Maryland 8th District
Colonial farmers once rolled barrels of tobacco to the port of Georgetown along an old road that is today the commercial spine of one of America’s most affluent and best-educated areas. Wisconsin Avenue begins at the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., traverses the city, and then becomes Rockville Pike once it arrives in suburban Montgomery County, Md. For several decades, Montgomery County has ranked at or near the top among counties nationwide in income and education. Like all of Washington’s suburbs, the county is a creature of the federal government, which has huge facilities there—Bethesda Naval Hospital, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Montgomery is also the center of America’s biotech industry, the home of firms such as Celera and Human Genome Sciences which, in parallel with the Human Genome Project, have pioneered the study of the human genetic code. Some of the federal labs have high-security classification because of their research into biohazards and infectious diseases.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The downside is, Wisconsin/Rockville Pike and other main arteries in the county are overburdened by development and traffic-choked, though the problem is an embarrassment of riches. Retail shops and other sources of commerce along the Pike are decidedly upscale, with expensive condos among the office towers and well-reviewed restaurants thriving in the suburb of Bethesda. New York Times columnist David Brooks mocked Bethesdans as “urban exiles” who frequent “anti-chain chain stores ... that cater to people who consider themselves too refined and individualistic to shop at the mall or the mass-market big-box stores.” Historically, the typical Montgomery County voter was a high-ranking civil servant. “A candidate knocking on doors in the 8th District can reasonably expect to be questioned about a government regulation by the person who wrote it,” once observed The Washington Post. But the picture is changing as growing private-sector employment outpaces government work, and new development reaches ever farther from D.C.’s borders to the far-flung cities of Gaithersburg and Germantown. Montgomery County is also becoming more racially and economically diverse. In 2006, the Census Bureau estimated that it was 17% African-American, 14% Hispanic, and 13% Asian. Many working-class neighborhoods have sprung up in Silver Spring and Wheaton just outside Washington.
The 8th Congressional District of Maryland includes most of the heavily populated parts of Montgomery County, which accounts for more than 90% of the district’s population. In 2002, redistricting added a slice of strongly Democratic territory in neighboring Prince George’s County. Perhaps the 8th’s most unique precinct is Leisure World in Silver Spring, with its 6,000-plus senior citizens and an extraordinarily high voter-turnout rate. Democratic candidates practically camp out there during the primary season. This is the most Democratic white-majority district in the state. But still, the district has the largest share of Latinos in Maryland.