Tuesday's winners and losers -- Gazette.Net


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On Election Day Gov. Martin O'Malley and Maryland's Democratic establishment ran the table. They delivered the state for Barack Obama, made Maryland the first state to vote for same-sex marriage and not only gerrymandered 20-year incumbent Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R) out of office, but convinced voters to ratify (by 63 percent) the redistricting map that did it, judged the nation's grossest example of raw gerrymandering. That's quite an accomplishment.

So, in no particular order, here are the election's other big winners and losers.

Big winners

Mike Miller: Next to O'Malley, Senate President Mike Miller had the most at risk and is, now, the most relieved winner. It was Miller who browbeat O'Malley and the legislature into passing gambling expansion and sending it to the voters as Question 7. If Question 7 had failed, Miller would have been blamed and his long standing statehouse leadership position threatened.

Miller also browbeat Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III into supporting gambling expansion so, now, Baker can exhale and Miller can release the state funding for Prince George's new hospital.

Montgomery and Prince George's: This election proved that Maryland's election power base has shifted to the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Without the overwhelming voting margins in Montgomery and Prince George's, the Democrats can't win.

For instance, same-sex marriage (Question 6) only carried six of Maryland's 24 counties and passed by a mere 93,000 votes. But that margin, and more, was supplied by a single county, Montgomery, where Question 6 won by 119,000 votes. Without Montgomery, it's dead.

Likewise, gambling expansion (Question 7) owes its victory to Montgomery and Prince George's which produced a 102,000 victory margin for a ballot question that passed, statewide, by only 96,000 votes.

Obama only won seven counties but his landslide in just three counties, Prince George's (91 percent), Baltimore (89 percent) and Montgomery (72 percent) gave him the 632,000-vote margin he needed to win Maryland by 620,000 votes.

Maryland's Media: Like the Democrats, Maryland's media (is there a difference?) got almost everything it pushed for — the Dream Act, same-sex marriage, Obama and a Democratic sweep.

The bias was obvious but reporters and publishers long ago traded their integrity for political advocacy. For instance, The Washington Post endorsed Question 7 saying that its ethical opposition to gambling was “rendered moot” when voters approved slots in 2008. So if Question 6 had lost The Post would have dropped same-sex marriage? Fat chance.

Big losers

Penn National: In defense of its West Virginia casino this outfit spent nearly $50 million bombarding Maryland's airwaves with anti-Question 7 ads that, initially, proved very effective. That woke up O'Malley, Miller and Maryland's casinos who pulled out the stops and won.

But, wait, turns out the law says Question 7 must be approved by a majority of Maryland's qualified voters. If that means a majority of Maryland's registered voters, including those who didn't vote, then Question 7 failed. Lawsuits are being filed and the courts will decide.

Meanwhile, Penn National is eligible for locating the new casino at Prince George's Rosecroft racetrack which it controls. The odds? Same as the Redskins winning the Super Bowl, maybe less.

The Renegades: Three prominent Democrats bucked O'Malley and the party establishment. Comptroller Peter Franchot, Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Montgomery Councilman Phil Andrews went public against gambling (Question 7) and gerrymandering (Question 5).

Both questions passed and the three renegades are now in the Democrat's dog house but, being independent thinkers, they don't really care. Congressman-elect John Delaney once did time in the same dog house when he challenged party anointee Rob Garagiola for the nomination. But victory cures all ills and now Delaney is part of the in-crowd.

Rob Sobhani: This former Republican, now independent, spent $5 million on the U.S. Senate race and finished third with 17 percent. What was he thinking?

Organized religion: The secular lobby overpowered the religious coalition opposed to same-sex marriage. The biggest loser was the Catholic Church which also lost nationally on Obamacare's “religious mandate.” Nor could Maryland's black ministers turn the Question 6 tide. Can churches be a moral force if they are facing political irrelevancy?

The right to referendum: Perhaps the biggest Election Day casualty was Maryland's right to referendum the people's constitutional right to petition a new state law onto the next general election ballot allowing state voters to have the last say over the law's enactment.

It's a fundamental freedom establishing the people's preeminence over their elected servants. But O'Malley and the Democrats didn't enjoy spending the past three months defending four controversial ballot questions. It cost them a lot of time, money and seriously detracted from O'Malley's presidential campaign.

It's bad enough that the statehouse incumbents must submit to re-election every four years, but now this? So, predictably, Gov. O'Malley is now proposing that next year's legislature “revisit” the right to referendum which, he says, has “become too easy” to implement.

Yes, the politicians who run Maryland have grown so emboldened by their lopsided victories that they now believe they can revise democracy's fundamental relationship between the people and their government.

So far, Maryland's voters have rubber stamped whatever is put before them. Will they consent to being disenfranchised as well?

Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in The Gazette. His email address is blair@leedg.com.