Flaw in the system.

Sheila DixonSometime in the next 2 or 3 weeks, all but 1 or 2 of the 15 Democratic candidates for Mayor running against Sheila Dixon need to drop out. If they don’t, the ones who don’t drop out – and who have no real chance of winning – are seriously and selfishly jeopardizing the future of the city they are running to protect.

There’s a serious flaw in process by which we elect our officials. Actually, there are several flaws, but this post is only about one of them: In the absence of a runoff election between the two leading candidates, a candidate field of 3 or more people can result in a victory by one of those candidates supported by a minority of the voters. The larger the field, the greater the potential for that outcome.

Yesterday, Donald Trump won the South Carolina primary with just 33% of the vote. Rubio and Cruz came in second and third with 23% and 22% respectively. Three other candidates, Bush, Kasich and Carson, received only 8%, 8% and 7% of the votes cast.

Publicly, Trump loves the victory and some headline-hungry pundits are asking if he’s stoppable or is his nomination now a forgone conclusion. Meanwhile, his advisors have no doubt noticed that 67%, a two-thirds majority of the voters, didn’t want him to win. He may have been the second choice for some of these other voters and it’s not clear that he wouldn’t have won anyway, with a clear majority. Maybe, but just in case Mr. Trump wants as many opponents running against him as possible. If it turns out that Trump’s 33% is at or near the maximum support for his candidacy, in a 2 candidate race – a runoff, if there was one, but there isn’t – he loses and loses big.

And so the Republicans are quite possibly on the verge of assuring the loss of their nominee, if that’s Donald Trump, to the Democratic candidate because the general election is a 2-person race. (National polls this far out are meaningless – just like the early polls showing Hillary Clinton way out in front of upstart Independent Socialist Bernie Sanders.)

Jeb Bush has now dropped out, but there are still 5 Republican candidates running which is at least 2 and maybe 3 too many.

If you’re a Trump fan, you’re okay with all this. If, on the other hand, you seriously believe in the principal of majority rule, it’s was a bad day for Democracy.

The analogy to the Mayor’s race in Baltimore is clear…

  • There are 6 candidates running.
  • There is a clear leader – former Mayor Sheila Dixon – who is in first place in the polls, but with only 27%. (We’re citing results of the Gonzales Research poll released in January and now a month old.)
  • State Senator Catherine Pugh is in second place with 18% and Councilman Carl Stokes is less than a margin of error behind her with 14%.
  • Councilman Nick Mosby who polled 7% and then Attorney Elizabeth Embry and Venture Capitalist David Warnock, both with only 5%, are the only other significant candidates. There are other minor candidates in the race that were not included in the poll – plus a late entry, activist DeRay McKesson.
  • The poll showed 21% undecided.

As in the Republican primary, the leading candidate for Mayor, Sheila Dixon, is questionable, at best, as a valid choice to run the city’s government, again. Her core support may be enough to assure her re-election, but clearly, a substantial majority of voters prefer one of her opponents. And so, because this is a leader-take-all plurality contest, the city of Baltimore is on the verge of electing the least desirable candidate – even though a substantial majority of voters would prefer not to re-elect her. A clear majority prefers to elect someone else, but is stymied by the simple fact that too many people are running.

Donald Trump, Sheila Dixon

And that brings us to why there are still 6 prominent and a whopping 10 other Democrats running for Mayor. Some of them are running for the exposure, for business or personal reasons or because they’re practicing, learning the art and science of running for office. Some are running because they have something to say and care deeply about the future of their city.

That’s all well and good for now, but sometime soon – let’s say no later than March 14, one month before the onset of early voting – all the top-polling 1 or 2 of Sheila Dixon’s opponents need to drop out. They’re wasting their time and their money. Far more importantly, their continued presence in the race is threatening to make a mockery of the democratic process by allowing a small minority of fervent voters to elect the least desirable major candidate.

Candidates should wait, at most, a couple or 3 more weeks. See how they are doing or not doing in the polls. At that point, if they’re not one of the top 2 or 3 candidates, if they care about their city as most of them certainly do, they need to get out of the way and let the majority rule.

P.S. Sheila Dixon is counting on you staying in the race. What does that tell you?

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