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In Case I Ever Get Around to Maryland

» Wash. Post: Washington suburbs pivotal in Maryland vote on ballot initiatives

Somewhere in the midst of election analysis, I owe it to myself to get around to looking at the Maryland ballot measures in more detail. For now, this'll tide me over ...

Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County), who led online petition drives to bring several measures before voters, said the analysis shows how the ballot questions transcended traditional political boundaries.

“Prince George’s County was strongly for Obama, yet it came out against changing the definition of marriage,” he said. “Anne Arundel County was pro-Romney, and it went for changing the definition of marriage. What we see are people voting values that don’t necessarily match up with what their party affiliation is.”

Exit polling done in Maryland on Election Day showed that same-sex marriage was overwhelmingly supported by voters younger than 40 and rejected by every other older group of voters. It won among white men and women and among black women, but it was rejected by black men. Voters who are college graduates, liberal, unmarried, high-income and do not regularly attend religious services were far more likely to support gay marriage than voters who are conservative, have incomes below $100,000 or are weekly church-goers.

I'm old enough to recognize that political coalitions that fragment over specific issues such as these have a hard time holding firm over time. You can review how the Religious Right movement picked away at pro-life Democrats beginning in the 70s for pretty decent lesson in how that works. But what seems to be interesting here (and even evidenced here) is that it doesn't seem to be a one-way phenomenon. How much of a disparity the issue divide matters in each party's coalition is still something to speculate on and possibly even measure more objectively. But either way, this should be worth remembering if we ever see changes in Democratic Party support levels among African-Americans, Hispanics ... and possibly even Asians.


The Lovers, The Dreamers … and Maps!

» Washington Post: For Maryland Democrats, redistricting referendum forces a look in the mirror
» Washington Post: Maryland ad war coming over same-sex marriage vote
» Washington Post: Costs, benefits of Md. Dream Act hard for voters to measure

I foresee a lot of interesting post-election analysis out of Maryland this season. That is all.


Coalition Watch: A Slow Evolution

» National Journal: Why Obama Isn't Backing Gay Marriage

For those wanting to understand why the political deliberation over gay marriage is such a sensitive subject for this White House, look no further than the fact that it splits the two core constituencies that make up President Obama's base: college-aged voters and African-Americans.

In all likelihood, it'll be more vexing for the 2016 nominee. Chances are, it won't be an African-American candidate (prove me wrong, Deval Patrick!) with strong natural ties to Afr-Am voters. It'll be an Anglo male or female who will either be a strong supporter of gay marriage or a recent convert during the 2016 cycle. So the question of what becomes of these two constituencies won't be hypothetical forever.

On an additional point of fracturing Democratic constituencies, I'm reminded that I need to renew my online subscription to TNR due to this paywalled article about the divide between Obama and the hedge fund wing of the Democratic Party catching my interest. Alec MacGillis' work is worth the expense, I suppose. But it certainly helps that there's a lengthy Gordon Wood writeup in the same issue.


Coalition Watch: Eye on Maryland

» NY Times: Gay Marriage a Tough Sell with Blacks in Maryland

Just a reminder: not everyone under the Democratic Party tent is as white, urban, and liberal as you may have been led to believe ...

The Human Rights Campaign and the Service Employees International Union have sent dozens of workers and volunteers, many of them African-American, across the state to talk about the issue. Particular attention is being paid to Baltimore and Prince George’s County, organizers said, two majority-black areas where skepticism has been strong.

It is uncertain whether the effort will lead to the bill’s passage; a similar bill failed in the House last year without coming to a vote. But it has had one clear effect, that of opening a difficult conversation about homosexuality among one group that has traditionally shied away from talking about it.

“It’s a very sensitive subject in the black community,” said Ezekiel Jackson, a political organizer for the 1199 Service Employees International Union in Maryland, who has been meeting with members, mostly health care workers, to persuade them to support the bill. “The culture is different. Gay people got pushed off into their own circle. Instead of dealing with it, they just lived their lives among like minds, apart.”

Much of the hesitation, black advocates of the bill say, has its roots in the churches, whose influence is strong among many African-Americans. And while the overwhelming majority of black clergy in the state still strongly oppose same-sex marriage — they held a rally here in the state capital last month to make that point — a few young pastors have come out in support.

Regardless of how it plays out in Maryland, I think there's a better-than-50/50 chance that the 2016 Democratic nominee will be an advocate for same-sex marriage. Cuomo and O'Malley are among the likely candidates and they're already there on the issue. A number of other leading contenders aren't there now. But I think the pull of gravity is likely to be strong to pressure one or two of them during the campaign. And that's well before we even get to a platform debate at the national convention.

I'm sure it'll be loads of fun as long as people don't go storming off in a huff over it. But it's still an open question over whether it will have a total of zero impact over where any votes or turnout enthusiasm goes in November 2016.


Coalition Politics & Same-Sex Marriage

» Wash. Post: Half of Maryland residents back legalizing same-sex marriage

This could prove interesting in the years ahead ...

The new poll found a sharp divide among Maryland Democrats based on race. Among whites, 71 percent support same-sex marriage, while 24 percent do not. Among blacks, 41 percent are supportive, while 53 percent are opposed. Maryland has the largest percentage of African Americans of any state outside of the Deep South.


And support differs considerably by region. In Democratic-leaning Montgomery County, 62 percent say they support same-sex marriage, while 28 percent do not. In Prince George’s County, 36 percent are supportive, while 59 percent are opposed.

The geographic divide is a function of the demographic divide, as PG has a higher share of African-American population while Montgomery is a mix of Anglo Dem and African-American and a touch of GOP-friendly suburban. The map included in this post demonstrates the Citizen Voting Age Population breakdown in the two counties.

Frankly, I'm surprised that support for the issue is as strong as it is among Afr-Am voters. Whether it ends up that way once a ballot initiative ever finds its way to the voters, we'll see. I'm clearly not the optimist for what it means for the future cohesiveness of the coalition of voters that back Democratic candidates.


With an Eye Toward 2016: O’Malley’s Second Term

» Wash. Post: Maryland governor’s agenda faces challenges, poll shows

As a means of tracking my slightly-more-than-passing interest in Martin O'Malley as a potential 2016 Presidential candidate ....

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley lacks clear public support for key budget and tax proposals and a bid to legalize same-sex marriage, underscoring the uncertainty of an ambitious legislative agenda that could shape his legacy and political future.

A new poll by The Washington Post finds that 55 percent of Marylanders approve of O’Malley’s overall job performance, even as half of all respondents say he has accomplished only some or not much during his five years as governor. And a slimmer 41 percent approve of the way he’s handling fiscal issues.

The coming year could be an interesting one for both the state of Maryland and possibly as a glimpse into the future state of the Democratic Party's coalition. If either or both of the DREAM Act or gay marriage make it to the ballot as a referendum, both votes should shed some light on where different constituencies fall on both matters. From the vantage point of political geography, it'll be interesting to see how a fairly reliable Democratic state votes in different areas. But from the perspective of one who occasionally reminds an audience that the "Democratic coalition" isn't quite the same as "the beliefs of liberal activists", I think there's a lot to anticipate about how Democratic voters really are a world apart from the folks who take a more purist tilt to their worldview.

More importantly, if you start running down the names of potential 2016 Democratic candidates, I think it will be a given that the ultimate nominee will be one who supports gay marriage that year. O'Malley is certainly one candidate that I hope to see run, that I'll give an extensive ear to for supporting, and supports gay marriage. I disagree with him on the matter, but it will be interesting to see what lessons are learned about pushing the issue over the next four years.

SIDENOTE: Annise Parker won't be running for President in 2016, but this happened over the past week. It remains to be seen how much of an advocate she becomes on the topic since Houston doesn't even allow domestic partner benefits and there hasn't been much of a push to undo that. We'll see what there is to see about this effort when there's more to see, though.


A DREAM Act Datapoint

Back to some Maryland news:

» Wash. Post: Poll: Marylanders split on gay marriage, immigrant tuition

The Gonzales poll found 47 percent of voters support the so-called Dream Act, while 51 percent are opposed.

Voters were asked whether they agree that “children of immigrants who are not in the state legally should be given the opportunity to receive Maryland in-state college tuition rates if they have graduated from a Maryland high school and their parents have filed Maryland tax returns for the past three years.”

The firm's previous poll didn't ask about the DREAM Act, but it does have some parallels on same-sex marriage and job approval for Gov. O'Malley. O'Malley went from 58% approval in January 2011 to 52% here, while same-sex marriage went from 51-45 for in January 2011 to 48-49 against in this poll. Maybe that's all just insignificant movement that can be explained away by party ID or the poll's qualifying question. But it's at least a datapoint to suggest that the DREAM Act isn't quite as locked in for electoral success in a state as reliably blue as Maryland.

The two biggest takeaways I have from the recent poll results are actually somewhat in conflict.

On the one hand, the poll's finding that African-Americans are 41-59 against same-sex marriage may certainly be a wedge issue to watch for. If you thought 2004 was rough, 2016 or thereabouts may be far harsher. A quick check of names who might be a front-runner for the Democratic nominee for President post-Obama will tell you why. How governors like Andrew Cuomo (signed) and Martin O'Malley (promising) navigate the issue over the next five years will be rather interesting.

On the other hand, it never ceases to amaze me how just about any hot-button issue seems to become politicized to the point where, they more-or-less break along partisan lines. The example above with African-Americans and same-sex marriage is an obvious outlier. And it's too early to tell if it's enough to see a splintering of their vote in any meaningful way. But how the issue gets resolved while applying an increasing amount of duct tape to the Democratic Party's coalition should be another target for future viewing.

I'm optimistic enough to think that a full campaign cycle with any amount of focus on the DREAM Act might pass in a state like Maryland. But as the issues become increasingly nationalized, I'm not sure that the optimism is shared for what it means for keeping the Democratic coalition together in its current form. Here's hoping I'm wrong to be worried about it.


Gulfton North?

» Wash. Post: In Langley Park, Purple Line brings promise, and fears, of change

Something about this sounds familiar ...

People here represent more than 40 countries and speak dozens of languages. Nearly 80 percent are Hispanic, according to the census.

“It is so amazing the diversity that we have here,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA of Maryland, the state’s largest Latino advocacy group, based in Langley Park. “There’s a sense of neighborhood, a sense of community.”

Here, people are constantly crossing the busy roads and huddling to wait for buses. In the parking lots of some commercial plazas, men in construction gear wait for someone to drive by with an offer of a day job. People from all over come to shop for ethnic food.

My goodness, it's the Maryland equivalent to Gulfton! There's even some quality reporting on the neiborhood value of taco trucks ...

Some things have changed here in the past few years. The vendors that used to be on just about every corner selling traditional Latino meals such as pupusas (a traditional Salvadoran dish of corn tortillas stuffed with cheese, pork, refried beans or a combination) are gone.

They left after a police crackdown following an outbreak of violence in 2007. A handful of people still sell food, either out of shopping carts or, like Martinez, from their homes.

“When the [food] trucks were there, almost every truck had some people around it,” recalls William Hanna, a professor with the University of Maryland’s Urban Studies and Planning Department, who has been studying Langley Park for more than a decade. “They served as center places for socialization. And the streets were lively. There was a lot of people just hanging out.”

Now, the enforcement of a law banning the trucks has “cut the heart of the socialization,” Hanna said.

In standard news reporting operating procedure, there is "conflict" in this story. And in this case, it has to do with the planned extension of the DC Metro rail line into Langley Park and plans (or potential) for redevelopment in the area. From my few cursory glances at the Maryland side of DC, the real estate values are certainly higher than I'm accustomed to, but they do seem to be on par with many suburban areas. In comparing Langley Park to Silver Spring, however, the differences don't seem quite that stark despite Silver Spring having gone through a fair amount of redevelopment in recent years. My very rough ballpark analysis is that it's a difference of average rent being around $1000-1200 in Langley Park and in the vicinity of $1400-1800 in Silver Spring. And in the case of Langley Park, I don't see too many examples of places that are at risk of being torn down if a developer wants to remake something for a wealthier slice of the population. So any displacement, I would think, would be minimal or at least slow to evolve. But still ... that's the nature of the conflict that the story seems to point toward.

While a quick demographic check of the area does indicate a fair share of Hispanic population in the area, its worth noting that the amount of real estate is fairly small. For whatever reason, I ran a CVAP view of the area instead of a Total Population view of it. But at that level, there are three blockgroups that have a Hispanic majority. Those are surrounded by three block groups with no demographic majority and one with an African-American majority. Each of those that surrounds the three Hispanic majority block groups has a sizable population share of Hispanics, so it wouldn't be surprising to see several of the surrounding block groups have a Hispanic majority when counting Total Population.

The article goes on to quote an African-American county official from the immediately adjacent Montgomery County:

In the long run, the Purple Line will bring new investment to the area and new clients for the small businesses in the corridor, said Montgomery County Council President Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), who represents the eastern part of the county that borders Langley Park.

“My perspective on this is that if you don’t redevelop that area, it will never improve,” Ervin said. “I believe that all the residents of Langley Park deserve to have a beautiful community with amenities, with walkability and nice bike trails and parks, and all these things come with redevelopment.”

... but no word from the Prince George County elected official who happens to be Hispanic. Since it may or may not be that the Hispanic presence in the area and the differences it has from surrounding neighborhoods is at risk in redevelopment, the lack of any quote from the Pr. George elected official seems to be a genuine lacking of this story.

What's also not given enough detail in the story is what exactly it is that needs to "improve." The article does reference this story from 2007 in regard to the scarcity of food trucks. But there's not much else mentioned.

My own interest in this story is that Maryland is currently contesting a statewide referendum on the recently enacted Dream Act in the state. If it does come to a vote, it will be interesting to see where the law is lacking in public support. It wouldn't surprise me to see many African-American areas as unsupportive of the law. And that makes this yet another case study of how the Democratic Party's coalition is at risk as elected officials struggle to pass laws that don't necessarily speak to the entirety of the coalition. I think you see the same thing when you have wealthy suburban areas represented by Anglo Democrats more resistant to tax hikes on high earners despite such taxes polling well among Democrats as a whole. One of the points that a panelist made at the Hobby Conference here in town a few weeks ago was why Democrats were so quick to defend Social Security despite the fact that they were losing the votes of the people most reliant upon it at the same time that younger voters were more likely to see the value of alternatives to the program.

I don't put that forth with any hope of offering an immediate solution to all that ails the Democratic Party. I think it'll be a challenge that plays out in a lot of different ways and in different ways to different parts of the party's coalition. In other words: we'll see.

ADD-ON: As a first step toward being all "completist" on the topic, here's the result of the CVAP majority mapping done in the two-county region that includes Langley Park. As mentioned previously, a Total Population (or even an 18+ Population) mapping would be expected to indicate even more areas with a Hispanic majority.

The coloring scheme is as it always is: red = Anglo majority, black = Afr-Am majority, brown = Hispanic majority, and yellow = no majority. The blue line that you might be able to make out is the county line between Prince George and Montgomery counties. Washington, DC is to the immediate southwest of all this.


O’Malley’s Star Turn

Somewhere in a long list of draft posts, I've got a quick rundown of possible 2016 Democratic Presidential candidates. Aside from a relatively obvious case for Andrew Cuomo, one of the few relatively bright spots on the list is Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. So in the interest of keeping an eye on the guy, here's his 10-minutes of fame on "Face the Nation" this past weekend:

Definitely on-message, if not a bit on the dry side. O'Malley's now the head honcho for the Democratic Governors Association, so I'd expect him to get a little bit of national press while he's got that role.

ADD-ON: O'Malley's also getting some attention for the Maryland round of redistricting. Should be interesting to see if they make a run for just one or both of the GOP seats.


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