As we approach Election Day 2018 next November as well as the primary in June it is important to understand all that is at stake in that more than likely transitional game-changing election. Certainly the Congressional elections across the country will be critical if there is any hope of undoing the damage to this country resulting from the Trump presidency.
Also critical to Maryland is who we place in the Governor's office to lead us in addressing many of the federal-level decisions that had direct impact on our state as well as implementing a long-term vision for our state.
I had the opportunity to sit down with State Senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rich Madaleno to discuss the challenges faced by Maryland and why he is confident that he is in the best position to lead us forward. I was more than pleased with what I heard.
I started the interview curious to hear how he sees his chances against both his Democratic contenders as well as the incumbent governor. Senator Madaleno pointed out several key factors.
First, consider the magnitude of his home territory in Montgomery County. Granted, candidate Kevin Kamenetz may have a bit of an advantage in Baltimore County as would Rushern Baker in Prince George’s County. However, as is the case with most elections, it always boils down to turnout. Montgomery County alone accounts for more than one-quarter of voters in the state. Senator Madaleno's strategy is to build on his home base in Montgomery County and spread his message out from there across the state focusing on all constituents, not just a single segment.
As for incumbent Governor Larry Hogan and his rather high approval rating, Senator Madaleno points to the difference between an approval rating and an electability rating. While Governor Hogan currently enjoys a rather high approval rating in the 70 percent range, especially for a Republican governor in a highly Democratic state, when it comes to re-election less than 50 percent of voters polled indicated that they are prepared to re-elect Governor Hogan.
Add to this the fact that Democrats far outnumber Republicans in the state, once again it will come down to voter turnout if Governor Hogan is to be unseated. 250,000 more Democrats voted in the 2010 midterm election than voted in the 2014 midterm election.
In addition, since the 2018 election will also include the national level office of senator as Senator Ben Cardin is running for re-election not to mention the motivation of the anti-Trump vote, the stage is set for large Democratic voter turnout. We recently saw the impact of large voter turnout in Virginia; the stage is set for the same impact of voter turnout in Maryland come 2018.
However, while the stage may be set, what separates this Democratic candidate from the other candidates, including the current governor, is what will attract voters to the Madealeno candidacy. That difference, according to the senator, is his record. While all of the Democratic candidates hold similar positions regarding the key issues of the day, it is Senator Madaleno who points to his lengthy record of accomplishment as a longtime legislator in Annapolis.
According to the senator, there is a significant difference between being FOR an issue or position and actually spending time in the trenches bringing that issue to the forefront and watching it become a reality. Whether it be gun safety, planned parenthood, marriage equality, the rights of immigrants, or leading the state out of the Great Recession of 2008 and the rebuilding the state government after near economic collapse, it was Senator Madaleno who was a leading voice in these and many other specific achievements.
Senator Madaleno also points out that he is the only candidate who has received a score from the League of Conservation Voters; that score, by the way, was 93 percent.
I asked the senator about what he considered to be some priorities if he were to make it to the governorship and he immediately pointed to education. As a member of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, Senator Madaleno views quite closely the challenges the state faces regarding educating its youth. Specifically, the senator is a strong proponent of providing more exposure, especially at the secondary grades, to career and technical education in addition to the usual liberal arts education. This, the senator is convinced, can provide a “head start into professional lives and securing a job.”
Regarding the controversy around charter schools, Senator Madaleno noted how the original vision for charter schools included serving as a kind of test site to experiment with different approaches that could then be implemented in the rest of the school system. This concept, of course, never took hold as charter schools simply became privately-run schools paid for with taxpayer money.
In the aftermath of the Trump tax plan and its direct impact on a high taxed state such as Maryland, our discussion turned to tax policy. Senator Madaleno noted the need to rethink tax policy. Clearly, the stated goals of the Trump/Republican federal tax plan and the actual results of the plan were inconsistent. The resulting plan may serve to redistribute wealth from blue states to red states, but the actual stated goal of simplifying tax collection, according to Senator Madaleno, is still a worthy goal. The senator suggested that changing to a payroll deduction concept for taxes, similar to how Social Security is collected, in which employers play a significant role in tax collection is an idea worth examining more closely.
Infrastructure is an issue of particular significance because of the singular role the governor plays in allocation of resources. Somewhat surprisingly, resources are not the problem when it comes to infrastructure; allocation is. The governor, regardless of who it is, has the authority to identify the infrastructure projects for which the resources will be spent.
According to Senator Madaleno, the process needs to be changed and allow the officials of the location from which the revenue is raised to have a significant voice in how that revenue is to be spent by prioritizing the infrastructure projects in that location. These officials are in the best position to understand the infrastructure needs of their community.
Regardless of the specific issue, however, the primary message of Senator Rich Madaleno is that our elected officials need to focus on more than the next election cycle and give greater effort for implementing a long-term vision for Maryland.