Baltimore County has one of the most diverse political constituencies of any jurisdiction in Maryland. This growing county of 800,000 has a staunch conservative area in the north with some other pockets in the east and southwest. There is a large black population on the west side which votes overwhelmingly Democrat. There is a strong community of Reagan Democrats in the east, and an area of Jewish liberal Democrats in the northwest. BC used to lean Republican, but in the past two decades there has been an influx of Democrat voters that has tipped the balance of power in local elections to the left. The Democrats have held the position of County Executive for 16 years, and control 6 of the 7 seats on the council. The Democrats also hold 14 of the 21 House seats, and 6 of the 8 Senate seats.
All early indications point to a positive year for the GOP in Baltimore County. The question on the table today is if we can make it a sweep. Despite the overwhelming Democrat registration edge in the county, BC is still a competitive area. In fact, Ehrlich won Baltimore County by 22% in 2002, and even in 2006, when Republicans were decimated across the state and country, he still won by 3%. There is no doubt that Ehrlich will perform much better this year, irrespective of whether he wins statewide. This means that we have a historic opportunity to make vital gains during this year's midterms. Here are some important races to watch:
District 1: This councilmanic district covers the southwest tip of the county and includes communities such as Arbutus, Catonsville, and Lansdowne. Leftist Democrat Sam Moxley, who has been charged with two DUI's in recent years, had held this seat for 16 years. Thankfully, Moxley is retiring and Republican Steve Whisler has a very good chance of defeating Democrat Tom Quirk. Instead of avoiding red meat issues and talking about development, Steve is willing to take on tough issues like term limits and illegal immigration. The Examiner has a thorough profile on him here.
District 3: This is a predominantly rural district that covers the largest geographic area of the county. It includes all of northern Baltimore County up to the PA state line, and is by far the most conservative district. This seat has been held by Bryan McIntyre for 16 years, who has been the lone Republican on the council for the past 8 years. McIntyre was widely considered to be too pragmatic and lacking the energy to fight against the one party machine in any attempt to grow the Republican Party in the county. Todd Huff defeated him in the primary and should be a shoo-in to win the general election.
District 5: This district covers parts of central and eastern BC, and includes Perry Hall and the County seat, Towson. It has been represented by Democrat Vince Gardina for 20 years, who is now retiring. Republican David Marks has an excellent chance to pick up this seat for the GOP. David Marks will probably face Democrat Mike Ertel who seems to have won a narrow victory against his primary opponent. This is a Republican leaning area and should be an easy pickup as an open seat in a strong conservative year.
District 6: This district covers part of east-central BC including Parkville, White Marsh, and Middle River. It has been held by Democrat Joe Bartenfelder since 1994. Bartenfelder retired his seat to run unsuccessfully for County Executive. Republican Ryan Nawrocki will be facing Democrat Cathy Bevins, a Jim Smith staffer, in November. This district is rich with Reagan Democrats and is the home to staunch conservative Delegate Pat McDonough.
Kevin Communist (Kamenetz) emerged as the Democrat nominee from an extremely divisive primary with fellow councilman Joe Bartenfelder. Kamenetz's victory along with the tactics he used, have caused deep resentment among Bartenfelder's base of Reagan Democrats in the east. They will serve as prime pick up opportunities for Republican Ken Holt. There is even some speculation of a possible Bartenfelder endorsement of Holt. Ken is a Reagan conservative who was a former legislator from the Hereford area and is slated to mount our first legitimate challenge for County Executive since 1994.
There is no doubt that it is an uphill battle, as Kamenetz has all of the name recognition and enough money to buy the county. However, primary results show a very unenthusiastic Democrat turnout in the county, along with Bartenfelder's depressed voters who might defect to Holt. There are also several council races that will drive up Republican turnout in a year when many liberals will be staying home. Furthermore, with Ehrlich slated to carry BC by at least 10 points, there will be significant help from the top of the ticket. Ken Holt just needs a few hundred thousand dollars to get his message out and we can make this a race.
The current orientation of the Senate is 33-14 Democrat, while the House of Delegates is 104-37 Democrat. The important thing at stake this year is for Republicans to break the Democrat's veto proof majority so that Ehrlich can veto the egregious stuff coming out of Annapolis, without fear of being overridden. They need to pick up 5 seats in the Senate and, or 20 seats in the House in order to accomplish that. Baltimore County provides us with a key pathway towards garnering such a limited mandate. We can realistically pick up two Senate seats and 4-5 House seats throughout the county.
District 8: This is a small district that represents Parkville and White Marsh. It is represented by a Democrat in the Senate, and two Dems and one Republican in the House. Two-term leftist Democrat Senator Katherine Klausmeier is being targeted by Republican Dee Hodges. Hodges is a strong conservative and has a huge advantage going into November as Ehrlich is likely to do well in this area. The two Democrat House members are freshman Todd Schuler and two term member Eric Bromwell. Delegate Joe Boteler is the sole Republican representing this district. Boteler will be joined by former Delegate John Cluster and Norma Secoura as the Republican slate in District 8. Democrat Todd Schuler is not seeking reelection thereby providing an easy takeover for Cluster, who represented this district before, and only lost in the Democrat wave year of 2006. There is no reason why Bromwell can't be taken out either.
District 12/12A: This district roughly overlaps with Council district 1 and covers the Arbutus area of Southwest BC and spills into western Howard County. The Senate District 12 is represented by Democrat Senate Majority Leader Edward Kasemeyer who has held this seat for 24 years. The House district (called 12A) has only two representatives; Democrats James Malone and Steve DeBoy. Republicans Joseph Hooe and Albert Nalley will run for the House while Rick Martel will challenge Kasemeyer for the Senate seat. Hooe is clearly the front-runner for the Republicans and he has an excellent chance of knocking off DeBoy. That seat was held by a Republican before him and being that this is Ehrlich's home turf, anything can happen in November. The Senate seat will be a tough one, but the other House seat could be competitive in a wave year.
District 42: This is a swing-lean Republican district that stretches from Towson westward to include part of Pikesville. It has a split delegation with Democrat Jim Brochin as Senator, and Republicans Sue Aumann and Bill Frank, along with Democrat Steve Lafferty as Delegates. Brochin and Lafferty are prime pick-up opportunities. All three delegates from this district were Republicans until 2006 when Lafferty benefited from an open seat during a horrible year for Republicans. It is hard to see him keeping this seat in 2010. He will be challenged by John Fiastro, who is the President of the 42nd Republican Club. On the Senate side, Jim Brochin has held onto this seat for two terms by pretending to be a fiscal conservative and through hard campaigning. 2010 might finally be the end for Brochin, as the Republicans have a strong candidate in Kevin Carney.