2014 ELECTION RESULTS FOLLOW TREND
The Charles County 2014 local election results in many ways represented the continued development of Charles County’s Black population’s political ascension. The results were highlighted by the election of the county’s first black Sheriff. The results also made it clear that as a significant voting bloc the black population has a long way to go to fully reign in the potential of the minority vote as a serious voting bloc.
Twenty years ago Charles County’s political landscape was vastly different than it is now. The county had a population of approximately 102,000 people according to the 1990 Census. A clear majority of its citizens were white. The county’s public school population was majority white. The county was in the aftermath of an election that saw another African-American candidate for the Board of Commissioners languish at the primary level. Future Board of Education member Cecil Marshall ran a spirited yet unsuccessful campaign to represent District 2 which encompasses Western Charles County. On a positive note the late Colonel Donald Wade and Dr. Edith Patterson were elected to the school board. Patterson eventually became the chairman of the school board.
The 94 campaign was the second election under the newly established “commissioner district format” that was conceived by the late Claude Mathis who ran for Commissioner in 1986 before he passed away in 1988. Mathis, a Baltimore native was the chairman of the Charles County Rainbow Committee that was a part of the base for the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s run for President of the United States in 1988. The voting format that Mathis conceived created actual voting districts that required commissioner candidates to reside within a specific residential district unless they were running for commissioner president. At the end of the day the change to voting districts still required each commissioner to run “at large”.
Rev. Reginald Kearney ran for District 3 Commissioner in 1998 and 2002. The demographics of the county were entirely different during that period in contrast to the present. In both races Kearney actually won his Waldorf residential District however due to the county’s at-large voting format he was unable to garner county-wide support and he lost to Republicans Marland Deen in 1998 and Al Smith in 2002. It should be noted that the out-dated at-large voting format continues to play into the day to day of local politics.
Delegate Edith Patterson who has been a mainstay in county politics for over three decades was appointed as the first African-American and/or first minority to be a part of the Board of County Commissioners in 2004. Prior to that distinction, Patterson became the first African-American chair of the Board of Education and the chair of the Charles County Democratic Central Committee. Patterson followed Educator Dr. Cecil Short as the head of the local Democratic Central Committee.
2006 was a watershed year in county local politics. It represented the first election that Waldorf as a voting bloc overtook La Plata’s overall influence in local Charles County politics. It was the first year that an African-American candidate was “elected” to the county’s top elected post when attorney/author Reuben Collins (District 3) and Dr. Edith Patterson (District 2) shared that distinction.
The 2010 election followed the continued diversity trend when Anthony Covington was elected as the county’s first African-American State’s Attorney and Prince George’s Prosecutor C.T. Wilson was elected as the Charles County’s first minority representative to the Maryland State legislature. The 2010 election also saw the re-election of Reuben Collins as District 3 commissioner (which was a first) and the election of Debra Davis as the District 2 commissioner. Dr. Patterson ran for the top county position (commissioner president) and was defeated.
2014 furthered the number of first when Troy Berry was elected as the county’s first African-American Sheriff. Two of the three State Delegates representing the county (District 28) are now African-American. Anthony Covington maintained his position as State’s Attorney unchallenged. Sadly, again the campaign by an African-American to be the top elected local official was sidetracked when Reuben Collins was defeated by Delegate Peter Murphy. The election fortunately saw the election of Educator Amanda Stewart and the re-election of Debra Davis.
The mixed results of the 2014 election suggest that the county which was designated as a majority/minority population as part of the 2010 Census has just begun the process of having its leadership reflect the racial makeup of its population.[i] On the ballot was a referendum to change the form of government to a charter government that is led by a county executive and county council. The initiative was voted down by county residents. In addition the county has still not had an African-American as President of the Board of Commissioners nor as the District 29 Senator.
[i] Diversity Grows with population of Maryland USA Today, February 9, 2011.