With less than three weeks to the Nov. 4 election, there have been some interesting developments on the final stretch.
• It’s a strange election cycle on the Ocean City front. As you would expect with a lower-level municipal election, it’s the first foray into elected office for most of the candidates. That was evident at Tuesday’s forum and in some cases the lack of polish was refreshing, but in other cases the depth of knowledge of the issues was disturbing.
It’s difficult to come to many conclusions after candidate forums because the speakers frequently agree on most topics being addressed. Some word it better than others, but more often than not they are on the same page about questions that surface.
One clear conclusion I have is the candidates who spoke at this week’s forum are not well versed on tourism. In some cases, they are clueless. When asked about whether they think the peak tourism season is shrinking in Ocean City and what the Mayor and Council could do to grow the shoulder seasons, none of the candidates offered any realistic suggestions and five of the six candidates in attendance opined they thought the season was growing. They clearly painted an overly rosy picture that is contradicted entirely by tourism data.
Only Joe Hall believed the busy season was shrinking, but his overly gloomy portrayal of general business in Ocean City is also inaccurate and solely based on his own personal failures and experiences.
This election field is an interesting one, particularly due to its small size and the fact there are only two individuals — Joe Hall and Council President Lloyd Martin — who have held elected office previously. There are four seats open, and Martin, as a 12-year council veteran, is about as much of a lock as there can be in these unpredictable elections. With candidate Joe Cryer not in attendance at the forum and having expressed to the media reservations about staying on the ballot recently after controversial social media posts he made, that leaves six candidates for three seats.
In other words, these seats are up for grabs. I expect Martin to again be the top vote-getter, but the remaining seats to be tightly contested.
• Dating back to 1998, this paper does not publish endorsement letters from citizens. The policy came about after it was discovered two opposing candidates in a local race had an organized campaign geared toward flooding the newspapers with their own letters extolling how wonderful they each were.
Since email was not as used back then, the hardcopy letters came in by the dozens within days of each other. There were three form letters being used by the candidates signed by different citizens with the same handwriting on the envelopes. It was grassroots campaigning at its finest or worst, depending on your perspective. We viewed it more as the latter after discovering in-laws and other family members were opining about their loved ones’ desire to seek public office.
While we do not print these sorts of letters any longer, we do read all that come in, and the majority of the letters received so far have dealt with the spirited State Senate race pitting incumbent Democrat Jim Mathias and against Republican Mike McDermott, a current member of the House of Delegates. For what it’s worth, and I don’t suspect it’s much, the count of letters received yesterday was eight for Mathias and four backing McDermott.
• On the governor front, it looks like the Republican Party does actually have a chance with Larry Hogan. Most recent polls have Democrat Anthony Brown in the lead, but the margin in at least two polls is within the error range.
The next couple weeks will be compelling as the television commercials ramp up and the Democratic favorite’s record gets used against him and the GOP’s candidate’s lack of elected government experience gets thrown at him.
In an editorial this week, The Baltimore Sun touched on this point. It read, “Perhaps the best thing Mr. Hogan has going for him is that Maryland voters, by a 48-44 margin, think the state is on the wrong track. That is no doubt weighing on Mr. Brown, who has been a partner in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration and who has shied away from obvious moves to distance himself from his boss during the campaign. And at least so far, the barrage of negative television ads from Mr. Brown and his allies don’t appear to have disqualified Mr. Hogan in the minds of voters. Among those who have seen the campaigns ads, the vast majority — 75 percent — say the commercials have not made them more likely to vote for either of the candidates. Among those who have been swayed, Mr. Hogan is winning by a 14-9 margin. His support is also firmer, with just 13 percent of those who favor him saying they might change their minds, compared to 25 percent for Mr. Brown. All that means this race is relatively close, but close doesn’t count.”
• Early voting opens Thursday, Oct. 23, and runs through Oct. 30. Worcester residents can head to the Gull Creek Community Center and Wicomico residents can go to the Civic Center between 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Primary voter turnout was pathetic overall and especially for early voting. I have voted early in every election since it has been offered and plan to do so again. It’s simple and fast, but the state legislature needs to track voting data in the general election because if it’s as low as it was in the primary some changes need to be made. It’s just a waste of money if it’s not accomplishing its goal — making voting easier and convenient to boost turnout.