While the conventional wisdom is that voting for a tax increase spells doom for a politician, recent evidence from Maryland continues to show that state politicians rarely lose their seats when they vote for a gas tax hike.
Maryland is one of five states that recently raised or modified their gas tax to raise more money to fund transportation and infrastructure projects. (Be sure to read our first post focusing on election returns in Pennsylvania and Virginia following gas tax hikes/changes.) While zero Maryland Republicans voted “yes” for the increase, we found that out of the 80 Democrats who voted yes and ran for re-election, 94% kept their seat in the June 24th primary.
On the other side of the aisle, 12.5% of Republicans lost their seat in the primaries.
Maryland follows the pattern set by Virginia and Pennsylvania that state legislators who vote for a tax increase – especially one specifically to raise money to invest in transportation – don’t face penalties at the polls from voters.
The five incumbents who lost primaries were all Democrats: Shawn Tarrant (D-Baltimore City), Darren Swain (D-Prince George’s County), Keiffer Mitchell Jr. (D-Woodlawn, Catonsville), Melvin Stukes (D-Woodlawn, Catonsville), and Michael Summers (D-Prince George’s County).
While a majority of those losses were theorized to be due to Maryland’s law of redistricting every ten years, some were also due to misconduct allegations, according to news articles about the races. A quick scan of the postmortems on each race doesn’t include any mentions about voting for the gas tax increase.
The Republicans had their own problems of redistricting and misconduct as well; in fact, the gas tax seemed to be a complete non-issue for this primary.
As primaries unfold in states taking up transportation funding, we will continue to update this story with more primary and general election results as they become available. As it stands right now, three states have proven that a state legislator can vote for a gas tax increase for transportation funding without fear of losing his or her job.