U.S.House candidate Wendy Rosen shifted her attention to the general election Thursday after her opponent conceded the race for the Democratic nomination in Maryland's 1st District — ending the final disputed contest from last week's statewide primary.
Rosen, a Cockeysville businesswoman, led Chestertown physician John LaFerla by 82 votes out of more than 25,000 cast after state election officials had counted most of the absentee and provisional ballots. The district includes portions of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties as well as the Eastern Shore.
In a statement, Rosen focused her fire on GOP incumbent Rep. Andy Harris, who is favored to win re-election in the Republican-leaning district.
"His extremist views have led to high disapproval throughout the district," Rosen said. "His desire to eliminate Medicare in order to subsidize another tax break for millionaires and billionaires shows just how out of touch he really is with the needs of his constituents."
The statement was a reference to the Republican budget approved by the House of Representatives last month that Harris and all but 10 other Republicans supported. The plan, which has no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate, would not eliminate Medicare but would fundamentally transform the program into a system in which seniors would receive subsidies that they could choose where to spend.
Democrats note the annual growth of those subsidies falls short of the rate of health care cost increases, and seniors would have to pick up the difference.
Harris said he would "continue to be a watchdog for taxpayers," pointing to his support for another Republican priority, the building of the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.
The 1st District received considerable national attention in 2008, when Frank Kratovil captured it for Democrats for the first time in 18 years, and again in 2010, when Harris beat Kratovil by a 12-percentage-point margin in the midterm election. But the seat is considered safer for Republicans after last year's redistricting by lawmakers in Annapolis.
Registered Republicans now outnumber Democrats by nearly 16,000 in the 383,000-voter district.
This year, the fight for the 1st District nomination proved to be the most competitive race in the state. Rosen declared victory hours after polls closed, but LaFerla argued that the contest was too close to call and said he wanted to wait for absentee and provisional ballots to be counted. The margin narrowed slightly as that process unfolded, but not enough to give LaFerla a chance of winning.
It also became clear that the margin would not fall within the threshold required for a state-funded recount. If a candidate requests a recount, taxpayers pick up the cost if the margin separating the candidates is one-tenth of 1 percent of the total votes cast or less. In this case, the margin is about one-third of 1 percent.
"Now that most of the absentee and provisional ballots have been counted, it is clear that the result of the Democratic primary …will not change," said LaFerla, who said he would support Rosen in the general. "While we came up short, the issues we talked about remain vital to the future of our district and our nation."
A third candidate, Kim Letke, received 14 percent of the vote.
Rosen, who was endorsed by neighboring Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, won Baltimore, Cecil and Dorchester counties. LaFerla, who was supported by former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a centrist Republican, won Kent and Queen Anne's counties. The two candidates split Harford County.
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