Kathy Szeliga, a state lawmaker from Baltimore County, won the GOP nomination for Maryland's open Senate seat on Tuesday. She now faces the daunting task of running as a Republican in a state that hasn't elected a GOP senator since 1980.
Szeliga, 54, will face an uphill fight this year in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. Democrats enjoy a two-to-one advantage in registration in Maryland.
Many Republican candidates, including Szeliga, have pointed to GOP Gov. Larry Hogan's upset victory in 2014 as a model for success.
Szeliga, the minority whip in the House of Delegates and the highest-ranking Republican woman in Maryland, captured early support from the state's Republican apparatus, including Rep. Andy Harris of Baltimore County, for whom she once worked. She raised substantially more money than the other candidates, and was the only one who made a major investment in television advertising.
Hogan did not endorse in the contest.
Szeliga, faced spirited competition from Chrys Kefalas, a Baltimore attorney who works for the National Association of Manufacturers and worked for both Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Democratic Attorney General Eric H. Holder.
Szeliga wom with 36 percent of the vote, followed by Chris Chaffee (14 percent) and Kefalas (10 percent).
Kefalas campaigned hard, but his fundraising dwindled after Szeliga entered the race.
Szeliga, a Baltimore native, earned a degree in elementary education at Towson State University and worked briefly as a teacher before creating a construction company with her husband in Perry Hall.
She got her start in politics when a family friend, former state lawmaker James M. Kelly, decided to run for office. She worked for six years as chief of staff for Harris when he was a state senator.
Jon Banister contributed to this report.