Top 20 House Primaries to Watch
Primaries for the Maryland House of Delegates, even if they seem clear-cut at first glance, usually have an air of uncertainty to them. It’s the nature of the three-seat district that makes them this way.
In races where there are multiple candidates competing for three seats, even if three seasoned incumbents are on the ballot, anything can happen. And often it does. The same is true in two-seat subdistricts.
The retirement of a venerable incumbent or two can also scramble the dynamic in any district — and can leave delegates who are seeking another term feeling jittery. A team of incumbents running together can be formidable. But incumbency is never a guarantee of success, especially if a sitting lawmaker faces a competitive challenger for the first time in a long time.
Precious few House districts will be competitive in the fall, even with Republicans facing strong tailwinds. Which means most of the action, and most of the clues about how different the House will look next year, will come in the July 19 primaries.
For this list, we’ve focused on districts with uncertain dynamics — where an incumbent or incumbents are departing, or where a veteran lawmaker may face some peril. Not every competitive race made it to the list; in all, we saw about two dozen.
So here are the primaries to watch, in numerical order by district:
District 3 (Frederick County) Democratic primary
The lines of this district shift every decade, and it’s become more Democratic over the years. In the previous legislative map, it was split between a two-seat subdistrict centered in the city of Frederick and a one-seat subdistrict to the south. Now it’s been merged into a three-seat Frederick-based district — but the only incumbent seeking reelection is Del. Ken Kerr (D), who represented the subdistrict to the south.
With Del. Karen Lewis Young (D) running for Senate and Del. Carol Krimm (D) retiring due to poor health, there are plenty of candidates running and a variety of approaches for the voters to choose from. Besides Kerr, who is completing his first term, the candidates are:
- Josh Bokee, a former Frederick city alderman who is married to a current alderwoman, Katie Nash (D). Both are lobbyists and seasoned policy hands; Bokee worked in the tech sector for 15 years and recently started a nonprofit to close the digital divide;
- Kris Fair, a former legislative director to Young who runs The Frederick Center, a community center for LGBTQ+ individuals. He’s been endorsed by half a dozen local elected officials, including Young and her husband, departing Sen. Ron Young (D), plus the Maryland State Teachers Association;
- William “Billy” Reid, a retired staff scientist at the National Institutes of Health who has been endorsed by Progressive Maryland and the Working Families Party;
- Karen Simpson, who is making her second bid for a House seat. She is a domestic violence and child welfare advocate who works for the Maryland State Retirement Agency;
- Stephen Slater, an attorney and former member of the Frederick County Democratic Central Committee;
- Tarolyn Thrasher, vice president of the Frederick NAACP who serves on myriad local boards and commissions and runs her own community videocast.
Kerr has been far and away the most aggressive fundraiser, relatively speaking: He had $40,793 in his war chest in mid-January.
District 4 (Frederick and Carroll counties) Republican primary
One of the biggest questions in this rural, conservative district is whether GOP voters will want a 90-year-old representing them in four years: Del. Barrie Ciliberti (R), who has held the seat since 2015 and previously represented a Montgomery County district in the 1990’s, turns 86 in July.
The Republican primary also features Del. Jesse Pippy, who briefly sought the district’s vacant state Senate seat before dropping back to the House race; April Fleming Miller, a parents’ rights advocate and former member of the Frederick County Board of Education; and Heath Barnes, a corporate human resources officer and volunteer firefighter who serves as burgess of Woodsboro.
Pippy seems like a shoo-in for a second term; he had $101,131 in his campaign account as of mid-January, along with $11,500 in debt from a personal loan to his campaign committee. No one else had more than $7,300 on hand.
District 5 (Carroll County) Republican primary
Del. April Rose (R) is the only incumbent seeking reelection; Del. Susan Krebs (R) has chosen to retire, while Del. Haven Shoemaker (R), the House minority whip, is running for Carroll County state’s attorney.
Rose and the district’s senator, Justin Ready (R), are running on a ticket with Chris Tomlinson, a state procurement official, conservative Republican activist and former political columnist. But it’s still a wide-open race with an array of GOP factions, featuring three Carroll County commissioners: Eric Bouchat, who is completing his first term, and Dennis Frazier and Steve Wantz, who are term-limited.
In a very conservative district, Frazier may be the closest thing to a moderate. He counts John F. Kennedy as a political hero and boasts of the county’s commitment to solar energy innovation and agricultural land preservation. He was recently endorsed by the Sierra Club.
- Scott Jendrek, a Sykesville businessman who has Krebs’ endorsement;
- Sallie B. Taylor, a former aide to Del. Dan Cox (R), President Trump’s preferred candidate for governor. Taylor was also a longtime aide to former U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.); and
- Scott Willens, a veterinarian and Army veteran.
The primary has been a low-budget affair so far. As of mid-April, Willens had the fattest war chest, reporting $19,946 on hand. Rose reported $16,990 in the bank as of mid-January. Everyone else reported less than $10,000 on hand.
District 6 (Baltimore County) Republican primary
All three incumbents are seeking reelection — Dels. Robin Grammer, Bob Long and Ric Metzgar, who were elected together in 2014 — and all are solid, vocal conservatives. But in a district with some of the Trumpiest precincts in the state, they are facing mega-MAGA challengers from the right who are going after the incumbents — and each other — with gusto.
The Trumpiest are Tim Fazenbaker, who finished third in the 2nd District Republican congressional primary two years ago; Valerie McDonough, the wife of former Del. Pat McDonough (R), the anti-immigration radio personality who was Trumpy before President Trump sought political office (Pat McDonough is running for Baltimore County executive this year); and Robert H. Bird, whose social media channels are populated with pro-Trump rhetoric and some crude depictions of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Also running is Chike Anyanwu, who ran unsuccessfully for the House in District 21 four years ago.
There has been no significant fundraising in the primary so far.
District 7A (Baltimore County) Republican primary
Under the old legislative map, District 7 was a conservative stronghold taking in part of Baltimore County and part of Harford County and elected three delegates district-wide. But under the new boundaries, the district has been chopped into District 7A in Baltimore County, which will send two delegates to the State House, and District 7B, which will elect one Harford County-based delegate.
There are two incumbents seeking reelection — one, Del. Kathy Szeliga (R), who has represented the district since 2011, and another, Del. Joseph C. Boteler III (R), who was drawn into it in the latest round of redistricting. But they are not running as a unit: Szeliga has teamed up with Ryan Nawrocki, a small business owner, political operative and former Ehrlich administration official.
Also running is Steve Redmer, a firefighter.
Szeliga, sitting on a whopping $249,042 as of mid-January, must surely be considered a favorite to win one of the two seats. Boteler, by contrast, had $32,429 in the bank at that time.
Nawrocki, who ran unsuccessfully for a Baltimore County Council seat four years ago, has yet to report campaign fundraising information. Redmer had $4,266 on hand in mid-April.
District 7B (Harford County) Republican primary
This race for one seat also features two conservative incumbents: Dels. Lauren Arikan (R) and Rick Impallaria (R). Arikan, who is completing her first term, has become one of the Republicans’ most cutting floor debaters. Impallaria, by contrast, who has been in the legislature since 2003, seemed a little out of gas this legislative session. But he had more campaign cash than she did in mid-January: $36,818 to $28,452. Arikan was also carrying $20,854 in campaign debt at the time.
Also running are Russ English Jr., who finished far out of the money in the 12-candidate Republican primary in District 7 four years ago; Nicholas Gladden, who tried to unseat U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) in 2020; and Rocky Wagonhurst, a former TV news personality and executive who has become a media consultant and philanthropist. The fundraising by these three candidates has been negligible, according to campaign finance reports.
District 10 (Baltimore County) Democratic primary
With Dels. Ben Brooks (D) and Jay Jalisi (D) competing in a four-way primary for the district’s open state Senate seat, that leaves House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) as the only incumbent running for delegate in a 10-candidate field. We’ll assume she’s a shoo-in, even with all the funky and unpredictable dynamics in the district. She had more than $1.1 million in her campaign war chest as of mid-January; chances are, she isn’t spending much of it on her own race.
The question is whether Jones and outgoing Sen. Delores Kelley (D) can get the two delegate candidates whom they’ve endorsed to victory in July. Jones and Kelly have bestowed their blessing on management consultant N. Scott Phillips and nonprofit executive Jennifer A. White. Phillips ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in the district in 2002, and White is a political newcomer. In mid-January, Phillips had $57,812 in his campaign account, and White had $24,290, along with $1,000 in campaign debt.
But pay attention to Ruben Amaya, a member of the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee who is seeking to be the first Latino to represent the county in the General Assembly. Amaya was just endorsed by the Teachers Association of Baltimore County and is also getting grass-roots help from Progressive Maryland and the Working Families Party. Amaya reported $7,160 on hand in mid-January.
- Michael T. Brown Sr., a retired employee with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services;
- Nathaniel Costley Sr., who finished fifth in a six-way primary for the seat in 2018;
- Regg J. Hatcher Jr., an engineer and civic activist;
- Garland M. Jarrett Sanderson, a criminal justice reform advocate;
- Korey T. Johnson, an attorney who focuses on immigration, criminal justice reform and police accountability; and
- Nathaniel Logan, whose campaign website and social media accounts seem to be dormant.
All six of these candidates entered the race after the last campaign finance reporting deadline in January, so we don’t yet have a sense of their financial strength.
District 11B (Baltimore County) Democratic primary
Redistricting has not been very kind to the three House incumbents currently representing District 11. The new legislative map carves the district into two House subdistricts. District 11A was created as a majority-Black district, where Democrat Cheryl Pasteur, a retired teacher and school administrator with ties to House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), is running unopposed.
The other subdistrict, 11B, will elect two delegates, and that’s where all three incumbents — Dels. Lisa Belcastro, Jon Cardin and Dana Stein — happen to reside. So there will be a game of musical chairs of sorts over the next two months, and when the music stops, one of the incumbents will be without a seat.
Belcastro is the newcomer, having been appointed to the seat in March of 2020, seconds before COVID-19 drove the General Assembly out of town. As of mid-January, she had $65,930 in her campaign account. Cardin, who has served four non-successive terms, has the highest name recognition. He reported $59,983 on hand in January. Stein, the vice chair of the House Environment and Transportation Committee, is a leading environmentalist in Annapolis and is finishing his fourth full term; he had $110,348 in the bank.
Political professionals call this race difficult to handicap, though many think Stein is the safest bet. Belcastro benefits from her time as a former aide to Baltimore County Councilmember Izzy Patoka (D).
The district’s senator, Shelly L. Hettleman (D), is remaining neutral.
District 13 (Howard County) Democratic primary
With veteran Del. Shane Pendergrass (D) retiring, there’s a five-way battle in the primary. The district’s three incumbents who are seeking reelection — Sen. Guy Guzzone, and Dels. Vanessa Atterbeary and Jen Terrasa — are teaming with political newcomer Pamela Lanman Guzzone, who happens to be Guy Guzzone’s ex-wife.
Whatever awkwardness may exist between the Guzzones — and both insist there isn’t any — this appears to be a pretty formidable ticket. And yet, some voters may feel awkward, sending two Guzzones to Annapolis to represent them. The alternatives are teacher and community activist Amy R. Brooks and Becca Niburg, an attorney who formerly worked for the federal government.
Atterbeary, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, was the fundraising leader by a mile, with $91,585 on hand in mid-January, though she was carrying a debt of $31,152.
The rest of the lineup: Terrasa, $17,234; Niburg, $22,009 (including a $5,000 debt); Pam Guzzone, $9,704 (including a $2,500 debt); and Brooks, $1,686.
District 15 (Montgomery County) Democratic primary
Any race featuring former Del. Saqib Ali (D), a lightning rod for controversy whether he wants to be or not, bears watching. Ali, who represented nearby District 39 from 2007 to 2011 before losing a primary for state Senate, is challenging the district’s three incumbents: Dels. Linda Foley, David Fraser-Hidalgo, and Lily Qi.
Ali is probably as well known in the district as any of them; Foley was just appointed to the House late last year; Qi, a veteran of county government, is finishing her first term; and Fraser-Hidalgo, while a leading climate warrior in Annapolis, is notably low-key. Ali, by contrast, isn’t afraid to mix it up and call out other leaders when he disagrees with them.
Ali appears to have filed his latest campaign finance report a month early. As of mid-May, he was reporting $83,526 on hand. The other candidates last released information on their campaign war chests in mid-January: Qi had $115,754, Fraser-Hidalgo reported $54,482, and Foley banked $31,707.
District 23 (Prince George’s County) Democratic primary
The district has just one incumbent seeking reelection — Del. Marvin E. Holmes Jr. (D) — and lots of political crosscurrents. Ten Democrats are competing for three seats, and the Bowie-centered district is no longer chopped into two subdistricts.
Holmes, Jocelyn Collins, the government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C., and Kym Taylor, a former aide to Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), are slated with the district’s senator, Ron Watson (D), who is in a three-way primary battle of his own.
Also potentially formidable: Bowie’s mayor pro tem, Adrian Boafo and Remi Duyile, a retired banker, who is founder and CEO of the Legacy Premier Foundation, a financial literacy, entrepreneurship and leadership develop company. Duyile is likely to run strong among the district’s growing population of African immigrants.
Also on the Democratic primary ballot: Keenon James, a police reform advocate; Januari McKay, a youth advocate; Monica Roebuck, a community activist and teacher with a college readiness program; Jacqui Steele-McCall, a one-time aide to former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who previously ran for a House seat in an adjoining district; and Valeria Tomlin, an attorney.
It’s been feast or famine for fundraising in this race. The latest campaign finance reports have shown anywhere from zero on hand (Tomlin) to $25 (Steele-McCall), to $156,522 (Duyile, supplemented by a $110,000 loan she made to her campaign). Notably, Holmes reported just $1,468 in his campaign account as of mid-January. But he has won the seat five times already, and in a crowded field that should prove to be an advantage.
District 24 (Prince George’s County) Democratic primary
This was going to be an even wilder race until Del. Jazz Lewis (D) abandoned his congressional bid shortly before the filing deadline and dropped back into the House primary. His decision leaves two incumbents among eight candidates seeking three seats in the Democratic primary, and there’s no guarantee they’ll win. Del. Andrea Fletcher Harrison (D) is the other.
LaTasha Ward, who finished fourth in the House primary in the district four years ago and also sought an appointment to the seat last fall, could be formidable. Former Del. Tiffany Alston (D), who held the seat for 22 months before resigning after being indicted on embezzlement charges in 2012, is also running. So is Richard DeShay Elliott, a smart young operative and progressive activist. And Christopher Stevenson, a member of the Democratic Central Committee who has worked for numerous local politicians, also has fans.
Also running: Sennieal Crutchfield, an educator, and Alexis Solis, a clinical research project manager.
Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D), the district’s long-serving senator, is teaming with Lewis, Harrison and Stevenson. But this is a wide-open race.
District 26 (Prince George’s County) Democratic primary
There’s an open-seat primary fight for state Senate in this southern Prince George’s district, and the two candidates — former Sen. C. Anthony Muse and Tamara Davis Brown, who almost won a county council seat four years ago — have aligned with various House candidates in the district, and the two delegates seeking reelection are part of the split.
Muse is running on a slate with Del. Kris Valderamma, Kendal Wade, a funeral home operator, and Jamila J. Woods, a minister and social worker. Brown’s slate features Del. Veronica Turner, Angela R. Jones, who is making her second run for the seat, and Andre Nottingham, a higher education administrator.
Muse is considered the strong favorite in the Senate primary, but the House race may not divide so neatly.
District 27B (Prince George’s and Calvert counties) Democratic primary
Del. Rachel R. Jones (D) was appointed to the seat in February 2021, but it’s a subdistrict that’s split between Prince George’s and Calvert counties, and Democratic activists in the two counties don’t always see eye to eye. Jones is seeking a full term, but she’s facing a spirited challenge from Jeff Long, a minister who was an aide to the late state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D). Long has been racking up important labor endorsements over the last several weeks.
Long reported $41,363 in his campaign account as of mid-January. Earlier this month, Jones reported $23,993 in the bank. A third candidate, June Jones, who has no campaign website or social media accounts, is also running.
District 29C (St. Mary’s and Calvert counties) Republican primary
The race to replace retiring Del. Jerry Clark (R-Calvert) in this subdistrict, which takes in southern Calvert County and most of central St. Mary’s County after crossing the Patuxent River, features two strong personalities with different levels of political experience.
St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan has taken the more conventional political path. Morgan, who has worked for a military contractor for decades and is a former president of the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance, is completing his third term on the St. Mary’s County Commission and, so, is barred from seeking another term.
The other Republican is Timothy Gowen, the adjutant general for the Maryland National Guard. He also has ties with the Pax River Navy base, the district’s anchor institution: He was an engineer there for a quarter century before joining the Hogan administration.
This race will probably come down to voters’ preferences on style and experience rather than any ideological gulf.
Morgan, who may be the tallest man in Maryland politics other than former congressman (and former NBA star) Tom McMillen (D), has been preparing to run for the legislature for a long time and had $65,088 in his campaign account as of mid-January, plus $5,500 in debts. Gowen will have to catch up quickly: He reported $175 on-hand in mid-April.
District 35B (Cecil County) Republican primary
This race could be a test of the Hornberger political brand: Del. Kevin Hornberger (R), husband of Cecil County Executive Danielle Hornberger (R), is seeking a third term. He’s squaring off against Adam Streight, a Sheriff’s deputy and former president of the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter, and Travis Marion, the mayor of Rising Sun — a stepping stone to the legislature in the past.
There hasn’t been much fundraising in the primary yet. In mid-January, Hornberger reported $18,232 in the bank. Streight had $15,644 on hand in mid-April, and Marion had just $178.
District 40 (Baltimore City) Democratic primary
All three House incumbents — Dels. Marlon Amprey, Frank M. Conaway Jr. and Melissa Wells — are seeking reelection, but there’s some question about how much longer the Conaway family name can continue to sustain the four-term incumbent.
The challengers are: China Boak Terrell, a lawyer and CEO of an economic development nonprofit in Baltimore; Cameron E. Green Sr., an education consultant who calls himself “an innovative socialprenur”; community activist Crystal Jackson Parker; Kathy Shulman, a public policy advocate who helps run a healthy food bank for struggling families in Baltimore; and Juan Snell, a utility line locator and anti-crime advocate.
Amprey, with $84,476 on hand as of mid-January, and Wells, with $48,964, seemed reasonably well-armed for reelection. Shulman was next with $38,472 on hand, and Terrell had $30,591. Everybody else, including Conaway, was well below $10,000.
District 43A (Baltimore City) Democratic primary
The new legislative map splits Sen. Mary Washington’s District 43 into two House subdistricts — District 43B in the Towson area, and District 43A, which will elect two delegates in Baltimore City.
Del. Regina T. Boyce (D) is the only House incumbent seeking reelection in 43A, but the primary features several candidates with major support of their own. Washington is backing Logan Endow, an economist, health policy expert and community activist who almost won a city council primary two years ago.
But also running, with the support of political heavyweights like outgoing Del. Maggie McIntosh and former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D), is Elizabeth Embry, an assistant attorney general who comes from a prominent Baltimore family and has run unsuccessfully for mayor and lieutenant governor. There are other contenders with potential as well: Reginald Benbow, a health policy expert and former public school teacher; Sherricka McGrier-Douglas, a substitute teacher; and Rikki Vaughn, a frequent candidate in Baltimore.
As of mid-January, Boyce had $73,034 in her campaign treasury; Endow reported $55,060, which included $50,467 in debts to himself for his two campaigns; and Benbow had $23,354. Embry, McGrier-Douglas and Vaughn entered the race after the last campaign finance reporting deadline.
This looks like a three-way race for two seats right now.
District 46 (Baltimore City) Democratic primary
With Del. Brooke Lierman (D) running for state comptroller, a classy field of challengers is aiming to join — or is competing with, depending on your point of view — two classy incumbents, Del. Robbyn Lewis (D) and House Judiciary Committee Chair Luke Clippinger. This is shaping up to be a fascinating and expensive race.
Mark Edelson, an attorney, college instructor and community activist, has run an aggressive and well-funded campaign, with the support of City Councilmember Zeke Cohen (D), whose district overlaps some with the 46th, and community elders like former councilmembers Jim Kraft, Ed Reisinger and Rikki Spector and former Del. Carolyn Krysiak (D).
But all the candidates are credible and competitive: Vince Andrews is a public health attorney and former public school teacher; Sean D. Burns is a lobbyist for a national association representing historically Black colleges and universities who worked on Capitol Hill for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) and in Maryland’s federal relations office when Martin O’Malley (D) was governor; Augusta Christensen is a Democratic operative and community leader.
Clippinger leads on the fundraising front, with $170,710 in the bank as of mid-January. Edelson reported $134,876 on hand at the time, and three other contenders were bunched together: Lewis had $86,776, Andrews had $84,777 and Burns had $83,873. Christensen reported $47,697 on hand, supplemented by a $10,000 personal loan.
District 47B (Prince George’s County) Democratic primary
This single-member subdistrict takes in several Latino communities, and was originally drawn in the last round of redistricting to elect a Latino House member. But Del. Wanika Fisher (D) upset that calculus by out-hustling the incumbent delegate, Carlo Sanchez, in the Democratic primary four years ago.
With Fisher running for county council this year, her top aide, Marlin Jenkins, a labor attorney and lieutenant colonel in the Maryland Army National Guard, is running to replace her. He previously sought a House seat four years ago in District 19 in Montgomery County.
Also running is term-limited County Councilmember Deni Taveras, who has boosted her profile in the community during the COVID-19 crisis and with her vocal criticism of County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) for what she and other Hispanic leaders describe as the county administration’s lack of engagement with the Latino community. A third candidate, Jorge Sactic, president of the Langley Park Small Business Owners’ Association, is also running,
Through mid-January, Jenkins had $56,160 in the bank but reported that he had loaned his campaigns a cumulative $73,929. Taveras had $30,069 in the bank and reported $11,337 in debts to herself and to campaign vendors. Sactic filed documents showing he does not intend to raise or spend more than $1,000 on the campaign.