The unofficial returns for Cecil County in the Tuesday election show some interesting patterns in party-line voting from the top to bottom of the ballot, with the exception of the too-close-to-call 1st District race for Congress between Democrat Frank Kratovil and Republican Andy Harris.
Countywide, Republican presidential candidate John McCain carried Cecil with 56.41percent of the vote to Democratic President-to-be Barack Obama’s 41.28 percent. Independent Ralph Nader won 1 percent of Cecil’s vote. McCain carried all but 4 of Cecil’s 19 election precincts.
Kratovil won 18,643 votes to Harris’ 17,992, giving Kratovil 49.2 percent of Cecil County votes to Harris’ 47.5 percent. Kratovil had a majority in all but 8 of the county’s 19 election precincts, with Harris’ support concentrated in the western areas of the county. Kratovil also carried every county on the Maryland Eastern Shore, while Harris carried the Western Shore areas of Harford, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties included in the district. The state election board reported Kratovil ahead by just 916 votes district-wide, so the contest won’t be decided until absentee and overseas ballots are counted.
Locally, the 5th District County Commissioner race put Republican Robert Hodge ahead by just 328 votes over Democrat Sharon Weygand, with all 19 county precincts reporting. Absentee votes might still alter the outcome. The local elections board reported Hodge received 18,166 votes, or 49.54 percent, to Weygand’s 17,838, or 48.64 percent of the vote. There were 669 write-in votes– most of which probably went to Tom McWilliams.
The 1st District County Commissioner race predictably went to Republican Jim Mullin, with 20,663 votes, or 57 percent, to Democrat Pamela H. Bailey’s 15,373 votes, or 42.4 percent.
County commissioners are elected by all voters in the county, not just those living in the districts the commissioner will represent. So voting patterns in each of the county’s 19 precincts are illuminating: if a precinct went heavily for Republican presidential candidate McCain, voters tended to vote Republican in the local contests. And precincts favoring Democrat Obama tended to vote Democratic locally.
Just four Cecil County precincts went for Obama: Thomson Estates, Holly Hall, Cecil Manor and North East Elementary. In each of those precincts, Democratic candidates for commissioner pulled in their highest margins. In other precincts with heavy McCain support, Republican commissioner candidates racked up strong margins over Democrats.
The Cecil Manor precinct had the highest proportion of pro-Obama votes, with 65.55 percent to McCain’s 31.36 percent. Fifth District Democrat Weygand followed suit, racking up her highest 66.86 percent of the precinct tally to Republican Hodge’s 31.83 percent. First District Democrat Bailey made her best showing, with 65.41 percent to Republican Mullin’s 34.59 percent. In Holly Hall and North East Elementary precincts, the Democratic commissioner candidates racked up healthy margins over their GOP opponents, too. Thomson Estates, while giving Obama 51.74 percent of its votes, gave Democrat Weygand 55.82 percent of its votes while Democrat Bailey actually lost by just 9 votes.
On the Republican side, Conowingo was McCain country, giving him 69.56 percent of the vote to Obama’s 27.47 percent. Republican Hodge racked up his highest proportion, 60.87 percent. The Rising Sun banquet hall precinct gave McCain 68.74 percent of the vote, to Obama’s 29.3 percent. Republican Hodge pulled in 60.38 percent of the vote in his commissioner race, to Democrat Weygand’s 38.25 percent.
So when some folks say party labels don’t matter in local county contests, that may not be the case in a presidential election year.
It is also important to note the numbers of Cecil County voters who cast ballots for president but did not cast any vote at all in the two commissioner races. There were 39,558 votes cast for president by county voters, but 3,495 voters did not pick a candidate in the 1st District commissioner race and 3,009 voters left the 5th District commissioner contest blank. That usually means voters are clueless about the local candidates and issues in their campaigns so they don’t vote at all on the local sections of the ballot.