Good for Democracy

Editorial Director
Editorial Director

With practically all the attention surrounding the 2016 elections going to the two presidential candidates and their contest’s seemingly improbable race to the bottom, you’d be forgiven for thinking that theirs was the only matchup that mattered. But the JT hasn’t forgotten that while the race to the White House is unquestionably important, there are a host of races down the Nov. 8 ballot that could  affect the control of the U.S. Senate, impact how your tax dollars are spent and, in Baltimore, govern how the city and region finally emerge from the dark days of last year’s riots.

As we’ve done in elections past, the publication is endorsing more than just our pick for president, which we revealed last week. This week, you can see our choice for Senate.

But our cover story is going further local with an examination of the hard-fought race in Baltimore’s 1st District, a swath of land across the city’s south that encompasses the neighborhoods of Brewer’s Hill, Butchers Hill, Canton, Fells Point, Greektown, Highlandtown, Little Italy, Patterson Park and Upper Fells Point. The district is close to where the Jewish community here first got started and is home to some of our community’s millennial set. And now a Massachusetts transplant and Goucher and Johns Hopkins alumnus by the name of Zeke Cohen is battling to replace retiring City Councilman James B. Kraft to represent the district.

Conventional wisdom would say that the Democrat’s run should be a piece of cake. Donald Trump is supposedly dragging down Republican races throughout the country and registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans in  Baltimore, which hasn’t had a  Republican on City Council since 1942. But Maryland, despite being a solidly blue state, elected Republican Larry Hogan governor just two years ago; many of those votes came from the 1st District, a fact that a city native named Matthew McDaniel is seeking to exploit.

As you’ll read in this week’s JT, Cohen and McDaniel are fighting over crime, poverty and taxes. They have competing visions of how Baltimore can claim a bright future, and neither is taking anything for granted.

McDaniel’s candidacy, although in support of policies many in the Jewish community disagree with, presents the interesting question of the merits of single-party rule in a major American city. Baltimore is not the only city to have essentially been run by Democrats, of course, but so much of the American system of government depends on give-and-take between majority and minority parties. If one party is effectively shut out, some argue, little stands in the way to check a trend toward mismanagement.

That’s not an argument in favor of McDaniel’s winning on Election Day so much as it is an acknowledgement that a competitive general election race is a refreshing thing in this part of the country. It’s forcing voters in the 1st District to grapple with the issues. Whoever wins in the southeast, it will have been a race that was good for democracy.

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