Updated: Mar 29
What would have appeared to be tight races across Garrett County proved quite the opposite as voters cast their ballots on election day. Several local seats were challenged by formidable opponents who launched high-profile campaigns to unseat incumbents from Commissioner to Delegate. But even with fevered social media, radio, and an onslaught of visibility, the incumbents held firm leads over their challengers as the polling numbers rolled in. Starting with the state, Maryland echoed Garrett County by voting to stay the course and re-elect Governor Larry Hogan to a second term with 56.2% of the vote. Early on, he was the predicted victor over his Democratic rival, Ben Jealous since Hogan has earned the distinction as the nations second most popular governor during his first term. The Governor's bipartisan administration has remained unchanged as well with Democrats Comptroller, Peter Franchot, and Attorney General, Brian Frosh winning reelection. Democrat, David Trone defeated Republican, Amie Hoeber by collecting 57.6% of the votes and securing his first job in politics as Maryland's 6th District Congressional representative. This seat was open after John Delaney announced his candidacy for President in the 2020 elections. Trone is no stranger to politics after running an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the 8th District during the last election cycle. Senior Senator, Ben Cardin easily won re-election by capturing 64.1% of the vote. Several challengers included a Republican (31%), Libertarian (1%), three unaffiliated candidates, and one registered write-in. Cardin was hugely unpopular with the Republican-dominated Garrett County voters by only seeing 24.7% of the vote which contrasts with his appeal to other Maryland voters. The District 1A Delegate incumbent, Wendell Beitzel took 77.5% of the vote compared to his Democratic challenger, Mike Dreisbach who landed just 22.4% at the polls. Beitzel ran unopposed in the previous election raising significant hope for Dreisbach who promised to provide a choice for voters in the General Election. Beitzel earned some unpopular opinion over fracking, his opposition to a medical marijuana facility, and questionable ethics which gave Dreisbach potential to see a victory. But with a hard-line Republican sweep in the Garrett County elections, Dreisbach fell victim to a dominance of party-line Republican voters. Democrat, Judy Carbone ran a high-profile campaign from the June Primary through the Fall election as a newcomer to the political scene. She asked for a more inclusive commission and promised to bring a broader perspective to local leadership.
Despite her campaign that was built off of local input, Carbone only earned 26.9% of the vote against incumbent Republican, Larry Tichnell, who won reelection.
Tichnell has remained largely silent as a commissioner in his first term and his campaign was essentially invisible, further underscoring the Republican stronghold in Garrett County. When it came to the nonpartisan Board of Education elections, the race took an interesting twist where voters were not given the privilege of choosing along strict party lines. Incumbent, Nate Sorber was appointed to his position in District 2 making this his first candidacy for election. Sorber has a Ph.D. in education but was still defeated in a surprising upset by challenger, Rodney Glotfelty who took 77% of the vote. Glotfelty recently retired as the Garrett County Health Department's Health Officer so he was a familiar local name on the ballot as opposed to Sorber who relocated to Friendsville not so long ago. The nail-biting race to watch was in the Board of Education's District 3 where incumbent Monica Rinker and challenger Fred Gregg were neck-in-neck as the numbers came in. One of Gregg's campaign talking points targeted the state's wealth formula that is hurting Garrett County's school funding and operating budget. Rinker focused on her experience on the board and her pledge to oppose school consolidation for the two high schools. In the end, Rinker won by a narrow margin, earning just 113 votes more than Gregg. In this particular race, every vote counted. Although the rest of Maryland is predominantly Democrats, The mountainous west has retained it's conservative, Republican grip. Voters have expressed content at the polls with how things are being done and they are prepared to stay the course. But what is the course? The county's population has not grown in twenty years, area youth are forced to leave to find professional employment opportunities, public school populations are at an all-time low, and over 60% of the county's population is reliant on subsidies from the state.
The polling numbers would indicate that Garrett County votes a strait-ticket regardless of who is running, their platform, level of engagement, or their qualifications. Each Republican candidate, both state and local, earned a major lead with Garrett County voters but was outvoted by other more populated counties in the state who may be assessing candidates through different criteria.
Garrett County just experienced a major shift in the political climate by offering a Democrat for Delegate and a Democratic Woman for Commissioner, yet the majority of voters stayed put by supporting incumbents, Republicans, and men. Whether it's fear of change or a disinterest in candidate platforms, voters appear to be stuck, and those voters can anticipate nothing new to come from the 2018 midterm elections in Garrett County.