Is Baltimore County Trending Republican?

By Scott Holupka.

Is Baltimore County becoming purple? That is, a place where Republican candidates have a better chance of winning? I’ve heard this question/concern often since the election last year. Governor Hogan won the county twice, after all, isn’t that proof enough?

No, I don’t think it is.

To see trends we need to look beyond a single election or race. The table below shows the percentage of Democratic votes in Baltimore County for various, competitive races (e.g., contested races with Democratic and Republican candidates) in the last two mid-term elections: 2018 and 2014. The table shows, for example, that Governor Hogan did a little better in Baltimore County in 2018 than in 20141, increasing his margin of victory by two percent.

But looking beyond the governor’s race shows a very different story. In all of the other competitive races Democrats did better in 2018 than in 2014: an 8.4 percent increase for Comptroller; 7.6 percent for Attorney General; 1.7 percent for County Executive; a 5.2 percent for Clerk of the Court, and so on.

The 5.2 percent increase in the margin of victory for Julie Ensor for Clerk of the Court seems particularly noteworthy since this was not a highly visible race and thus probably better reflects how much voters in Baltimore County, on average, prefer Democrats over Republicans than the race for governor or senate. Interestingly, comparing the median percentage of Democratic votes in 2018 to 2014 across all of the competitive races also shows a 5.2 percent increase for Democrats, from a median Democratic vote of 56.1 percent in 2014 to 61.3 percent in 2018.

Looking at an even bigger picture, since the 2002 election Democrats have won 36 of the 40 contested elections in Baltimore County, including all of the races for president and U.S. senate and all four county executive races. 2018 was no exception. In fact, as elsewhere in the country, Democrats did better in Baltimore County in 2018 than that had in earlier year. So, no, I don’t think Baltimore County is becoming politically purple.

But we shouldn’t ignore the four recent races that Democrats have lost in Baltimore County; the governor’s races in 2002, 2006, 2014 and 2018. These are all reminders that, unlike some other jurisdictions in Maryland, Baltimore County voters will not automatically vote for any and every Democratic nominee. Candidates and campaigns still matter here, and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon, either.

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