Congressional Incumbents Win Big But Redistricting Could Shake Everything Up in 2022

Kweisi Mfume hugs a supporter after winning the special Democratic congressional primary on Feb. 5. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

Republican Kimberly Klacik spent millions of dollars on a high-profile challenge to Congressman Kweisi Mfume, but she still couldn’t move the needle Tuesday in the heavily Democratic 7th congressional district.

Badly outspent, a rarity for an incumbent, Mfume won a full term, with 73% of the vote as of 1 a.m. Wednesday ― roughly the same margin by which he beat Klacik in a late April special election. The vote total included 99% of the Election Day turnout ― meaning there are still a few outstanding mail-in ballots, but not much more.

In his victory speech late Tuesday night, Mfume promised to work in Congress on behalf of families struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with small businesses and health care workers.

“To those who are old and young, black and white, Latino and Asian, gay and straight, suburban and inner city, I am happy to be here as your congressperson,” he said. “…And I hold out outstretched arms, willing and wanting to listen to you, to work with you, to build with you, to share with you, and to dream with you about a better day in our communities where all of us find a way, at the very least, to take care of ourselves, our neighbors and our children.”

All seven of Maryland’s other congressional incumbents easily won re-election. The state’s delegation in the House of Representatives will remain the same as it’s been since 2013, with seven Democrats and one Republican.

Two Republican members of the General Assembly, Baltimore County state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling and Washington County Del. Neil C. Parrott, were among the losers in congressional races Tuesday. But they didn’t have to give up their legislative seats this year to seek higher office.

In the 1st District, five-term Rep. Andrew P Harris, the state’s lone Republican in Congress, beat Democrat Mia Mason, 65% to 35%.

In the 2nd District, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) won a ninth term by beating Salling, 68% to 32%.

In the 3rd District, seven-term Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D) defeated Republican Charles Anthony, 71% to 29%.

In the 4th District, Rep. Anthony G. Brown, the state’s former lieutenant governor, won a third term by defeating Republican George McDermott, 81% to 19%.

In the 5th District, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D), who has served in Congress since 1981, defeated Christopher Palombi, 71% to 29%.

In the 6th District, Rep. David J. Trone (D), who was seeking a second term, defeated Parrott, 60% to 39%.

And in the 8th District, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D), won a third term by defeating Republican Gregory Coll, 65% to 35%.

Although the outcome of the race between Mfume and Klacik was never in doubt, the race attracted national publicity after Klacik was endorsed and promoted by President Trump. Last year, a video that Klacik produced spotlighting the poverty and dilapidated conditions in certain Baltimore neighborhoods prompted a tweetstorm by Trump, who attacked Democrats and specifically, then-Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D), who died last fall.

Klacik spoke at the virtual Republican National Convention earlier this year, and that enabled her to raise a boatload of money ― $7.3 million through late October. But it was hard to tell if Klacik was serious about a congressional seat or just wanted to attract attention, build a brand, and possibly audition for a Fox News slot.

We gave it our best shot!” Klacik wrote on Twitter late Tuesday night. “So proud of my team. It’s sad someone that doesn’t lift a finger could win a congressional seat just by name, but this is not the end.”

Klacik went on to warn Mfume: “Prepare to be held accountable like never before.”

Mfume, who previously spent a decade in Congress before winning his old seat back earlier this year, was dismissive of his challenger’s bid on Tuesday night.

“We need proven leadership,” he said. “This job is not a beauty contest. It is not a job that you ride into on training wheels. It is one that cries out for other things that are more important. It is not one that you buy with obscene amounts of money, and endless TV commercials. This is a job that you earn. And you earn it day in and day out.”

Klacik would not be the first unsuccessful Maryland congressional candidate to go that route: Dan Bongino, who was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 2012 and for the 6th District House seat in 2014, has since moved to Florida and is a regular commentator on Fox.

All the incumbents with the exception of Mfume benefited from overflowing campaign war chests, dwarfing the fundraising of their opponents. But many chose to hold on to a significant portion of their money, even as they gave generously to other congressional candidates and party committees.

The next round of congressional elections in Maryland, in 2022, could be fought under drastically different conditions, with congressional redistricting likely to take place during a special session of the legislature in summer or fall of 2021.

Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. and the Democratic supermajority in the legislature will both have a say on what the congressional boundaries will look like. It’s also possible that the map could be redrawn by a court.

Either way, Maryland’s congressional incumbents must prepare for the possibility that they will be running in significantly different and potentially hostile territory the next time around ― and that they might even be thrown into a district with one of their fellow incumbents.

Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.

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