Strong turnout in Prince George's helps O'Malley to victory
Democrat base pushed incumbent governor's win
Spurred by a flurry of get-out-the-vote rallies, advertising by county leaders and phone calls from volunteers over the last month, 214,254 county residents voted early and on election day. Of those votes, 187,921 went to O'Malley (D), helping fuel his 967,748 to 732,938 victory over former governor Robert L. Ehrlich (R).
"We were delivering the votes," said Rushern Baker III, who won his first term as Prince George's County executive without any opposition in the general election.
Turnout in Prince George's, where 517,500 people were registered, was 41 percent as of Wednesday morning, with about 98 percent of precincts tallied. About 8,800 absentee ballots had not yet been counted. The showing was better for the incumbent governor than it was four years ago when 162,000 county residents voted for O'Malley over Ehrlich. In early October, President Barack Obama came to Bowie State University in support of O'Malley and to encourage Democrats to vote.
In Prince George's, Democrats outnumber all other voters five-to-one. No Republican in Prince George's has held an office above the municipal level since 2002, when former County Councilwoman Audrey E. Scott lost a bid for county executive. Few races in the general election Tuesday were contested at the county level.
"Across the state, there are battle grounds where Republicans and Democrats are fighting in the trenches. Prince George's, you are backing us up," said Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot at a Monday night rally in Upper Marlboro. "You are the reserves. You are the cavalry."
The first charge came two weeks ago, when 38,540 Prince Georgians cast ballots in early voting for the general election, the first year it has been offered in Maryland. O'Malley took 34,786 votes, about 90 percent, of the early vote. In addition to leading the state in early voting for the general election, the county led the state in early voting in the primary, when 14,000 people cast ballots.
"We've been competing against y'all in Baltimore," Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Dist. 7) of Baltimore said of the showing. "But y'all kicked our butt."
Baltimore city placed fifth in early voting for the general election, behind Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties.
The performance also quelled fears among Democrats who had worried Prince George's would not unify after a divisive primary season when residents split between incumbents and crowded open races for county executive, state's attorney and County Council. Turnout in this year's primary election was among the lowest in a decade, with just 21 percent of voters participating.
County officials said loyal Democrats pushed hard in the final weeks to ensure a higher showing in the general election.
"I am so proud to come to be county executive in a county that has shown we can come together," said Baker, a former state delegate who ran touting close ties to O'Malley and Annapolis lawmakers.
Democrats also fanned fears as Election Day approached about what would happen under Ehrlich, who was governor from 2002 to 2006. Baker and other elected leaders spoke against Ehrlich's declarations that the state was too fiscally strapped to spend more on education funding to offset costs for large school systems.
"We certainly would not have gotten a good turn from Bob Ehrlich," said Pat Lippold, political director for the Service Employees International Union, whose Prince George's workers actively campaigned for the Democrats.
The support for a second O'Malley term comes with high expectations, Baker said. Despite the state's continuing budget woes, he is expecting a significant commitment of funding to improve the county's hospital system, education and business growth.
"What I want to see is a commitment to funding to stabilize the situation," Baker said. "There is the expectation that Prince George's will be one of the leading areas of the state, especially in terms of economic development."