District 1B in Allegany County
This is Part II in a two part series about District 1 in Western Maryland. While Part I focused on the Garrett County portion of the district, this post centers on Allegany County.
All of District 1B’s population lives in Allegany. Frostburg and a northern section of Cumberland are located in 1B. District 1C is split between Allegany and Washington Counties with 55% in Allegany. The remainder of Cumberland and all of the smaller town of Hancock in Washington County are located in 1C.
Allegany County has been heavily Republican in federal contests. Mitt Romney received 64% of the vote in 2012. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett received 55% of the vote in Allegany even as he went down to defeat to John Delaney with just 37% of the total vote in the entire Sixth Congressional District.
Lately, Allegany has also been quite lopsided in its support for Republicans in statewide contests. Bob Ehrlich won 57% in 2006 and 61% in 2010 in Allegany. Notice that Ehrlich increased his share of the vote in Allegany even as his statewide margin declined. The last Democratic gubernatorial candidate to carry Allegany was Parris Glendening in 1998 with 52% of the vote.
Allegany District 1B has been one of the most hotly contested delegate seats over the past several decades. Incumbent Democratic Del. Kevin Kelly won reelection in 2010 with just 51% over Republican Mary Beth Pirolozzi, a Cumberland City Councilmember.
Kelly originally won his seat in 1986 when he was one of two Democrats elected from a two-member district located entirely in Allegany. He easily won reelection in 1990.
In 1994, Kelly lost the Democratic primary in the newly redistricted single-member District 1B, receiving 43% as opposed to 57% for Del. Betty Workman, his colleague in the former two-member district. But Kelly turned the tables in 1998, winning the primary over Workman by 59% to 41% and then went on to win the general with just 51% of the vote. Kelly beat his Republican opponent with a more comfortable 56% of the vote in 2002 and 2006.
This year, Kelly has no primary opposition but faces Jason Buckel, a member of the Allegany County Republican Central Committee, in the general election. In January, Buckel had just $2.6K in his campaign account compared to $18K for Kelly, though Buckel could raise money during the session while Kelly could not.
Central Allegany County Partisanship
(Source: Dave’s Redistricting, More Orange is More Republican)
Though Kelly has a long history in this district, no Democrat can ever take anything for granted. Despite its Republican lean, 1B contains some of the less Republican precincts in Allegany located in Frostburg and Cumberland (see above), which should aid Kelly.
District 1C in Allegany and Washington Counties
District 1C is perhaps best known as the district that unseated the sitting Speaker of the House in 2002. Democratic Speaker Cas Taylor, who brought enormous amounts of state funds home and worked relentlessly to aid Western Maryland’s economy, lost his reelection bid by 76 votes.
Redistricting was more the culprit than the fickleness of Allegany voters. Prior to 2002, 1C was contained entirely within Allegany County. District 1 grew more slowly than the the State as a whole in the 1990s and had to expand east, so 1C had to take in sections of Washington County. While Speaker Taylor won 61% in his home stomping ground of Allegany, he garnered just 29% in the new, extremely Republican Washington portion of the district.
Del. LeRoy Myers, who defeated Speaker Taylor, is retiring after three terms. Two Republicans, Ray Givens and Mike McKay, are competing for the GOP nomination, while Democrat Nick Scarpelli has no opposition within his party.
Swept in as part of the tea party wave in 2010, Mike McKay serves as President of the Allegany County Board of Commissioners. He’s the CEO of a company with six dry cleaning locations. McKay has the support of sitting Del. Myers.
Perhaps because actually having to run a government tends to moderate extreme views on all sides, McKay is now being tea-party challenged from the right by Givens. A Hancock resident, Givens has never held office but was very active in opposition to Gov. O’Malley’s gun safety legislation and supports fracking.
Givens has served in the military, and worked in corrections and law enforcement. In January, McKay reported $15K cash on hand as compared to $10K for Givens.
As McKay lives in Allegany and Givens is from Washington, this primary could well turn into a classic friends-and-neighbors contest that depends on the level of support and ability to turn out voters within each candidate’s home base. Del. McKay should benefit from his experience in office as well as his endorsement by Myers. But Givens could gain energy from gun rights advocates.
Meanwhile, as unlikely as it may sound, Republican 1C is one district where the Democrats hope to make a pick up. Cumberland City Councilman Nick Scarpelli is a local magnate with investments in chains of funeral homes and shoe stores as well as real estate.
Scarpelli is very conservative for a Democrat–he is pro-gun, pro-life and pro-fracking. His major goal is to join the majority caucus and be part of the fine tradition of bringing home the bacon to this long economically challenged region. Scarpelli can self fund and plans to advertise on television–a lot cheaper in the Hagerstown media market than elsewhere in Maryland.
His chances likely depend at least partly on who wins the GOP primary. Scarpelli would have a stronger shot against Givens than McKay. Regardless, he will make this a much more interesting race than one would expect in this mostly Republican part of the world.
District 1B Rating: Toss-Up (Slight Edge to Kelly).
District 1C Rating: Lean Republican (Slight Edge to McKay in the primary).