Monday, August 22, 2016

Race of the Day- Maryland U.S. Senate

77 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Safe Democrat

One of the biggest upsets of Campaign 2014 occurred when Republican Larry Hogan Jr. defeated a highly favored Democrat opponent to capture the Governorship in the typically Democrat state of Maryland. Hogan won with some room to spare too, and few saw such a move in the works, even days before the election. Hogan's moderate Republican tenure as Governor has given him some pretty high popularity in the state, as well as his courageous victory against the odds over cancer, but Senate races can be very different than Gubernatorial races. There are many states where a Democrat cannot get elected to the Senate, and the reverse seems to very much be the case in Maryland.

It has indeed been decades since Maryland last sent a Republican to the Senate. Since the retirement of the last one in 1986, a seat has been held by Democrat Barbara Mikulski. Add to that her previous decade of service in the U.S. House, and Mikulski is retiring this year as the longest serving woman in the history of Congress.

With her seat opening up, many ambitious Democrats took a look at the contest, but many would instead view for a couple of House vacancies that this race brought about. It must be easy to get on the primary ballot in Maryland, because a whole lot of contenders in both parties ran. Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congresswoman Donna Edwards were easily the two frontrunners though. Many looked at Edwards as a rising star in the party, and a chance to elect a very liberal African-American woman, who represented a racially diverse district in Congress. She seemed to be playing catch-up from the start though against Van Hollen, her colleague from the Washington D.C. suburbs. He represents one of the wealthiest districts in the country.

Van Hollen has served in the House since 2003, and has been a member of the Democrat leadership. His political reputation was catapulted the year of his first Congressional victory, when he beat a member of the Kennedy family in a Democrat primary, who had easily outspent him, and then ousted a longtime moderate Republican female incumbent. Since that time, Van Hollen's district has been made even more Democrat and he has been one of the more ambitious Democrats in the House. Without a chance to move up to the biggest jobs in the leadership anytime soon, he set his sights on the Senate vacancy, and while Edwards had pockets of support, the party establishment rallied around Van Hollen, a white man, over his female black opponent, but that included some African-American political figures as well. Ultimately, Van Hollen won 53-39, all but assuring his promotion to the Senate.

The GOP also held a crowded primary in April, but it received less attention. While more than two-thirds of the vote went to other contenders, the easy winner was State Delegate Kathy Szeliga, the Minority Whip in the State House. Only a little known and twice defeated for the House candidate, with some Tea Party backing cracked double digits.

Szeliga seems like a very credible candidate and she can point out, in trying to succeed Mikulski, and with the primary defeat of Edwards, that if she loses to Van Hollen, Maryland will be sending an all male delegation to Capitol Hill. That's not likely to get her too far though, as Maryland is just overwhelmingly Democrat at the federal level. Szeliga has stated that she will support the Republican Presidential nominee, but has also distanced herself from specific Donald Trump statements.

Perhaps, she may have a future down the road in a different race, but Szeliga stands virtually no chance in this race, in this state, in this year, barring campaigning non-stop with Marylander Michael Phelps. Absent that, Van Hollen will probably be on television even more often as a United States Senator.

Szeliga campaign link:

Senate races predicted thus far:
6 D (4 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Leans)
12 R (4 Safe, 5 Likely, 2 Leans, 1 Tossup)

 Overall predicted thus far: 42 D, 42 R


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