Republican successes in Arundel a point of pride for state party

Republican successes in Arundel a point of pride for state party
Diana Waterman, chair of the Maryland Republican Party, left, and John Pantelides, center, with RNC chairman Reince Priebus. Priebus was the keynote speaker at the Anne Arundel County Republican's Lincoln-Reagan Day Celebration, held at Michael's Eighth Avenue. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun)

In true-blue Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2 to 1, life can be difficult in the GOP.

But not in Anne Arundel County, where Republicans have had a measure of success — and are looking for more.


"We're a bastion of red in a sea of blue," said Nathan Volke, chairman of the county Republican Central Committee, as party activists gathered at a Glen Burnie banquet hall last week for their annual Lincoln-Reagan Day Celebration.

The idea was to rally everybody for the coming elections. For $75, guests got to mingle with candidates and hear a speech from Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. For $250, they got a chance to meet Priebus and take a photo with him.

Priebus stressed the importance of a good "ground game" in the effort to win more often across the state. Republicans need to dwell less on debating each other at election time and commit to a year-after-year campaign to sign up new voters, he said. Getting people to the polls also is critical.

"This is where it happens, right here," Priebus told the group.

His message resonated with many in the audience, including loyal members of Republican clubs, financial donors and countless candidates handing out stickers and brochures.

"Anne Arundel is one of our best big counties. They've done a lot over the years," said Joe Cluster, executive director of the state Republican Party.

Even though Democrats still have an edge over Republicans in Anne Arundel —146,047 to 122,215 as of March — Cluster noted that the GOP has earned enough crossover votes to elect a number of Republicans in the county. Officeholders include the county executive, the Annapolis mayor and majorities on the County Council and among state delegates.

Cluster attributes Anne Arundel's electoral success to having an organized party with good cooperation from elected officials. The county GOP expects to have viable candidates on the November ballot in every single race, so voters can pick someone with an "R" next to the name up and down the ballot.

"When we win, it creates excitement and people step up and run for office," Cluster said.

In Anne Arundel, there are lively races in the June 24 primary. County Republicans are watching a hotly contested contest for county executive between incumbent Laura Neuman and Del. Steve Schuh. Other contested primary races include the eight Republicans vying for two state delegate seats in Pasadena and five Republicans running for a County Council seat in Severna Park.

But that wasn't always the case. Allen Furth, an activist from Annapolis, remembers knocking on doors in Pasadena in the 1990s and meeting Democrat after Democrat. "This was a very Democratic county," he said.

The next step is to spread the GOP excitement from Anne Arundel to other Central Maryland counties with large populations, Cluster said. Maryland Republicans have registration advantages only in small counties, mostly on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland. They're far outgunned in high-population jurisdictions, including Baltimore City and Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Faith Loudon, a state delegate candidate who ran for Congress two years ago, senses a chance to shift the political tides in Anne Arundel and statewide.

"We are working to change it," she said. "If ever there was a year where there's an opportunity, it's this year," she said.