In Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties and Baltimore City, the 2014 elections are just about over. The winner of the Democratic primary can take a vacation all summer long and expect easy victory in November. (I don’t recommend that strategy. Repeat after me: “Overconfidence is our enemy.”)
In other parts of Maryland, Democratic candidates don’t have it so easy. For example, District 38 on the Eastern Shore. It’s a difficult district for both Democrats and Republicans. It leans slightly Republican, but the two parties have about equal success in recent state and local elections. The reason: Democrats have generally fielded stronger and more experienced candidates. Also, the district has pockets of Democratic strength, especially in Salisbury, Somerset County, and Southern Worcester County.
Jim Mathias has never lost an election
In 2010, State Sen. Jim Mathias, former mayor of Ocean City, won a narrow victory in District 38, which encompasses a sprawling territory from the Atlantic Ocean to the Chesapeake Bay, and from Ocean City to Salisbury. His Republican opponent was a respected Ocean City business leader.
This year, Mathias runs as the incumbent senator and faces a far less impressive opponent. Mathias will win by a more comfortable margin, but not a landslide. The Republican, Del. Mike McDermott, showed improbable strength in the 2010 delegate race. But 2010 was an unusually favorable year for Republicans on the Shore. The local unpopularity of Gov. Martin O’Malley and President Obama created a surge of Republican sentiment.
I’m not saying 2014 will be a walk in the park for Democrats. Let’s just say that neither O’Malley or Obama is on the ballot this year. If Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown runs a strong campaign (a big if), he can turn out Democratic voters on the Shore. The Republican candidate for governor, Larry Hogan, is not as popular as Bob Ehrlich was four years ago.
The Maryland Democratic Party has a rare opportunity to gain seats on the Shore. But it depends on the Party’s willingness to provide financial support to local candidates.
Handicapping the District 38 races:
- Comparing McDermott side-by-side with Jim Mathias, it’s clear that Mathias is the more respected and experienced candidate. Mathias will win.
- Democrat Norm Conway, longtime chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is the hands-down favorite to win re-election in District 38B (part of Salisbury and its nearby suburbs).
- Crisfield Mayor Percy Purnell is a strong Democratic challenger for a do-nothing Republican incumbent in District 38A (Somerset County and Southern Worcester County).
- Democrat Judy Davis is in a dead-even race with Republican Mary Beth Carozza in District 38C (Eastern Wicomico County and Northern Worcester County, including Ocean City and Ocean Pines). Davis is a career schoolteacher who has lived, worked, and raised her family on the Lower Eastern Shore. Carozza is a career political aide who spent her adult life on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon working for former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. She also worked briefly for Bob Ehrlich in Annapolis. We probably won’t know the outcome in 38C until they count the absentee ballots.
A closer look at 38C:
Some political observers believe that Carozza will win in 38C. Their reasoning: She has contacts with Republican donors from D.C. to Ohio, plus the high-visibility support of Donald Rumsfeld. She’s piled up a wealth of contributions. Fair enough.
Democrats don’t have deep pockets. Davis has less money, most of it raised in Maryland. But Davis also has a stronger network of personal support.
Judy Davis is the only candidate on the Eastern Shore endorsed by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. She also has the Maryland Teachers’ Apple endorsement. She has degrees from Salisbury University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and she’s a graduate of the first Maryland Emerge program for Democratic women. Carozza graduated from Catholic University in Washington and also attended Harvard. To my knowledge, Carozza has no endorsements and has never had a job on the Eastern Shore as an adult.
Davis has lived and worked on the Lower Shore for the past 40 years; Carozza has worked in Washington, D.C. Davis knows the people of Worcester and Wicomico Counties; Carozza knows politicians in Washington.
Still, it costs money to run a successful campaign. Davis has two fundraisers scheduled in coming weeks, one in Wicomico County and one in Montgomery County. The first, in Parsonsburg on the Eastern Shore, will be on Saturday, Sept. 27.
For details on the fundraiser in Montgomery County, scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 8, click here: Davis~Montgomery County.
Democrats on the Western Shore should strongly consider contributing to Democratic candidates in District 38 on the Eastern Shore. Remember, even if you don’t have time to attend a fundraiser, you can still buy a ticket.
Your blogger obviously supports the Democratic candidates in District 38. This post has not been paid for or approved by any candidate or organization. (But you knew that.)
— John Hayden