Greg Bassett: What folks are saying — to me, at least — about the election

Some post-mortem election observations and what people are telling me:

  • Anyone on the ballot with a “D” next to their name was toast.
  • Only one contested Democrat, in all of the big races on the Shore, won election. That was state Sen. Jim Mathias, who won re-election over Delegate Mike McDermott by 1,267 votes.⚫(Yes, in Somerset, Ronnie Howard beat Rick Taylor for the sheriff’s job, but both men sure sounded like Republicans on the campaign trail.)
  • Mathias outspent McDermott by 10-to-1. The incumbent put that money to good use, running a top-shelf social media and television advertising campaign that resonated with people I talked to.
  • Circuit Court Judge Jimmy Sarbanes, a Democrat, turned back Republican M.J. Caldwell’s appointment challenge. It might have been a good thing for the young Sarbanes that no party affiliations appeared next to either his or Caldwell’s name.
  • Several people told me that they didn’t want Delegate Norm Conway to lose, but they wanted to “send him a message.” That message ended up being “clean out your office and return to Salisbury.”
  • Conway, based on the feedback I’ve heard, lost because he seemed detached from local people, wasn’t as visible locally as they would have liked, voted too often with the Democratic leadership and had been in office too long.
  • While one might have concluded that winner Carl Anderton’s campaign ad — paid for and conceived by the state’s Republican Party — might have made a difference, no one I talked to cited that. This surprised me.
  • What I did hear from people who said they didn’t believe the rather aggressive ad, was that Conway failed to properly counter the ad.
  • There was much criticism of Conway’s television ads. They were said to portray Conway as less-polished and on top of things as people wanted.
  • Hardly anyone has said to me that Conway’s perch as powerful House Appropriations Committee chairman factored in their vote, though since last Tuesday, many people have told me the Lower Shore will be hard hit by our lacking such direct access to the state’s coffers.
  • People recognized that the Democratic Party’s ad decrying McDermott has having given himself a “300 percent pay raise” while Pocomoke City mayor was an exaggeration. At the same time, Mathias’ televised emphasis on constituent service and overcoming personal obstacles resonated.
  • People found the “Peas In a Pod” ad (criticizing Mathias and Conway as being too-much like Anthony Brown and Martin O’Malley) amusing, but neither informative nor convincing.
  • Five people — yes, five separate people — told me that voted against Rick Pollitt because the county installed speed cameras near certain public schools. The speed-camera anger is out there.
  • While unlike Conway, no one told me they were trying to send Pollitt a message in their vote, I did hear repeatedly that spending on meals by the executive and in various county offices became a decisive factor in their vote.
  • I couldn’t find anyone who could criticize Pollitt on a specific issue, but they did relay to me that they liked winner Bobby Culver’s personality; I have gotten an impression that it was, in many ways, a personality contest.
  • Culver’s repeated pro-business message was well-received and cited often as a reason to like him.
  • Republican Mary Beth Carozza received the highest vote total, by percentage, of anyone in a contested race: 73.8 percent over Judy Davis.
  • Like the vote total, an overwhelming majority of people I talked to is pleased with Larry Hogan’s win as governor. Even people who were sad about Conway’s loss were ecstatic about Hogan. Brown, I heard over and over, ran a bad campaign and provided no real reason to vote for him.
  • Culver and the County Council are likely to skirmish over who gets their way the most. Matt Holloway, the current council president (a position that can be used to wield broad control across county government) received the most votes of any challenged candidate: 15,461. That would make him the favorite to continue as president; John Cannon, a former president received 14,306 votes. Culver’s vote total, meanwhile, was 13,921.

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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