Sanders Withdrawal Will Impact Local Races

We discussed this briefly on Red Maryland Radio last night, but don’t underestimate the impact of the withdrawal of Bernie Sanders from the Presidential race will have on Maryland’s June 2nd primaries.

Admittedly, this impact will be limited; the change to virtually all-mail voting for the June 2nd primary changes the calculus in this calculation as well as every other get-out-the-vote models that campaigns have relied on for years.

Some competitive races will not be affected at all. There are only two competitive Republican races in Maryland this year; the Cecil County Executive primary and the 2nd Congressional District primary. Obviously neither one of those races will be affected, especially considering President Donald Trump has already clinched the Republican nomination and did not have a serious primary challenger in the first place.

Similarly, the 7th Congressional District Democratic primary will also be unaffected. Congressman-presumptive Kweisi Mfume still has 17 opponents in the Democratic primary, but he also easily dispatched of all of his opponents in the Special primary held in February. There’s no reason to think he would lose the regular primary election now, especially in light of the fact that he will likely have been elected to Congress by that point. Wilkes didn’t have a chance before; she has less of one now.

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There are a few other races where people are pretending they are competitive. McKayla Wilkes (who, strangely, didn’t even vote in the 2018 Democratic Primary) is pretending to run a competitive primary challenge against Congressman Steny Hoyer in the 5th Congressional District. However, she was likely to get blown out of the water by Hoyer under any circumstances, and that’s become even more likely now during the current world we are living in.

But there are two areas where Sanders withdrawal may see the most impact:

  • Baltimore City: many campaigns in Baltimore City, particularly for City Council, featured far-left Sanders-supporting candidates challenging more “mainstream” (for Baltimore) Democrats. Candidates like crude, offensive and hateful radical Dave Heilker, are going to be harmed by the withdrawal; their chances of victory hinged on a huge turnout of Sanders voters to try to push them over the line. Without Sanders rallies, without the Sanders campaign driving turnout, and without having Sanders actively running to give people a reason to vote, those candidates will suffer.
  • Non-partisan races: non-partisan races, particularly those in Board of Education races, are helped by this. This is particularly true of Board of Education candidates who may be Republicans or more conservative-leaning. One Board of Education told me: “As a Republican candidate in a non-partisan primary, Having Bernie drop out is helpful in these small races.” And they’re right; not having Sanders on the ballot makes it just a little easier for these candidates to make the general election ballot by giving them a better chance to win both primaries.

Now allow me to posit to you a counterfactual as well. There’s a chance that the opposite is also true. It is possible that with the primary no longer a major Presidential contest between two active campaigns that Sanders voters are the only voters who actually care to vote now, still casting a vote for their guy as a sign of protest against Biden and the Democratic establishment “stealing” the nomination again. That would, of course, trickle downward and help those far-left candidates on down-ballot races, particularly in those Democratic primaries in Baltimore. However, given historical trends in situations like this (see West Coast races in Presidential General Election with polls still open impacted by a nationwide Presidential rout), it is highly unlikely.

Bottom line: Bernie Sanders withdrawal will likely hurt far-left candidates running in Democratic primaries in Baltimore City. We’ll know a lot more once we get to election day.

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