Victory by filibuster has boomeranged into political defeat for four anti-abortion senators, creating the likelihood that the next Maryland Senate will be able to bring to a vote a bill that would ensure abortion rights.
"It's more than a filibuster-proof Senate, it's a pro-choice Maryland General Assembly," said a jubilant Steven Rivelis, chairman of Choice PAC, a fund-raising group that supports political candidates who favor abortion rights.
The apparent breakup of the Senate's anti-abortion filibuster bloc was just part of the new legislative landscape emerging from yesterday's primary election: At least six Senate incumbents lost, as did a handful of House veterans, including, apparently, Majority Leader John S. Arnick.
Among the four anti-abortion senators to lose was Francis X. Kelly, D-Balto. Co., a three-term incumbent who was crushed by Janice Piccinini in a contest that focused squarely on abortion. Kelly was one of the leaders of last March's filibuster that derailed an abortion bill proposed by pro-choice legislators.
"I just feel strongly that we have to protect these babies. If I were pro-choice I would have won, but I'm not pro-choice, I'm pro-life," Kelly told about 200 supporters gathered in Timonium. "I do not regret what I did. I hope that doesn't sound arrogant. I love people. I could not live with myself if I didn't fight for what I believed in."
Piccinini, the former head of the Maryland State Teachers Association, said abortion was the perfect issue for tackling an entrenched incumbent.
"You need an issue to beat an incumbent," said Piccinini, who put her pro-choice views at the forefront of her campaign. "He has everything going for him. He has 12 years of experience, 12 years of organizing, 12 years of name recognition. ... I had the one issue to drive people to the polls."
Other losers were S. Frank Shore and Margaret C. Schweinhaut, both D-Montgomery, who along with Kelly supported the abortion filibuster to the end. Schweinhaut was defeated by Del. Patricia R. Sher, while Shore was trampled by Del. Mary H. Boergers. Both Democratic nominees are pro-choice.
Another loser was Frank J. Komenda, D-Prince George's, who initially supported the filibuster but in the end voted to cut it off. But Komenda's loss, to Del. Gloria G. Lawlah, had more to do with the increasing political clout of the black electorate in Prince George's than it did with Lawlah's pro-choice views, several observers said. Lawlah is black, Komenda is white.
Among the six Senate incumbents to fall yesterday was Troy Brailey, D-City, a 24-year veteran of the General Assembly who lost to Del. Ralph M. Hughes. Both candidates are pro-choice.
Also, Sharon Hornberger, R-Carroll, a pro-choice advocate, was defeated by Larry Haines, a Republican fund-raiser and real estate agent who opposes abortion.
A seventh Senate incumbent, John A. Pica Jr., D-City, a pro-choice advocate, finished just five votes behind challenger Martin O'Malley. The race will be decided by a count of 300 absentee ballots beginning at 10 a.m. tomorrow, election officials said today.
Neither candidate made abortion a pivotal issue in the race. And O'Malley, a former city prosecutor, said he didn't feel that an abortion filibuster accomplishes anything.
"Since abortion has such a sweeping human rights implication, the issue needs full and thorough debate," said O'Malley. "There needs to be a balance struck between discouraging abortion and not driving women into back alleys."
In the House of Delegates, Majority Leader Arnick, one of the key figures in the State House, appeared to have lost his seat to Connie Galiazzo. Trailing by 26 votes, Arnick said he doubted he could catch up when the absentee ballots are counted.
Arnick blamed his defeat on Tom Koch, the treasurer of the state Democratic Party, who was one of Galiazzo's major supporters.
"It's the first time in the history of politics in this country that a treasurer of a party ran a candidate against a majority leader of the party," Arnick said. "I think I'm a loser and I think the Democratic Party beat me."
Galiazzo said the people, not party officials, decided. "People wanted change. They wanted a new kind of leadership."
Several other House incumbents were defeated in the primary. Among them were David B. Shapiro, D-City, who lost to Delores G. Kelley, and R. Terry Connelly, D-Balto. Co., who lost to Leslie Hutchinson. Hutchinson is vying for a seat once held by two relatives: her grandfather, and her uncle, former County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson.
In the city, Senate Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount swamped Wendell H. Phillips in the culmination of a spirited Democratic primary campaign.
"I'm just glad that the people have an opportunity to speak," said Blount, who won by better than a 2-1 margin.
In Harford County, outgoing County Executive Habern W. Freeman Jr. easily beat one of the most popular local politicians of old, former state Sen. William S. James, in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Catherine I. Riley.
Also, voters ended the comeback attempts of two former legislators attempting to rebound from legal troubles: former Del. Nathaniel T. Oaks, who ran fifth in the House race in West Baltimore's 41st District, and former state Sen. Tommie Broadwater, who narrowly lost to incumbent Sen. Decatur W. Trotter, D-Prince George's.