The Hottest Senate Race in Maryland

D38Eastern Shore District 38

District 38 includes all of Somerset and Worcester Counties as well as much as Wicomico County. It is divided into three subdistricts and features some of the most interesting races in this election cycle. Unlike in much of the State, the general is the real show here on the south Shore.

The Senate race is probably the hottest general election contest in the State. Democratic Sen. Jim Mathias faces a tough challenge from Republican Del. Mike McDermott. This is a battle royale between two long successful politicians.

Mathias, a former mayor of Ocean City, served one term in the House before winning election to the Senate in 2010. McDermott is a former mayor of Pocomoke City and police chief in Snow Hill who won election to the House in 2010.

In January, campaign finance report filings revealed that McDermott had just $20K cash on hand compared to an impressive $208K for Mathias. He will need every bit of it. District 38 is red territory. Though Mathias won in the tough Democratic year in 2010, his margin over his GOP opponent was just 1.4%.

Somerset is the most Democratic county in the district–Obama carried it by 1.9% in 2012–but it only cast 16% of the district vote in 2010 and Mathias narrowly lost it. Worcester cast 46% of the vote but is more Republican–Romney won it by 18%. Nevertheless, Mathias who hails from Ocean City won it with 52% in 2010.

Portions of Wicomico comprise the remainder of the district. Wicomico is more narrowly Republican, as Romney won by just 5%. But the best Democratic precincts in Salisbury are in the neighboring black-majority District 37A. Mathias narrowly lost in Wicomico in 2010.

McDermott represents the same people as Mathias so any incumbency advantage is limited. Mathias will need all of his political skill as well as his mighty campaign war chest to beat the Republican lean of the district for a second time.

Backed by Rep. Andy Harris, one of my Eastern Shore sources describes McDermott as “to the right of Genghis Khan” on both social and fiscal issues. No one would confuse comparatively moderate Mathias with a Western Shore liberal but the difference between him and McDermott cannot be missed.

This race will help shape both Senate caucuses in the future. McDermott’s election will drag the GOP further to the right, bad news for its long-term statewide viability. A loss by Mathias would also weaken the strength of Democratic centrists, pulling the caucus to the left and increasing party polarization.

I expect Senate President Miller to go all in to support Mathias in the general election. Can the Republicans do the same for McDermott? And can McDermott raise enough cash once the session ends to run a viable campaign of his own?

General Election Rating: Toss Up.

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Health Care Exchange Tech Scrapped

The opening paragraph from this WaPo story is terrible news for the Brown campaign:

Maryland officials are set to replace the state’s online health-insurance exchange with technology from Connecticut’s insurance marketplace, according to two people familiar with the decision, an acknowledgment that a system that has cost at least $125.5 million is broken beyond repair.

That’s a lot of money down the drain on an initiative on which Lt. Gov. Brown had hoped to tout his leadership. Indeed, his placement at the head of the roll out seemed designed with that purpose.

The key question remains whether either AG Gansler or Del. Mizeur can capitalize on it. How do they attack Brown’s management skills without conflating it with a general attack on the President’s signature achievement?

Finding the way to craft a message successfully to pick that lock could well be the key to shifting voters in the fight for Democratic nomination. A further complication is how to make the attack without shifting voters to your other opponent.

If Brown wins the nomination, I expect that this issue will continue to feature in the general election. For a Republican, it’s a great way to rally the base and to attack Brown’s skills. In any case, he needs to get this problem fixed quickly so he can put it behind him.

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Baltimore City State’s Attorney Race Rating

greggbernsteinBaltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein

Gregg Bernstein pulled off the impossible in 2010. Bernstein, a wealthy white Jewish lawyer toppled an African-American State’s Attorney in a heavily African-American city–though less so than in the recent past–known for its racially charged politics.

His odds are much better this time around. He faces Marilyn Mosby, wife of rising star City Councilman Nick Mosby, in the primary and independent Russell Neaverdon in the general election. Mosby and Neaverdon are both African American.

The demographics of Baltimore City mean that Bernstein will have to run hard. With $350,000 in his account as of January 1st, he will have the resources to do so. He will also be aided by a team of sharp advisers, including Ann Beegle and SKDKnickerbocker.

Mosby will be competitive with $100,000 in her account,. Still, given his substantial cash advantage and formidable organization, Bernstein is favored in the primary. In heavily Democratic Baltimore it will be exceedingly difficult for Neaverdon to break through.

Primary Rating: Likely Bernstein
General Election Rating: Safe Bernstein

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Duchy Flip Flops on Labor

BethesdaNow’s Aaron Kraut wrote a fascinating story about Duchy Trachtenberg’s kickoff event.

Duchy apologized for her previously poor relations with labor:

“Guess what guys, your employees deserve competitive pay and benefits for the excellent job that they do each and every day,” Trachtenberg said in a message addressed at the police, firefighter and county employee union representatives in the audience. “I pledged my support for this and I sincerely regret the breakdown of our working relationship a few years back. It should never have happened, given my union roots, and I really feel badly that it did.”

Nothing like receiving an apology four years later when someone wants your support because they’re running again. Apparently, Duchy not only wants mend fences but also to be the tribune for labor on the Council:

“That should have never happened and it didn’t happen when I was on the Council,” Trachtenberg said. “It’s going to be the first thing that I do and it’s the right thing to do because effects bargaining, binding arbitration and adequate pay and workers’ benefits are all essential workers’ rights.”

Two years ago, County residents voted by 58% to uphold the County Council’s decision on effects bargaining. Labor has many good arguments to make centered around pay and benefits but reviving this one is just tactically misguided. Fighting over the police chief’s control over the police places the unions on much weaker grounds than in almost any other debate.

Duchy is also trying to perform Ten Mile Creek jujitsu–claiming credit for having laid the groundwork to protect the area while simultaneously attacking her opponent for efforts to protect it:

Trachtenberg mentioned Berliner only once, and not by name, while discussing her environmental protection credentials. She recently got support from a group of developers unhappy with Berliner’s support of a move to limit development near Ten Mile Creek in Clarksburg.

Trachtenberg claimed she had plenty of support among environmental activists, and said a water quality work group she started with former Councilmember Mike Knapp laid the groundwork for the Ten Mile Creek debate today.

And Duchy is very effective:

“Despite being accused of being bossy, and that happens often, or that I’m too quick to cut to the chase, I do get things done,” Trachtenberg said. “I’m very effective and I know I am. I’m not bragging. I know it.”

I don’t know many effective people who feel it necessary to go around and pronounce themselves effective quite so emphatically. They just get things done.

I guess her arguments were effective in at least one sense. I plan to vote to reelect Roger Berliner.

 

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Upended D16 Race Now a Tough Fight

District 16

How things have changed since David profiled this race.

Until filing day, it appeared that Marc Korman and Hrant Jamgochian would coast to victory in District 16. However, Bill Frick’s surprising decision to forgo the AG Race in favor of reelection has transformed it into what promises to be a hard fought, tough primary battle.

Marc Korman is an Attorney at the storied firm of Sidley Austin and a former Capitol Hill Staffer. He also serves on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and is well respected and well liked throughout the County. Previously, Korman turned down several opportunities to take strong shots at this seat–twice for appointments and once in the 2010 primary.

He has hired Sean Sinclair of Sinclair Strategies–a well respected if small Boston based shop–as his general consultant. Korman’s fundraising has been exceptionally strong with $120,000 on hand in January. His campaign manager was the operations director on U.S. Rep. Rush Holt’s 2013 Senate bid in New Jersey.

Hrant Jamgochian is also an Attorney and internationally known health policy expert. He ran a strong campaign for this same seat in 2010. This year, he has retained the services of Bob Creamer to lead his consulting team. Creamer has been a national powerhouse for decades. He is also a convicted felon (check cashing fraud) which could be a line of attack in this well heeled district should the campaign turn negative. Jamgochian’s Campaign Manager was the Field Director on Nevada State Assembly Speaker John Oceagura’s congressional campaign. His campaign funds are roughly comparable to those of Korman.

Both can be expected to run strong, professional, and very well funded campaigns. Both are exceptionally well qualified to serve in the House of Delegates. Sadly, only one will be able to have the privilege of representing their neighbors in Annapolis, as the other two seats are held by two strong incumbents–Frick and Del. Ariana Kelly.

Several other candidates are also running in D16.

Gareth Murray is a minister, lobbyist and former state legislator. Although well pedigreed, he has failed to put together the requisite infrastructure to be successful in the modern era of campaigns. (Disclosure: Gareth Murray is a former client in my professional life.)

Jordan Cooper‘s campaign shows exceptional hustle. However, he has only raised $22K and his well-meaning effort nonetheless sometimes strikes people as too hard charging. Still, Cooper is working very hard and is really committed to this campaign.

Rating: Frick and Kelly have a straightforward path to reelection. Toss Up between Korman and Jamgochian for the open seat.

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FAMA Passes the House–Vote Tally

FAMA

Today, the House voted 82-57 to pass the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, the transgender equality bill. This day would not have come without the hard work of many people. The Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality along with Equality Maryland’s Carrie Evans and Keith Thirion worked indefatigably on this issue.

Of course, the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Luke Clippinger, also deserve much credit. While she was not the lead sponsor this year, Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk worked hard for many years on this issue, as did Sen. Jamie Raskin. I know Del. Bonnie Cullison did much to move the bill forward this year as well.

A total of twelve Democrats voted against the bill. No Republicans voted for the bill. Here is the vote tally in the House of Delegates (listed  by district):

YEA (all D): Busch, Clagett, Olszewski, Bromwell, Jones, Nathan-Pulliam, Cardin, Morhaim, Stein, Bobo, DeBoy, Mallone, Guzzone, Pendergrass, F. Turner, Kaiser, Luedtke, Zucker, Dumais, Fraser-Hidalgo, A. Miller, Frick, A. Kelly, Lee, Barve, Gilchrist, Simmons, Carr, Gutiérrez, Waldstreicher, Arora, Cullison, Kramer, Hixson, Hucker, Mizeur, Barnes, Frush, Peña-Melnyk, Gaines, Healy, A. Washington, Holmes, Hubbard, Valentino-Smith, Howard, Swain, Braveboy, Davis, Griffith, V. Turner, Valderrama, Proctor, Vallario, Murphy, Beidle, Love, Cane, Barkley, Reznik, S. Robinson, Conaway, B. Robinson, Tarrant, Carter, Oaks, Rosenberg, Lafferty, Anderson, McIntosh, M. Washington, Haynes, Mitchell, Stukes, Branch, Glenn, Clippinger, Hammen, McHale, Ivey, Niemann, Summers.

NAY (all R unless indicated): Beitzel, K. Kelly (D), Myers, Donoghue (D), Parrott, Serafini, Hogan, Hough, Afzali, Elliott, Schulz, Kach, Ready, Stocksdale, Minnick (D), Weir (D), Impallaria, McDonough, Szeliga, Boteler, Cluster, Bates, Krebs, W. Miller, Burns (D), Vaughn (D), Walker (D), Fisher, Jameson (D), Wilson (D), Bohanan (D), O’Donnell, Wood, George, McMillan, Dwyer, Kipke, Schuh, Sophocleus (D), Costa, McConkey, Vitale, Glass, James (D), Rudolph (D), McComas, Norman, Stifler, Arentz, Jacobs, Smigiel, Eckardt, Haddaway-Riccio, Conway (D), McDermott, Otto, Aumann.

NOT VOTING: Frank (R), Harper (D)

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Del. Mike McDermott Against FAMA

His press release on the Fairness for All Marylanders Act. Note the effort to whip up fear of the other–the transgender minority–regarding problems that have not occurred elsewhere with the same legislation. Apparently, an inability to capitalize “Democrats” is also the latest chic Republican tic. The House of Delegates is debating this legislation today.

Today the House of Delegates will be debating SB-212 on final reading. The bill would make transgender identified people a special protected class of citizens to allow them full access to any and all public accommodations.  There is great concern that this will create a host of problems for Maryland businesses. There is no real exceptions, and those that exist require similar accommodations be provided if these folks are not allowed in certain areas of an establishment (spas, locker rooms, etc.).

 “We have issues in Maryland that need to be addressed,” said Delegate Mike McDermott, “and insuring that a teacher can be ‘Sam’ on Monday and ‘Sally’ on Friday is what the democrats choose to make the object of their attentions in the State House. The bill is misguided at best, and destructive at its core.”

The Republicans are making an effort to make bathrooms excepted from this bill as well as other private accommodations where people are disrobed or partially disrobed without the need to create another space for transgenders, but no floor amendments were allowed yesterday when the bill was on Second Reader. It is doubtful that the democrats will allow any changes to the bill today.

The potential outfall and burdens that will be placed upon our businesses and families cannot be fully appreciated. The failure of the House democrats to allow for us to function as a deliberative body so that this legislation can be properly scrutinized is a great injustice to our citizens.

 “The fact that we are even debating this issue on the floor of the General Assembly is disturbing; but the probable passage of this legislation should make every Marylander shake the democrats from their seats” said Delegate McDermott.

The vote will occur around noon today.

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Despite Many Rivals, Barron Has D24 Edge

D24Prince George’s District 24

Of all of the numerous delegate contests in Prince George’s, the one in District 24 is perhaps the most interesting. This is the seat that the once extremely promising Tiffany Alston lost to indictment. After Gov. O’Malley shot down the appointment of reformed ex con Greg Hall, former Del. Darren Swain was selected to fill the vacancy, although Swain would soon become embroiled in his own scandal.

Swain is running for reelection but is challenged by Alston and Hall. A third challenger, Attorney Erek Barron, is perhaps more formidable than any of them.

Swain’s vulnerabilities spring from one night shortly after he was appointed where he allegedly picked up a group of teenagers, took them to an abandoned house and was then robbed by the same teenagers.

Alston is not regarded as a serious candidate by anyone with whom I’ve spoken. Alston filed an affidavit saying she had raised less than $1,000 on January 1st.

Hall is in many ways an appealing candidate–a drug dealer who served time in prison for his role in a shooting who then cleaned up his act and is now a prosperous small business owner. Furthermore, many feel he is owed the seat because the PGCDCC nominated him for the appointment and he was the runner up to Alston in the 2010 primary. Still, his past makes many, including the Gov, uneasy. Like Alston, Hall filed an affidavit saying he had raised less than $1,000 on January 1st.

Finally, there is Barron. He has served as a prosecutor in Prince George’s County, Baltimore City and with the Department of Justice. He was also an Attorney for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, acting as Lead Counsel to now Vice President Joe Biden. He is also tied in locally, having played football at UMD and served as a PGCDCC member. He currently practices law with a prominent Maryland firm, Whiteford, Taylor and Preston. Barron had $29,000 on hand on January 1st.

Carolyn Howard and Michael Vaughn are both well respected in Annapolis and have been reasonably strong fundraisers. Howard reported $32,000 on hand in her January report, which is a solid number for an incumbent legislator in Prince George’s County. Vaughn had $75,000 on hand– an unusually strong number for a Prince George’s delegate. 

Marva Jo Camp, a Annapolis Lobbyist and Attorney has also filed to run. She failed to file a campaign finance report in January, suggesting a certain lack of organization. I’ve been unable to find any substantive information on Durand Ford, although he raised a paltry $613 in 2013. A google search turned up nothing on Delano Miller. There isn’t any campaign finance data available for Phillip Raines and his websites doesn’t list any biographical data other than that he graduated from Bowie State.

These candidates have yet prove their credibility.

Swain, Alston and Hall are all deeply flawed candidates. Barron is running a well organized campaign and has a sterling resume. The chatter is that he is the favorite.

Rating: Lean Barron

Full Disclosure: I pitched Erek Barron on Direct Mail services on behalf of a previous employer in November 2013. 

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