As news organizations were calling the presidential race Saturday in favor of Democratic nominees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over Republican President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Frederick County also likely saw a historic shift.
If current results hold, 2020 will mark the first time the majority of Frederick County voters have supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, when they picked Lyndon Johnson. As of Sunday evening, Biden and Harris led Trump and Pence in the county by almost 9,700 votes, according to unofficial results.
The Democratic party was significantly different when Johnson was in office—former Republican President Richard Nixon used what many historians called “the Southern Strategy” in the 1960s to appeal to white southern voters who may have previously been Democrats, thus changing the ideology and platforms of both major parties.
Other factors have also contributed to shifts in ideology, but if local election results hold when they are certified, it will mark the first time in over half a century Frederick County voted for a Democrat for president.
Election Director Stuart Harvey did not call the president or any Board of Education seats Sunday afternoon. He said his office still has about at least 12,000 ballots to count, and there could also be thousands of other mail-in or provisional ballots to tally.
“We will burn the midnight oil,” Harvey said of him and his staff counting all the remaining ballots and certifying local election results by Nov. 13. “We’ve got a few late nights ahead of us.”
Still, here is what some local political officials said of the presidential election and Frederick County’s likely historic vote.
Steven Clark, chair, Frederick County Republican Central Committee
Clark thanked the county and nation’s participation in the election, despite an apparent loss in the White House.
“We were pleased to see there was record turnout in the United States, people exercising their right to vote,” Clark said. “Obviously, it looks like the election didn’t go our way, but that’s democracy.”
He admitted local Republicans have a lot of work to do in the coming months and years when it comes to registering voters and spreading their party message.
“Obviously in Frederick County, the Republican portions are the more rural areas, and we’ll continue to register voters there … but we don’t want to leave the city [of Frederick] out either,” Clark said. “There are Republican voters there, and also we want to make in-roads. They have an election [for mayor and the board of Aldermen] in 2021 that we’re going to contest.”
Deborah Carter, chair, Frederick County Democratic Central Committee
Carter pointed right away to the fact that Frederick County cast more votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris than Donald Trump and Mike Pence, starting on Election night. She believes Harris and Biden will be a good president for everybody, not just those who voted for them.
Carter added that registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans in registered voters for the first time earlier this year, and she expects that trend to continue.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people who changed their registration, who changed their party, that they didn’t leave the Republican party, the Republican party left them,” Carter said. “So it’s possible that a lot of people locally, not newcomers to the county, felt disengaged and wanted something more hopeful.”
Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick and Carroll)
Hough was mainly concerned about how quickly the cable networks called the race, given how tight the margin was in several swing states.
It’s been a problem since the 2000 presidential election, after George Bush (R) edged out Al Gore (D) following a Supreme Court decision and tight race in Florida, Hough said.
He also questioned whether results in Pennsylvania would hold, given recent legal decisions about whether ballots coming in after Election Day should count, even if they are postmarked by Election Day.
“I just think people get ahead of themselves, and the media is the worst part of it, wanting to declare a winner or this or that when you got states that are a half a point apart,” Hough said. “Obviously, the odds are clearly in Biden’s favor, based on where things are at, [but] there’s actually a process that the Constitution and state laws lay out, and people should just let it play out.”
Regarding local results, he wasn’t surprised.
“I see the trend of the registration numbers being more of a challenge … because Frederick city and south [Frederick] is becoming much more like Montgomery County politically .. we’ve been seeing that for years and years,” Hough said.
Two years from now, Republicans should still compete in local elections, he said.
“Clearly for us, midterms are a bigger [election] and Republicans are very competitive in this state,” Hough said. “Especially because Republicans turn out at a much higher rate in midterms … if Trump’s not in the White House, Democrats are going to have a real tough time turning out voters like they have in the past.”
Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick)
Krimm was happy Biden and Harris called to unify the country in their speeches Monday night. She noted the history of Harris as the first woman—and a woman of color—elected as vice president.
She thinks this year had a big part of why Frederick County may have voted for a Democrat to take office in the White House.
“It’s a referendum on the Trump administration, first of all,” she said. “ ... But I also think the governor [Larry Hogan], being a Republican and his questioning of the Trump administration handling of the virus, I think that contributed to that.”
She also thinks younger voters might be helping local Democrat registration totals.
“I think we have a lot of younger people who are becoming politically motivated and want to be participating in politics ... that’s been an issue for a whole that young people don’t vote,” Krimm said. “But I think that’s trending in the other direction now, and I’m happy to see that because they’re the people that’s going to be inheriting the world. They need to be participating in the decisions.”
County Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D)
Keegan-Ayer was “thrilled” at a Biden-Harris ticket winning. Like Krimm, she pointed to the historical significance of Harris entering the White House.
“Women were so excited to see a woman, but also a woman who looked like them, who would be at that level,” Keegan-Ayer said, noting TV interviews of women of color in cities nationwide. “I think people were really enthusiastic and pumped up about that.”
Biden and Harris need to heal the wounds and unify the country after the last four years, Keegan-Ayer added. She’s unsure whether the Democratic majority will hold in voter registration totals long-term, but she said she’s had interesting conversations with citizens across the political aisle.
“I know people who have been lifelong Republicans who have watched what has happened over the last four years and said, I can’t deal with this … I can’t support this party right now and they changed their registration to unaffiliated,” Keegan-Ayer said.
“I think that was may be a factor in the high number of unaffiliated [voters] we have in this county, but some of them did actually say the Democratic platform is more representative of my beliefs than the Republican platform,” she added.
County Council Vice President Michael Blue (R)
As long as all legal votes are counted, Blue said he would live with the election’s results. He wished there was a more centralized system instead of states having different electoral processes and laws.
“As long as these recounts don’t turn up any illegally casted votes, and as long as these lawsuits don’t shed light on anything improper, then it’s a fair election,” Blue said.
He agreed that Frederick County has turned more Democratic since he started living in the county just over five decades ago. His district, District 5, has a strong base of conservatives, but efforts must be made countywide to register more Republicans.
“Look at the[unaffiliated voters] in Frederick County now,” Blue said. “They’re the ones that the Republican party or the Democratic party is going to entice, to come and see their points of view when it comes to political agendas and values. And that’s where I think the Republican Party really needs to concentrate their efforts.”