GUEST EDITORIAL: The good, the bad and the ugly of Primary 2018 by Hassan Giordano

(BALTIMORE – July 2, 2018) – It was a day filled with a little political back-stabbing, mixed with some savvy poll workers and a bunch of charming candidates trying to convince voters why they were the right choice for the position in which they sought. And all that equaled a whole lot of excitement – at least for the campaigns as it was a miserable voter turnout overall – and a few shocked candidates and pundits who would have never guessed the outcome of some of these races.

And while most would expect me to start with either the democratic gubernatorial contest or the various election results across the City of Baltimore; my greatest joy was when I saw the results for the County Executive contest in Prince George’s County, and saw that my friend Angela Alsobrooks won by a large margin – receiving almost 62% of the vote against two entrenched and well-known politicians (former Congresswoman Donna Edwards and State Senator Anthony Muse).

This down-to-earth, beautiful and brilliant single mother showed everyone what I knew almost nine years ago when I first met her, that she is a political rock star that the Democratic Party needs to recognize as their future. I told her then what people should have realized on Tuesday night, that she will be Maryland’s first female governor, and possibly the first African American after Governor Larry Hogan prevails later this year – as a Alsobrooks vs [Boyd] Rutherford battle would be one for the ages in 2022.

The next enjoyment I awoke to was the ascension of some of Baltimore City’s brightest young leaders, who handily defeated the old guard in making the city home to one of the youngest and most progressive elected body of legislators across the country. Two years ago we were blessed with the election of roughly a half a dozen young and dynamic council members, such as Ryan Dorsey, Zeke Cohen, Shannon Sneed, Kristerfer Burnett and Yitzy Schleifer, not to mention two old guys who do young things, Leon Pinkett and Robert Stokes.

And two years later we just made history by basically making the 35-year old state senator from the 46th district the youngest senior state senator in the nation. With the defeat of state senators Barbara Robinson in the 40th, Nathaniel McFadden in the 45th and possible Joan Carter Conway in the 43rd, Senator Bill Ferguson now becomes the most senior state senator for Baltimore – and he isn’t even close to prostate requirement age.

Joining him are four people who each had some experience in the House of Delegates, from Jill Carter’s fourteen years in the House to Mary Washington’s eight years, while Cory McCray and Antonio Hayes ascended to the state senate after only one term (4-years) in the lower chamber. But each will make for a strong individual leader for their district, while collectively becoming a force to be reckoned with, and becoming the youngest local delegation in the entire Maryland General Assembly.

We also had some surprising developments in the House of Delegates, as some folks worked hard only to fall a few votes short, while others didn’t campaign almost at all and wound up winning a seat in the 141-member body of legislators. In the 46th district, the recently appointed state delegate Robbyn Lewis staved off a challenge from a well-funded challenger in Nate Lowentheil, while also holding off a rising superstar in local Baltimore politics, Dea Thomas. Lewis was backed by the 46th district delegation, which is led by Ferguson; while also receiving a ton of support by local council members Zeke Cohen and Eric Costello, helping her become the first African American to ever win an elected seat in that South Baltimore district.

In the 45th district, senator-elect McCray put two candidates on his ballot, Caylin Young and Stephanie Smith, hoping one would fill his vacant House seat and the other would knock off one of the two incumbents. It appears that he got half his wish, as Ms. Smith was triumphant in her run for the House, beating Young by only a few hundred votes and joining incumbent delegates Cheryl Glenn and Talmadge Branch in the legislature for the next four years.

In the 43rd district, one of the most controversial candidates remained in his seat despite facing an ethics committee investigation for sexual harassment and misconduct, as longtime state delegate Curt Anderson barely held on to one of the three House seats in this NE Baltimore district. However, the question still remains as to if he will accept the party’s nomination and continue as one of the three democratic candidates to be selected this fall; or will he do as I suggested in the last article, and deny the nomination only to have the democratic state central committee choose a candidate to replace him?

The other two candidates to succeed over there were on the Conway ballot, as the longtime state legislator and powerful chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee; Maggie McIntosh led the charge with over 10,000 votes, while newcomer to the ballot and the Conway ticket, Regina Boyce won the third seat – barely edging out Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman by a few hundred votes and trailing Anderson by a dozen votes (though absentee and provisional ballots have yet to have been counted).

In the 41st district, it showed why not having a strong African American leadership group makes a huge difference in this majority black city; as for the first time ever, this majority black district allowed for the selection of two Jewish candidates to be elected as their House representatives. Newcomer Dalya Attar, a 25-year old attorney in the State’s Attorney’s office, joined longtime state legislator Sandy Rosenberg in the House, while Tony Bridges was the only black to garner enough votes to secure the third seat.

The two recently appointed state delegates, Angela Gibson and Bilal Ali, both trailed Bridges by a few hundred votes, while Gibson led Ali in the vote tally by about 40-votes. However, I know that former political boss Clarence Blount – whose district that used to be as the state senator – is turning over in his grave due to the results of this race. However, with so many African American candidates deciding to jump into the race at the last hour, the writing on the wall became clear as to the likelihood of Tuesday night’s results.

Yet, one of the ugliest races in the city came down to the 40th district, both the Senate and the House races, as Senator Robinson went head-to-head with her district colleague Antonio Hayes. Robinson was appointed to the seat after Catherine Pugh – the district’s former state senator – ascended to the Mayor’s Office in 2016. After serving in the House since 2006, Robinson was favored to win the seat until her opponent in trying to get the appointment decided to become her opponent once again when running for the seat, first-term delegate Antonio Hayes.

And that spat became an ugly, and at times very disrespectful, contest between the two West Baltimore leaders. From spray-painted vans and signs that read LIAR being painted on Robinson’s campaign material, to an almost fist-a-cuff during Early Voting; it was clear that this race was not going to be about the issues, but rather be a personality driven race that waged a generational battle that put the Tyson-Holyfield fight to shame given the blows that were tossed here.

However, one of the biggest disappointments came in the House race, as the young and rambunctious West Baltimore Pastor, Westley West, took cheap shots at this opponents that led to them putting out a nasty mailer aimed directly at his jugular, and then witnessed him [West] ripping off Robinson and one of his opponents turned ally, Sanjay Thomas.

In what appeared to be an effort at discrediting his opponents to make a clear distinction between himself and his competitors, West began the campaign season by calling out his many opponents, by referring to them as sell-outs, Uncle Toms and political lackeys without any backbones or the testicular fortitude to stand for what is right on behalf of the people – and this was done in their face at area debates and forums.

So three of his opponents teamed up to form a slate, and then took aim directly at what their perceived arrogant and cocky opponent. Led by Terrell Boston-Smith, along with Gabriel Auteri and Melissa Wells, the group decided to snatch Mr. West’s past criminal behavior directly off of MD Case Search and put his numerous charges of domestic violence on a mailer that they sent to voters, asking if they were comfortable with electing a man who has a history of beating women. This move outraged West, who is still threatening to sue the group – though everything they put in the piece was factual and not slanderous – and made him join forces with the Robinson and Thomas team.

However, it appears as if domestic violence isn’t the only issue Mr. West has, as he repeatedly failed to return the thousands of dollars given to him to buy into the Team Robinson ticket – and never once made an attempt to repay the money or apologize for the error. The deal for getting on the ticket was everyone was to put up $5,000 to buy team apparel such as literature, t-shirts, signs and more. However, Mr. Thomas agreed to put up Mr. West’s portion since he didn’t have it, but had the ground troops that Thomas didn’t have.

So Thomas felt his way of carrying his weight was by offering to pay Mr. West’s portion of the ballot cost. But when the team went to collect on the money Sanjay provided Westley, they were met with more excuses than a bus full of pregnant nuns. So that led to Team Robinson eventually having to print new ballots for Election Day, which did not include Westley West. However, it may not have mattered, as each one of them came up short despite campaigning hard for months. Instead, two of three candidates for Delegate that won, hardly campaigned at all, and still wound up winning a seat.

Nick Mosby, the former city councilman who was appointed to his House seat last year, clearly benefited from yeras on the City Council and the fact that his wife is a political rock star in Baltimore – and she was also on the ballot. And while he focused more on getting her re-elected than he did his own race, he was still able to easily become the district’s top vote-getter.

Following him was newcomer Melissa Wells, and coming in third was longtime state delegate Frank Conaway Jr., who showed the world that he and his sister don’t need their father to win re-election. (Frank Conaway Sr. recently passed away in 2015, and had always ran the Conaway family campaigns) And Frank’s sister Belinda Conaway, the Register of Wills for Baltimore City, easily cruised to re-election on Tuesday night, showing that this brother and sister duo plan on carrying on the Conaway dynasty for years to come.

And to end the night off with another political rock star in the making, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby won re-election, fighting off a challenge from two high-profiled attorneys, making her political career one that she can write her own ticket in the years to come.

Another political family that I love dearly that had a wonderful evening was that of the Ivey’s, as my girl Jolene Ivey won a seat on the City Council, while her son Julian won a seat in the Maryland General Assembly, making a proud papa out of the former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey. And following Ivey was Alsobrooks at the PG County State’s Attorney’s Office, which she has now handed over to another wonderful black woman, former state delegate, Aisha Braveboy – who easily defeated her two opponents to ensure that the top two elected positions in PG County were run by black women.

Congratulations to everyone who won on Tuesday evening, and I salute all those who ran for office in 2018, whether it be for Central Committee or City Council, Governor or Dog-Catcher – you tried making a difference in your community, and for that you should be proud. I’ll leave you with this…

“I’d like to offer a few words of heartfelt praise for candidates who lost their races last night. Running for office is a total-body workout: it strengthens the backbone, fortifies the guts, stiffens the upper lip, exercises the brain. Win or lose, candidates on election night are even more remarkable specimens than when they set out on their journey; and they were remarkable then, because it takes an unusual amount of emotional courage to put your name on the line for thousands of strangers to endorse or pass over. So to you candidates who didn’t prevail: I admire you. You’ll be back if you want to be; and if you don’t, you’ll nevertheless be all the fitter for whatever challenge is foolhardy enough to confront you next.” — Daniel Cole

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