Could a Veteran GOP Lawmaker Be in Trouble in Tuesday’s Primary?

Could state Sen. Gail H. Bates be surprised Tuesday in the Republican primary? Reid J. Novotny, Bates’ Republican challenger in District 9, concedes that the incumbent, who has over 15 years of experience in Annapolis, is a tough opponent. But he is confident of victory—he told Bates even before launching his campaign in February that he will win. And he says he is even more optimistic now because he “met so many great people and it has been such a great experience.”  Sen. Gail H. Bates  Novotny insists that the primary is not about Bates.   “I’ve never said I’m running against Gail Bates,” Novotny said. “I am actually running for the position that is elected every four years and I am running on what I believe I can contribute to people down in Annapolis.” Yet everything Novotny is doing to woo Republican voters in the district, which takes in mostly rural parts of Howard and Carroll counties, attempts to draws contrasts between the 72-year-old lawmaker and himself. Bates did not respond to frequent requests for comment, and an aide said she was too busy to be interviewed. Her website seeks to contrast her resume with Novotny’s, saying she offers voters “assured policy experience.” Novotny, who had previously served in the Air Force for 15 years, said he wants to bring “a new perspective to Annapolis.” Novotny is 40; his campaign website https://www.howardcarroll.com/ features a movie trailer-like video that features him running, “Rocky”-style, up the State House steps. He is also trying to draw ideological contrasts.  Reid J. Novotny  Novotny said his vision of bringing a “new conservative leadership [from] day one and every day after” to the legislature has been a long-time goal. “This is not something I thought of last night,” he said. “I have been driven towards public service my entire life.” Novotny argues that Bates is not conservative enough and says on his website that Maryland has slipped “further and further into the ideals of the progressive left.” He specifically pointed out that her average lifetime rating by The American Conservative Union Foundation is 63 percent. However, her yearly rating increased from 53 percent in 2016 to 70 percent in 2017 – and she was tied for second among Maryland senators in the 2017 ACU scorecard. Novotny has targeted Bates for voting in favor of a budget increase for the current fiscal year. He said that if elected, he will introduce the Refund Act of 2019, which gives government agencies incentives to run more efficiently and returns the savings to taxpayers. “I don’t want to say…that I am going to take the conservative vote every single time,” Novotny said. However, he believes “the conservative nature of the electorate” is neglected and “it is important to represent them well.” Novotny’s website features pictures of him with Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), and the candidate says the governor “needs new conservative leadership” in Annapolis. Novotny has not raised much money for his effort, however. Through June 10, he had just $3,600 in his campaign account. Bates was sitting on more than $73,000. Bates was appointed to the House of Delegates in 2002 and served there until 2015. She was elected to the Senate in 2014, winning a seat left vacant when Allan H. Kittleman (R) was elected Howard County executive. She previously served as chief of staff to then-Del. Donald E. Murphy (R-Baltimore County) from 1999 to 2002. Bates’ campaign website features pictures of her on the Senate floor, but most of the text has not been updated since she was in the House. A section on the website about her legislative work touts her House bills. “For the past 14 years I have had the privilege to serve you in the Maryland House of Delegates and most recently in the Maryland State Senate,” Bates says on her site. “During that time, I led on our state’s most important issues with fiscal discipline, integrity, and bipartisanship. “As I run again to be your State Senator for the 9th District, I pledge to continue to provide Howard and Carroll Counties positive and in-touch leadership together with assured policy experience.”

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