's been more than a decade since all the voters of the county could vote for all the members of the county council.

A key argument in favor of switching from countywide to in-district selection of county council members was that the smaller districts would allow for more grassroots campaigns. Rather than have to get a message out to a county of 250,000 — the theory went — candidates in a particular district would only have to reach about 41,500 people. Actually, the number of people needing to be contacted is even smaller than that as each district has roughly 27,500 registered voters. In the primary, a council candidate need contact between 10,000 and 11,000 people to touch base with all of a particular party's registered voters. Consider that it is easy to get a list of likely voters from the local elections office (a list of people who voted in the last non-presidential election year), and it is possible to run a grassroots primary campaign that focuses on fewer than 5,000 registered, likely voters of either of the two major parties.

The numbers make it sound like anyone active and in good standing with a house of worship and two or three civic organizations would have a shot at being elected, especially with a little bit of organization.

The wave of community activist candidates for Harford County Council, however, is yet to materialize. Between the Democrats and Republicans, there should be a dozen races being decided this month.

In reality, there is no race at all in one of the districts, as incumbent Republican Joe Woods is the only candidate from either party in Fallston District B.

In North Harford District D, no Democrats have filed to run, so Republican voters alone will decide who represents the district.

In each of Districts A, C, and F, a single Democrat is assured a spot on the November ballot as there is no primary competition; each of those districts has a contested GOP primary.

Only in Aberdeen-Churchville District E are both primaries contested.

Which brings up the subject of recommending candidates in the contested races:

In District D, where the Republican primary decides the race, incumbent Chad R. Shrodes is challenged by Jonathan C. Grimmel. Both are solid candidates, but Grimmel has an uphill battle. Throughout the year, Shrodes misses very few public gatherings, and has garnered a reputation for being willing to listen to his constituents. As a council member, he has shown a willingness to admit he doesn't know everything about every issue and follows up by schooling himself on matters where his background is thin.

In a lot of ways, the country would be better off with more elected officials who follow the Shrodes method of operation.

The Aegis recommends Republicans in District D cast ballots for Chad Shrodes.

The balance of the recommendations involve candidates who will end up facing opposition in the November general election.

In Joppatowne-Edgewood District A, two Republicans are angling for an opportunity to unseat uncontested incumbent Democrat Dion Guthrie. They are Yvonne Baldwin, whose family runs Baldwin's Crab House in Joppa, and Mike Perrone Jr., an accountant.

Both grew up in the community and have mounted serious campaigns, and either can be expected to give Guthrie a serious challenge.

Baldwin, however, has the edge in experience. She has been a member of the community council that serves the Joppa area and, as such, has a sense of the issues that concern people in the area. The councils have no authority, but meet regularly, serving as forums for people to expound on the issues they care about: schools, development, public safety and the like. By moving up to the county council, Baldwin would have a chance to effect public policy with regard to the issues she has heard about while serving on the community council.

The Aegis recommends voters in Edgewood-Joppa District A cast ballots for Yvonne Baldwin.

In Bel Air District C, Republican incumbent James C. "Cap'n Jim" McMahan faces a challenge from Eric Daxon, whose focus is on repealing the so-called "rain tax," and David E. Mitchell, perhaps best known for operating a hot dog cart for many years in the area around the courthouse in Bel Air.

Though Daxon has seized upon an issue that has irritated a lot of people in Harford County, it seems the more appropriate office to seek, if "rain tax" repeal were his goal, would be the state legislature. The tax may have been levied locally, but the county had no choice as it was required by state law.

Though Mitchell has been politically active in local campaigns, his experience on the public policy side is limited at best.

The Aegis suggests voters in Bel Air District C stick with James McMahan.

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