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.”
Eighth Congressional District Democratic Nominee Jamie Raskin will presumably vacate his State Senate seat some time after the November elections. A number of people’s names are already being bandied about to fill the seat, including Heather Mizeur who represented D20 in the House of Delegates until 2015 but now lives on the Eastern Shore.
Good news for Mizeur and any other potential Senate aspirants. There is still time to establish residency in D20 because Article III, Section 9 of Maryland’s Constitution requires that legislators live in a district for only six months in advance of the election. May 9th is six months before the day after Election Day.
Sen. Raskin could wait until being sworn into Congress to resign his seat, which would delay the appointment process. As the General Assembly session begins in January, I imagine he would want to start the ball rolling earlier, so that someone could be in the seat from the beginning of the session.
Of course, all of the above also applies to District 40, which can expect with equal certainty that now Sen. Catherine Pugh will become Mayor of the City of Baltimore after the general election. So watch for any moving trucks in these districts!
EMILY’s List announced its support in the upcoming senatorial race for Rep. Donna Edwards. Great news for her campaign as she’ll need all the money that they can raise and more. Beyond the fundraising, it also gives her the imprimatur of a major endorser. An important day for the Edwards campaign.
Bad news for other women who had been musing about the race, specifically Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former Del. Heather Mizeur. Rawlings-Blake already has a challenging day job and it is unclear how serious she is about running for Senate.
This is now the second time that EMILY’s List has taken a pass on Mizeur who has been promoting her candidacy with donors as well as through her expansive social network. Of course, Mizeur could turn to an open congressional race where she could be a very competitive candidate–and might gain EMILY’s List support.
I had wondered if Chris Van Hollen might play Hamlet and have a tough time making a decision on whether or not to enter the Senate race. After all, he ranks high in the House Leadership and was tipped as a strong candidate for Speaker. But I didn’t have to wonder for long. Rep. Van Hollen acted decisively and entered the race.
He brings a lot of major advantages to his candidacy.
Strong Montgomery Base
Chris Van Hollen’s base in Montgomery is strong and large. Thanks to redistricting, he has represented most of it at one time or another. While we have many well-liked pols, Chris is the most widely popular and respected. Put another way, his is the endorsement that most state legislative candidates in the County want on their mailers.
He will have a large army of loyal and excited volunteers, including many who worked on his congressional campaign. Equally important, he already has very smart advisers such as Joan Kleinman and Karen MacManus. Like so many originally from Louisiana, Karen has very quick political sense and a formidable ability to organize and get things done.
Van Hollen’s campaign will be very well funded. The Sun reported that he already has $1.7 million cash-on-hand. As a former head of the DCCC, his network could hardly be more extensive. Having raised so much money for many his colleagues, he may benefit from their support is well.
Record and Skill Set
But the most important advantage held by Van Hollen is that many see him as the full package: a policy wonk who can also strategize and communicate. He has always been fast on his feet challenging Republicans on the floor or on television. Equally important, he conveys the Democratic message in an appealing and completely understandable way.
And Rep. Van Hollen doesn’t do this by temporizing. He is unafraid to stand up for progressive priorities, such as when he opposed the CROmnibus. Just watch one of many examples in the above clips in which he wins the debate not just intellectually but in terms of communication even on FOX.
Some fear that he may suffer from the same problem as Mike Barnes did when he ran for Senate in 1986. Rep. Barnes carried Montgomery handily but failed to make inroads elsewhere. A key difference from 1986 is that Mikulski had already run for Senate in a general election. Though she lost that uphill race against Sen. Mac Mathias, she gained both credibility and name recognition. No sitting representative in Maryland has that advantage.
Nonetheless, Chris will have to break out of Montgomery. He has represented portions of other counties. His connections from his days in the state legislature may also help these efforts. It will also aid the Van Hollen campaign if other Montgomery based candidates like John Delaney and Heather Mizeur stay out of the race.
As Sen. Barbara Mikulski announces her retirement, people aspiring to win the seat are already eying not just it but each other. Here is a first look at one potential candidate who could be a top contender: Donna Edwards
The Fourth District representative brings a lot to her candidacy. With firm backing from national and local progressives (read: left-wing Democrats), she unseated Rep. Al Wynn in 2008. Del. David Moon sent out an email yesterday from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee calling for her to run. (Clarification: David was forwarding the email so people could see it and has not endorsed any candidate.)
Her potential to attract both progressive and African-American voters–very large groups in any statewide Democratic primary–makes her a formidable candidate. Thanks to redistricting, she has represented much of Prince George’s, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties.
These are very big advantages. Unlike Anthony Brown, she has real potential to fire up the left-wing Democratic party base. People who would like to see a woman take Barbara Mikulski’s seat may well also be inspired to support Edwards. In short, there is a real market for a candidate with Edwards’ political profile.
Edwards is not popular with the Democratic establishment but I don’t really see that as a barrier. A much bigger problem is whether she can raise the money needed for a Senate bid. She currently has just $30,000 in her congressional campaign account.
This is not an insurmountable barrier for a Member of Congress who will gain backing from various progressive groups, . But Edwards will have to put in serious phone time as she will face better fundraisers and is starting well behind many other potential candidates.
Problems with Jewish and Pro-Israel Voters?
She may also sail into choppy waters with Jewish and pro-Israel voters. Unhappiness with her record on Israel was one factor that helped propel forward a near challenge by Glenn Ivey in 2012. J Street has strongly supported Edwards but even they criticized her fundraiser with the pro-Palestinian New Policy PAC.
The fundraiser touted that she was one of only 25 representatives to vote against a House resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself” in the Gaza conflict. Actions like these will give pause to voters who have no affection for Benjamin Netanyahu and think Barack Obama is fine on Israel but also do not want someone they perceive as unsympathetic to Israel representing them.
Maryland has one of the highest proportion of Jewish voters in the nation. Jewish Americans tend to vote a high rates and will, like African Americans, figure disproportionately in any statewide Democratic primary. Democrats may also fear that this record could harm her in the general election.
Edwards has received support in the past from some prominent local Jewish leaders. But will it be enough for her to brush these problems aside?
Rep. Edwards has served in Congress for six years, and Democrats have been in the minority but all for the first two years of her service. As a result, an Edwards campaign will have to focus more on her positions than her accomplishments, as do her congressional campaign and official congressional websites.
Overlap with Other Candidates
Maryland does not hold runoffs so whoever wins the primary wins the nomination. The supply of candidates will influence the outcome as candidates who have more competitors who can eat into their vote will suffer. This is not a problem peculiar to Donna Edwards–all candidates will worry about this issue. But who would eat into her likely potential voters?
African-American candidates, especially from the Baltimore area like Rep. Elijah Cummings or Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, could make it hard for her to rack up votes there. Edwards and former Del. Heather Mizeur would compete for the same hard-left progressives, though I tend to believe Edwards would crowd Mizeur out. More seriously, Rep. Chris Van Hollen presents challenges for Edwards in Montgomery–a natural potential base for her support.
The above table contains a list of the 84, or 60 percent, most progressive delegates going into the 2014 elections, according to Boris Shor and Nolan McCarty’s measure of state legislator ideology. Remember that the lower the score (i.e. the more negative or left on the number line), the more progressive the legislator.
Interpreting the Scores
Two key caveats need to be remembered when interpreting the table. First, two legislators–David Fraser-Hidalgo and Steven Arentz–were appointed too recently to have scores and are not included. (Unlike for the Senate, scores are also unavailable for newly elected legislators; most new senators were former delegates.)
Second, the the tradition of the House is that legislators vote with their committee on the key second reading of bills that have emerged from their committee. The basic rationale is that legislators should not have a second bite at the apple and go along with the results of their committee. Adherence to this tradition would alter a legislator’s score if they would have otherwise voted differently.
As a rough cut, the top four deciles, or 40% of the House, are all solid progressives or liberals (pick your favorite) on most issues. The fifth and sixth deciles, who formed the middle 20% ideologically of the old House, were more center left with legislators becoming more moderate as the scores get closer to zero.
Departure of Moderate Democrats
Liberalism appears somewhat related to the likelihood that a legislator from the old House will return in the new one. Consider that 11, or 26%, of the 42 most progressive legislators (i.e. the top three deciles) will not return in 2015. But among the 42 next most progressive legislators (i.e. the fourth through sixth deciles), 17, or 40%, will not serve in the new House.
(The numbers indicate the same conclusion if one divides the two groups between the third and fourth deciles. In the top four deciles, 29% of the 56 won’t return, as compared to 43% of the 28 delegates in the fifth and sixth most progressive deciles.)
Notice that Speaker Michael Busch was slightly left of center in his old caucus (remember 13 Democrats are not in the tables). He seems likely to be slightly right of the center in his new caucus, as more moderates were defeated. Moreover, it seems quite possible that newly elected legislators will be more left wing than the delegates who preceded them in office.
The Most Progressive Returning Legislators
Interestingly, the three most progressive returning legislators according to the Shor-McCarty measure sat in the Senate: (1) Rich Madaleno, (2) Paul Pinsky, and (3) Roger Manno. However, the next two were members of the House: (4) Susan Lee, and (5) Bonnie Cullison, though Lee is moving from the House to the Senate when the new General Assembly convenes.