Maryland may not have held any gubernatorial elections in this year’s slew of off-season races, but there have been plenty of important political developments across the state this month.
On Tuesday, November 7, residents of some of Maryland’s most prominent cities turned out in droves to oust incumbent Republican mayors from office. In Annapolis, Democrat Gavin Buckley handily won the mayor’s race with more than twice the votes than his Republican opponent Mike Pantelides, the incumbent mayor. Pantelides won his first time in 2013 by only 59 votes.
In Frederick, Democrat and city Alderman Michael O’Connor beat two-term Republican mayor Randy McClement by a nearly two-to-one margin. Voters installed another Democrat to replace O’Connor as Alderman and sent Democrats to all four other Board of Aldermen positions in a landslide. The Frederick-News Post dubbed the election “historic” for the city because it marks “the first time in at least 40 years--and possibly ever” that Democrats have completely swept a citywide general election. Frederick’s leadership has also become increasingly diverse; the 2017 election marks the first time that two African-American candidates have been elected to the Board of Aldermen at the same time.
Other cities affirmed their support for progressive leadership; College Park voters, for instance, re-elected their city’s first openly gay mayor, Patrick Wojahn, in the most hotly contested mayor’s race in College Park’s history. Takoma Park elected an entirely female city council and incumbent mayor Kate Stewart was re-elected unopposed. Democratic Mayors of Greenbelt and Gaithersburg Emmett V. Jordan and Jud Ashman, respectively, were re-elected by outstanding margins.
This week, Marylanders also celebrated policy measures spearheaded by progressives. The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to raise the countywide minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. The legislation, signed into law by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, establishes a timeline that requires Montgomery County businesses to pay employees who are over 20 years old at least $15.00 an hour--double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour--depending on the size of the business.
Businesses with at least 51 employees will be required to pay a minimum wage of $15.00 per hour starting in 2021, while businesses of 11-50 and less than 11 employees will have to do the same by 2023 and 2024, respectively. Wages will rise incrementally between now and the respective deadlines by which businesses will have to pay $15.00 an hour. This legislation is a huge win for Fight for 15, a nationwide grassroots movement that advocates for a $15.00 per hour minimum wage to give low-income workers a better standard of living.
In addition to reaffirming their support for a Democratic mayor, residents of Greenbelt also voted to lower the citywide voting age from 18 years old to 16 years old. Research suggests that lower voting ages boosts youth civic engagement and encourages young people to get involved and stay involved in the political process.