Friday, August 15, 2014

JUICE: Analysis of Governor's Race Between Anthony Brown & Larry Hogan, MD Transportation Funding Crisis and More!

Below Maryland  Juice provides a round-up of news of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1: ANTHONY BROWN VS. LARRY HOGAN ANALYSIS // IS THIS GOING TO BE A CLOSE GUBERNATORIAL RACE? - Maryland Juice had been hearing about a poll for November's gubernatorial race allegedly showing Lt. Governor Anthony Brown ahead by only single digits against GOP activist Larry Hogan. I had not actually seen a copy of the polling memo, but earlier this week Center Maryland columnist Josh Kurtz wrote that he was shown a copy of the results (excerpt below):
CENTER MARYLAND: A recent statewide poll that was shared with me the other day, which was not conducted for either of the candidates for governor, showed Brown with a 46 percent to 40 percent lead over Hogan. The survey was taken by a highly reputable D.C.-based pollster who has vast experience querying Maryland voters. So, a 6-point lead. Not time to hit the panic button, if you’re a Democrat. But nothing to be too comfortable about, either. Could Brown lose? It’s hard to see at this point....
Previous polls in the Brown-Hogan race (as recent as July 2014) showed Brown with dougle-digit leads against Hogan, so I'm slightly skeptical about the accuracy of the supposed 6-digit Brown lead. It's hard to tell where that number is coming from without looking at the turnout modeling and the sample used in the new poll. If you have a copy of the results and care to share them, feel free to send them to

RECENT HISTORY OF TURNOUT IN GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS: In the meantime, here are a few shorthand numbers showing the difficulties facing the Maryland GOP in November. First, in 2010 (the last gubernatorial General Election), we witnessed a match-up between two candidates who had both served as Governor: Martin O'Malley and Bob Ehrlich. Note that 2010 was a fairly low turnout election year, and we were then in the midst of the national Tea Party wave. Here's how many Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated voters turned out in 2010:
  • Democrats 993,674 (50.77% Turnout)
  • Republicans 546,962 (59.09% Turnout)
  • Unaffiliated 168,634 (35.39% Turnout)
As you can see, even in a bad turnout year for Democrats, Republicans are still far outnumbered -- even if every independent voter who showed up voted with the GOP

PARTISAN POLARIZATION IN MARYLAND: Has the political world changed enough since 2010 to produce a plausible Republican victory? I am skeptical. For that to happen, there would need to a huge number of persuadable/movable voters within the state's Democratic and unaffiliated voter pools. But one insightful analysis of the 2010 O'Malley-Ehrlich election cycle indicates that Maryland has America's most polarized electorate, meaning that there are hard lines between Democratic and Republican voters -- with very few swing voters that will shift allegiances. In 2011, the Legislative District Index blog highlighted Maryland's unique electorate (excerpt below):
LDI BLOG: Maryland is by far the most polarized state we have come across. Sure, there are other states with districts far more Democratic than the rest, but that is a natural feature - metro areas are going to produce these sort of bumps. But generically, the middle 50% of districts are within a fairly narrow electoral band +/- 10% or so. Now, those districts might favor one party of the other, but the central point is that there is a large swath of the electorate that is of a relatively similar composition - the ability to win them over to your side probably translates into electoral success for your party.

In Maryland however, that middle section is totally absent. I believe the kind of data we're seeing here makes a strong case for campaigning to your base rather than the middle in Maryland, as there isn't a homogenous middle-group to court. It immediately brings to mind some of the ridiculous cynical campaign tactics employed by the Ehrlich and Steele campaigns - fake brochures advertising Republicans as Democrats, ground campaigns to designed to cause confusion and uncertainty within the Democratic base, rather than winning over those middle, "independent", Maryland voters. While their tactics were absolutely indefensible, they were operating them along the only path to victory they saw - bolstering turnout among their supporters, and counting on that huge Democratic base to miss out on election day.....
LARRY HOGAN PIVOT? - We're already seeing GOP gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan half-heartedly trying to remain in contention with the state's moderate voters. For example, The Seventh State blog noted that a secessionist candidate narrowly won a Republican Primary for the Anne Arundel County Council, and Hogan was quick to distance himself from the crazy (excerpt below):
SEVENTH STATE: Anne Arundel County Council Candidate Michael Peroutka was until recently the rare political bird who refused to talk to the media. When he finally did agree to talk to reporters, one cannot help but think that the original refusal was the better bet....

Peroutka has been active in the John Birch Society but it is his current board membership on the League of the South that has attracted scrutiny. Labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the League advocates secession from the U.S. Indeed, the video above shows Peroutka asking people to “stand for the national anthem” of Dixie–not the Star-Spangled Banner....

As a result, Republicans have started running for the hills. Gubernatorial Candidate Larry Hogan wisely didn’t wait to disassociate himself from Peroutka and his campaign says that Hogan “absolutely disavows” him. Peroutka now whines that Hogan didn’t “dialogue” with him.....
But is distancing yourself from a local candidate advocating for secession enough to win over Democratic and independent voters in a liberal state like Maryland? I hardly think so.

OTHER FACETS TO THE 2014 GUBERNATORIAL RACE: In contrast to 2010, Anthony Brown (who has been on the statewide ballot twice) will be more well-known by voters than first-time candidate Larry Hogan. Moreover, the 2014 primary turnout differences between Democrats and Republicans were quite vast, even with contested races for both parties:

  • Democrats: 470,528
  • Republicans 217,707
IMPACT OF FUNDRAISING ON THE GOVERNOR'S RACE: One final note to consider is the fundraising differentials between Anthony Brown and Larry Hogan. The Washington Post's John Wagner recently highlighted the impact of Larry Hogan's decision to use public financing for his campaign (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: The Republican nominee for Maryland governor, Larry Hogan, has become the first candidate in 20 years to participate in the state’s public financing system in the fall election, a move likely to leave his campaign with far less money to spend than his Democratic opponent.

Hogan will receive a grant of about $2.6 million from the state, and his campaign will not be allowed to spend more than that on the race, election officials said Wednesday. The decision cements Hogan’s financial disadvantage in the race against Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who spent about $9 million this year to win the Democratic primary and has started to replenish his war chest....
One wrinkle to these fundraising dynamics is that since Hogan is receiving public financing, he will have access to cash much quicker than Anthony Brown. The Lt. Governor likely had to spend down the millions he raised during the primary for his battle against Doug Gansler and Heather Mizeur. Indeed, as of June 8th (before the primary was completed), the Friends of Anthony Brown campaign account had only $543,510.55 cash on hand.

So as I see it, to keep the Brown campaign on track to defeat Larry Hogan, our Lt. Governor needs to start rebuilding his cash advantage as quick as possible and should start finding ways to excite the Democratic base in our highly polarized state. But hey, what do I know!  Just my two cents.

JUICE #2: BALLOT QUESTIONS THAT WILL BE ON THE NOVEMBER BALLOT // MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION FUNDING CRISIS AND SPECIAL ELECTIONS - MoCo's new political blogger Paul Bessel highlighted two ballot questions that voters will get to weigh in on this November (excerpt below):
PAUL BESSEL: This year (November 4, 2014) there will be two proposed Maryland Constitutional Amendments on the ballot.... That's fewer ballot questions than in many previous years.

The first ballot question asks voters if the Maryland Constitution should be amended to make it more difficult for money in or intended to go into the state's Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) to be used for purposes other than transportation. In the past, this money was sometimes used to balance the overall state budget, not for transportation needs.

If this Constitutional amendment is adopted, in the future any use of this TTF money other than for transportation would first need a formal statement by the Governor that there is a "fiscal emergency" and then 60% of each house of the legislature would have to approve it.

The other proposed Constitutional amendment would allow counties such as MoCo to provide for special elections to fill any vacancies in the office of County Executive, just as now can be done for vacancies on the County Council....
MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION FUNDING CRISIS: Of the two ballot questions, I find the one about the Transportation Trust Fund to be the more intriguing one. By all measures, the United States and Maryland are facing huge transportation funding crises. The Washington Post's Ashley Halsey reported on the political contours of the national infrastructure funding problem (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Fearful they may lose the Senate in November, Democrats want to force Congress to come up with a long-term method to pay for transportation funding in the lame duck session. Republicans, hopeful they will be in control next year, want to set a May 31 deadline for the task....

The issue is of mind-numbing complexity and might be ignored were it not for the fact that, without a temporary funding extension and then a long-term plan to find new revenue, federal money to build and maintain the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems will begin to run dry in August.

The Highway Trust Fund that relies primarily on fuel taxes no longer brings in enough cash to pay the bills submitted by the states. The White House has warned that it will run into the red next month, requiring an immediate infusion of money to keep current projects going, and then a creative way to bring in more revenue for the long haul....
Indeed, infrastructure funding has never been a sexy priority for policymakers -- until we start seeing levies break and bridges fall (aka after the damage has already been done). But closer to home, the problem for Maryland is one of economic stagnation, especially while Virginia is now kicking our asses in quickly building 21st century transit projects.

VIRGINIA CRUSHING MARYLAND FOR INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT: I truly believe that Northern Virginia's faster build-out and funding of transit projects is a much greater threat to Maryland than their lower tax rates. Virginia, after all, has always had lower taxes than Maryland, but their race to build infrastructure is a new development. Take a look what's going on in the former heart of the confederacy:

WASHINGTON METRO SILVER LINE TO VIRGINIA OPENS: In case you haven't heard, the new WMATA Silver Line to Virginia has opened. The Washington Times provided a hint about the economic development impact of this transit project for the state (excerpt below).
WASHINGTON TIMES: Gerald Gordon, president and CEO of the Fairfax Economic Authority, said the commitment to the Silver Line was crucial to the area economy. “The initial impact of the Silver Line was having major corporations come to Tysons specifically because of the Silver Line and having companies remain in Tysons because of it,” Mr. Gordon said....

The Fairfax Board of Supervisors is expecting almost 100,000 jobs to be added by 2050 as a result of the line, according to a 2010 report. Mr. Gordon said the line will help establish Tysons as a major city — not just in the region but the world. “You can’t be a world-class city unless you have a rail system,” Mr. Gordon said. “Now we can compete with cities that do have a rail system and become a world-renowned city.”
Here's a video about Virginia's Silver Line:

VIRGINIA "METROWAY" BRT SERVICE OPENS THIS MONTH: Coming right off the heels of the Silver Line opening, The Washington Post's Luz Lazo reports that Northern Virginia will this month also open a new "bus rapid transit" system (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: The Washington region’s first bus rapid transit system is set to open next month. The service, called Metroway, will feature bus-only lanes along a five-mile stretch of roadway in Crystal City and Potomac Yard in Arlington and Alexandria. It introduces a new bus experience to the Washington region: buses will travel much of the route traffic-free, they will be frequent, and riders eventually will be able to pay their fare before boarding. Buses will serve stops equipped with shelters, benches and lighting between the Braddock Road and Crystal City Metro stations....

The service will offer faster rides and shorter waits at the bus stop. Buses will travel most of the route in bus-only lanes. Bus rapid transit is viewed as a way to speed public transit without the huge costs involved in building rail lines.... “We are extremely pleased to launch Metroway in the (Crystal City-Potomac Yard) Corridor, a first for Metro and the region,” Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said in a statement. “This new premium service will provide faster commutes, better connection to existing and developing retail areas, and expand economic growth within the Arlington and Alexandria communities along Route 1.”
Here's a video about the Virginia Metroway BRT system:

NORTHERN VIRGINIA STREETCAR PROJECT GETS FUNDING: Lastly, The Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan reported last month that Virginia policymakers have dumped funding into a streetcar project expected to generate a large revenue boost (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Virginia will increase state funding for the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar project by up to $65 million, the state transportation chief told officials in Arlington and Fairfax counties this week, allowing the streetcar line to be built at least a year faster and without federal funds.... The long-planned streetcar line, which is expected to run from the Skyline area of Fairfax to the Pentagon City Metro station, has been projected to cost about $358 million. Arlington dropped that estimate to $333 million Friday because of the faster completion time. County officials hope it will be done by 2020....

Not using federal funds means that the county can assume its normal inflation rate of 3 percent for the project, not the federal transit agency-suggested 4 percent. Local elected officials say no homeowner-financed general obligation bonds or residential taxes would go toward building the project, although operating costs are expected to be borne by taxpayers.... The project is closely tied to Arlington’s plans for redeveloping the aging corridor, which county officials say will preserve more than 6,000 affordable apartments for several decades.

A county-funded consultant’s study released in March said the streetcar would generate $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion in new real estate value for Arlington and Fairfax counties over 30 years. It also estimated that the streetcar would produce $455 million to $895 million in new tax revenue for both counties over 30 years, attract 6,600 new jobs within 10 years, and increase state income and sales taxes....
Here's a rendering of the Northern Virginia streetcar project:

WHAT DOES VIRGINIA'S TRANSIT PUSH MEAN FOR MARYLAND? - So while Maryland policymakers have fixated on Virginia's tax rates, our neighbors have been focusing on something else altogether: building modern transit infrastructure that will attract investment, boost tax revenues, and provide better commutes for residents.

Notably, Maryland has multiple transit projects on the books (Baltimore's Red Line, the Montgomery County/Prince George's Purple Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway, the Montgomery County rapid transit system, etc). But it seems quite likely that all of Virginia's transit projects will be funded and built before Maryland even breaks ground on any of its new transit lines. Given these facts, can we really afford to pay for these projects (that are critical to economic development), if we continue on the path of voluntarily cutting our revenues (eg: through more tax cuts)?

JUICE #3: FBI DEBATING MOVING HEADQUARTERS FROM DC TO PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY - One bright spot in our regional competition for jobs, is that the feds are thinking about moving the FBI headquarters (and its 11,000 jobs) to Prince George's County. The Washington Business Journal reported on the development (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL: After more than a year of anticipation, the General Services Administration on Tuesday named three sites — one in Springfield and two in Prince George's County — on its short list of potential locations for a new FBI headquarters.

Greenbelt and the Landover Mall in Prince George's and the GSA warehouse in Springfield in Fairfax County made the list, ruling out a range of wildcards such as the Westphalia Town Center and Exxon Mobil's Merrifield campus. The short list excludes D.C. from the running, but many real estate experts regarded Mayor Vincent Gray's proposal, Poplar Point, as a long shot at best.

The Greenbelt and Springfield sites were long expected to be high on the GSA's short list, while Lerner Enterprises surprised many by offering up the former Landover Mall as a contender in January. Lerner Enterprises is owned by the Lerner family, which also owns the Washington Nationals....

The new headquarters, which will house 11,000 employees, must be at least 2.1 million square feet and will cost an estimated $2 billion to build. Sites were required to be no more than 2 miles from a Metro station and 2.5 miles from the Capital Beltway....

Will Maryland beat out Virginia on at least this project? We shall see!

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