Baltimore County Key to GOP Loosening Democrats' Grip on State Senate
Maryland Republicans believe they have a chance to stick a political knife into the Democrats’ veto-proof majority in the State Senate in November. They need to flip five seats. Two of the seats they think they can pick up are in Baltimore County.
The success for the GOP may ride on whether the Governor’s popularity trumps a possible blue wave.
Robbie Leonard is the Democrat running in Maryland’s 42nd state senate district, which is one of the seats the Republicans believe they can pick off. One morning he and some friends were at the corner of York Road and Register Avenue in Towson, holding up campaign signs, hoping for a wave or a friendly honk.
“All we need is about 24,000 people to see this sign, and we’re going to win,” Leonard joked.
The 42nd, a wedge that cuts the county in two from the city line through Towson and Timonium to Pennsylvania, is considered a conservative district. But Leonard believes he can win it. He said he was inspired to take action following the election of President Trump. He’s counting on a blue wave but at the same time has knocked on more than 13,000 doors.
“There’s not going to be a blue wave if people don’t know who to vote for,” Leonard said. “So people have to know who I am. So that’s why we’re working so hard.”
The 42nd is one of about half a dozen senate seats in the state the Republicans believe they can flip.
“It’s a decidedly Republican district,” said State Senator Jim Brochin.
He should know. Brochin is retiring after holding the 42nd district seat for 16 years. Brochin is a Democrat. Despite that, Brochin said he was able to win in part because he talked issues, not party. Brochin believes Leonard bringing up the President to voters might not be a smart political move.
“They want a Larry Hogan type candidate,” Brochin said. “They want a senator who puts party absolutely last.”
Brochin has broken ranks with his fellow Democrats and is supporting the Republican governor for reelection. And Leonard’s GOP opponent, Delegate Chris West, is holding on tight to the governor’s coattails and for good reason. In 2014, Hogan captured more than 70% of the vote in the 42nd. West said when he talks to voters, he feels the love for the governor.
West said, “It’s very rare that someone says ‘oh well I’m not supporting Larry.’ And I say well if you don’t support Larry you shouldn’t support me either.”
And it’s the same story in the 8th Senate District, which adjoins the 42nd’s southeast border and includes Parkville and Perry Hall. Republicans like Delegate Kathy Szeliga believe the governor’s popularity gives them a shot at knocking off long time Democratic incumbent Kathy Klausmeier.
“It doesn’t make sense to vote for Governor Hogan then turn around and vote for people who are going to pick fights with him,” Szeliga said.
Other senate seats the GOP hopes to flip include races in Anne Arundel, Frederick and on the Eastern Shore.
Delegate West said losing the veto-proof majority in the senate would force Democrats in the legislature to be more bipartisan.
“All of a sudden they’re saying let’s see if we can get the governor on board to begin with,” said West.
But Leonard predicts the GOP will fall short.
“That was their old plan,” Leonard said. “Plans have changed.”
And Brochin agrees, believing they may pick up two or three seats, but not the five they need. And even though he is backing the governor, Brochin is ok with that.
“I like the fact that they have to keep pushing back on each other,” Brochin said.
Brochin said that has made Hogan a more effective governor.