Maryland's House of Delegates gained six new Republicans, while its Senate may lose two seats long held by the minority party. All 188 seats were on the ballot this year for a General Assembly that has roughly twice as many Democrats as Republicans.
On the House side, four open seats across the state went to Republicans. Republicans also toppled two Democratic delegates, Sue Kullen and Virginia Clagett, who are district-mates of the General Assembly's top leaders. The House now contains 98 Democrats and 43 Republicans -- equaling the minority party's modern-era high achieved under then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in 2003.
The all-but-complete Election Day returns show the Democratic Party, which already enjoyed a thumping majority in the Maryland Senate, appears to have added two Senate seats this year, Mike Dresser reports -- leaving Republican with a mere 12 seats in the 47-member Senate.
The majority party did that by apparently protecting all of its incumbents -- assuming Anne Arundel's John Astle and Southern Maryland's Roy Dyson hold on to narrow but not paper-thin leads -- and seizing two Republican-held seats.
The upset of the night was Democrat Ronald Young's apparent defeat of Frederick County GOP Sen. Alex Mooney, an outspoken social conservative whose district has been changing shades from red to purple. In Young, a former Frederick mayor, the Democrats found a strong match for the district and backed him with heavy spending at the direction of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. The margin in that race is 665 votes, too narrow to count Mooney out but a difficult number to overcome.
Democrat Jim Mathias is also leading Repiblican Michael James for the Eastern Shore open seat vacated by GOP Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus. Mathias, an incumbent delegate and popular former mayor of Ocean City, was perhaps the only Democrat with a shot at this district -- and he made the most of it. The margin in this race is 176 votes, so the GOP has a shot of retaining the seat if absentee and provisional ballots break their way. The state Board of Elections is reporting one precinct out, but it is in Mathias' home county of Worcester.
Perhaps the only consolation for the Republicans is that it would be hard to do much worse in the Senate. The party is down to its rock-solid base, and really has nowhere to go but up. This year, Democratic incumbents did their party the favor of hanging on -- giving them no open seats except in safe districts. It is unlikely they can go through another cycle with no retirements in swing districts.
Considering how well Republicans did nationally, said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Maryland Democrats held their own.
If the count holds, the Democrats willl still hold a 98-43 advantage in the House -- more than enough for House Speaker Michael E. Busch to maintain firm control, Mike Dresser reports.
Other Republican gains came in seats with previously Democratic vacancies in Frederick, Baltimore, Harford and Worcester counties.
No Republican House incumbents were defeated in the general election.
The big disappointment for the Republicans had to be the half-dozen or so Democratic seats where incumbents appear to have held on in conservative districts by slim margins. These Democratic winners include Dels. Kevin Kelly in Allegany County, John Donoghue in Washington County, John Wood and John Bohannon in St. Mary's County, House Appropriations Commitee Chairman Norm Conway in Worcester County and David Rudolph in Cecil County. Had the GOP taken even half those seats, they could have boasted of historic gains. Without them, the House wins would be poor compensation for Senate losses.
Kullen represents Calvert County in Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's district. She has been a member since 2004 and is president of the women's caucus. Republican Mark Fisher defeated her by about 5 percentage points.
Clagett, first elected in 1994, is a District 30 delegate along with Busch. She came in fourth place last night, meaning Republican incumbent Del. Ron George and Busch will be joined by Republican Herb McMillan.
Absentee votes are still being counted in Stoltzfus' old district on the Eastern Shore. But Democrats are cautiously optimistic that Democratic Del. Jim Mathias will edge out Michael James. And it appears that Democratic challenger Ronald Young will prevail over Mooney, a senator since 1999.
Here's the piece Sun reporter and State House veteran Mike Dresser filed last night.