Eight races for Senate
Democrats currently hold a commanding 33-14 seat edge in the upper chamber, but if Republicans can flip five seats, they’ll make it exceedingly difficult for the legislature to override any of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan’s (R) vetoes, assuming Hogan wins a second term. In 2014, Hogan won nine districts held by Democratic senators, and the GOP is targeting seven or eight of them. Meanwhile, the Democrats are on offense in one or two districts with Republican senators.
Strategists in both parties agree that the GOP will pick up seats in November. But no one is prepared to say how many.
Here is a look at what appear to be the eight most competitive state Senate races in the state:
3rd District (Frederick County)
This is increasingly Democratic territory, especially in the city of Frederick. But Sen. Ronald N. Young (D), who turns 78 this fall and has been active in local politics since the early 1970’s, cannot escape the general sense among voters and insiders that he has been around too long and is out of gas. Some Democratic strategists privately concede that they’d have a better chance of holding the district with a different nominee.
Craig Giangrande, a local businessman who owns a bunch of Burger King franchises. He’s not setting the world on fire as a candidate, but he’s not cut from the same mold as certain Frederick-area Republicans who are controversial conservative ideologues. As of late August, the candidates had similar-sized campaign war chests. So it looks like this should be a pretty competitive race.
Giangrande campaign website: www.giangrandeforsenate.com
Young campaign website: www.senatoronyoung.com
8th District (Baltimore County)
This is one of the few legislative districts in the state that, in recent years, has sent both Democrats and Republicans to Annapolis at the same time, and Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier, a moderate Democrat and former PTA activist with deep roots in the community, fits the eastern Baltimore County district well. She was first elected to the Senate in 2002 after eight years in the House of Delegates.
But Klausmeier is facing an aggressive challenge from first-term Del. Christian J. Miele (R), who is half her age and enjoys strong support from Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who is sure to rack up strong support in the district.
Miele campaign website: www.mieleformaryland.com
Klausmeier campaign website: www.kathyklausmeier.com
9th District (Howard and Carroll counties)
This is one of the few districts where the Democrats hope to be on offense in the fall. They are very high on their nominee, Katie Fry Hester, who has worked as a policy expert for nonprofits. She’s a serious and well-funded candidate in a district that has proven to be a challenge for Democrats in the past.
The incumbent senator, Gail H. Bates, who has served in Annapolis since 2002 and served as chief of staff to a former lawmaker for three years before that, had to fend off a challenge from the right in this year’s Republican primary. Because this district, which is partly suburban and partly rural, contains so much conservative territory, Bates must be considered the favorite. But both parties are watching the contest closely.
Bates campaign website: www.gailbatesforsenate.com
Hester campaign website: www.katiefryhester.com
28th District (Charles County)
It’s hard to say whether this will truly be a competitive race or whether Republicans are simply hoping it will be. What’s incontrovertible is that the longtime incumbent, Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton (D), the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, will not be on the ballot in November. He was upset in the Democratic primary by Arthur Ellis, an Air Force veteran and accountant. In a rapidly changing county, the primary had major racial undertones, and several of Middleton’s core supporters are bitter about the campaign Ellis waged.
In an attempt to take advantage of the internal Democratic discord, Republicans prevailed on their longshot Senate nominee to stand aside and have nominated in his place Bill Dotson, a wealthy local businessman and chairman of the Charles County GOP.
Charles County is about to become majority-black and has turned into a Democratic stronghold over the past decade. Whether there is enough Democratic disharmony to give Dotson a legitimate shot is very much an open question, but Republicans are cautiously optimistic and Democrats are taking nothing for granted.
Dotson campaign website: www.electbilldotson.com
Ellis campaign website: arthurellis.us
30th District (Anne Arundel County)
There are several political crosscurrents at play in this Annapolis-based district, where Sen. John C. Astle (D) is retiring after six terms. Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) will do very well in the district, but it is also home to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D), who has a potent political operation of his own. The city of Annapolis shifted perceptibly to the left in 2017 municipal elections, and the district seems like the kind of place where a national blue wave could take hold.
The Republican nominee is former Del. Ronald A. George, a local jewelry store owner who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014. He has been running for the Senate seat for three years and got a significant head start on the fundraising front. He may be a tad to the right of the district as a whole, but is a known and respected quantity in local politics and civic affairs.
The Democratic nominee is Sarah Elfreth, a party and community activist who is just 30 years old. She is running an aggressive shoe leather campaign and is benefiting both from the Busch organization and the presence on the House ballot of Alice Johnson Cain and other impressive women who are running for local offices in Anne Arundel County. This race looks like a complete jump ball and may be determined by outside political forces.
George campaign website: www.rongeorge.us
Elfreth campaign website: www.sarahelfreth.com
Also running: Libertarian Christopher Wallace Sr., www.chriswallacesr.com
32nd District (Anne Arundel County)
Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., conservative Democrat, defines the district well. But after 20 years in the Senate and four years on the County Council before that, he is stepping down, setting up a competitive race to replace him.
Although the Glen Burnie-based district is conservative in many respects, it has generally maintained its loyalty to Democrats, which is why Del. Pamela G. Beidle (D) is the slight favorite to replace DeGrange. She is undoubtedly more liberal than the departing incumbent, but she and her husband run a local insurance business, and she is well known in the community.
The Republican nominee is County Councilman John C. Grasso, a political gadfly who is never afraid to speak his mind – a tendency that occasionally gets him into hot water. In early October, for example, he criticized Muslims and immigrants — and was roundly criticized by The Capital newspaper. Grasso is running an unconventional campaign – earlier in the election cycle, after first stating his intention to run for Senate, he jumped into the county exec race instead before jumping back – and he does not have a campaign website. But he cannot be counted out in a district where Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) will do very well.
Beidle campaign website: www.pambeidle.com
38th District (Lower Shore)
Sen. James N. Mathias Jr. is one of the most endangered Democrats on the ballot this fall – but he also always seems to manage to defy odds and expectations. He’s a Democrat with a brand all his own, separate and distinct from national and state Democrats – and that serves him well on the Eastern Shore, where he served for 10 years as mayor of Ocean City before joining the legislature in 2006.
But this time, Mathias has his toughest opponent yet: Del. Mary Beth Carozza, who has worked for President George W. Bush, for Republicans on Capitol Hill, and for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). Her race is a top priority for state GOP leaders.
Yet Mathias has proven to be an unstoppable force as a fundraiser – he had more than $270,000 in his campaign account in late August, almost twice as much as Carozza’s war chest. This race is a tossup – though all the fundamentals favor the challenger.
Carozza campaign website: www.marybethcarozza.com
Mathias campaign website: www.jimmathias.com
42nd District (Baltimore County)
Most political strategists agree that with state Sen. James Brochin (D) retiring after an unsuccessful run for Baltimore County executive this year, his seat is likely to flip to GOP control.
The Republican nominee is Del. Christopher West, who has run a solid campaign and seeded it with an early $200,000 investment from his own pocket, keeping other potential GOP contenders at bay. The Democratic nominee is Robbie Leonard, an attorney and former county Democratic chairman. Leonard is running an energetic campaign, and while registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in a district that runs from Towson through very conservative territory to the Pennsylvania state line, the district tends to vote Republican – Brochin’s success was something of an anomaly.
West campaign website: www.electchriswest.com
Leonard campaign website: www.robbieleonardforsenate.com
Eight races for House of Delegates
With so much focus on Republicans’ bid to pick up five state Senate seats this November – which would enable them to sustain Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s (R) vetoes, assuming he wins a second term – competitive House races aren’t getting nearly as much attention.
While Republicans are targeting at least six Senate seats, it appears as if House Democrats are playing offense in more districts than they are on defense. The candidates’ latest fundraising reports, which were made public Tuesday, show the contours of the most competitive races.
Currently, Democrats hold a 91-50 edge in the House. It takes 85 votes to override a governor’s veto. Over the course of the last two election cycles, Republicans have picked up 14 House seats.
District 2B – Washington County
The race in this subdistrict, based in Hagerstown, features one of the legislature’s newest members, Del. Paul D. Corderman (R), against the former chairman of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee, Peter E. Perini Sr.
Corderman, a former Hagerstown city councilman, was appointed to the seat late last year to replace former Del. Brett Wilson (R), who became a Circuit Court judge. His family members have also been active in local politics.
Washington County sent Democrats to Annapolis as recently as 2010, and President Trump carried District 2B by less than 500 votes two years ago. The two candidates are very close on the fundraising front.
Corderman campaign website: www.paulcorderman.com
Perini campaign website: www.peterperini.org
District 3B – Frederick County
This subdistrict, south of the city of Frederick, is starting to look a little more like nearby Montgomery County these days, demographically and politically, than the rest of Frederick County, and Democrats think they have a shot against first-term Del. William Folden (R).
The Democratic nominee is Ken Kerr, a community college professor and elected member of the Frederick County Board of Education.
Folden campaign website: www.foldenfordelegate.com
Kerr campaign website: www.kenkerrfordelegate.com
District 8 – Baltimore County
This is one of the swingiest of the state’s swing districts. It is hosting one of the most competitive state Senate elections of the year, and has had a partisan split in the House delegation for decades. Two of the district’s incumbents, Del. Eric Bromwell (D) and Del. Joe Cluster (R), are favored to return.
Which means the other four candidates – former Del. Joseph C. Boteler III and businessman Joe Norman on the Republican side, and former school administrator Harry Bhandari and university administrator Carl Jackson for the Democrats – may effectively be competing for one seat, with the other incumbent, Del. Christian J. Miele (R), running for Senate. Bhandari had far and away the most money as of Aug. 21. And Bromwell’s take could get bigger this fall since he will become vice chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee in 2019, assuming he returns. That means a lot of special interest money could be coming his way, given that committee’s broad portfolio.
Boteler, who previously served three terms in the House, does not have a campaign website.
Cluster campaign website: www.joecluster.com
Norman campaign website: www.JoeForMD.com
Bhandari campaign website: www.harryforstatedelegate.com
Bromwell campaign website: www.ericbromwell.com
Jackson campaign website: www.votecarljackson.com
District 9B – Howard County
This is the marquee House race of the cycle, featuring two political heavyweights – Del. Robert L. Flanagan (R), who is finishing his fifth term in Annapolis and also served as Transportation secretary in the Ehrlich administration, and former Howard County Councilwoman Courtney Watson (D), who ran unsuccessfully for county executive four years ago.
Flanagan is one of the smartest and canniest lawmakers around, but Watson is a relentless campaigner who has been working hard to rehabilitate her political reputation since losing the countywide race. Their war chests are almost identical, and this should be a slugfest to the end.
Flanagan campaign website: www.flanaganfordelegate.com
Watson campaign website: www.courtneywatson9b.com
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District 29B – St. Mary’s County
Democrats are sky-high on their candidate, Brian M. Crosby, an Army ranger. But the district, based around the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, is very conservative. First-term Del. Deb Rey (R), also a military veteran, was a giant-killer in 2014, ousting then-Del. John C. Bohanan, a rising star in House leadership. She has a significant fundraising advantage as well.
Rey campaign website: www.debreyfordelegate.com
Crosby campaign website: www.bc4md.com
District 30A – Anne Arundel County
This is the home turf for House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D), based in Annapolis, but the second seat in the district was held for the past four years by Del. Herb McMillan (R), who chose not to seek reelection.
This gives Democrats a chance to pick up McMillan’s seat, and they’re high on their second candidate, Alice Johnson Cain, a former Capitol Hill staffer and leader of an education think-tank. The Republicans in the race – both dangerously underfunded – are Chelsea Gill, a scheduler, and Bob O’Shea, a business consultant. Out of the blue, Busch underwent heart bypass surgery in September. While that may limit his ability to appear on the campaign trail between now and Election Day, it’s hard to say whether that will impact the political dynamic in the district.
Gill campaign website: www.chelseagillfordelegate.com
O’Shea campaign website: www.boboshea.com
Busch campaign website: www.speakerbusch.com
Cain campaign website: www.alicejcain.com
District 31A – Anne Arundel County
First-term Del. Ned Carey (D) has a decent-sized war chest, but in a conservative district where Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) is going to do well, Democrats always have to be careful. The Republican, Army veteran and businessman Brooks Bennett, is a solid candidate with a harrowing, compelling story to tell about his family being victims of a violent home break-in. He’s made being tough on crime a top priority.
Carey is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, and on his website refers to himself as “our hometown guy” who has lived in one house in Brooklyn Park for his entire life. This stands in contrast to Bennett, whose military service has taken him all around the globe.
Bennett campaign website: www.brookslbennett.com
Carey campaign website: www.nedcarey4delegate.com
District 34A – Harford County
Del. Mary Ann Lisanti is the last Democrat standing in Harford County right now. But in a cycle when she could be targeted, she has shown fundraising and political strength and has organized Democrats in the county up and down the ballot. The Republican incumbent in this subdistrict, Del. Glen Glass, has been a remarkably weak fundraiser. Many political professionals were surprised when Havre de Grace City Councilwoman Monica Worrell did not emerge from the Republican primary; she would have been a strong contender in the general election.
The other candidates this November are J.D. Russell (R), who owns a real estate management company, and small businessman Steve Johnson (D). The incumbents must be considered the favorites, but neither has much margin for error.
Glass campaign website: www.glenglassworks.com
Russell campaign website: www.electjd.com
Johnson campaign website: www.friendsofstevejohnson.com
Lisanti campaign website: www.maryannlisanti.com