Gap Between Registered Democrats, Republicans in St. Mary's Narrows to 702 - Southern Maryland Headline News

Gap Between Registered Democrats, Republicans in St. Mary's Narrows to 702

26,209 Democrats vs. 25,507 Republicans; 11,655 county residents who are eligible voters remain unaffiliated

By Guy Leonard,

HOLLYWOOD, Md.—St. Mary’s County has traditionally been a solid and dependable stronghold for Democrats, mostly of the conservative variety, but now the numbers are shifting dramatically — so much so that registered Democrats now only outpace Republicans by 702 registered voters.

Chris Quade, an information technology specialist with the county’s Board of Elections, said that Republicans have been steadily gaining ground the past couple of years, while Democrat advantage have been going the opposite direction.

“It’s been steadily going down,” Quade said of Democrat registrants, who number 26,209 versus the 25,507 Republican voters in the county.

There are a total of 64,357 registered voters in St. Mary’s, according to board of elections numbers generated the first of the month, with relatively small numbers signing on as either Green, Constitution, Libertarian or other political party adherents.

But there are still 11,655 county residents who are eligible voters who remain unaffiliated.

The recent shift and mounting Republican gains, Quade said, could represent a major change in the way the county votes next election.

“It’ll be interesting with the next election to see how many people register,” Quade said.

David Willenborg, head of the county’s Republican Central Committee, said that last year GOP operatives made a significant push to register residents to vote, though they could not advertise for the Republican Party or let themselves be known as members of that party.

This year Republicans do not have an organized effort to get out the vote, Willenborg said, but the numbers appear to be going there way without it.

“Great gains were made last year,” Willenborg said, who speculated that the many military and Department of Defense jobs in the county drew a steadily more conservative and GOP friendly base.

“My gut is it’s the work we do here,” Willenborg said.

Todd Eberly, political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland said that not only have GOP numbers been growing at a rate outpacing their Democratic counterparts, but the growth of unaffiliated voters could also help GOP efforts since many of their ranks are filled with conservative Democrats who have dissociated themselves from the party, usually because the parent party has become more and more liberal.

Sometimes the move to being unaffiliated is just a layover before joining the ranks of the GOP, he said.

Eberly pointed to difficult reelections against political newcomers for Democrat delegates John Bohanan and John Wood, traditionally safe bets for retaining their seats by comfortable margins, as well as GOP congressional candidate Charles Lollar’s resounding victory in St. Mary’s as harbingers of change.

The same kind of change that had occurred in many other states with conservative Democrats has finally started in Maryland, Eberly said.

“It’s long overdue when you look at other states, it becomes more and more difficult for conservative democrats to remain with the party,” Eberly said. “In coming elections you’ll see some of that traditional Democratic dominance deteriorate.”

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