xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

With Sen. Barbara Mikulski set to retire a year from now, some Republicans think it is possible they could succeed her.

In a heavily Democratic state where Republicans are outnumbered 4-1 by Democrats and independents, that seems like a stretch.

Advertisement

But longshots sometimes pull off surprising upsets. Just look at Republican Gov. Larry Hogan Jr.

One prominent Baltimore County Republican already has entered the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, state Del. Kathy Szeliga, who represents northern Baltimore County and parts of Harford County.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Before her election to the House of Delegates in 2010, Szeliga served six years as chief of staff to state Sen. Andy Harris and before that as an aide to two of the county's Republican delegates.

That experience in Annapolis helped her rise through the ranks quickly after being elected to the House of Delegates.

When frustrated Republicans, heavily in the minority in the House, decided to oust their leader, Del. Tony O'Donnell of Southern Maryland, and his No. 2, Del. Jeanne Haddaway-Riccio of the Eastern Shore, Szeliga was named the new Minority Whip in 2013.

It's rare for a freshman delegate to become a top-ranking leader, but Republicans had worked with her for years when she assisted Harris — now in Congress — and former Dels. James Kelly and John Trueschler.

Advertisement

In a Baltimore Sun and University of Baltimore poll last month, Szeliga led in the U.S. Senate primary race with 15 percent of the vote.

However, another strong contender is mulling a Senate race — Harford County Executive Barry Glassman.

Szeliga could have the edge in two respects.

First, she can count on solid support from Republican voters in Baltimore County, including Republicans in Glyndon, Owings Mills and Reisterstown.

Baltimore County contains the largest number of GOP voters in the state — 135,000.

Szeliga's other advantage is her close tie to Congressman Harris. He introduced her at a recent gathering in Salisbury and could play a key role in securing her the nomination.

She also has the support of Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, who has the second-largest number of Republican voters — 128,000.

Szeliga is hoping to follow the same path to victory as Hogan, who was viewed as an unlikely winner.

Hogan won in large part because of the unpopularity of the Democratic nominee for governor, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

Szeliga backers believe that a similar development could occur in the Senate Democratic primary, in which the favorite, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, of Montgomery County, is matched against Rep. Donna Edwards, of Prince George's County.

Should Edwards wind up with the Democratic nomination, Szeliga's chances would improve dramatically.

Edwards, a very liberal and outspoken African-American, has scant support outside of Baltimore City and Prince George's County. She might be a weak Democratic nominee, giving Szeliga a window of opportunity.

Because the Democratic primary will be an expensive battle between two members of Congress, the primary victor will have to spend all summer fundraising to prepare for the general election.

Szeliga might not have that problem, giving her extra months to build her campaign treasury.

A Republican has not represented Maryland in the Senate since 1987, when popular Sen. Charles McC. Mathias retired.

The unknown in the Republican primary is how GOP voters in Montgomery County will cast ballots. Neither Glassman nor Szeliga is a known commodity in that county, which contains the third-largest number of GOP voters, 117,000, in Maryland.

Much can change by the April 26 primary. At the moment, though, Szeliga is in a good position to give Baltimore County something to cheer about in the Senate race.

Barry Rascovar, of Reisterstown, writes a blog at www.politicalmaryland.com, and can be reached at

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement