During the course of Maryland’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign cycle, incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan has been touted by pollsters and political experts as the favorite to win in the general election this November. Still, the governor’s formidable advantage hasn’t deterred the emergence of a crowded Democratic primary election on June 26. Eight Democrats vie for the nomination.
But while many politicians are motivated to replace Hogan, it remains unclear how many voters are similarly motivated to show their support.
“There are a lot of undecided voters,” said Mileah Kromer, associate professor and director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College in Towson. “When 40 percent of the voters are undecided at this late stage of the game, it really says something about the attention paid to this race. That should really be of concern, I think, to the Democrats.”
A poll conducted by the University of Maryland and published in the Washington Post on June 6 saw former NAACP CEO Ben Jealous and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker emerge as the front-runners. And a Baltimore Sun and University of Baltimore poll found that 60 percent of Democratic voters likely to vote in the primary approve of the job Hogan is doing.
Matt Crenson, professor emeritus and academy professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, feels that the abundance of Democrats vying for the nomination is preventing them from making an impact in the minds of potential voters.
“There’s so many of them. For one, it effects the format of the debates,” said Crenson. “It’s very difficult for them to flesh out their positions with such limited time. They’ve had to try harder than they might have otherwise to distinguish themselves from one another.”
As of press time, the ballots may not match the actual candidates, since Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who died suddenly of cardiac arrest on May 10, remains on the ballot. His running mate, Valerie Ervin, decided to run for governor herself and tapped former Baltimore County school board member Marisol Johnson as her running mate, but the team dropped its bid and endorsed Baker Wednesday.
The crowded field also includes Krish Vignarajah, former policy director for First Lady Michelle Obama; attorney Jim Shea; author and former State Department official Alec Ross; state Sen. Richard Madaleno; teacher Ralph Jaffee; and business owner James Jones II.
The JT spoke with Kromer and Crenson two days before the June 9 rally hosted by comedian Dave Chappelle at Morgan State University, where Chappelle endorsed Jealous. Neither Kromer nor Crenson believed the rally would have a significant impact on support for Jealous.
“That has been one of the most exciting celebrity endorsements we’ve seen in a while,” said Kromer. “I don’t know how much it will matter in terms of driving votes. It is really, really difficult to get young voters engaged in the primary of a midterm election.”
No matter who the winner of the Democratic primary is, Kromer and Crenson agree they’ll have a hard time beating Gov. Hogan, in part because of the distance he has maintained from President Donald Trump.
“Unless something really disastrous happens between now and November, it’s difficult to see that any of them would be able to overcome the lead that Gov. Hogan has,” said Crenson.
Maryland’s governor has historically played a prominent role in advocating for the needs of the Jewish community in Baltimore and across the state. Since the creation of the Maryland/Israel Development Center in the early ’90s, each governor has traveled with the Baltimore Jewish Council and MIDC on at least one mission to Israel.
“Those missions have been critical in helping governors better understand our community’s issues, while also creating new investment and jobs both here in Maryland and in Israel,” said Howard Libit, the executive director of the BJC. “We have found that Maryland’s governors — regardless of political party — recognize the important work done by the Jewish community and are eager to find ways for the state to support that work, particularly in such areas as support for Holocaust survivors, senior services and senior housing, health care, education and security.”
Libit added that in order to maintain this level of commitment to the Jewish community moving forward, the BJC has done its groundwork in familiarizing itself with the candidates.
“Throughout this year’s campaign, we have been in communication with all of the major candidates and had the opportunity to share our community’s values and priorities.”
The national political conversation in recent months has brought attention to the purported “blue wave” that is flipping typically Republican-voting districts and states to Democratic ones. Examples include Conor Lamb’s victory in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district in March and Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones’ defeat of Republican Roy Moore in Alabama last December.
Maryland has long been a blue state, and therefore has fewer Republicans in office. Kromer believes this could be keeping voters from feeling the election excitement other states are experiencing.
“The misconception is that because Maryland is a blue state that it is a fully progressive state. It is not. It is ideologically mixed,” she said. “There may be some evidence that progressives are more motivated to vote in this election nationally, but it’s hard to say here.”
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and each of the eight members representing Maryland in the House of Representatives are up for re-election this year. With the exception of District 6, where Rep. John Delaney will exit and run for president, neither Crenson nor Kromer feels there will be stiff competition for the incumbents.