- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2002

I gazed back into my crystal ball to find that my election premonitions, proposed primarily during Sunday broadcasts of WRC-TV's (Channel 4) "Reporter's Notebook," were mostly on target for a political pundit or, clutch my pearls, a wannabe clairvoyant.

Upset? Surprise? Right from the get-go I said Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was a sure bet to lose the gubernatorial race. Blame the outgoing Gov. Parris "Giveaway" Glendening if you want and you should. But only to a point. Consider the lackluster candidate herself, please.

That the Camelot mystique is video vapor is crystal clear. That Mrs. Townsend's campaign missteps, such as picking a white, male Republican as a running mate, were her undoing is obvious. That she came across more of a candidate's spouse than a candidate is a painful admission, even for a professed feminist.

However, Maryland Democrats, like those nationwide, need to be more mindful that they tend to lose races every time they neglect their core constituencies.

In the mudslinging for the middle, you can't alienate the folks on your side of the aisle.

Women, considered a Democratic staple, rejected Mrs. Townsend's candidacy and voted overwhelmingly for a Republican man, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Black voters also are tired of being taken for granted, and some voted their disillusionment and displeasure by staying home. It didn't help state Democrats either that Mr. Ehrlich chose Michael S. Steele, the first black to become Maryland lieutenant governor, as his very visible running mate.

Some blacks, like some whites, are not yet beyond voting along racial lines. The more enlightened voter is not so easily duped by such superficial structures.

I had no doubt that my early pick, Republican David A. Catania would be re-elected to his at-large seat on the D.C. Council. His easy victory occurred despite the slow-to-start Democrat-turned-independent challenger Eugene DeWitt Kinlow's sorry strategy of using race and class against Mr. Catania, the one legislator on that capitulating council who hasn't forgotten "the least, the lost and the left-out."

The Northern Virginia sales tax referendum was another no-brainer. The so-called "conventional wisdom" picked the wrong lane if they believed that Old Dominion voters would vote to tax themselves, even to free themselves from road-raging gridlock.

Did the predictors and pundits forget that this is the fiscally conservative state that elected James S. Gilmore III as governor because he promised "no car tax" which, by the way, is partly responsible for the budget deficit that Virginia finds itself in today.

Honk your horn. Some folks couldn't even get to the polls to vote by 7 p.m. because they were stuck on the parking lot lanes of Interstates 66 and 95 and the Capital Beltway and the sales-tax-for-transportation referendum still didn't pass go.

(Would someone please introduce legislation to extend voting hours in Virginia, now that it's a minor miracle to get home by nightfall because of traffic congestion?)

Now, I might be wrong, but the main reason the transportation tax, ah, excuse me, referendum, didn't fly is because folks are already hard-pressed to make ends meet here. The cost of living is sky high, especially in housing, and folks, particularly in the high-tech sector and the tourism industry, have lost a fair amount of jobs.

Distrust spendthrift politicians and land-grabbing developers? You bet. But equally a factor in the referendum's defeat is the old NIMBY (not in my back yard) issue resurfacing. Everyone wants to get rid of gridlock, but no one wants those new roads and rails running through their neighborhood.

Traversing the clogged American Legion Bridge a feat unto itself in Maryland's hotly contested 8th Congressional District race, I didn't foresee that Constance A. Morella loss, though I suspected it would be a squeaker. Even though the Republican's district was redrawn by Democrats determined to ensure her demise, I figured her incumbency might carry more currency.

Or, perhaps, that liberal Montgomery County voters would recognize that she's really a "RINO" (Republican In Name Only) and send her back to the House to represent the lonely progressive wing of her party that's been left in the dust, along with all stripes of disorganized and disoriented Democrats.

Back to those "RINOs" for a second, I should have known that Carol Schwartz would pick up more votes this time in her ill-advised rematch with Anthony A. Williams, given that the integrity-challenged D.C. mayor is his own worst enemy like Mrs. Townsend, perhaps?

D.C. voters obviously are suffering from a "been there, done that" mind-set by returning every incumbent to office despite the pathetically slow pace of reform that "Teflon Tony," et al., have promised ad nauseam.

As for "Ward 9" (forgive me Prince George's County residents), it was clear that, although the affable Republican County Council member Audrey E. Scott was a better choice to build community coalitions, I suspected the heavily Democratic county would elect its party's questionable choice for county executive, former State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson.

So much for political premonitions.

Reading primary polling data may be better than reading tea leaves when it comes to predicting the outcome of elections. Yet we get so caught up predetermining winners that we forget what's more productive: Predetermining more effective, more efficient governors who will best serve and represent the governed.

Indeed, that necessary prediction requires voters to delve deeper than the numbers provided by polling data or the best "guesstimates" of pontificating pundits or wannabe clairvoyants gazing into a crystal ball.

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