GOP’s ‘Drive for Five’ Stalls

Sen. Ronald N. Young (D), who won a third term, at Frederick County Democratic headquarters Tuesday night. Photo by Yue Zhang

Heading into the election, Maryland Republicans had two principal goals: Reelect Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. and take away Democrats’ veto-proof majority in the state Senate to bolster Hogan’s second term.

The first part of the strategy succeeded in spectacular fashion, with Hogan winning by almost 15 points. But Hogan was unable to spin political gold farther down the ballot: With a couple of results possibly hanging on absentee ballots, Republicans may have only picked up one seat – well short of the five they were seeking.

If Tuesday night’s results hold, when the new General Assembly takes office in January, Democrats will hold 32 seats in the Senate, compared to 15 for the Republicans.

Only one Democratic incumbent fell by the wayside Tuesday night: Sen. James C. Mathias Jr. of the Lower Shore. A durable politician who formerly served as mayor of Ocean City, he could not overcome the political headwinds, in a district that Hogan carried by 40 points in 2014. He lost to first-term Del. Mary Beth Carozza (R), 53 percent to 47 percent.

Republicans also picked up the vacant seat in Baltimore County’s 42nd District, where Del. Christopher R. West (R) defeated attorney Robbie Leonard (D), 51.7 percent to 48.2 percent – a far closer margin than many political professionals expected. West will replace Democratic Sen. James Brochin, who gave up the seat to run unsuccessfully for Baltimore County executive this year.

In an upset, Democrat Katie Fry Hester appears to have ousted Sen. Gail H. Bates (R) in the 9th District, which takes in parts of Howard and Carroll counties. Hester finished 172 votes ahead, meaning the outcome could ultimately be affected by absentee ballots.

The most competitive Senate battles largely took place on turf favorable to the GOP. Hogan was expected to run up big margins over former NAACP president Benjamin T. Jealous (D) in the most closely-fought Senate districts.

But Democrats were able to overcome that trend in the 3rd District, in Frederick County, where two-term Sen. Ronald N. Young (D) – whose political career dates back to the early 1970’s – was able to hold off businessman Craig Giangrande (R), and in the 30th District, in Anne Arundel County, where Democratic and civic activist Sarah K. Elfreth topped former Del. Ronald A. George (R). Young beat Giangrande, 58 percent to 42 percent. Elfreth beat George, 53 percent to 45 percent.

More dramatically, four-term Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier (D) was able to hang on in her Baltimore County district, edging out first-term Del. Christian J. Miele (R) by 554 votes in a district where Hogan was immensely popular. Miele conceded Tuesday night.

In three other districts where Republicans were bidding to pick up seats, the Democrats won big: in Anne Arundel County’s 32nd District, where Del. Pamela G. Beidle (D) defeated County Councilman John J. Grasso (R) to replace retiring Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr. (D); in the 12th District, which takes in parts of Howard and Baltimore counties, where Del. Clarence K. Lam (D) beat businessman Joe Hooe (R) to replace retiring Senate Budget and Taxation Chairman Edward J. Kasemeyer (D); and in Charles County’s 28th District, where Arthur Ellis (D), a CPA, defeated businessman Bill Dotson (R).

Ellis had upset Senate Finance Chairman Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton (D) in an acrimonious Democratic primary, and Republicans had hoped to capitalize on the Democratic discord. But Charles County is close to being majority-black and is now heavily Democratic, so Ellis was able to hang on.

In Harford County’s 34th District, Sen. Robert Cassilly (R) topped former Del. Mary-Dulany James (D) by just 399 votes in a rematch from four years ago. The outcome could be impacted by absentee ballots, but Democrats are not optimistic about reversing the results.

In all, assuming Tuesday night’s results hold, the Senate will be welcoming 17 new members in January:

District 9: Hester

District 12: Lam

District 18 (Montgomery): Del. Jeff Waldstreicher (D)

District 19 (Montgomery): Del. Benjamin Kramer (D)

District 25 (Prince George’s): Former Del. Melony G. Griffith (D)

District 26 (Prince George’s): County Councilman Obie Patterson (D)

District 28: Ellis

District 29 (Calvert and St. Mary’s): Former Natural Resources police officer Jack Bailey (R)

Dist. 30: Elfreth

Dist. 32: Beidle

Dist. 35 (Harford and Cecil): Farmer Jason C. Gallion (R)

Dist. 38: Carozza

Dist. 40 (Baltimore City): Del. Antonio Hayes (D)

Dist. 42: West

Dist. 43 (Baltimore City): Del. Mary Washington (D)

Dist. 45 (Baltimore City): Del. Cory V. McCray (D)

Dist. 47 (Prince George’s): Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority member Malcolm Augustine (D)

In addition, Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City), who was appointed to the job following the resignation of scandal-laden former Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks (D), won a full term on Tuesday in the 41st District, and will serve her first session in Annapolis come January.

Sixteen women will be serving in the Senate, a record number.

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