Red Islands in a Vast, Blue Sea

Red Islands in a Vast, Blue Sea – Baltimore City Republican Central Committee Finds Hope After 2016 

Despite losses for all local Republican candidates this past November, members of the Baltimore City Republican Central Committee (BCRCC) are realizing that their proverbial glass is not half empty going into 2017.

Detailed election results were released on the Baltimore City Board of Elections website on 5 December, and a thorough analysis of those results revealed some rather surprising developments. Hillary Clinton won a decisive victory in the city with 84.7% of the vote to Donald Trump’s 10.5%; however, Trump did take 10 of the city’s precincts. Readers may be wondering: “So what? That’s only 10 of Baltimore’s 298 precincts.” The significance of these Trump victory precincts is that they are not the same precincts that local Republican candidates won in 2016, nor did they have the most favorable Democrat to Republican registered voter ratios.

Previously overlooked by the BCRCC, the Trump victory precincts have identified areas of the city in which voters may be rejecting ideas typically embraced by Baltimore Democratic politicians. Trump campaigned strongly on cutting federal funding to “sanctuary cities” and often spoke out against Democrats’ favorite pastime of identity politicking. In Baltimore City, publicly opposing those two issues usually dooms a Republican candidate. Interestingly, in these 10 precincts, Baltimore voters made an exception this time.

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In all of the 10 Trump victory precincts, registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans in an average of over 3 to 1. In the Cross Country neighborhood of northwest Baltimore, this 3 to 1 ratio didn’t stop Trump from winning a precinct by over 28 points. Perhaps the BCRCC, and future Republican candidates in the city, can capitalize on the opportunity presented by the Trump victory precincts by focusing efforts to convert long-term Democrats to Republicans or by recruiting future campaign volunteers in those neighborhoods.

Only one of the Trump victory precincts was also won by a local Republican candidate. Republican candidate for city council president, Shannon Wright, (newly elected MDGOP 3rd Vice Chair) received more votes than incumbent Democrat, Bernard C. “Jack” Young, in the Orangeville/Armstead Gardens precinct of East Baltimore that Trump won. Matt McDaniel, the Republican candidate in Baltimore’s 1st city council district, was widely believed to have the best chance to win his race and received the highest percentage of the vote (33%) than any other Republican in the city. However, McDaniel did not win the same precincts in the 1st district that Trump won. The 1st city council district is located in the southeastern area of the city and includes Fell’s Point, Canton, Patterson Park, Little Italy, and Greektown neighborhoods. This was an area of the city that Larry Hogan did very well during the 2014 election.

The disparity between Trump victory precincts and local Republican candidate victory precincts is due to a variety of probable reasons. These reasons will be roundly debated within the BCRCC for months to come as we draft our 2018-2020 strategy. Republican outreach plans are now in the works for these newly identified Baltimore precincts heavily populated by Trump Democrats. Moving into 2017, the question for Baltimore City Republicans is not whether our political glass is half empty or half full. The question is whether a future Baltimore City Republican candidate can successfully craft a message that resonates with both Hillary Democrats and Trump Democrats to win a seat in Baltimore City for the first time in over five decades. After the Hogan victory in 2014, and the national-level Republican victories in 2016, I can’t shake the feeling that the political winds are changing in Baltimore City. We need to take the time to understand why local Republican candidates connected with a majority of voters in some areas and not Trump voters in other areas. If we tweak our messaging to reach both groups, will it allow us to finally raise our sails and set our compass in the right direction for a Republican win in the city? A victory is on the horizon in 2020… Land ho!

The author, Charlene Cowan, is a member of the Baltimore City Republican Central Committee.

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