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House of Delegates Ratings, Part IV: Likely GOP Seats

After a long hiatus, 7S is resuming its rating of legislative races for the 2018 election. Previous posts covered Safe Democratic, Safe Republican, and Lean Republican seats.

All four Likely Republican seats are outside shots for the Democrats. But if the anti-Trump whirlwind hits Maryland in 2018 and sweeps away Republicans, here is where it is likely to strike. Democrats need strong candidates here in order to be prepared to take advantage and to put the Republican on defense.

William Folden

Del. Folden won election in 2014 from District 3B, a singleton subdistrict of fiercely contested Frederick County D3. More Republican than 3A, Hogan carried 3B by 28 points in 2014 and Trump beat Clinton by 6 in 2016.

However, Folden’s 56% victory margin lagged far behind the more popular Hogan. While Hogan will undoubtedly carry this area again, the question remains of by how much. Frederick continues to trend Democratic, which doesn’t help Folden either.

Democrats were demoralized and did badly in the 2014 midterm election but the reverse situation could be Folden’s undoing. One can well imagine a scenario in which Trump continues to perform below expectations, weakening Republican support and turnout in contrast to angry Democrats.

Notice that the same swing needed for Clinton to have won the district in 2016 would also ejected Folden in 2014.

Joe Cluster and Christian Miele

Del. Joe Cluster was appointed in 2016 to fill the seat won by his father, John Cluster. Del. Christian Miele was newly elected to the House in 2014. Miele and John Cluster won that election in Baltimore County’s District 8 with the equivalent of around 58% of the vote.

Unusually, they share their three delegate district with a Democrat, Del. Eric Bromwell, who is also the son of a former legislator. Bromwell trailed his Republican seatmates with the equivalent of just 50.1%–about 5% ahead of the third Republican–in an area of Baltimore County that has been seen as moving Republican.

Bromwell’s shaky hold despite his long experience in the House combined with Hogan’s 36 point victory ought to indicate that the Republicans should be fine. But Trump lost the district by 1% to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and notice that the Republicans significantly underperformed compared to Hogan.

While Hogan is on the ballot, Trump is now President. Instead of riding an anti-Democratic wave, Cluster and Miele will have to contend with anti-Trump sentiment. Candidates in both parties always have to run hard here. Though well positioned, Cluster and Miele will likely have to run harder in 2018, as this is the sort of  territory in which Trump’s unpopularity upset the increasing comfort felt by Republicans.

Glen Glass

Like Cluster and Miele, second-term Harford Del. Glen Glass holds one of the rare multimember districts split between the two parties. In 2014, he won with 57%, ahead of the 53% won by newcomer Democratic Del. Mary Ann Lisanti and the 48% gained by his losing Republican ticket mate.

Harford County has been a growing Republican suburb but Democrats have nonetheless managed to retain a foothold in two-member District 34A. Before Lisanti, Mary Dulany James did well in delegate elections despite losing the senatorial election in larger D34 in 2014.

Like Baltimore County’s D8, D34A went for Hogan in 2014 but then narrowly for Clinton in 2016. But this subdistrict is less strongly Republican. Hogan won by 28 and Clinton won by 2. The anti-Democratic winds blowing in 2014 that undermined Del. James’ senate bid won’t be blowing in 2018.

Glass remains the favorite but, like D8, this is one of those districts that candidates from neither party can take for granted. If voters in Maryland’s outer suburbs turn on Republicans in a backlash against Trump, his reelection fight could be much tougher than anticipated, particularly if the Democrats find a good candidate.

 

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