This is a pretty concise list of what has been on the minds of MoCo’s political community: the attack on the Capitol, Jamie Raskin, vaccines and the movement to throw out Andy Harris. The story on the solar zoning text amendment reflects a split among environmentalists that is bound to resurface on future issues. As for White Flint, which was also the top story in December, that article demonstrates a major challenge that MoCo will face as it emerges from the pandemic: how to rebuild its economy and not lose any more ground to the rest of the region. Economic competitiveness was a big issue before COVID and it will return to that pedestal as the next election approaches.
The key to answering that question lies in examining Harris’s district. Maryland’s first congressional district has historically contained the Eastern Shore. Variations in its composition have depended on which other jurisdictions have been added. In the 1970s and 1980s, the district contained Harford County and the three southern Maryland counties (Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s). In the 1990s, it contained a large piece of Anne Arundel County and a tiny piece of Baltimore City. In the early 2000s, it contained parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties. Since 2011, it has contained parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties as it has been stretched out along the Pennsylvania border.
In the 2011 redistricting round, General Assembly Democrats had two goals: fortify their congressional incumbents and flip Western Maryland’s sixth district from red to blue. They accomplished both but the price of doing so was packing Republican precincts in the Baltimore suburbs into the first district. That greatly benefited Harris, who was first elected in 2010 when he defeated a one-term Democratic incumbent. Harris has not been seriously threatened since.
The table below shows the history of general elections in the first district since 1986.
Since Democratic incumbent Roy Dyson was defeated in 1990, the Democrats have gone an abysmal 1-15 in the district’s general elections. The sole exception was in 2008, when GOP incumbent Wayne Gilchrest was defeated by Harris in the primary and Queen Anne’s County prosecutor Frank Kratovil squeaked in during Barack Obama’s first election to the presidency. Harris defeated Kratovil two years later during the tea party revolt. It’s worth noting that in the last 30 years, only three incumbents have been defeated here: Dyson and Kratovil, both Democrats, and the Republican Gilchrest who was beaten in a primary by the more conservative Harris.
The first district is now the most heavily Republican congressional district in the state. The table below shows its turnout by party in the 2020 election. Republicans accounted for 46% of eligible voters and 49% of actual voters. Democrats accounted for 34% of eligible voters and 33% of actual voters and turned out at a lower rate than Republicans.
Harris won the 2020 general election with 63% of the vote, about average for his tenure as an incumbent. The table below shows the breakdown of his votes against challenger Mia Mason by county. Harris pulled a margin of nearly 50,000 votes from the Eastern Shore and almost 58,000 votes from the non-Shore counties, illustrating just how much GOP votes in the Baltimore suburbs are helping him win.
Put together the above two charts and a successful Democratic challenger would have to get votes from all the Democrats, almost all the unaffiliated voters and a smattering of Republicans. That is a LIFT.
How would the Democrats have made up the 107,000 vote margin that elected Harris last November? Getting a top-notch candidate would help; Harris had a cash on hand advantage over Mason in October of more than $1 million to roughly $2,500. Mizeur won’t have any problem raising money against Harris. She is an able politician who surprised people in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary, but is the former Takoma Park progressive a good fit for the first district?
Mizeur doesn’t hold back when discussing Harris.
It’s hard to see a scenario in which the Democrats could defeat Harris without changing the district’s boundaries. Here’s where it gets difficult. Let’s suppose that the Eastern Shore remains at the heart of the district. The shore gave Harris a 50,000 vote margin last time. The Democrats would have to rearrange the rest of the district from a plus-58,000 vote margin for Harris, as it was in 2020, to a negative-51,000 vote margin. A great candidate could make up some of those votes, but this is still tough.
Where would the new precincts come from? The Democrats could draw a line across the bay bridge and up into Baltimore City. There’s a bit of precedent for that as the district contained a handful of city precincts in the 1990s. But the number of precincts would have to be far greater than a handful to overturn Harris’s advantage on the shore. And this would create a truly odd district, combining inner city Baltimore with some of the most rural areas in Maryland.
The Democrats could also add left-leaning precincts around Annapolis and in Howard County but would it be enough? If they added in Southern Maryland, as it was in the 1970s and 1980s, it’s not clear that the district would be much bluer.
Complicating the issue is the effect of altering the first district on other nearby districts. While Harris is protected by keeping Republicans in his district, Democratic incumbents in the second, third, seventh and eighth districts are protected by keeping Republicans out. What will they say if they are told to swap their blue precincts with Harris’s red precincts? I might speculate but this blog prohibits profanity!
Getting rid of Harris will require a historically great opponent, an investment of huge financial resources and redistricting changes that will generate resistance with no guarantee of success. Additionally, the Democrats could get lucky if a primary challenge from a credible candidate like Harford County Executive Barry Glassman drains some of Harris’s war chest. Nothing is impossible in politics. But this is a BIG mountain to climb. Let’s see just how badly the Democrats want Harris out of Congress.
As you know, the events of January 6th made me consider a challenge to Congressman Andy Harris for his role in the treasonous insurrection against our government. Rather than try to unify our nation after such an attack, he stoked the division by attempting to pick a fist fight with a colleague on the House floor later that night. Days later, he was cavalier about skipping the second Trump impeachment vote entirely. Then Harris announced he was breaking his promise on self-imposed term limits. Adding to his January resume of conduct unbecoming, he attempted yesterday to bring a gun on to the floor of the House of Representatives, where wounds are still raw from the violent siege we all witnessed in those hallowed halls. My community deserves better representation.
This behavior has stirred something deep within me. Yesterday’s episode was a tipping point, pushing me to think even harder about a run. I’ll have more to say in the coming days.
If this possibility excites you, please comment and make encouragements with that energy of love and joy in your heart. Make your action be about the positive we can do together. We can unseat Harris and bring dignified leadership to Maryland’s 1st District without serving our darker impulses to call names at his behavior. As Amanda Gorman so beautifully summoned us this week: See the light. Be the light. Brave must we be.
Former District 20 Delegate Heather Mizeur, who once represented Silver Spring and Takoma Park but now lives on the Eastern Shore, has told District 1 Congressman Andy Harris to resign or face a possible challenge. Mizeur wrote on Twitter, “You must resign immediately – or I will consider retiring you myself in 2022.”
Her supporters love it, as the many likes, positive comments, and shares demonstrate. Since Heather’s own page has over 21,000 likes as opposed to the over 900 likes on the Draft Mizeur for Senate, I can see why she posted it to both. (There are currently only seven “likes” currently on the Draft page.)
The only negative wrinkle is that any doubt as to whether Heather Mizeur was behind the effort to draft Heather Mizeur has been dispelled. The draft page is also conveniently titled “Heather for Senate” for when she decides that it is formally time to jump in the race–or switch to a congressional run in one of the open seats.
Former Del. Heather Mizeur could just be toying with the idea. But the smart money is on that she will enter the race for Senate.
Heather is a skilled campaigner and enjoys it. Her first campaign for delegate in 2006 was the best I saw that year. Beyond being media savvy, Heather knew exactly what she had to do to win–and did it. Despite losing her long-shot bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2014, she raised her profile and established herself in the eyes of many voters as a progressive leader.
The clear niche that Heather would try to fill is that she is the new Barbara Mikulski–the progressive woman we want in the Senate. Voters liked Mikulski so that’s not a bad place to be in a race in which voters with many ideologically similar candidates.
In the gubernatorial primary, Heather did a good job of positioning herself as a different sort of politician who didn’t want to bicker and simultaneously represented the progressive, left-wing of the Democratic Party. In short, she ran as an outsider running against the establishment candidates. The chance for Heather to be the first LGBT governor only enhanced that profile.
However, Heather is in many ways a consummate political insider. First, she served on the Democratic National Committee. The DNC is about an insider as it gets. Second, she was a two-term member of the House of Delegates. Third, she worked as Sen. John Kerry’s Director of Domestic Policy and Rep. Joseph Kennedy’s Legislative Director. Finally, her professional life is as a federal lobbyist.
Not exactly an outsider resume and I don’t think her opponents will let her get away easily as casting herself as such. At the same time, Mizeur’s benefits from insider status will go only so far. Exactly one of her colleagues in the General Assembly endorsed her gubernatorial bid–and none from her own district. She ticked off royally many influential players with her opinion piece in the Sun just before the general election.
Interestingly, former Del. Heather Mizeur’s last full state campaign finance report showed around $194,000 in the account even though she lagged far behind Doug Gansler and Anthony Brown in spending. The only subsequent report was an affidavit attesting that she neither raised nor spent more than $1000. That leaves her with much more money than, say, Rep. Donna Edwards.
While her bank balance is a nice start, it is well below that of other candidates already or likely to enter the race. (UPDATE: Several readers have explained to me that she cannot use the money in her state account for the federal race, so she starts with nothing.) She would not be able to match the fundraising of people like Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. John Delaney. Nonetheless, she might gain significant backing from LGBT money and the Victory Fund.
While I am sure Heather greatly expanded her network in her 2014 run, it may be hard to get some people to open their wallets so quickly again. Heather beat expectations in 2014 but still ended up in third place with 22% of the vote. She would need to prove me wrong on fundraising to be competitive.
Expanding Her Support
Sitting here in front of my computer, I’m having trouble seeing how Mizeur expands her support base. Would voters who cast ballots for Brown or Gansler who would turn to Mizeur in a Senate race? Do even white voters who supported Brown partly due to O’Malley’s support jump to Heather? Or do they go to someone else?
Additionally, the Democratic primary electorate in 2016 may be somewhat less progressive than in 2014. The lower the participation, the more left-wing the voters usually are in a Democratic primary. Fewer people usually participate in off-year rather than presidential elections.
An even bigger problem for Mizeur will be that other candidates will lay claim to the progressive mantle. In particular, Rep. Donna Edwards may gain their affection, as she won election to the U.S. House as a progressive outsider. Progressives may also be comfortable with a variety of other candidates.
Heather is an excellent campaigner so I thought she would do better than expected in 2014. I am less confident that would be true in the 2016 Senate race. Still, she is adroit and knows how to skillfully take advantage of opportunities. While I see her more as an underdog than top-tier candidate, Heather Mizeur will have her fervent supporters and could surprise.
Initially, the most notable part of the invitation was Mizeur joining with erstwhile opponent Gansler to support Clinton and not Gov. Martin O’Malley, who put his muscle behind Brown. But then Heather attacked the budget compromise on her Facebook page and called for progressives to support Sen. Elizabeth Warren:
Outgoing Appropriation Chair Barbara Mikulski, a Democratic icon in this state, was working the phones to urge support for the budget compromise. As became clear to all this year, Heather is a campaign expert and perhaps tying herself to Warren makes it easier to position herself as a progressive alternative to Mikulski in 2016.
However, looking lower on Heather’s Facebook page reveals that Heather has not jumped from the Clinton to the Warren bus but was never committed to either campaign. In fact, she’s also supports Bernie Sanders:
The many who read the Washington Post and see the Ready for Hillary invitations but do not read her the fine print on her Facebook page might not realize that Heather is more Ready to Consider Hillary rather than Ready for Hillary.
A single flaw in Maryland’s troubled online health insurance system will cost the state an estimated $30.5 million in excess Medicaid payments over the next 18 months because the system cannot accurately identify recipients who should be removed from the rolls, a report by state budget officials said.
The State has fired the contractor for its health exchange website but this problem just does not seem to want to go away. If anything, the increased functionality of the federal website just heightens the glare of Maryland’s continuing problems. Not a good news day for Lt. Gov. Brown who would like the focus to turn elsewhere.
The Washington Post reports that Marylanders approve of Obamacare by a 55-40 margin. The poll also says few attach blame to LG Brown but instead to state and federal administrators. One suspects that the share of Democratic primary voters who blame Brown is even lower.
I suspect that this aspect of the poll is more vulnerable to the answer choices provided. It is also unclear or whether voters deem the issue important or have fixed opinions. Campaigns also have the capacity to raise the salience of issues and to frame them in ways that opinions shift (i.e. who oversees those administrators blamed by the voters). However, the poll suggests that has yet to occur despite efforts by both AG Gansler and Del. Mizeur.