Success in the political world can and often does start with candidates using winning local elections as a launchpad for future elections to a higher office.
Sometimes the future election is for a much higher office.
A case in point is Angela Alsobrooks who is running in the 2024 Democratic primary to succeed Ben Cardin in the U.S Senate. Alsobrooks is currently serving her second term as the Prince George’s County Executive. Prior to that, Alsobrooks was elected twice to serve as Prince George’s County States Attorney.
Maryland Governors who started at the local level include Martin O’Malley (Baltimore City Council and Mayor), William Donald Schaefer (Baltimore City Council and Mayor), Parris Glendening (Prince George’s County Council and County Executive), and Spiro Agnew (Baltimore County Executive). Prior to his spectacular fall from power, Agnew was also elected twice as Vice President
Just as winning local elections can serve as a launching pad for runs for higher office, losing local elections can derail once promising political careers.
This has especially been the case for three Republican candidates in relatively recent high profile local elections in Maryland. All three were once widely viewed as political “rising stars.”
A former Republican Anne Arundel County Executive, former Republican Howard County Executive, and a former Republican City of Annapolis Mayor lost their reelection races to Democratic challengers. Those challengers not only defeated the Republican incumbents, but each also went on to easy wins in their own bids for a second term. Following his loss in the Annapolis mayoral race, the Republican lost again in a race for a seat on the Anne Arundel County Council.
All these former “rising stars” are not likely viable candidates for any elective office in Maryland going forward.
Closer to home In Talbot County, the number of Republican candidates elected to the five-member County Council has dropped from five in 2014 to three in 2022.
Last month, Republicans did get some encouraging news from local election results in Wicomico County, Prince George’s County, and Harford County.
In Salisbury, (the largest city on the Eastern Shore and Wicomico County Seat), Republican Randy Taylor was elected mayor. Post-election, one media outlet noted Taylor is the first Republican ever to be elected as Mayor of Salisbury. Taylor’s winning campaign messages included a focus on transparency, fiscal responsibility, and public safety.
In Bowie, (the largest municipality in deep blue Prince George’s County and the fifth most populous municipality in the state), Councilwoman Roxy Ndebumadu was re-elected. Four years ago, Ndebumadu was the youngest woman ever elected to the Bowie City Council and has served as the only Republican official in Bowie. This year, Ndebumadu’s winning re-election messages included a focus on transparency, fiscal responsibility, public safety, restructuring city operations to create greater efficiencies, and engaging in strategic partnerships, rather than raising taxes to address police recruitment challenges.
In Bel Air, (the Harford County Seat), Republican candidates won all three town council seats. The Republican’s campaign messages focused on more government accountability, more attention to public input on issues, and more transparency.
All these recent Republican wins are relatively modest, but important going forward. They could help Maryland Republicans in rebuilding a severely depleted “bench” of potential candidates for future elections for higher offices in Maryland. That said, a GOP rebuilding effort still faces an uphill battle in a deep blue state.
Ken Ulman, a former Howard County Council member and County Executive and new Maryland Democratic Party Chair recently announced his goals. “Democrats need to have strategies for outreach and success in all 24 jurisdictions [in Maryland], even rural counties that Democrats may have written off in the past.”
A slightly modified call to action message is a good one for Republicans as well. Republicans need to have strategies for outreach and success in all 24 jurisdictions [in Maryland] even urban and suburban counties that Republicans may have written off in the past.
Who will do that best and who succeeds to what extent remains to be seen.
David Reel is a public affairs/public relations consultant who serves as a trusted advisor on strategy, advocacy, and media matters who lives in Easton.