A Republican hasn't been elected to the state legislature from Baltimore since 1954. The ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans has grown from 5 to 1 in the mid-1950s to 10 to 1 currently.
Nevertheless, in the 43rd Legislative District, with the city's highest concentration of registered Republicans, Jim Brewster and the Republican Party smell the blood of a stricken Democrat.
Brewster, 35, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, is the GOP challenger against two-term incumbent state Sen. John A. Pica Jr. in the Nov. 6 general election.
Pica pulled out a mere 44-vote victory over political newcomer Martin O'Malley in a hard-fought Democratic primary that showed Pica's political vulnerability.
In addition to building his own following, O'Malley scored with voters by attacking the incumbent on what he termed was Pica's poor voting record in the Senate and for being out of touch with his constituency.
Brewster has borrowed from O'Malley, making his campaign theme, "Pica is out of touch," and hoping that O'Malley has paved the way for a Republican victory.
The Brewster campaign is a poor imitation of the one that O'Malley ran, said Pica. "At least Martin has an idea of how the state Senate operates," Pica said. "Mr. Brewster has no concept at all."
Brewster is running on a ticket with Robert Menas, who is going against incumbent Democrats Ann Marie Doory, Gerald J. Curran and Henry R. Hergenroeder for the House of Delegates.
"I think the Democratic split in the district is bad enough that we can see victory or, at the very least, an impressive showing," said David Blumberg, chairman of the city GOP.
Blumberg said the O'Malley campaign showed there was a lot of dissatisfaction with Pica and "I just don't believe that he has been humbled by this experience and intends to change."
Pica, 35, said he doesn't look at the message the voters sent to him in the primary to be an indictment of his representation. Rather he views it as a learning experience and the lesson driven home the hardest is that he needs to communicate better with his constituents.
City Councilman Martin E. "Mike" Curran, D-3rd, supported Pica in the primary while his brother, state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., backed O'Malley. Mike Curran said there is no carry-over split into the general election.
"All the Currans will be supporting Pica," Mike Curran said. "And I expect those Democrats who vote on November 6 will vote for Pica, too."
There are approximately 6,000 registered Republicans in the 43rd, the highest concentration in the city. That makes the ratio of Democrats to Republicans in the district 5 to 1.
"There is a base Republican vote of about 4,900 voters in the district," Brewster said. "If we can encourage even half of those who voted for O'Malley -- 2,800 -- who might feel disenfranchised to vote for us, that would give us close to 8,000 votes. That could make the race very interesting."
But O'Malley said he will be sending a letter out to his supporters asking them to join him in supporting the Democratic ticket.
Brewster is also looking for support from those voters -- Democrats and Republicans -- who hold strong anti-abortion views.
"We've gotten the mailings lists from the major pro-life, pro-family groups and flagged those members living in the 43rd," said Brewster. "We will call them and tell them they need to come out and vote for us to preserve those values."
The Family Protection Lobby of Maryland, has agreed to do a mailing for him, Brewster said.
Pica's strong pro-choice stance means that he essentially supports the use of abortions for sex selection and birth control, Brewster contends. The 43rd is a heavily Catholic district.
"I personally believe that life begins at conception and abortion amounts to murder," said Brewster. "I would like to see abortions outlawed but that's not going to happen in this state's legislature."
Given that reality, Brewster said he could support abortion in cases of rape, incest or where the mother's physical health is endangered.
But, taking a cue from national and state Republican Party strategists, Brewster said he does not intend to make abortion "a super issues in the campaign."
It is enough, Brewster said, that "I'm a classic conservative Republican and Pica is the classic liberal Democrat."
Blumberg, a moderate Republican, said he is supporting Brewster and Menas even though he opposed them in their bid to win seats on the GOP State Central Committee in the Republican primary. Blumberg backed three moderates for the central committee and all three won.
"I think they make excellent candidates for the legislature, I just wanted to keep a more moderate posture on the city central committee," Blumberg explained.
"Most of the Republicans in the district will be turned off by Mr. Brewster's far right message," Pica said. "There is no respect for women in that message and no compassion for blacks and other minorities."
Brewster spend 13 years with the Coast Guard after graduating from the Coast Guard Academy. He went from active duty to weekend reserve status in order to comply with the federal Hatch Act which prohibits federal employees from being involved in political campaigns on any level.
He and his wife and three children moved to northeast Baltimore from Cleveland in 1987.