Tag Archives: Andy Harris

Oddly Competitive Primary in MD CD1

Let us be clear here: No one running in the Democratic Primary for Maryland’s First Congressional District has any realistic shot at beating Andy Harris. Frank Kratovil’s victory in 2008 required a perfect storm (and Kratovil lost by double digits in 2010). The district was made even more Republican in the most recent round of gerrymandering (trading swingy Anne Arundel Precincts for dark red territory in Carroll, Baltimore and Harford Counties). Andy Harris will likely hold this seat until 2022 when Mike Miller decides to eliminate the last Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation via redistricting.

All that being said, two exceptionally strong candidates are duking it out for the right to be the standard bearer for the Team Blue come November.

On one side you have John Laferla–a surgeon and former Chairman of the Kent County Democratic Central Committee. He narrowly lost the 2012 Primary to Made in America Activist Wendy Rosen (who subsequently dropped out following allegations that she had committed voter fraud). During the primary, he received endorsements from NARAL Pro Choice MD, Planned Parenthood, former US senator John Breaux and former Republican MD-01 Congressmen Wayne Gilchrist.  Following Rosen’s withdrawal Laferla ran with the party blessing as a write in candidate. My spies tell me Laferla has retained Dave Goodman of Trublu Politics as his Direct Mail Consultant.

The other candidate is Bill Tilghman–a wealthy retired attorney (Piper Marbury now DLA Piper) and business executive with Marriott. He has also been involved in several start ups. The Tilghman family has been historically been prominent on the Eastern Shore. Tilghman has a highly qualified Finance Director and my spies tell me he has hired Main Street Communications as his Media Consultant.

Both would be far stronger nominees than one would expect to see in this district. It is unclear who has the edge here.

Primary Rating: Toss Up.
General Election Rating : Safe Republican

Share

Rorschach Map of Incumbent Desires

Much has been made of the, ahem, “creative” boundaries of Maryland’s current congressional districts. A previous post provided more detailed maps that show the true artistry of the districts. But here is a statewide view that probably doesn’t do it full justice:

CDMDMaryland’s Current Congressional District Map

Many cite the non-compact boundaries as evidence of partisanship. Certainly, the 6th District was reconfigured to aid Democrats, who picked up the seat in 2012. However, Democrats did not have to draw these non-compact districts to gain a 7-1 majority in place of the previous 6-2 split. The following plan has seven districts that Obama won by 15% or more in 2008:

Obama15ptsAlternative Congressional Plan 1

While probably not the most compact plan that could be drawn, it also is clearly much more compact than the enacted plan. Beyond containing seven very Democratic districts, it also still contains two districts that are over 50% black in voting-age population.

A map that gave Democrats at least a 10% advantage in seven districts, again as measured by support for Obama in 2008, could be made even more compact and violate fewer county boundaries:

Obama10ptsAlternative Congressional District Plan 2

In this version, District 8 doesn’t reach the Pennsylvania border or take in any portion of Carroll County, which is no longer split. The Fourth District is also entirely within Prince George’s. Montgomery County has only two districts instead of three.

So why did the Democrats choose to adopt a plan with such meandering districts instead of a simpler version? According to many different sources, the answer lies in the desire to favor the preferences of certain incumbents, even when they were highly idiosyncratic and would not alter their reelection chances.

(1) Rep. Steny Hoyer insisted on continuing to represent UMD College Park, which he has represented since entering Congress. (Love the Turtle!) However, College Park is at the northwestern end of Prince George’s. Accommodating the desires of this powerful representative forced many other changes to plan.

For example, the 4th couldn’t continue to go into Montgomery if the 6th was to take in significant portions of that County, so the 4th now crawls around the edge of Prince George’s to enable it to scoop up Republican voters in Anne Arundel.

(2) Similarly, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger sits on the intelligence committee and wanted to represent both Fort Meade and the Aberdeen Proving Ground. (Couldn’t we just buy him his own spy cam?) Even more creativity ensued as these two facilities lies at the opposite ends of the Baltimore region

(3) Rep. Elijah Cummings did not want to represent Carroll County, throwing yet another complication into the mix. Carroll is very Republican but would have easily been swamped by Cummings’ Baltimore base. So now Rep. Chris Van Hollen represents parts of Carroll County.

(4) Rep. John Sarbanes felt strongly that he wanted to continue to represent Annapolis, adding another layer of complexity into the plan’s requirements. Drafting a plan to satisfied this demand along with Ruppersberger’s helps explain how the 2nd and 3rd districts took on even more convoluted shapes.

(5) Complicating it all further was that so several representatives–Cummings, Harris, Ruppersberger, and Sarbanes–live with a small area near Baltimore. While living in the district is not required–just ask John Delaney–most prefer to do it.

And that’s how we ended up with this:

CD3

By the way, there is no legal impediment to gerrymandering for incumbents. Indeed, courts have cited it as a legitimate rationale for states to craft plans in a particular manner.

Share

Top Ten Senate Primaries II: District 36

Hersheymailer12010 Stephen Hershey Mail Piece

Part I in this series is here.

District 36 (R): This one is a complete grudge match between Sen. Stephen Hershey and former Del. Richard Sossi. Hershey beat Sossi, a two term delegate, by just 124 votes out of 10,774 cast in the 2010 Republican delegate primary.

Unique among all districts in the state, voters in District 36 may not cast a vote for more than one delegate from each of the four counties in the district. Hershey and Sossi are both from Queen Anne’s, so their primary was a head-to-head contest between them among Republicans across the entire district.

If imitation is the best form of flattery, then Sen. Nancy King has reason to be pleased. Hershey copied her Sleepy Saqib mail pieces (see above). Despite having two terms under his belt and a large money advantage, Sossi lost thanks to what he describes as labelled “a smear campaign.”

In the meantime, Hershey has continued to move up in the world. When E.J. Pipkin decided to leave not just the Senate but the State, many, including Hershey, Sossi, and Del. Michael Smigiel, applied for the vacancy.

District 36Eastern Shore District 36

Vacancies are usually chosen by the county party central committees of the party that held the seat. Four Republican Central Committees–Cecil, Caroline, Kent and Queen Anne’s–were involved in the decision. However, two voted to support Smigiel while two others supported Hershey, so Gov. O’Malley got to make the final choice between the two men.

O’Malley stated he picked Hershey due to his broader support in the last election but others speculate that Smigiel never had a shot due to his implacable opposition to O’Malley’s gun legislation. Smigiel vowed to run for the seat but ended up filing for reelection.

Between leaving the House and filing for the Senate seat, Sossi  served as Congressman Andy Harris’ liaison to the same four counties that he represented as a delegate–not a bad job for someone seeking to return to office.

Hershey has the money advantage–$38K to $28K for Sossi–but Sossi can attempt to close the gap during the session. He’ll also have more time to campaign with no day job. At the same time, it’s hard to overlook that he’s damaged goods after having lost and failing to gain the endorsement of any county central committee.

One potential boost to Sossi would be if Rep. Harris endorsed his former employee. But so far, Harris has not tipped his hand in the press and has made no donation to either candidate. Sossi would also gain if his former delegate colleagues agreed to slate with him. I have no information on that front (feel free to post on Seventh State’s Facebook page).

Right now, it’s hard to see why–having turned him out of office–the voters would turn back to Sossi over a candidate who is now stronger as an incumbent. Rating: Lean Hershey.

Share