Here are the 10 Most Vulnerable House Incumbents in This Month's Primaries

It’s well documented by now that several Democratic state senators face peril in the June 26 primaries. But guess what? Several House members – Democrats and Republicans – could also be in trouble that day. House races have different dynamics than Senate races. With candidates competing, in most districts, for three seats rather than one, funky things can happen – especially if at least one incumbent isn’t seeking reelection. Incumbents generally like running with other incumbents. There’s safety in numbers, especially if the incumbents form a ticket, making it harder for challengers to break through. But incumbents occasionally get lazy. In some cases, it has been years since they have had a competitive election. Combine a vacancy (or two) in a district with energetic, well-funded challengers, and anything can happen. And then, each district – or subdistrict – has its own dynamic. Sometimes districts change faster than incumbents can adapt. Or alliances shift. Or powerful figures come and go. Some House members will be vulnerable in the general election – but that’s a different list, to be determined after the primaries. Some of the vulnerable lawmakers discussed here will no doubt survive. And there are at least a few others who could be included here but narrowly escaped the list. We’ve put them in an “honorable mention” category. They could lose, too. Or win. And there could be a couple of people whose losses will be completely out of the blue. Remember, this is a fairly subjective list, based on conversations with several smart political people. So here is a look at the 10 most vulnerable House incumbents in the upcoming primaries: Del. Christopher T. Adams (R-Middle Shore) The first-term lawmaker and local businessman has not managed his politics and his relationships as well as he might. And he stunned local business leaders when he voted against a bill this year that would have made it easier for microbreweries to expand and thrive – considering he has so many of them in his district. Two Republican challengers are running aggressive campaigns: Keith Graffius, who owns specialty shops on the Eastern Shore, and Mimi Gedamu, a Salisbury-based businesswoman and social conservative. Del. Curtis S. Anderson (D-Baltimore City)  After weeks of puzzling behavior — divorcing himself from his running mates in District 43, hastily trying to resign as chairman of the city’s legislative delegation and keeping a very, very low profile — Anderson is now the subject of an internal ethics committee investigation in Annapolis over alleged sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, according to The Baltimore Sun. Anderson has denied the allegations and voters can be forgiving. But given the dynamics in the district, it’s hard to see how he survives. Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D) and Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D) have cast their lot with community activist Regina T. Boyce. And Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, chief medical officer of Health Care for the Homeless, is the favorite of some progressive activists, has been door-knocking and raising money aggressively. Del. Alfred C. Carr Jr. (D-Montgomery)   In a district where two of the three incumbents are departing – one is running for the state Senate, the other for County Council – you’d think the third incumbent would be safe, right? But the 18th District is a classic example of what happens when there are two vacancies – the quantity and quality of the challengers is highly impressive, and Carr has never been a high-profile leader or aggressive fundraiser. Four of the seven non-incumbent candidates in the primary had considerably more cash on hand than Carr in mid-May, and a fifth was very close. What might save Carr is his prior service on the Kensington Town Council; it gives him a base that some of the other candidates don’t have. Del. Angela C. Gibson (D-Baltimore City)  The 41st District is going through dramatic upheaval, and even though she has been a fixture on the local political scene for several years, Gibson was appointed to the seat in early 2017 and has never won a legislative election there. She had just $5,100 in her campaign account as of mid-May, after raising exactly zero in the weeks following the General Assembly session (She had not filed her latest campaign finance statement, as required, late last week). Gibson could benefit from being on a ticket with the other incumbent, Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg (D), but there are so many political crosscurrents in the district that it may not be enough.  Del. James W. Gilchrist (D-Montgomery)  The guy had no campaign website for months. He just started posting, sparingly, to his Facebook page about three weeks ago after a hiatus of almost four years. He has no Twitter account. He has a pretty low profile in his district and in Annapolis, despite serving there for three terms. He does have a valuable ally in his district-mate, House Environment and Transportation Chairman Kumar P. Barve (D), who has formed a slate with Gilchrist and Rockville City Councilwoman Julie Palakovich Carr. But the district’s senator, Cheryl C. Kagan, is no fan, and attorney Julian Haffner, who is married to Gaithersburg City Councilwoman Laurie-Anne Sayles, is running an energetic campaign. Kagan pointedly refused to endorse Gilchrist, opting for Barve, Palkovich Carr and Haffner. Del. Richard K. Impallaria (R-Harford)  He spent two days in jail last year for drunk driving, following multiple citations. He’s a provocateur who isn’t particularly close with his fellow District 7 incumbents. He had just $12,000 in his campaign account as of mid-May. With one of the district’s incumbents, Patrick L. McDonough, running for Baltimore County executive, several Republicans are running aggressively in this Harford-Baltimore County district. One of the challengers, Tammy Larkin, a longtime conservative activist, has been endorsed by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), the district’s senator, Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, and Baltimore County Councilman David Marks (R). Del. Robbyn T. Lewis (D-Baltimore City)  The incumbents in South Baltimore’s District 46 – Sen. William C. Ferguson IV, Lewis, and Dels. Luke Clippinger and Brooke E. Lierman, are running together as a slate. And Lewis, who was appointed to the seat last year, is highly regarded at home and in Annapolis. But as the newcomer who has never been on the ballot, Lewis is likely the weak link among the incumbents. And they are facing an incredibly aggressive challenge from Nathaniel Loewentheil, a former Obama administration official who has raised in the neighborhood of $200,000 for the primary and has a hard to forget slogan, “Nate for State.” Lewis had far less in her campaign account than her slate-mates. They are helping her with joint mailers. But she is probably also hurt by the presence of Dea Thomas, who ran a credible race for City Council in 2016, in this primary.  Del. Michael E. Malone (R-Anne Arundel)  Anne Arundel County Councilman Jerry Walker (R) is running against three Republican incumbents in District 33, which includes Crofton, Crownsville and other Anne Arundel communities, and the consensus is that he’s going to win one of the seats. He’s quite well known in the district and had $174,000 in his campaign account as of June 10 – anywhere from three to nine times as much as the incumbents. Malone is one of the vulnerable lawmakers because he was appointed to the seat and has never been on the ballot before. He had $36,000 in his war chest earlier this month. Del. W. Anthony McConkey (R-Anne Arundel)  See above. McConkey is also one of the incumbents endangered by Walker’s candidacy. Although McConkey is completing his fourth term, he has never had a firm hold on the district, isn’t a strong fundraiser and isn’t universally beloved by his colleagues. There was an infamous dust-up at a GOP unity event four years ago when he failed to shake a fellow delegate’s hand, and tempers flared. He’s had some professional woes as well.   Del. Charles E. Sydnor III (D-Baltimore County)  Something is happening in District 44B, a two-seat subdistrict that takes in communities like Woodlawn and Catonsville, and there’s a growing consensus that Sydnor, a first-term lawmaker, could be one of the odd men out. Some political professionals believe Aisha Khan, a local businesswoman with an inspiring immigration story, will win one of the seats.  OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: –Del. Benjamin S. Barnes (D-Prince George’s)–Del. Diana M. Fennell (D-Prince George’s)–Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo (D-Montgomery)–Del. Glen Glass (R-Harford)–Del. Marvin E. Holmes Jr. (D-Prince George’s)–Del. A. Shane Robinson (D-Montgomery)–Del. Carlo Sanchez (D-Prince George’s)–Del. Kriselda Valderrama (D-Prince George’s)–Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George’s)–Del. Patrick G. Young Jr. (D-Baltimore County) [email protected]

Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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