Republicans ride GOP wave to gain General Assembly seats

Republicans in Maryland hope to capitalize on GOP's national surge

Capitalizing on a GOP surge nationally, Maryland Republicans picked up nine seats in the General Assembly, where they have been the minority party for years.

The GOP had targeted several battleground districts — in Baltimore County, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore. With most votes counted, Republicans were poised to pick up two seats in the Senate, and seven in the House of Delegates.

Before the election, the state GOP laid out a dream scenario: Elect Republican Larry Hogan as governor and pick up five seats in the House of Delegates.

They surpassed that goal Tuesday night.

Joe Cluster, the GOP's Maryland director, remembered when Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said years ago that state Democrats would bury the Republican Party for 40 years.

"The Republican Party is stronger than ever," Cluster said. "We are no longer the party that can be ignored in Annapolis. The state got very purple tonight."

While several statehouses across the country were expected to shift to Republican control, Maryland Democrats will keep large majorities in both the House of Delegates and the Senate. Before Tuesday's election, Democrats held 35 of 47 state Senate seats and 98 of 141 in the House of Delegates.

D. Bruce Poole, a former member of the House of Delegates who ran a committee helping elect Democrats, said his party kept Republican gains to a minimum with strong fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts.

"By all rights, the Republicans ought to have huge gains in the House," Poole said. "Given the prevailing forces, the Republicans ought to have picked up 15 or 20 seats.

But Republicans saw opportunity to add to their numbers and have a greater voice in Annapolis. This year, more than one-third of incumbents in the House of Delegates were not seeking re-election.

In Baltimore County, Republican Johnny Ray Salling, a steelworker, defeated Democrat John Olszewski Jr., a state delegate, for a Senate seat representing Dundalk. They were vying to replace Democratic Sen. Norman Stone, who retired after decades in the General Assembly.

And in Southern Maryland, incumbent Democrat Roy P. Dyson lost his Senate race against Republican Steve Waugh.

But several well-known Democrats fended off strong challenges from the GOP, including Democratic Sens. Ron Young in Frederick and Jim Mathias on the Eastern Shore.

In another hotly contested race, State Sen. Jim Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, defeated Dr. Tim Robinson, 61, a retired anesthesiologist from the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.

State redistricting left the northern Baltimore County district with considerably more Republicans. Brochin, a 12-year incumbent Democrat, spent the campaign trying to appeal to conservatives — stressing his votes against many of Gov. Martin O'Malley's tax and fee increases and not his vote for the governor's gun control law.

On Tuesday, Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger and local businesswoman Gia Magliano, dressed as Thing One from a Dr. Seuss cartoon, campaigned for Brochin in Cockeysville.

At Warren Elementary School, in a conservative area, Shellenberger promoted Brochin's criminal justice accomplishments while Magliano reminded voters of Brochin's Dr. Seuss-themed ads emphasizing his votes against tax increases.

"Jim is a strong supporter of public safety," Shellenberger said.

The message worked with Republican Kathy Fader, 67, a retired pharmacist who voted for GOP candidates but broke with the party to vote for Brochin.

"I'm a Republican, but he's my man," she said.

Other Republicans weren't persuaded. Lynne Rothermel, 53, a waste management supervisor, said she voted for the GOP down the ticket.

"If there wasn't a Republican in a race, I wrote in my dog," she said.

And in Harford County, Democrat Mary-Dulany James, a four-term state delegate from Havre de Grace, lost to Republican Bob Cassilly, a former county councilman from Bel Air. They were vying for the Senate seat being vacated after 16 years by Republican Nancy Jacobs, who is retiring.

In House races, Republicans swept races for three Dundalk seats that had been held by Democrats. They were Bob Long, a community activist and business owner who ran in 2010; Robin Grammer, who works in information technology; and Ric Metzgar, who is general manager of G&W Motors and has run twice before.

And in Howard County, Republican Bob Flanagan, 68, beat Democrat Thomas G. Coale, a 32-year-old lawyer and former member of the Columbia Association board.

In a Baltimore City race, many political observers were watching the unsuccessful write-in campaign by sitting Del. Shawn Tarrant, a Democrat who had hoped to unseat fellow Democrat Del. Frank M. Conaway Jr. in West Baltimore. Conaway, who posted a series of rambling videos online that made some question his fitness for office, was poised to be re-elected Tuesday night.

"I decided not to vote for him. I did a write-in for the first time," 49-year-old Jay Garrett said of writing in Tarrant's name. He works in telecom for the Social Security Administration. "I'm kind of tired of that family. I didn't vote for any of them."

But Herbert Stokes, 43, said he voted for all the Conaways on the ballot — the delegate; his father, Conaway Sr., running for re-election as clerk of Baltimore City Circuit Court; and his sister, Belinda K. Conaway, running for register of wills, a post previously held by her stepmother, Mary W. Conaway.

"I think they do a good job," Stokes said. "But I think they can also do better."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said he expected Republican enthusiasm this year, though far less than in some previous elections.

"We don't think there's the same type of national wave we saw with the Contract for American," Busch said before votes were counted, referring to Republican victories in 1994.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that House Republicans now have enough votes to block an override of a governor's veto.

Sun reporter Jean Marbella contributed to this article.

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