A wake-up call to both the Democratic Party and Black residents is how various Baltimore City activists and community leaders are describing Republican Larry Hogan’s victory over Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) in Tuesday’s gubernatorial runoff.
Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, president of the Matthew A. Henson Neighborhood Association, recalled President John. F. Kennedy’s sentiment that sometimes political parties ask too much. “The party came to African Americans specifically since we have been a mainstay for the Democrats, even to our own demise,” said Cheatham. “A lot of African Americans did not come to vote, but also a lot of Democrats did not come to vote. But, even worse…a significant amount of Democrats switched over.” Cheatham said all of this amounted to a wake-up call for Democrats, who need to understand that they cannot simply rely on key constituencies like African Americans to support them if they fail to make tangible improvements in the everyday lives of those voters.
Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore City branch of the NAACP, said neither Brown’s nor Hogan’s campaign focused much on getting the vote out in Baltimore. “I feel that more work could have been and should have been done in certain parts of the city,” said Hill-Aston. “I feel that not enough energy and direction was focused in on some neighborhoods in the city where there aren’t heavy populations where people come out and vote; people could’ve attracted new people to get out to vote.” To Hill-Aston, this get-out-the-vote failure was particularly damaging to Brown, since the city’s demographics trend Democratic, and he could have used greater turnout on his behalf. The failure to have a greater ground presence in Baltimore, said Hill-Aston, is a reminder that Democrats cannot simply assume folks will come out for them on Election Day.
For Adam Jackson, CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a youth-led policy think tank in Baltimore, Brown’s loss to Hogan signaled the death of the O’Malley political machine which has dominated Maryland politics for much of the last decade. “Now we can start talking about more radical possibilities, because now that there’s a Republican in the governor’s mansion, now we’ll actually be able to move an agenda forward, knowing the opposition,” said Jackson, who described O’Malley as a slippery Democrat whose commitment to issues important to the Black community was always hard to pin down, making it difficult to determine whether O’Malley was a friend or foe. The bigger lesson, however, is about the power and influence of Black voters, the leaders concluded. “We’re a third of the voting bloc and we don’t really demand anything of the Democratic Party. In this instance that came up, voters not turning out, not voting for Brown, and allowing Hogan to come into power as governor is an example of how we can use our vote to our advantage,” said Jackson, who said it is time for the Black community to begin demanding results in return for their vote, which determine races in a state like Maryland.