With the filing deadline passed, it's fair to say that Howard County's incumbent U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Sarbanes have a pretty easy path to re-election.
Neither Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat who has represented District 7 for 15 years, or Sarbanes, a Towson Democrat who has represented District 3 for five years, face any challenger, Democratic or Republican, with elected political experience.
Meanwhile, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger in District 2, which probably will include part of Howard County after the election because of redistricting, has an uncontested Democratic primary, but a few potentially formidable Republican challengers.
Those District 2 GOP candidates include state Sen. Nancy Jacobs and state Del. Rick Impallaria, both from Harford County, and Baltimore County Republican Larry Smith, a former aide to District 1 U.S. Rep. Andy Harris.
Donald Norris, chairman of the public policy department at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, pronounced Cummings' and Sarbanes' districts "safe for the incumbents."
As for Ruppersberger, Norris said his popularity and the fact that he is "moderately conservative" should help him carry the day but he can't take the election for granted.
"He's got to run a good campaign," Norris said.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Baltimore Democrat first elected to the Senate in 2006 after serving 20 years as Maryland's District 3 representative, has 18 challengers — eight Democrats and 10 Republicans — hoping to make him a one-term senator. The only challenger to Cardin who has served in elected office is Democrat Anthony Muse, a state delegate from Prince George's County.
"He's the only one with any substantial name recognition," Norris said of Muse. However, he explained, Muse "isn't particularly well known" and doesn't have the money or political support needed to beat Cardin in the primary.
And as long as Cardin doesn't take his election for granted and he wins the primary, Norris said he will win the general election.
"Other things being equal, a good Democrat beats a good Republican every time in a statewide election," he explained.
Sarbanes faces one challenger in the April primary election. David Lockwood, a Democrat from Silver Spring, is a consultant working with the Internal Revenue Service. He has no political experience.
Four Republicans are running in the District 3 GOP primary race. Armand Girard, of Baltimore, unsuccessfully ran for comptroller in 2010, finishing behind the other two candidates in the GOP primary. Thomas "Pinkston" Harris, of Baltimore, after winning the District 3 Republican primary in 2008 but losing to Sarbanes in the general election, placed second (four candidates ran) in the 2010 District 3 Republican primary.
Eric Delano Knowles, of Baltimore, unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2010 as the Constitution Party candidate. Draper Phelps, who currently resides in Annapolis, unsuccessfully ran for the Carroll County Board of Education in 2008 and the Carroll County Republican Central Committee in 2010.
Two Democrats are challenging Cummings in the April primary. Charles Smith, of Baltimore, unsuccessfully ran against Cummings in the 2008 and 2010 Democratic primaries. Ty Glen Busch, of Columbia, has no political experience.
Three Republicans are running in District 7, including Frank Mirabile, of Woodbine, who won the 2010 GOP primary but lost to Cummings in the general election. Ray Bly, of Jessup, has unsuccessfully run for political office in Maryland for several years, including in the 2008 and 2010 District 7 GOP primary contests. M. Justin Kinsey, of Monkton, unsuccessfully ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for the District 5B Maryland House of Delegates seat in 2010.
Robert Henry Brookman, a Catonsville resident with no political experience, has filed to run in District 7 as an unaffiliated candidate in the general election.
In addition to the three aforementioned Republicans, Vlad Degen, of Baltimore County, and Howard Orton, of Anne Arundel County, are also running on the GOP ticket in District 7. Neither Degen or Orton have any political experience.
Generally, Norris said, 80 percent to 90 percent of incumbent Congressional representatives seeking re-election nationwide are successful.
"That's because the districts are so gerrymandered across the country," he explained.
The same is true in Maryland, where Norris said the recently redrawn Congressional districts were gerrymandered so the incumbents could easily win re-election, except for District 6 incumbent Roscoe Bartlett. Norris said Democrats have a "good shot" of unseating Bartlett, a Buckeystown Republican, but it should be a competitive race.
"All the other incumbents (in Maryland) are going to win and win handily," he said.