By Josh Kurtz
As many as five freshman members of the House of Delegates could challenge incumbent state senators in 2018 – and several should be going public with their plans soon.
Last week, with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) by his side, Del. Christian Miele (R) announced that he would challenge four-term Baltimore County Sen. Kathy Klausmeier (D) next year [see here].
Hogan plans to repeat the exercise later this month, when he’s scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for the Maryland Republican Party on June 26 with Del. Mary Beth Carozza (R) at Seacrets in Ocean City. Hogan has traditionally appeared with Carozza at a fundraiser timed to the annual Maryland Municipal League meeting in Ocean City. While Carozza is unlikely to say anything about her political plans on the 26th, she is expected to announce in the fall that she is challenging Sen. Jim Mathias (D), a former Ocean City mayor who has served in the legislature since 2006.
Both are top-tier Senate races that will help determine whether Republicans can cut into the Democrats’ veto-proof majority in the upper chamber.
But at the same time, three intraparty scrums could also be on the docket – and two of the potential challengers are holding fundraisers this week.
On Tuesday evening, Del. Shelly Hettleman (D) will be raising money at Citron Restaurant along Quarry Lake in Baltimore County. Several progressive groups are urging Hettleman to challenge Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D) next year – and she is widely believed to be mulling the possibility.
Hettleman did not respond to messages from Maryland Matters this week. She is a protégé of U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D) – who is known for his abundant caution.
House Speaker Mike Busch (D) was scheduled to attend Hettleman’s fundraiser, but is unlikely to be in attendance following his recent liver transplant. However, House Appropriations Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh (D) is due to be there.
Zirkin, the chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, has drawn criticism from liberal Democrats for a few different reasons: He has appeared at fundraisers for Republicans on his committee. He endorsed Republican Allan Kittleman during the 2014 campaign for Howard County executive. And this year, he was critical of the Democrats’ paid sick leave legislation and the House-passed Trust Act, designed to offer extra protections to immigrants.
Zirkin had a substantial $483,000 in his campaign account as of mid-January, making any effort to oust him an uphill proposition. Hettleman reported $62,000 on hand at the time.
Meanwhile, Baltimore city Del. Cory McCray (D) has a fundraiser Wednesday night at The Champagne Ballroom in west Baltimore – which McIntosh is also scheduled to headline. The event comes as McCray contemplates challenging six-term Sen. Nathaniel McFadden (D), who is twice his age.
“I’m not going to announce anything at the fundraiser,” McCray said in an interview this week – though he confirmed he is actively considering the possibility of a Senate run.
In this instance, the money favors the potential challenger: McCray reported $82,000 in his campaign account in mid-January, while McFadden had $14,000 on hand.
On June 20, Baltimore city Del. Antonio Hayes (D) has an evening fundraiser scheduled at Mt. Vernon Market. Hayes – who did not respond to an email Monday afternoon – is expected to announce there that he is challenging Sen. Barbara Robinson (D), who was elevated to the post from the House after then-Sen. Catherine Pugh was elected mayor.
That would be another generational battle in which the challenger would start with a financial advantage. Hayes had $47,000 on hand in mid-January while Robinson had just under $20,000. Hayes is 39; Robinson does not list her age, but she received a bachelor’s degree in 1975.
Ana Faguy contributed to this report.