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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Maryland -- 04

Last House Vacancy Filling Today

Voters in Maryland's Fourth Congressional District, in the Washington suburbs of Montgomery and Prince George's counties, are hitting the polls today to replace outgoing Rep. Albert Wynn, who, after being defeated in the February 12 Democratic primary, resigned at the end of May to work for a lobbying group .

Non-profit executive Donna Edwards crushed Wynn by 22 points in the primary. The two previously met in the 2006 primary, when Edwards came within less than 3,000 votes of defeating Wynn, a clear sign that the incumbent was vulnerable to competition from the left. Edwards used a similar campaign strategy this year, though with more campaign funds, a smart move in a district that gave John Kerry 78% of the vote in 2004 and Al Gore 77% in 2000.

Edwards is now facing Republican Peter James in today's special election, and the two are set to meet again in the November general election. Edwards is expected to breeze past James, who has the endorsement of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, in both elections. Republicans have not had much luck here since redistricting in the 1990s; Wynn, first elected in 1992, never won with less than 75% of the vote.

Though stranger things have happened during this election cycle, this special will likely be the last of twelve special elections to fill vacant House seats during the 110th Congress.

--Kyle Trygstad

Wynn Quitting In June

Having lost their primaries for re-nomination last month, Maryland Reps. Al Wynn, a Democrat, and Wayne Gilchrest, a Republican, are handling their defeats in very different ways. Gilchrest has virtually refused to endorse the man who defeated him, State Senator Andy Harris, and is openly flirting with backing the Democratic challenger. Wynn, meanwhile, is resigning from Congress to help out community activist Donna Edwards, who beat him in mid-February.

Wynn will leave Congress in June to join Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a top Washington law firm and lobbying shop, he announced yesterday, per the Baltimore Sun. A law school classmate of the firm's chairman, Wynn will join five other former members of Congress already on staff.

Wynn also said by leaving early and hoping for Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to set a special election, he will help Edwards gain seniority over other incoming freshmen, a valuable resource that Wynn, who understands the importance of longevity in Congress, knows all about.

O'Malley has ten days to decide whether to call the special election or leave the seat vacant until November. A special election would cost Montgomery and Prince George's Counties somewhere around $2 million, according to the Sun. One option the state could opt for is to hold the election concurrently with November's general election, giving Edwards a two-month head start on her freshman Democratic peers.

The most junior Democrat in the House is Bill Foster, who won a special election in Illinois to replace retired Speaker Dennis Hastert. Other special elections set for later this year will yield still more junior members from Louisiana, Mississippi and California, but getting Edwards elected in November will allow her to leap ahead of freshmen who will win election in 32 open seats around the country and any candidates who knock off incumbents.

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

A Tale Of Two Primaries

It isn't always easy being an incumbent member of Congress, even when your party's presidential nominee carries your district by dozens of points. In two cases this year, incumbents are facing difficult challenges that threaten their status in Congress, and that's before they even get to November.

In Idaho, freshman Rep. Bill Sali got some good news yesterday when three top Republicans announced they're heading up his campaign. The conservative firebrand has put his foot in his mouth a few times of late, most recently when he suggested that the founding fathers had not envisioned Rep. Keith Ellison's election to the House. Ellison is the first Muslim to serve in Congress.

After winning a difficult primary in 2006, Sali now faces a more moderate challenger this year. Iraq war veteran Matt Salisbury has the backing of Idaho Agriculture director Pat Takasugi, though Sali's campaign will be chaired by Public Instruction Superintendent Tom Luna, Treasurer Ron Crane and House Speaker Lawerence Denney. Still, an August poll from Greg Smith & Associates, a leading Idaho Republican pollster, showed just 29% of those surveyed viewed Sali favorably, while 46% viewed him unfavorably.

Through the third quarter, Sali held cash reserved of just $110,000 with almost $190,000 in debt. Salisbury declared his intention to run on July 4, though he has yet to file papers with the FEC.

In Maryland, Rep. Albert Wynn is not a freshman. First elected in 1992, the Democrat representing Prince George's County, north and east of Washington, has never won a general election with less than 75% of the vote. But last year, Donna Edwards, former executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, gave Wynn a scare, coming within three thousand votes -- about 3.3% -- of beating Wynn in the primary.

This year, Edwards is running again. Earlier this week she won backing from the League of Conservation Voters, while Wynn won support from NARAL. The liberal blogosphere is backing Edwards, who is anti-war, while criticizing Wynn for supporting the bankruptcy bill and voting to repeal the estate tax.

Edwards also has support from EMILY's List, which will help her allieviate Wynn's fundraising edge. At the end of the quarter, Wynn had $400,000 on hand, while Edwards, who launched her campaign at the end of June, already has $115,000 on hand.

The two primaries are being fought on very different turf, but for the same reasons. Sali, some Idaho Republicans believe, is too conservative for his district. Ironically, say some Maryland Democrats, so is Wynn. Both primaries promise to be two of the closest in the country featuring incumbents.