Mikulski renominated, House incumbents win

Harris primary victory sets up rematch with Kratovil

September 14, 2010|By Paul West, The Baltimore Sun

SALISBURY — — Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski coasted to renomination Tuesday along with Maryland's eight incumbent members of the House in primary balloting across the state.

There were few meaningful surprises amid the low turnout in a primary that produced a slate of long-shot challengers unlikely to trouble the state's solidly entrenched incumbents.

Among Maryland's congressional delegation, only Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil is facing a competitive race in November. National Republicans are targeting the freshman congressman from the Eastern Shore as part of their effort to regain control of the House of Representatives.

As expected, Andy Harris won the Republican nomination to earn a rematch with Kratovil, who defeated him by 3,000 votes in 2008.

Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the Senate, will face either Harford County lawyer Jim Rutledge, a tea party favorite, or Queen Anne's County Commissioner Eric Wargotz. Early returns in the 11-way Republican Senate contest showed Wargotz leading Rutledge in a close race.

Polls indicate that Mikulski, 74, the most popular politician in Maryland, is one of the safest Senate Democrats in the country. But she said in an interview that she is taking nothing for granted.

"I take every election seriously. I'm going to work as hard as I worked in my first election," said the Baltimore native, who has stockpiled about $3 million in campaign cash.

Mikulski received more than four-fifths of the primary vote in partial returns. She won 90 percent against token opposition in the 2004 Democratic primary.

Kratovil, 42, who faced no primary opposition, said the nomination of Harris sets up a clear-cut choice in November between two candidates very different in philosophy and on issues such as the environment and reforming government.

"I think in the end, as before, the people of the district will realize that in terms of representing their interests and getting things done and changing what they don't like about Washington, I'm the better choice," Kratovil said.

Harris defeated conservative businessman Rob Fisher in the Republican primary in the 1st District, which is made up of the Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties. Fisher, a first-time candidate, invested his own money in television advertisements with an outsider message designed to capitalize on anti-incumbent feeling.

Harris, a 12-year veteran of the state legislature, was leading by about a 2-to-1 margin, according to partial returns. Fisher spent more than $400,000, most his own money, on his primary challenge.

Harris, who wore a red "Fire Pelosi" button pinned to the pocket of his blue dress shirt, said he was looking "forward in the next seven weeks, in my race, to taking back the House" from the Democratic speaker.

The 53-year-old physician, who lives in Cockeysville and represents a district north of Baltimore in the state Senate, held his primary-night party at a Republican Party campaign office on the south side of Salisbury. The Eastern Shore location symbolized a stepped-up emphasis on an area that casts roughly half of the district vote.

In 2008, Kratovil carried the Shore counties in his narrow victory over Harris in the traditionally Republican-leaning district. Kratovil enters the fall campaign with a financial edge of about $400,000 over Harris, according to Federal Election Commission data.

The Kratovil-Harris rematch is rated a toss-up by some analysts. Others give Harris a slight edge because of the district's center-right tilt and a strong Republican trend in national polling.

Elsewhere, Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Southern Maryland, the House majority leader, defeated two primary challengers. He will face Republican business executive Charles Lollar, winner of a four-way primary.

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Frederick, the lone Republican in the Maryland House delegation, beat four challengers. He now faces a rematch with Democrat Andrew Duck, an Army veteran, stockbroker and intelligence analyst he defeated in 2006.

Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards of Prince George's County defeated state Del. Herman Taylor Jr. and two other challengers. She will face Republican Robert Broadus, a computer programmer and Naval Academy graduate.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore, Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes of Baltimore County, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, all Democrats, won their primaries. With votes still being counted late Tuesday, each was waiting to learn who he will face in the November election.


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