Talbot County and other Eastern Shore Democrats have little to brag about after the April primary. Hundreds of Democrats who voted in the presidential and Senate contests failed to vote in the primary for Congress from Maryland’s First District. Did they simply fail to look at the entire ballot? Or did they not even know there was a primary for the District One seat?
They could be excused for not knowing that former Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton had a challenger. There’s no indication that Harford County lawyer Joe Werner campaigned at all on the Eastern Shore. Like the Republican incumbent, he’s a man of the western shore, and it was votes in Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties that gave him his victory. He failed to show up as promised at the League of Women Voters’ First District pre-primary candidate forum at Chesapeake College, and his absence gave the league an excuse to not let Ireton speak, leaving only the Republican candidates on stage.
The problem with the primary, however, isn’t just people not voting in all the races. Too few Democrats bothered to vote at all. There are about 175,000 registered Democrats in the First District (and 216,000 or so Republicans and 26,000 independents). Only about 32 percent of registered Democrats bothered to vote, even though early and absentee voting makes it easy for almost anyone. Republicans, on the other hand, got about 46 percent of their people to the polls. Clearly, for Democrats to do well in the First District, we need to outperform Republicans in getting out the vote.
Democrats, however, can still be proud that we didn’t vote for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or John Kasich. Trump is a mentally ill (narcissism), dishonest and crude buffoon (what kind of father would comment about the potential size of an infant daughter’s future breasts?). Cruz wants to destroy the government, not use it to govern wisely. Kasich embraces every anti-woman, anti-humanity, anti-health, pro-big-business cause that comes down the pike. So does Cruz, come to think of it.
Democrats voted for either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, each of whom is determined to work for the benefit of all Americans, not just the top 1 percent. Both represent the idea that government is the servant of the people, not corporations. It appears that Clinton, who won Maryland decisively, will be the nominee.
Our Senate candidate, Chris Van Hollen, also represents the best in American politics: the idea that a person in public life can make a positive difference in the lives of all citizens. He will be a valuable addition to the U.S. Senate.
As for the First District, Ireton has promised to support Werner in his bid to replace Andy Harris, who has accomplished almost nothing in six years in Congress and in his previous office as a state senator in Annapolis. Can anyone point to anything positive Harris has done? Other than trying to impose big government rather than local rule in the District of Columbia? Other than pointlessly voting 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Only when he does amazing things like voting against funding for the Harriet Tubman park or against emergency aid after Hurricane Sandy-battered Crisfield does he get any attention at all. This is how he serves the First District. If you want to see Harris kicked out, you have to vote. It’s important.
Once Werner starts campaigning, the First District race might get interesting after all. Let’s hope it’s interesting enough to get Democrats to the polls in November.
Steve Bailey of Tilghman is a member of the board of the Talbot County Democratic Forum.