Two Baltimore state senators defeated in Maryland General Assembly races; Conway trails in tight contest

Two Baltimore senators lost their seats to much-younger challengers in the Democratic primary Tuesday night, while a third incumbent was trailing in a tight race to hold her seat.

Senate President Pro Tempore Nathaniel J. McFadden lost to Del. Cory McCray in East Baltimore. Across town, Del. Antonio Hayes ousted Sen. Barbara A. Robinson.

Sen. Joan Carter Conway, who chairs a powerful committee in Annapolis, lost the narrow lead she had over Del. Mary Washington in early voting and fell farther behind as more votes came in. Conway trailed by more than 500 votes with 50 of 55 precincts reporting, but Washington said Wednesday she was not yet prepared to claim victory.

“The insurgents, the progressive base of the party, turned out and sent a clear message to the establishment,” said Todd Eberly, a political scientist at St. Mary’s College.

All of the 188 seats in the Maryland General Assembly — 47 in the Senate, 141 in the House of Delegates — were on the ballot Tuesday, forcing veterans in the Baltimore region and across the state to fend off fierce competition.

Maryland primary 2018: Election results »

Among the senators forced to defend their seats was Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller in Prince George’s and Calvert counties, where an unlikely coalition of progressive groups and Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot supported a political newcomer. Miller, a Democrat who has held his seat since 1975, won with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Nevertheless, the results were not promising for the nation’s longest-serving chief of a state legislative body. One of his closest allies, Senate Finance Chairman Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton, lost to insurgent candidate Arthur Ellis in Charles County.

With McFadden going down in defeat and Conway in danger, Miller has lost three staunch supporters and could face a much more progressive Democratic caucus.

“Mike Miller’s going to find himself more and more out of step with his caucus,” Eberly said. “Miller’s going to win but he may arrive in Annapolis in January wishing he hadn’t.”

In addition to Conway and Middleton, a powerful House chairman lost his seat. Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., the 81-year-old who has chaired the House Judiciary Committee since 1993, ran a distant third in a two-member district in Prince George’s County.

Almost 20 incumbent senators from both parties faced no opposition in their primaries. But the only one in Baltimore city is Sen. Bill Ferguson in the waterfront 46th District, where a big money battle has emerged over its three House seats.

The other city districts in play were:

40th: Robinson, who was appointed to the seat vacated by Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, was challenged by Robinson in a generational battle Hayes. Robinson, 80, was well known in the community from her years in the House of Delegates, but the 40-year-old Hayes has been seen as an up-and-comer in Annapolis.

41st: Sen. Jill Carter is technically the incumbent, but only because she was appointed to the seat vacated by the federally convicted former Sen. Nathaniel Oaks. She defeated J. D. Merrill, an educator best known as the son-in-law of former Gov. Martin O’Malley. Merrill conceded about 11 p.m..

43rd: Influential Democrats are pulling out all the stops to protect Conway, 67, from Washington’s attempt to seize a seat Conway has held since 1996. Attorney General Brian E. Frosh has campaigned at the Waverly Market for his former Senate colleague. Del. Maggie McIntosh, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee has been spreading the word that Baltimore cannot afford to lose the woman who chairs the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. But Washington, 56, ran a relentless campaign with progressive support.

And incumbent Del. Curt Anderson was in a close contest to keep his seat with Waverly neighborhood activist, Regina T. Boyce. Anderson is being investigated by the General Assembly’s ethics committee for alleged sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.

44th: This district is two-thirds in Baltimore County and one-third in the city. It is represented by Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, a veteran delegate who was elected to the Senate four years ago. The 79-year-old incumbent faced an aggressive challenge from Aletheia McCaskill, 46, a union activist backed by the Service Employees International Union and gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous. But Nathan-Pulliam won the race.

45th: McFadden is the dean of the city delegation, having represented East Baltimore since 1995, and the man to whom Miller would give the gavel when he vacated the Senate podium. But the former educator is 71 and walks with difficulty. McCray, 35, ran on a message that it’s time for a change.

In Baltimore County two veteran Democratic lawmakers besides Nathan-Pulliam faced challenges from the U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders progressive wing of the party. Sen. Delores Kelley, the oldest member of the Senate at age 82, easily fended off challenger Rob Johnson. Sen. Bobby Zirkin, who as chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee oversees issues of crime and punishment, crushed Sheldon Laskin.

Another partial Baltimore County district is the scene of a highly competitive race for a seat left open by the retirement of veteran Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer. In the 12th District, the majority of which lies in Howard County, Del. Clarence Lam was soundly beat Howard County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty for the Democratic nomination.

Most of the state’s competitive Senate races were on the Democratic side, but there was one closely watched Republican race. In Southern Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan succeeded in his bid to defeat incumbent Sen. Steve Waugh as punishment for straying from the party ranks on some key votes. Hogan supported challenger Jack Bailey.

In the House, Dels. Brooke Lierman, Luke Clippinger and Robbyn Lewis, running on Ferguson’s slate, held the three seats in the 46th District. Coming in fourth was Nate Loewenthal, a former Obama administration official who raised $430,000 — an astonishing amount in a delegate’s race. Lewis, thought to be the most vulnerable of the incumbents — raised one-fourth that much.

Former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, who lost that office after being convicted of misconduct in office, failed in his attempt to return to public office. In a two-member north county House district, Leopold ran third with about 10 percent of the vote.

mdresser@baltsun.com

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