The political games continue in Berlin regarding the fire company’s funding.
The good news is the town council approved in a 3-1 vote a contract to provide funding for the Berlin Fire Company — $250,000 for fire and $355,000 for EMS. That commitment represents a $205,000 increase from last fiscal year. Dollars were already included in the current fiscal year’s budget for fire and EMS funding, but the town has been reluctant to release the funds over concerns about the BFC using town funds to build a new fire station on Route 50. It’s clear town officials do not feel that station is necessary and do not want municipal funds spent on it.
Although a contract is now in place, the bad news is Mayor Gee Williams said this week a property tax increase will need to be considered “to sustain this higher level of annual funding for the BFC in future budgets.” Additionally, at least one councilman has been foolishly warning citizens a 20% or more increase in the tax rate could result from the town’s fire/EMS funding.
This is pure scare tactics and political tactics from town officials, and town residents should not believe their taxes will be going up simply due to emergency services expenses. The town needs a reliable fire and EMS service, which cannot be provided without government financial support. Furthermore, an independent study – requested by the town – concluded the fire company “is not sufficiently funded for the level of services” provided to the town and county. This week’s funding is merely what is fair and in no way should be the sole reason for a property tax hike.
It’s not a question of if Gov. Larry Hogan will be re-elected, but it’s what percentage of the vote will he carry. My prediction is he will win with at least 65 percent of the vote.
Back in 2014, Hogan defeated Anthony Brown, who was lieutenant governor to Martin O’Malley the eight years prior, by more than 60,000 votes, winning 51 percent of the vote. Hogan did so with a strong election day showing because he lost to Brown in early voting, 164,219 to 136,781, as well as absentees/provisionals, 46,195 to 36,765.
Contrary to 2014, Hogan has been endorsed by The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post, two metropolitan publications with heavy left leanings. Those were significant endorsements and should propel him to an easy win.
There was a time when Worcester voters had to be registered Democrats if they wanted a say in local races. That is no longer the case and voter registration numbers confirm it.
Back in 2000, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections, there were 30,618 registered voters including 15,406 Democrats and 10,996 Republicans. Fast forward to 2008, and we can see the margin narrowing with 34,664 registered voters – among them, 15,644 Democrats and 13,321 Republicans. As of September of this year, Worcester has 38,918 registered voters including 14,101 Democrats and 17,162 Republicans. Over the last 18 years, that means Republican voter volume in Worcester has jumped 56 percent while the Democratic voter tally has fallen 8 percent.
This shift in party affiliations has naturally spilled over to the elected positions in the county. Six of the seven Worcester County Commissioners are currently Republican. The current sheriff and state’s attorney are Republicans, and each will be replaced by Republicans since the primary decided the races wjth no Democratic foes on the ballot.
In other election thoughts, the State Senate race for District 38 continues to be on the minds of many. In fact, most folks with a political interest have been asking me routinely how I see the race playing out. I sat down with Delegate Mary Beth Carozza and incumbent Senator Jim Mathias this week for extensive interviews. Transcripts of those interviews will be posted online on Tuesday and in print on Friday.
District 38, which includes all of Worcester and Somerset counties and part of Wicomico, is a unique jurisdiction. Every year I look at this Senate district I am amazed Mathias, a Democrat, can hold on to it. By virtue of the district boundaries and its heavily Republican leaning, District 38 is a tough district for a Democrat. Republican registered voters outnumber Democrats by more than 3,000 across the district.
In looking at the last two elections for Mathias, his home county of Worcester has been huge for him. In 2010, when he and Republican Michael James sought to replace long-time incumbent Lowell Stoltzfus, Mathias actually lost Somerset and Wicomico to James by a combined 418 votes. However, the race was decided in Worcester with Mathias beating James by 1,052 votes. In the end, Mathias edged James by 640 votes.
In 2014, Mathias had a slightly easier time defeating Republican Mike McDermott by 1,353 votes, beating him in all three counties with Wicomico being tightest with just 30 votes separating the two.
What does all this mean? There’s a good chance the winner of the Carozza-Mathias race may not be known on election night. It may come down to absentees and provisionals as it did in 2010 when Mathias narrowly won the seat over James.