Results in Baltimore County's District 42 races indicate a split electorate

Races for four seats in Maryland Legislative District 42, which stretches from Towson to northern Baltimore County, saw split results on election night.

The district, which has four seats in total – three delegates and one senator – split down the middle. Republicans won the Senate seat and one House of Delegates seat while Democrats won the remaining House seats.

Mixed party candidates representing one district are rare, said Mileah Kromer, a political scientist and pollster at Goucher College.

“It suggests [that District] 42 in general, has a mix of people,” Kromer said. “It touches into Towson and there are progressive pockets. It certainly speaks to the fact that there is some diversity of opinion.”

One House seat represents Towson in District 42A while the two District 42B House seats represent Baltimore County north of Towson to the Pennsylvania line.

According to unofficial election night totals, Republican and former District 42 Del. Chris West won the district’s state Senate seat over Democrat Robbie Leonard with 51.8 percent of the vote.

Republican Nino Mangione, a conservative talk radio personality, who ran on a slate with West, also came out on top in the race for District 42B’s two delegate seats with 29 percent of votes.

But self-described progressive Democrat Michele Guyton came in second for the District 42 B seat, narrowly beating Tim Robinson with 26.2 percent of votes. Incumbent Democrat Steve Lafferty handily held onto his District 42A seat with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

Asked if the results indicated a polarized electorate in District 42, Kromer replied: "With election results like that, it’s hard to describe it any other way besides that.”

Guyton, Mangione tensions

“Obviously I am thrilled. We are running in a district a lot of people thought couldn’t be won by a Democrat at all,” Guyton said. District 42B leans red, analysts say. She attributed her win to a “bipartisan campaign” and a lot of legwork, saying she knocked on 20,000 doors.

Still, Guyton was disappointed that Sachin Hebbar, the other Democrat who ran for the seat, did not win along with her. Mangione, the Republican winner, felt the same about his fellow Republican in the race, Tim Robinson.

“We were happy with our result,” Mangione said. “We’re pulling for our teammate but it looks like he’s just short.”

Hebbar did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but congratulated the winners on his Facebook page and said, “I am proud of our spirited and positive race.”

Officials begin counting absentee ballots Thursday and official results will be certified by Nov. 16, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

The remaining ballots could change the outcome of the race between Guyton and Robinson, whose totals differed by about 300 votes. Robinson declined to comment for this story.

The Guyton and Mangione campaigns clashed after Guyton, seeing what she said were racist comments posted by visitors to Mangione’s Facebook page, posted a video calling the Facebook page a “dark corner of the internet.”

Mangione said he had heard about Guyton’s video but is “brushing it off” to “focus on going forward.” He said he wants to invite Guyton to work alongside him on “creating jobs, cutting taxes and safe streets.”

Guyton said she will work with Mangione if he is “trying to do the right thing for the district.” Her first priority, she said, is boosting mental health supports in Maryland schools.

‘A tough pill’

In District 42A, Lafferty won the downtown Towson district with even better results than four years ago with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

“I’m honored that people have that kind of confidence, that I can continue to do the work I’ve been doing and represent their interests,” Lafferty said.

He attributed his large margins to years of walking through neighborhoods and talking to voters as well as a “positive message.”

Lafferty’s opponent, Republican Steve McIntire, said he was disappointed but not surprised at his loss.

“It’s clearly hard to withstand national trends and there were a lot of very angry party-line voters,” McIntire said, saying later it was a “long-shot race.”

Lafferty said he plans to focus on environmental issues when he goes back to Annapolis this legislative session.

In contrast to Lafferty’s race, the race between West and Leonard for state Senate was competitive and close. But after Leonard conceded Wednesday morning, West said there was no ill will between the candidates.

“Robbie Leonard is a class act,” West wrote on his Facebook page. “We maintained a cordial and respectful relationship throughout the 2018 campaign. While some of our more fervent supporters occasionally went a little over-the-top, Robbie and I ran the sort of campaigns that do credit to our democratic system of electing those who will represent us.”

Leonard, who lost the race to West, said losing after coming so close, with 48.2 percent of the vote, was a “tough pill to swallow.” But he noted that with more than 25,400 votes, he received more than incumbent Democrat Sen. Jim Brochin ever did.

Kromer said West’s win was no surprise, because in 2010 redistricting shifted the district to the right. Brochin was able to hang onto it, she said, because of “deep roots he has in the community and a fiercely independent streak.”

“It’s a tough district for him,” Kromer said of Leonard, saying he fared “better in that district than some would’ve expected.”

Leonard said he is not sure whether he will dive back into politics. For now, he will be spending time with his children, including a new baby born Nov. 2. But his resultsmade him optimistic, he said.

“We built something. I don’t know where it’s going to take us, but it’s a start,” Leonard said.

On the last day of early voting, West said he and Leonard took a photo together at the Towson University early voting precinct.

“This is how democracy should work,” West said. "You run hard, but after the voters have had their say, you bury the partisan hatchets and make common cause on behalf of your constituents.”

asolomon@baltsun.com

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