November 3, 2010

Dems Hold Tight on Montgomery Offices; Ballot Measures Surprise

A “red” wave of historic proportions washed through the U.S. Congress, but Montgomery County was a placid pool of Democratic victories last night. As many had predicted, the winners of the September Democratic primary elections had no problem taking those seats. County Executive Ike Leggett handily won reelection, as did incumbent Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Roger Berliner, Valerie Ervin, and Nancy Navarro. Incumbent At-Large Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal won by 2-1. Newcomers Hans Reimer in an At-Large seat, and Craig Rice from District Two (upcounty) also easily won.

The love didn’t extend to ballot measures, however. One of the incumbents’ signature pushes was for ambulance fees, but with most returns in, that measure seems to be going down to defeat.

Another interesting ballot measure also confounded the pundits. Every 20 years, the Maryland Assembly has to ask the voters if they want to call a constitutional convention to address structural issues in Maryland government; that question was on yesterday’s ballot. I asked several of the candidates whether they supported the revision convention, and all said no. Some of the major newspapers also opposed the measure, arguing that it would bring out “crazies.” But in a surprise, the most recent returns show a strong vote in favor of the constitutional revision. Looks like the people have more faith in their legal drafters than the leaders do.

Speaking for myself, as I usually do here, I think this is a great development. Montgomery County already has a structural review commission underway; why shouldn’t Maryland? Florida’s recent constitutional convention, which restructured and strengthened that state’s historically-weak school funding programs, was an example of a successful effort; a few crazies came out, but guided by my friend and co-counsel, former Florida House Speaker and law school Dean Jon Mills, Florida looked past those and restructured several parts of its Constitution. (Disclosure: I am a constitutional lawyer, and have been involved with many constitutional initiatives and referenda over the last thirty years, including the effort to revise Florida’s school funding system.) We’ll have to see what happens next.

Barnaby Zall

SOURCE: Friends of White Flint

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