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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Maryland -- 01

NRCC Targets Foster, Kratovil on Health Care

If freshman congressmen Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) turn on their TVs at home this week, they may see their own faces alongside a headshot of Nancy Pelosi in a new ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee. The ad targets the Democrats on the issue of health care.

"Foster already votes with Pelosi 90% of the time, now what do you think he'll do?" the narrator states in the ad. "Call Foster, tell him to oppose Pelosi's cuts to Medicare."

Both Democrats succeeded Republicans in the 2008 elections. Foster took over Illinois's 14th District, formerly represented by Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, in a March 2008 special election against Jim Oberweis. Foster won a full term in November.

Kratovil won Maryland's 1st District, whose moderate Republican incumbent, Wayne Gilchrest, was defeated by a more conservative challenger in the GOP primary. Kratovil defeated Andy Harris (R) by less than 1 point in the general election.

MD 01: Harris (R) +4

Can Democrats win a heavily Republican Eastern Shore district with the help of the GOP congressman who's vacating the seat? A new Research 2000/DailyKos poll suggests they may be able to. The survey of 400 likely voters conducted 10/20-22 had a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. State Senator Andy Harris, the Republican, and Democratic Queen Anne County State's Attorney Frank Kratovil were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Andy Harris (R)......44 / 13 / 79 / 42 / 48 / 40
Frank Kratovil (D)...40 / 71 / 5 / 43 / 38 / 42

With backing from outgoing Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, Democrat Frank Kratovil has a shot to pick off a GOP seat. It helps that his base is on the Eastern Shore, while Harris' base is in Baltimore County, a smaller part of the district.

Harris Shows Big MD Lead

After beating moderate Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in Maryland's February primary, conservative State Senator Andy Harris is in good position to hold the Eastern Shore's First District for the GOP, despite Democratic optimism about their candidate, according to a new poll for Harris' campaign.

The survey, taken by Arthur J. Finkelstein & Associates for Harris' campaign, polled 300 registered voters on 7/15 for a margin of error of +/- 5.65%. Harris and Queen Anne County State's Attorney Frank Kratovil were tested.

General Election Matchup (With leaners)
Harris..........44
Kratovil........28

Republicans will crow that their candidate leads handily in an open seat Democrats have targeted (Kratovil is a member of the DCCC's Red to Blue program). But the poll provides another reminder that every survey has to be taken with a grain of salt: Not only does a 300-voter sample size come with a high margin of error, but a survey that takes place on a single night is seen as much less reliable than a survey taken over multiple evenings.

Harris is a strong fundraiser who's pulled in just over $2 million already and still has $609,000 on hand, more than Kratovil's $454,000, and the Republican has grassroots support from his fellow state senators in a heavily Republican district. But while the poll looks good at first glance, Kratovil's chances shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

Harris Up In NRCC Poll

Despite a nasty primary battle on Maryland's shore, State Senator Andy Harris looks like a safe bet to hold the seat for Republicans, a new poll conducted for the National Republican Congressional Committee shows. Harris, who defeated incumbent Republican Wayne Gilchrest by a wide margin on Tuesday, now turns his attention to Queen Anne County State's Attorney Frank Kratovil, who he will face in the general election in November.

The poll, conducted by Oregon- and Washington, D.C.-based Moore Information, was conducted 1/15-16 among 300 likely voters, for a margin of error of 6%. Harris and Kratovil were tested, alongside ballot matchups for a generic Republican and a generic Democrat.

General Election Matchup
Harris 37
Kratovil 22

Generic Ballot Matchup
Generic GOP 46
Generic Dem 31

The poll almost certainly included matchups between Kratovil and Gilchrest, along with State Senator E.J. Pipkin, another Republican who finished a distant third in the primary, given that it was taken almost a month before Marylanders headed to the ballot box.

Thanks to redistricting, several Maryland seats slightly favor Democrats while two others -- those held by Gilchrest and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett -- have heavy concentrations of Republicans lumped together. That means Democrats hold more seats, but that when one of the GOP-heavy seats comes open, the opposite party has only a slight chance to take it.

As a measure of the seat's Republican lean, the poll found that former Governor Bob Ehrlich was seen favorably by 66% of district residents, as opposed to the 23% who view him unfavorably. Incumbent Governor Martin O'Malley, by contrast, was seen favorably by just 30% of residents, along with the 54% who view him unfavorably. O'Malley handily beat Ehrlich in 2006.

Still, Republicans have to move quickly to coalesce behind Harris. The nasty tone of the primary has led to hard feelings, as Gilchrest has not called Harris to congratulate him on his win.

MD Filing Deadline Passes

The deadline to file for office passed Monday night in Maryland, one of the earliest of the 2008 cycle (only Illinois, on November 5, was earlier). With the deadline passed, the first glimpses of hot contests in the state's February 12 primary come into focus in the 1st and 4th Districts. In the 1st, Eastern Shore Republican Wayne Gilchrest faces multiple challenges from the right, while suburban D.C. Democrat Albert Wynn faces a rematch with an opponent on the left.

Democrat Donna Edwards is back after coming within 4 points of taking Wynn down in 2006. And Gilchrest has been forced to put his PAC-contributions embargo on hold, as State Sen. Andy Harris tripled Gilchrest's fundraising total through the end of September and Club for Growth has stepped into the fray. Five Republicans in all are challenging Gilchrest.

Seven of the eight members of the House delegation are being challenged; even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, whose challenger details in his campaign website bio his (by our count) five stints in jail, serving terms ranging from child support delinquency to spray-painting state government buildings. That one may not be a nail-biter, but Wynn's battle against Edwards and Gilchrest's fight for his political life could both be nail-bitingly close.

The biggest difference: The outcome of the heavily Democratic 4th will almost certainly be decided in the primary. But if the moderate Gilchrest gets knocked out in February, it could be a long 9-month battle for the environmentally-conscious district on the Chesapeake Bay, as Democrats may decide to target the seat. That's yet another fight Republicans don't want to have.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Gichrest Faces Primary Fight

The scenic Eastern shore of Maryland has faced some of the biggest environmental challenges in the country, as centuries of pollution has flowed through the Chesapeake Bay. It is little wonder, then, that the congressman representing the district is one of the biggest environmentalists in Congress. It is somewhat more surprising that the congressman, Wayne Gilchrest, is a Republican.

First elected in 1990, Gilchrest represents a heavily Republican district that voted solidly for President Bush in 2000 and 2004. But Gilchrest is no traditional Republican; along with his environmental streak (he co-chairs the Congressional Climate Change Caucus), he is pro-choice and has backed campaign finance reform efforts. A member of the Republican Main Street Partnership and other moderate groups, Gilchrest has made a habit of trying to drag his party back to the middle.

That moderate record hasn't sat well with some in Gilchrest's district, and this year two strong candidates are trying to give the incumbent the boot. State Senators Andy Harris and E.J. Pipkin are both running, and, with the involvement of the Club for Growth on Harris' behalf and Pipkin's personal fortune, both will give Gilchrest a run for his money.

Pipkin, who joined the race this week, jumps into what has already become a nasty race. Both candidates have run negative ads already, with Gilchrest dumping about $200,000 into ads in the last half of November alone. Outside groups are playing a big role in the race as well: The Club has run ads backing Harris, while the League of Conservation Voters ran ads backing Gilchrest.

It is likely Pipkin, who was last heard from challenging Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 2004, will contribute heavily to his own race. He donated more than $1.6 million to his own campaign in that race, and because this year's primary takes place February 12, it is likely he will need to dip into his own bank account again for this year's race.

FEC filings show Gilchrest should already be worried about his financial condition. At the end of the third quarter, Gilchrest had raised $174,000 and had about $414,000 cash on hand. Harris had raked in an impressive $531,000 and retained around $400,000 in the bank.

Institutional Republican support has mostly flowed to Harris this year. The NRCC doesn't get involved in primaries, but chairman Tom Cole barely defended his incumbent in a meeting with reporters last month. Many local elected officials are backing Harris, including former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich, who held an October fundraiser for the challenger.

Gilchrest has survived other well-funded primary challenges. But Harris' impressive fundraising and Pipkin's entry are probably keeping Gilchrest's campaign team up at night. On the other hand, the district's voters know Gilchrest, and with both Pipkin and Harris in the race, Harris backers worry the anti-Gilchrest vote will be split. Getting another challenger could be the best thing that happens to Gilchrest all year.