Robert Flanagan is the most vulnerable Republican in the House of Delegates. Representing District 9B in Howard County, Flanagan beat Democrat Tom Coale with 55% of the vote in 2014. Flanagan ran behind Larry Hogan, who beat Anthony Brown in the gubernatorial race by 16 points.
The district shifted back heavily to the Democrats in 2016 as Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by 19%. If a backlash wave against Trump upsets Republican boats in the General Assembly, this is one of the first places that will be hit, as it holds many of the precise sorts of voters who tend to be ticked off by Trump’s antics.
Flanagan has $18,268 in his campaign kitty according to the report he filed in January. In this wealthy county, he is likely going to want to raise a lot more before the campaign. Howard’s trend toward the Democrats stalled in 2014 but Flanagan still goes into the 2018 elections with a big target on his back.
Del. Herb McMillan is one of those politicians who has been on the ballot for many years but always has close, and sometimes losing, races. He won the third slot the House from District 30 in 2002 by just 427 votes over his Democratic opponent. McMillan ran for the Senate in 2006 and lost with 47% against Sen. John Astle.
He must have been happy to win a return ticket to the House of Delegates in 2010. But his vote share, the equivalent of 51% in a single-member district, hardly discouraged challengers. Redistricting placed him in District 30B, a subdistrict that he shares with Democratic Speaker Mike Busch.
Undoubtedly, Busch hoped that the voters would send McMillan home from the redrawn district. However, in the same year that Hogan won the seat by 18%, McMillan surprised and came in ahead of Busch with the equivalent of 56% of the vote.
Despite coming off of his best race ever, McMillan remains at risk. Like Flanagan, McMillan represents a seat that Hillary Clinton won convincingly. Though Anne Arundel County split nearly evenly, Clinton won this portion by 15 points.
McMillan is more prepared than Flanagan with a $66,817 in his campaign treasury–good evidence that he is ready to run a tough race for this or the Senate. Even if Hogan does well, there will be no anti-Democratic backlash to aid McMillan this time as a highly controversial Republican sits in the White House.
Either way, Democrats will want to recruit strong candidates here and in Flanagan’s district to bring the fight to them in the hopes of padding their majorities or offsetting losses elsewhere.