Election Day is coming, and I've been trying to sort out my votes. I present my choices and reasons here mostly for entertainment value. I don't consider myself a model voter, but my shortcomings are probably normal. I don't pay nearly enough attention to the specifics of what's going on in government. The election rolls around, and I don't even know whether I like the job most of the incumbents are doing or not (and those on whom I have an opinion, it's probably not for very good reasons), let alone what their challengers have to offer. I do what I can to inform myself--I watch the forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters, look at the candidates' Web sites, and try to pay attention if I see anything relevant in the local news. But in the end I'm probably just as bad a judge as anyone else of who should be elected. It's part of the reason that I lean monarchist, but when the day arrives, I still feel like I ought to vote. I may not have much idea why, but I want it to be something better than randomly punching the screen, or voting a party line.
Here, then, are my choices as they stand right now. I might still change my mind before the day arrives:
Governor: Eric Delano Knowles (C). Last time around, I voted for O'Malley. It seemed to me that Ehrlich couldn't speak for five minutes without promoting the legalization of slot machines in MD. He was (and probably still is) the rare Republican candidate who could win in MD--fine. But if he's going to make state-run moral corruption his thing, I'd rather have a bleeding-heart liberal. O'Malley wasn't any better, so I'm going with a third party. I can't really get on board with the Libertarian candidate's scheme to sell the Bay, and if I'm voting conservative I'd rather have someone who's pro-life. Knowles just seems like a better fit to my ideals. Not that I think any third-party candidate has a serious chance of winning, but I live by the assumption that I'm throwing away my vote one way or another. May as well do it with a clean conscience.
U. S. Senator: Eric Wargotz (R). I've never been a fan of the Mik. I'm not voting for him--I'm voting against her. Besides, Wargotz is just a cool name.
Congressional Representative: Jerry McKinley (L). I don't care much for Sarbanes either. He's Greek Orthodox, but sorry--that doesn't seem to make him a good representative of my views. He voted for TARP, which got him on my bad side, and I haven't seen anything to change my opinion since then. I was going to vote for the Republican candidate (who probably can't beat him anyway), but in the LWV forum he came across as angry and hypocritical. He kept attacking Sarbanes for being a lawyer, a career politician, and the son of a career politician. But his idea of bringing in someone from the private sector is a guy who went from the military to defense contracting. Nice try. McKinley had similar views on the issues but sounded a lot more comfortable and level-headed.
State Senator: Edward J. Kasemeyer (D). I've had a few opportunities to hear Kasemeyer answer questions, and he seems to have his head screwed on right. I don't follow state politics all that closely, so I don't have much to go by, but I haven't had occasion to object to any stance he's taken. The Republican candidate, as with the guy running for Congress, is just way too emotional. I dunno--maybe it's the Tea Party thing. Do Republicans think they have to seem perpetually outraged to show they're hip with the times?
State Delegates: James E. Malone Jr. (D) and Joe Hooe (R). This one was a tough call. For those who don't know, we elect two delegates in our sub-district, and my inclination is to go with both parties for the sake of balance. I didn't find much about Hooe's views that I disliked, and he doesn't try to paint himself (at least, not on his Web site) as a big Ehrlich supporter. Plus, he has a cool name and a slogan to go with it. It was kind of a toss-up for me between the incumbents, but I do like Malone's constituent service. If both my picks got elected, at least they'd have in common their love for rhymes.
County Executive: Ken Ulman (D). As far as I can tell, Ulman has done a decent job. In any case, I'm not convinced of the Republicans' argument, that the current budget situation is mostly due to the poor management of the Democrats. We've obviously had a bad economy to deal with over the past few years, and we're doing a lot better than many local governments.
County Council: Courtney Watson (D). Possibly the only candidate I have a serious opinion about is Councilwoman Watson. I've tried to follow the actions of the council, and in general, I've been impressed both with her competence as Council Chair and with her thinking on issues. She's been responsive when I've contacted her about concerns, she seems to have a good understanding of what's important to her constituents, and her politics are generally balanced between left and right. I can only laugh when the Republican candidate accuses her of being a tax-and-spend liberal and part of the entrenched Democratic control of the county.
Circuit Court Clerk: Jason Reddish (D). I read an article the other day about the races for Court Clerk and Register of Wills. Both offices are currently held by Republican women well beyond retirement age; both are being challenged by Democratic men in their 20s. The main reason I even have an opinion is that jobs are hard enough to find these days. I didn't get the impression that either of the incumbents really needs the income, so I favor giving the jobs to the younger challengers, who are of an age when they should be employed. Beyond that, the article mentioned that the Court Clerk's office is badly in need of automation, and if this guy has ideas for making that happen, I say, let him give it a shot.
Register of Wills: Byron Macfarlane (D). See above.
Board of Education: Robert D. Ballinger II, Leslie Kornreich, Brian Meshkin, and David E. Proudfoot. This is a difficult category for me. None of the candidates really stands out, and I'm supposed to vote for four of them. I don't care much for the two incumbents. Aquino seems too arrogant, and French is a Communist who wants to take children away from their parents and brainwash them 24/7. (I'm kidding--but I definitely disagree with her view that we need longer school days and fewer breaks. There are plenty of activities for students who want to (or whose parents want them to) spend all their time away from home, but for parents who still want time to educate their own children in skills and values that they won't get from public school, there needs to be a limit to institutionalization. Ballinger seems to care very genuinely, not only about doing a good job with our kids' education, but also about listening to the voters for their input. Kornreich's platform is far too narrow, but I'm not convinced she'd be worse than any of the others, and she is from Elkridge. Meshkin seems to have some decent ideas and experience on advisory committees for the school board in the past. Proudfoot works in education and seems to have a good handle on the issues. Plus, it's hard to resist the name.
Constitutional Convention: No. This seems to be a formality. The state constitution requires that they ask every 20 years whether we want a convention. Since I'm not at all convinced that we could craft a better constitution today, I say "no."
Jury Trial Amendment: No. The current limit on a civil trial to request a jury is $10k. The amendment would raise the limit to $15k. I don't have much to go on here, but since jury trials are a basic right in our society, I'd rather not see the minimum increase unless someone really convinces me it's necessary.
Baltimore Orphan's Court Amendment: No. Currently there is no requirement in the City of Baltimore that Orphan's Court judges be qualified lawyers. I would guess that in most cases people will probably vote for qualified lawyers anyway (assuming they know or care), but I like the idea of leaving it open to the will of the people.
There are several other offices on the ballot, most of them unopposed, which I'm not going to bother voting on if I know nothing about the candidate. Going forward, I want to pay more consistent attention to county government and school board issues. We have the cable channels--may as well make use of them. Maybe in another two-to-four years I'll be in a better position to make some of these choices. It wouldn't hurt to keep myself better informed about state politics either, though I'm not sure of the best way to do that. National politics really don't concern me much. By the time you get to that level, I have absolutely no hope that my opinion makes any difference anyway.