By Josh Kurtz
It’s easy to try to pigeonhole and stereotype the Democratic candidates now running for the 6th District congressional seat.
David Trone is the rich guy who will bombard the airwaves and attempt to buy the seat, which he came close to doing in the 8th District in 2016.
Del. Aruna Miller is the “women’s candidate” who is also best equipped to appeal to minority voters.
State Sen. Roger Manno is the guy with Capitol Hill experience who will get a ton of labor support.
State House Majority Leader Bill Frick is the insider’s candidate with superior legislative skills who has spent years charming Democratic activists.
The narrative holds up to a degree — and outlines, in very rough terms, the candidates’ relative tactical strengths. But will they be determinative when the voters actually go to the polls?
What we have here, just as we did in the 2016 District 8 Democratic primary, is an incredibly strong field of talented, appealing candidates. And this time, unlike 2016 with Jamie Raskin, no one starts with a solid and unshakable base of voters. Democratic voters may or may not choose to be strategic and try to figure out who would make the strongest general election nominee.
So these candidates will have to be strategic as they try to woo voters, building on their strengths, navigating a volatile national political environment and a rapidly changing district. With luck they’ll appeal to the voters’ best instincts and not their worst. They’ve got their work cut out for them.
The Republican side could have an equally appealing array of candidates — and a muddled field. Already former Del. Matt Mossburg, who has a scary yet inspiring story to tell about his battles with addiction, is in the race. If he can get attention and traction, he could be formidable in a district that has been ravaged by the opioid crisis.
Amie Hoeber, the free-spending former Defense Department official who was the GOP nominee in 2016, also may run again. While she has an uneasy relationship with the party establishment due to her moderate social views, there is a lane for her in this primary and she could be a force.
If state Labor Secretary Kelly Schulz runs, she’ll be the favorite of the party establishment, and if Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is fully behind her, she will benefit enormously.
But Schulz has never run a campaign of this scale before. Hogan would surely love her in Congress, but may not be willing to invest the political capital to get her there. The courts — or his own pen, in a second term — could impact the contours of this district to the GOP’s benefit before too long.
So we have highly competitive primaries in both parties and a general election, with Hogan at the top of the ticket, that’s sure to be close as well. Who wins then?