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46th District Deciders Were Few in Number

September 16, 2010

Bill Ferguson

The Democratic primaries on Sept. 14 produced a momentous change in the Baltimore City Senate delegation’s roster: 27-year-old political neophyte William Ferguson trounced longtime 46th District state Sen. George Della, the aging scion of a waterfront dynasty that reaches back several generations. Ferguson is unchallenged in the general election, so there’s no question he’ll be taking Della’s seat.

Unofficial election results show Ferguson with 59.21 percent of the vote, and Della with 40.79 percent. That’s a huge margin of victory. By comparison, in the 2008 presidential election’s popular vote, Barack Obama beat U.S. Sen. John McCain 52.87 percent to 45.6 percent, which was considered a landslide. Ferguson, whose name was virtually unknown just a couple of months ago, appears to be immensely popular in precincts where the Della name has been winning elections since World War II.

But by looking at the number of voters who participated in the election, a different picture emerges. In a district whose voting-age population is around 83,000, Ferguson was picked by 5,070 voters, compared to 3,493 Della voters. Thus, Ferguson is becoming the district’s senator with the backing of roughly six percent of its voting-age residents.

In this light, far from being overwhelmingly popular, Ferguson made barely a ripple of interest among the district’s adults. Yet, presumably, he will be serving their interests—and those of the district’s children, workers, public institutions, and private businesses.

Among the state’s 47 legislative districts, the one Ferguson will soon lead in the Senate may include some of the most diverse—and big-time—economic interests. It contains most of the city’s tourism sector, a lot of its remaining manufacturing base, much of its most visible and dynamic development activity, and virtually all of its port-related industry. It also has the sports stadiums, the convention center, most of the city’s hotel rooms, and two hospitals.

A little over 5,000 people have thus placed on Ferguson’s shoulders the weight of these considerable concerns, believing he will bear them better than Della did for all those years. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the burden.

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