Sun endorsements: The 'Drive for Five' Senate races

Maryland Republicans are hoping not only that Gov. Larry Hogan will win re-election but that the party can also make gains in the state Senate, where a pickup of five seats would enable them to sustain the governor’s veto on a party-line vote. It’s not just wishful thinking; retirements from some Democratic Senate veterans leave openings, and in most of the races, the GOP is putting up notably strong candidates. Here are The Sun’s endorsements in the most competitive races.

District 3

A complete list of our picks in the 2018 midterm election »

Centered on the city of Frederick, this is not so much a swing district as a divided one, split between the more liberal population of the city and the conservative communities that surround it. It is represented now by Sen. Ron Young, a Democrat and a well known former Frederick mayor. He faces a strong challenge by businessman and former police officer Craig Giangrande, who argues that the incumbent was too willing to support tax increases during Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration. Mr. Young emphasizes his ability to bring home the resources the district needs. One of the taxes Mr. Giangrande most faults Senator Young for supporting — the increase in the gas tax and decision to index it for inflation — is directly tied to the state’s ability to solve one of the district’s biggest problems, increasing congestion related to commuting to and from the Washington area. Ultimately, though, we believe Mr. Giangrande is a good fit for the district and will bring new energy to the Senate. He is a pragmatic conservative who got into politics because of his support for Mr. Hogan four years ago, and we appreciate many of his priorities, such as ensuring that new education funding tied to the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education is spent effectively and supporting non-partisan redistricting. He has our endorsement.

District 8

Centered on the Perry Hall area of Baltimore County, District 8 may provide the most difficult choice among the hot races in this election. This is real Larry Hogan country, and both candidates are playing up their connections him. Del. Christian Miele, the Republican, has Mr. Hogan’s endorsement and support, and you would think the two were attached at the hip based on his campaign materials. Not to be outdone, incumbent Democratic Sen. Katherine Klausmeier has emphasized her own history of supporting Mr. Hogan on some key votes. But here’s the thing about the “Drive for Five” — voters should no more want a Republican senator who would automatically vote to sustain Mr. Hogan’s vetoes than it should want a Democratic senator who would reflexively override them. For what it’s worth, Mr. Miele says he would take issues on their merits and not vote based on loyalty to the governor, and Ms. Klausmeier says that’s what she’s already done. So where does that leave voters? Mr. Miele is running on a good government agenda, including non-partisan redistricting, ethics reforms, open primaries, transparency and term limits. He loses us on that last one, but the rest is terrific. Ms. Klausmeier is focused on prescription drug affordability, fighting the opioid crisis and improving school safety. Those issues are vitally important, too. All else being equal, we give the edge to Ms. Klausmeier for her deep connection to her district. She has a long track record of working hard for her constituents and shows no sign of slowing down. We want to see Mr. Miele in public service, but in this election, Ms. Klausmeier has our endorsement.

District 12

This district straddling the Baltimore County-Howard County line has been reliably Democratic, but the retirement of Sen. Edward Kasemeyer has Republicans hopeful that they could pick up the seat. Their candidate, Joe Hooe, is a well known small business owner from Lansdowne with moderate views on most issues. But in terms of his ability to hit the ground running in Annapolis, he’s no match for his Democratic opponent, Del. Clarence Lam. Dr. Lam, a physician and preventive care specialist, is unsurprisingly well versed in Maryland’s health care system and has been heavily involved in efforts to make it more affordable and accessible. Those issues will remain vital during the next four years, as lawmakers seek to make permanent the reinsurance program that led to the premium decreases on Maryland’s health insurance exchange for next year. Dr. Lam is also deeply knowledgeable about education policy (he has the endorsements of the state and local teachers unions), the environment and economic development. He has our endorsement.

District 30

Longtime Democratic state Sen. John Astle’s retirement put this Annapolis-based district on Republicans’ radar, and they fielded an excellent candidate in former delegate and gubernatorial candidate Ron George. A small businessman with deep ties in the community, Mr. George says he decided to run to help advance Mr. Hogan’s agenda. He prides himself on constituent service and on being an advocate for Maryland’s entrepreneurs. We have always thought highly of him. But the Democrat running against him, Sarah Elfreth, is a star in the making. Just 30 years old, she has been involved in public service since her days as a student member of the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents. She has been active in policy, through the time she spent working in government affairs for the National Aquarium, and in local Democratic politics. As is appropriate for a district defined by its waterfront, Ms. Elfreth’s campaign is heavily focused on protecting the environment and the Chesapeake Bay in particular. She has strong ideas on how to put teeth into laws designed to prevent overdevelopment, and she is a champion of increasing Maryland’s efforts to fight climate change, which is essential if we want to make sure her district remains above water. She is also steeped in the findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (better known as the Kirwan Commission) and is dedicated to enacting its reforms, particularly those related to early childhood education and teacher compensation and professionalism. Mr. George has served District 30 well in the past, but Ms. Elfreth is its future. She has our endorsement.

District 32

Del. Pamela Beidle is the clear choice to replace Sen. Edward DeGrange, who is retiring this year. Ms. Beidle, a Democrat, has established a strong reputation for constituent service, and she promises to focus on restoring prescription drug coverage for state retirees and enacting and funding the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. Her opponent, Republican County Councilman John Grasso, has a history of making racially or ethnically insensitive remarks, most recently in anti-Muslim Facebook posts. When questioned about those, he made what he insisted were not intended to be (but sure sounded like) threatening remarks toward one of the reporters who survived the Capital-Gazette shootings. After that, a campaign spokesman for Mr. Hogan said, “The governor has not and will never endorse John Grasso for anything.” Good enough for us. We endorse Ms. Beidle.

District 38

This Lower Shore race is probably one of the ugliest contests in the state this year, with misleading (if not outright false) accusations from both sides spilling out of voters’ mailboxes. The incumbent, Democratic Sen. James Mathias, was the long-time mayor of Ocean City before being appointed to the House of Delegates and then elected to the Senate. He has a deep reservoir of goodwill in the district, which has helped him stay in office despite its increasingly Republican leanings. He faces a strong opponent in Del. Mary Beth Carozza, who argues that the district needs a senator who will work more closely with Governor Hogan. There’s a lot more to her than that, though. She has years of experience as a high level staffer in the federal and state governments, and she has strong views on education, economic development and the opioid epidemic. Mr. Mathias has been a good and dedicated public servant, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a nicer guy. But Ms. Carozza is simply a better fit for this district. She has our endorsement.

District 42

It’s something of a miracle that Democratic state Sen. Jim Brochin has held onto this district, which stretches from the Baltimore City line to the Pennsylvania line. It was purposely drawn to shore up other Senate Democrats at his expense. Thus, his decision this year to run instead for county executive created a big opportunity for the GOP, and they are taking advantage of it with a stellar candidate in Del. Chris West. Mr. West, an attorney, made an immediate impact in Annapolis four years ago with his intellect, work ethic and willingness to build coalitions across party lines. Two of the most important things that happened in Annapolis during the last four years were the Justice Reinvestment Act and the effort this year to save the Affordable Care Act in Maryland by adopting policies that led to reduced rates on the Obamacare exchange. Mr. West was right in the middle of both of them, helping to broker the key deals that enabled them to move forward. This district has become accustomed to a senator who is both pro-business and pro-environment, and Mr. West boasts an 80 percent lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters and a 95 percent lifetime rating from Maryland Business for Responsive Government. We'd be shocked if anyone comes close to that feat. His opponent, Democrat Robbie Leonard, is an appealing candidate who has sought to emulate Mr. Brochin’s retail politics recipe for success. He is willing to take some courageous positions — for example, advocating for non-partisan redistricting reform in Maryland whether other states join in or not, something his party’s leadership opposes. But we haven’t for a moment regretted our decision four years ago to endorse Mr. West over Mr. Leonard, and we are happy to do it again.

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