For the first time in 52 years, Anne Arundel County voters went with the Democratic candidate for president, but the results reflect more dissatisfaction with the major party choices than any change in the county’s status as one of the most competitive, swing counties in Maryland.
Turnout was lower than average — 47% of registered voters — and votes for third-party candidates were more than twice as high as they were four years ago, as they were for write-in candidates. Hillary Clinton won the county by 3,700 votes, largely due to the margin she accumulated in early voting and absentee ballots, when more Democrats are voting. On Election Day, when the more traditionalist Republicans come out to vote, she actually lost the county to Donald Trump by 13,000 votes.
Overall, Clinton and Trump got less votes than Barack Obama and Mitt Romney did four years ago. Clinton got 122,385 votes (47%), 4,400 votes less than Obama in 2012. Trump got 118,636, 8,200 votes less than Romney, who only carried the county by 200 votes in 2012.
Libertarian presidental candidate Gary Johnson got 9,810, which is 6,000 votes more than he did four years ago in the county, with most of that surge coming on Election Day. Write-in candidate Eric McMullin, who had presented himself as a Trump alternative, got 1,309.
Clinton’s slim victory in Anne Arundel was nothing compared to the 60% she got statewide, winning almost all the central Maryland counties.
True to Form
In other races, Anne Arundel County stayed true to form, slightly favoring Republicans. In the race to replace Barbara Mikulski in the U.S. Senate, Kathy Szeliga, the House of Delegates minority whip from Baltimore County, carried Anne Arundel by 1,700 over Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen, the Montgomery County congressman; but Van Hollen got 60% of the vote statewide.
The four incumbent Circuit Court judges ran an unusually partisan campaign, touting their endorsement by Gov. Larry Hogan (even though two of them had been appointed by previous Gov. Martin O’Malley). Judge Glenn Klavans, the only male on the ticket, ran more than 21,000 votes behind the three women with him on the slate, much as he had done in the primary. Donna Schaefer, the top vote getter with 149,000, actually led him by 26,000 votes. But Klavans still came out far ahead against the lone Democrat who had survived the Democratic primary, Claudia Barber, who trailed by more than 31,000 votes.
Party labels are not listed for judges on the ballot. Barber did not mount much of a campaign, compared to the sitting judges. Superficially, it would appear that voters prefer women judges.
As one of the most gerrymandered counties in the state, Anne Arundel was a mixed bag for the party candidates in the four congressional districts that split the county. Republican Dr. Mark Plaster got almost 45% among county voters in his long and well-funded campaign against John Sarbanes, the five-term Democratic congressman in the 3rd Congressional District, the second most gerrymandered seat in the entire country. But Sarbanes whupped him easily in the rest of the district, garnering 63% of the vote.
Plaster told Republicans at an election night party at the BWI Airport Marriott that he was going to run again. “I’m coming back.”
“Next time, the most popular governor in the United States is going to be at the top of the ticket,” Plaster said. “We’re going to win the 3rd District. You can take it to the bank.”
In a clear sign of an entirely partisan vote, George McDermott, a little known Republican, got 57% against former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in the Anne Arundel part of the 4th Congressional District. That was clearly an aberration, as Brown got 94% of the vote in the dominant Prince George’s bulk of the district that had been represented by Donna Edwards, who lost her bid for Senate in the Democratic primary.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, Democratic minority whip, lost his little slice of Anne Arundel to Mark Arness, as he did Calvert and St. Mary’s counties, but he heavily prevailed in Prince George’s and Charles counties. Overall, Hoyer garnered 67%.
Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a champion of the National Security Agency, easily carried his small portion of Anne Arundel and the rest of the 2nd Congressional District with 62% of the vote, against populist Republican Del. Pat McDonough of Baltimore County.
There is not much political takeaway from these results, other than Anne Arundel is a county where Republicans can do well, but some parts of the county are more Democratic, some more Republican.
No question that county voters tend to be tight with public money. There were six proposed charter amendments on the ballot and all but one passed easily. The only charter amendment that failed would have raised the limit on competitive bidding for contracts from $25,000 to $75,000. Slightly more than half the voters (52%) opposed the move.
Rural Conservation Proposed
County Executive Steve Schuh is proposing preserving more than half of Anne Arundel County’s land mass as a Rural Conservation Area.
The conservation line includes much of South County, an area east of Pasadena out to the Chesapeake Bay and Gibson Island, and an area along the Patuxent River south of Fort Meade.
“Our existing array of preservation and conservation tools, such as growth tiers, zoning and adequate public facilities laws, have serious shortcomings,” said Schuh in a statement. “Our rural conservation legislation will help prevent the up-zoning and water-sewer extensions that threaten some of our most beautiful areas in the county.”
Legislation will need to be approved by both the county council and the Maryland General Assembly. The proposal would establish a Rural Conservation Area to consist of the county’s most rural and vulnerable areas, and a Rural Conservation Line marking the boundary between managed growth and the Rural Conservation Area.
Schuh also wants to require a supermajority vote of the county council to expand public water and sewer into the Rural Conservation Area and for up-zoning of property in the Rural Conservation Area.