Monthly Archives: November 2017

2018 Maryland House of Delegates Election Primer

The 2018 campaign season is officially underway. Democrats want to keep their momentum going and win back the governor’s mansion, while Republicans want to build on Larry Hogan’s popularity and make gains in both houses of the state legislature.

Republicans are aiming to pick up five seats in the State Senate, which would break the Democrats’ veto-proof majority. But is that a realistic goal in deep-blue Maryland?

Democrats seem content so far to play defense, but is there anywhere in the state where they could make a pickup with such an unpopular President in the White House?

To answer these questions, we looked at all 47 seats in the Senate and all 141 seats in the House of Delegates, and placed them in one of four categories:

  1. Hot Seat – These will be the most contested races in the state. They are either represented by a Republican at the state level but voted for Hillary Clinton, or represented by a Democrat at the state level but voted for Donald Trump. There are 3 Republican- and 4 Democrat-held hot seats in the House, and 4 Democrat-held hot seats in the Senate.
  2. On the Bubble – These races will (or at least should) receive a lot of attention from both parties. These are districts where one party has been making substantial recent gains and can look to take over. There are 5 Democrat-held bubble seats in the House, and 2 Democrat-held bubble seats in the Senate.
  3. Reach – These are districts that the right candidate with a massive push can swing. Without the right candidate, or without tons of money, or without an enthusiastic campaign, these seats will remain in their current hands. There are 6 Republican- and 4 Democrat-held reach seats in the House, and 3 Republican- and 1 Democrat-held reach seats in the Senate.
  4. Out of Reach – These districts will not flip, no way, no how. All districts that aren’t hot seats, on the bubble, or reach seats, are out of reach.

This article focuses on the House. The Senate rundown is coming soon.

Hot Seats


  • 9B (Ellicott City) – Bob Flanagan won here 55-45 in 2014, while Hogan carried this highly educated new district 57-41. Two years later, 9B voted for Clinton 57-37. That number is more like what we expected from Howard County, which is turning bluer every year. This is the hottest seat in Maryland, and we give it our inaugural The District Most Likely To Flip award. Democrats have two top-tier candidates running: former county councilperson Courtney Watson and business owner Dan Medinger.
  • 30A (Annapolis) – This two-member district elected Democrat Mike Busch and Republican Herb McMillan in 2014. McMillan actually came in first place overall, taking 27.9% of the vote to Busch’s 27.6%, with Democrat Chuck Ferrar trailing at 23%. This district voted for Hogan 58-40, then swung back to the left and picked Clinton 54-39. We already know Democrats in Annapolis have the energy to win an election, what we don’t know is who their candidates will be. Busch, who serves as the powerful Speaker of the House, has filed. Democrats need someone else to step up and launch their campaign soon. Republicans have two candidates filed to try and take over Busch’s seat, and neither of them are McMillan, who is said to be weighing a run for State Senate. Soon-to-be-former Mayor Mike Pantelides would be a top-tier candidate for them if he decides to run here.


  • 8 (Parkville, Perry Hall) – This three-member district is represented by Republicans Christian Miele and Joe Cluster, and Democrat Eric Bromwell. District 8 is situated on the edge of eastern Baltimore County, which has been trending Republican for years now at the federal and state level, voting for Hogan by a dominating 67-31. Still, they picked Clinton 48-47. Bromwell has been the only Democrat in this delegation since 2010. Miele is running for State Senate, so there will be one open seat, although former delegate Joseph Boteler has filed. If Dems can get fired up in these sleepy suburbs, they could return the vulnerable Bromwell and maybe even pick up the open seat. A more likely outcome is that Republicans will sweep the district.
  • 31A (Brooklyn Park, Glen Burnie) – Ned Carey won by a closer than expected 53-47 spread in 2014, the first year of this district’s existence. Meanwhile, Hogan was winning here 64-34. This is also the only Trump district in Maryland represented by a Democrat, even though Trump only won 49-46. Needless to say, Carey is a top target for Republicans this year, and Army veteran Brooks Bennett has filed for this seat.

One of Each

  • 34A (Aberdeen, Edgewood, Havre de Grace) – Harford County is heavily Republican, but this stretch to the east on I-95 is more hospitable to Democrats. This is a two-member district represented by Republican Glen Glass and Democrat Mary Ann Lisanti. Voters here still lean Republican, voting for Hogan 61-37 and Clinton 48-46. Low turnout has plagued 34A, but if Democrats can generate the enthusiasm they had in Virginia, they could have a sweep here. Likewise, Republicans could capitalize on Hogan’s sky-high popularity in Harford County and sweep it the other way. Right now, both possibilities look about equal.


On the Bubble


  • 27B (South Prince George’s County, Dunkirk, Huntingtown) – Democrat Michael A. Jackson represents this 55-44 Hogan/49-47 Clinton seat. Originally supposed to be a safely blue seat, the sudden rightward swing of Calvert County took everyone off guard. Jackson only won 52-48, and Clinton’s 2-point win was very underwhelming. In our opinion, this district was drawn foolishly from the start – why group a chunk of southern PG County with northern Calvert? But if Republicans can come up with a top-tier candidate, Jackson may end up being a one-term delegate. The Republicans currently have two filed candidates.
  • 32 (Northwest Anne Arundel County) – This is on the outer edge of the bubble, but this three-member district voted for Hogan 57-41. Two years later, Clinton won by an equally convincing 54-41. Democrats Pam Beidle, Mark Chang, and Ted Sophocleus currently serve District 32, but Beidle is running for State Senate, and Sophocleus is in his late seventies. Chang, for his part, is an energetic campaigner, and has a moderate voting record in the House, making him a tough candidate to beat. Sandy Bartlett has been accepted into the “team” to fill Beidle’s spot, but progressive Army veteran Derek Kent is running for a seat here as well, and if there’s one trend we see in elections since Trump’s election, it’s that progressive candidates are winning everywhere. Republicans are taking this race seriously: 2014 candidate Tim Walters is running, as are Patty Ewing and Mark Bailey. The proposed Maglev train, which would run all the way through the district, is creating new political factions, and it will be interesting to see how big of a part it plays in the campaigns.




  • 12 (Arbutus, Halethorpe, Columbia) – Arbutus and Halethorpe are very Republican; Columbia is not. This three-member district voted for Hogan 55-43 and Clinton 55-38. Yes, Clinton’s margin was wider than Hogan’s, but that’s why it’s called a reach. Still, a lot can happen in the next year, and we’re leaving this here for now.
  • 42A (Towson) – Steve Lafferty is popular in this Baltimore County district that voted for Hogan 55-43 and Clinton 62-31. It’s a highly-educated suburban district, and is the home of Towson University. For Republicans to win this, absolutely everything has to go right (that’s why it’s a reach) and nothing can go wrong. One Republican has filed as of this writing.


  • 2B (Hagerstown) – Formerly a Democratic stronghold, the party’s fortunes here have declined along with the fortunes of the city itself. Republican Brett Wilson beat longtime Democratic delegate John Donoghue 54-46 as Hogan carried the district 61-37. Trump won 49-45, but we’ve seen districts redder than this turn blue in the past year. Nobody has filed yet, although there is a little drama: Wilson is planning to step down so that he can be appointed to a judicial seat, leaving the seat open to an appointee who will serve until the election. Wilson would have been tough to beat, but if, say, Kristin Aleshire or Daniel Gysberts runs against an appointee who has been serving less than a year, would Republicans still hold the seat?
  • 3B (Southern Frederick County) – This is another district where everything would have to go right for Democrats, but if they do, they could pick up a seat in this fast-growing suburban area south of Frederick. Delegate Bill Folden won 56-44, while Hogan was rolling 63-35. Those are impressive numbers, but the area has been trending blue for the past decade or so, and Trump only won 50-44. This DC suburban district is exactly the type of district Democrats should be targeting this year, and if they land a fantastic candidate, they could make a big gain here.
  • 29B (Lexington Park) – The Maryland political world was shocked when Republican newcomer Deb Rey defeated Delegate John Bohanan 50.3-49.6 — a margin of 76 votes. But in hindsight, it fit the general trend towards Republicans in St. Mary’s County. This suburban district backed Hogan 64-33 and Trump 50-43. The Hogan margin is significant, but we’ve seen 7-point margins for Trump evaporate just one year later in Virginia. Army veteran Brian Crosby has filed to run as a Democrat here. If Crosby’s campaign takes off, this could turn into an interesting race.
  • 33 (Arnold, Crofton, Severna Park) – This three-member district in the Annapolis suburbs has been so Republican lately that Democrats have had trouble finding candidates to put their names on the ballot, let alone run an actual campaign. District 33 went 71-27 for Hogan and 52-41 for Trump. Let those numbers sink in. A 44-point Hogan advantage in 2014 turns into an 11-point Trump win just two years later. This is an affluent, well-educated suburban district that doesn’t like Trump. It’s still a reach, but to win here, Democrats must do several things. First, they have to have a full slate. Running just two candidates here won’t be good enough. Second, they should have at least one candidate who is reasonably well-known throughout the district and has the time and ability to engage the neighborhoods: knock on doors, be a presence at every community event, and get name recognition through copious press coverage. Finally, they should try to have a geographic balance between their candidates. Two of the three Republican incumbents are from Crofton and there’s a Republican challenger looking to join the delegation, also from Crofton. This is a winnable race if the candidates can work together like a machine.

Final Results: Arnett and Paone Win Re-election

After a long, suspenseful week, the City of Annapolis has released the results of the absentee and provisional vote counts.

Ward 2

Fred Paone (R-inc): 842 votes, 51.3%
Kurt Riegel (D): 800 votes, 48.7%

Margin of victory: 42 votes

Ward 8

Ross Arnett (D-inc): 916 votes, 51.7%
Julie Mussog (R): 853 votes, 48.2%

Margin of victory: 63 votes

Two races were decided by less than 70 votes… still think yours doesn’t matter?

In both races, the incumbents received more absentee votes than their challengers. Mike Pantelides also edged Gavin Buckley on absentee ballots, 291-281, but obviously that 10-vote surplus is nowhere near enough to erase Buckley’s election night lead. Click here for updated Annapolis results.

Buckley Wins in a Landslide

Gavin Buckley, Democrat for Mayor

It’s been an absolutely wild night for Democrats, with big wins in Virginia, New Jersey, and Annapolis, where Gavin Buckley defeated Mike Pantelides by a huge margin.

UPDATE (11/14): These numbers are now official. (City of Annapolis)


Mayor – D WIN: Gavin Buckley (D) 61.06%, Mike Pantelides (R-inc) 38.79%

This one took us by surprise. We knew there was an enthusiasm gap that favored Buckley, and we thought it might be enough to give him an 8-point edge. Instead, he clobbered the incumbent by 22 points, winning every ward and in fact, every precinct except one.

Ward 1 – D WIN: Elly Tierney (D) 60.12%, Larry Claussen (R) 35.54%

This didn’t end up being close either. Tierney won comfortably in both precincts, and her 24-point margin of victory tied with Rob Savidge in Ward 7 for the largest lead in any of the city’s contested elections.

Ward 2 – R WIN: Fred Paone (R-inc) 51.28%, Kurt Riegel (D) 49.42%

After a week-long recount of absentee and provisional ballots, Paone slightly increased his lead and was declared the winner. Democrats ended up being denied the sweep by 43 votes.

Ward 3 – D WIN: Rhonda Pindell Charles (D-inc) 96.19%

Ward 4 – D WIN: Sheila M. Finlayson (D-inc) 71.93%, all write-ins 28.07%

Toni Strong Pratt mounted a spirited write in campaign but Finlayson won easily.

Ward 5 – D WIN: Marc Rodriguez (D) 61.13%, James Appel (R) 38.87%

In the end, the ground game of Marc Rodriguez’ campaign was more than a match for Appel’s money, connections, and attack ads. Want to know how you can tell? Rodriguez actually out-performed Gavin Buckley in both precincts. Remember that one precinct in the city Buckley lost? Rodriguez won it.

Ward 6 – D WIN: Shaneka Henson (D) 95.01%

Ward 7 – D WIN: Rob Savidge (D) 61.74%, David Frankel (R) 37.76%

We were wrong about this one too – not only did Savidge beat Frankel, he did so by the widest margin of any contested election in the city: 24 percentage points. (After absentee ballots were counted, he actually tied Tierney in Ward 1 for the largest win margin.)

Ward 8 – D WIN: Ross Arnett (D-inc) 51.72%, Julie Mussog (R) 48.16%

This one is actually right where we predicted it: a close race between Ross Arnett and Julie Mussog that ended in a 4-point win for Arnett. This is the only ward where we saw significant party-crossing, as Mussog ran significantly ahead of Pantelides in both precincts. This one came down to absentee ballots, but when all was said and done, Arnett slightly increased his lead from 54 to 63 votes.

Wards 2, 8 in Annapolis Still Undecided

Two days after the Annapolis elections, absentee and provisional ballots are still being tabulated.

The City has released the total numbers of absentee and provisional ballots submitted from each ward.





This will only affect wards 2 and 8, where the number of outstanding ballots is greater than the current candidates’ lead.

In Ward 2, Fred Paone (R) currently has an 18 vote lead over Kurt Riegel (D). There are 89 absentee and 34 provisional ballots left to be counted, for a total of 123 votes outstanding.

In Ward 8, Ross Arnett (D) currently has a 54 vote lead over Julie Mussog (R). There are 121 absentee and 31 provisional ballots left to be counted, for a total of 152 votes outstanding.

Handicapping the Annapolis Mayoral Horserace

Democrat Gavin Buckley (L) and Republican Mike Pantelides (R)

It’s 2017, which means it’s time for another round of odd-year, low-turnout local elections. It is, however, the first regular election cycle in the Age of President Trump, which means a whole lot of pundits and bloggers will be screaming the word “momentum,” as in “which party has the momentum going into the REAL elections next year?”

Well, political momentum really is a thing, because people’s likelihood to exercise their right to vote is absolutely influenced by the political climate. When folks are fired up, they come out to vote. Larry Hogan was able to infuse energy into the Maryland Republican Party, and he defeated a Democratic candidate who was not able to instill the same energy into his party’s base, which largely stayed home. But Hogan and his supporters had a huge energy/momentum boost in November 2013, a full year before Hogan’s victory, when Republican Mike Pantelides defeated incumbent Democrat Josh Cohen for Mayor of Annapolis. The margin of victory was 59 votes, but Pantelides showed that a Republican who campaigns hard as a moderate can beat a Democrat, even in a place where Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans. Annapolis proved to be a bellwether for the whole state.

This year, of course, is very different. Donald Trump is President, and not only are Democrats fired up in a way we haven’t seen since 2008, but moderates are beginning to shun the Republican Party at all levels.

Taking all this into account, as well as conversations with locals from all wards and a glance at each candidate’s finances, we’ve come up with what will obviously be a 100% accurate prediction of next Tuesday’s election in Annapolis. We do, after all, carry all the prestige of a political blog that just launched!


Mayor of Annapolis

Incumbent: Mike Pantelides (R)
Challenger: Gavin Buckley (D)

Past Results:
2013: Mike Pantelides (R) 50.2%, Josh Cohen (D) 49.4%
2009: Josh Cohen (D) 46.5%, David Cordle (R) 40.5%, Chris Fox (I) 12.8%

Gavin Buckley, Democrat for Mayor

Gavin Buckley, Democrat for Mayor

Fifty-nine votes. 59. That’s how many more votes Mike Pantelides had than incumbent Mayor Josh Cohen in 2013. The turnout was 33.58%. Two out of three registered voters didn’t show up.

Since taking office, Mayor Pantelides has largely been staying quiet and uncontroversial. Other than a staff shakeup at the beginning, he hasn’t really done anything to the city. He seems to be running Annapolis as an extension of Anne Arundel County, and has emphasized multiple times his close relationship with County Executive Steve Schuh. But the whole point of having a city government in Annapolis is to have elected officials who put the needs of Annapolis first, not the county. And the general verdict on Pantelides after one term is that he hasn’t done much of anything to improve the city. No action on sea level rise. No action on city public housing, even as it literally crumbles around him. “Working with the county” on gang violence. “Working with the county” on the opioid epidemic. Flip-flopping on controversial developments. All in all, a rather underwhelming first term.

Enter Gavin Buckley, a business owner known for revitalizing West Street and the Arts district. He took the Democratic nomination in a landslide against the sitting State Senator who was heavily favored by the party establishment. He has laid out a comprehensive vision for Annapolis, including downtown revitalization, transparent government, and perhaps most importantly, distinguishing Annapolis as a leader in infrastructure, safety, and the environment. This is the kind of vision that inspires a city. Volunteers have flocked to his campaign, which seems to enjoy an exceptional amount of support from young voters. Buckley is exactly the candidate who can bring out voters who usually stay home during city elections, and this year, turnout will matter a lot. While some observers forecast a close race, we see Buckley winning by 8 points, 53-45.


Ward 1 (map)

Incumbent: Joe Budge (D) – defeated in primary
Challengers: Larry Claussen (R), Elly Tierney (D)

Past Results:
2013: Joe Budge (D) 57.8%, Allen Furth (R) 41.8%
2009: Richard Israel (D) unopposed

Ward 1 is the affluent, historic downtown section of Annapolis most often visited by tourists. Parking and crime have been the biggest issues here, but sea level rise and flooding related to climate change will become increasingly important.

The Democratic candidate is Elly Tierney, a business owner and president of the Ward One Residents Association. She also has over 30 years of experience in construction and engineering, which will come in handy in a city with so many major developments in the works.

Larry Claussen, the only Republican to run here, never made a website or online presence (despite his many promises to do so!), but his candidate bio emphasizes his passion for historic preservation.

Republicans are targeting this seat, because without it they have no chance of winning a majority on the city council. It was sad to see dirty tactics unfold in Ward 1 even before the primary election in September. A mailer went out supporting Elly Tierney against Joe Budge, sent out by the Republican Party, because they thought she would be a weaker candidate. Then in October, they tried digging up dirt on Tierney’s five-year-old theft conviction, which was expunged, but dug up by Claussen’s campaign treasurer. Some candidates, when faced with skeletons from their closet, become indignant, and some wilt and withdraw. But Tierney has handled the coverage with humility and grace, and we believe voters should judge her on her recent community work and vision for Annapolis. She has been campaigning hard, knocking on doors and connecting with residents instead of hiding behind direct mailers. We believe Tierney will win by a 4 point margin, 52-48.


Ward 2 (map)

Incumbent: Fred Paone (R)
Challenger: Kurt Riegel (D)

Past Results:
2013: Fred Paone (R) 51.3%, Kurt Riegel (D) 48.5%
2009: Fred Paone (R) unopposed

Both Fred Paone and Kurt Riegel are competent, respected community leaders. Riegel has been a strong campaigner, building on his base from his narrow loss last time around and is a strong fundraiser. Uncharacteristically, Paone hasn’t been hitting the streets or raising gobs of money. The vast majority of his campaign cash was raised last year. This could go either way, but will ultimately come down to the extra effort Riegel has been able to put in this year on his campaign. Riegel will win by 2 points, 51-49.


Ward 3 (map)

Incumbent: Rhonda Pindell Charles (D)
Challengers: none

Past Results:
2013: Rhonda Pindell Charles (D) unopposed
2009: Classie Hoyle (D) 59.1%, Scott Bowling (R) 40.6%

With the incumbent as the only person running, we feel pretty safe in calling this one for Alderwoman Charles, unopposed.


Ward 4 (map)

Incumbent: Sheila M. Finlayson (D)
Challengers: Toni Strong Pratt (D) – write in

Past Results:
2013: Sheila M. Finlayson (D) unopposed
2009: Sheila M. Finlayson (D) unopposed

The single biggest surprise of the primary election was that second-term Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson only beat challenger Toni Strong Pratt by 17 votes. While there are no Republicans running against Finlayson, Pratt is running a write-in campaign. Ward 4 consistently has the lowest turnout rate in the city, which is a shame because it is so diverse and can be considered a microcosm of the whole city. But low turnout elections can yield unpredictable results, and Pratt is going to do better than the majority of write-in candidates who end up winning a fraction of one percent. Finlayson will win comfortably, but not by a landslide. This one goes to Finlayson by 10, 55-45.


Ward 5 (map)

Incumbent: Jared Littmann (D) – not running for re-election
Challengers: James Appel (R), Marc Rodriguez (D)

Past Results:
2013: Jared Littman (D) unopposed
2009: Matthew Silverman (D) 61.1%, James M. Conley (R) 38.5%

Many folks don’t realize that Ward 5 is the least-Democratic when it comes to presidential and midterm elections. It also has the city’s largest concentration of Hispanic voters. Marc Rodriguez has the support of outgoing Alderman Jared Littmann. James Appel has the support of Delegate Herb McMillan and Larry Hogan, of whose re-election campaign Appel is controller.

This one will be close, and like Ward 1 it is on the “bubble” for Republicans: they have to have everything go right to win, but they absolutely must win here to have a chance at a City Council majority. Politically, Ward 5 has always been close. It’s only been represented by Democrats since 2009, and was once represented by Herb McMillan. It contains affluent communities as well as public housing.

The result will come down to this: Rodriguez wins with a reasonable margin if the Hispanic voters turn out, but if they don’t, it will be very close and either candidate could win. Assuming a moderate Hispanic turnout, we pick Rodriguez by 6 points, 53-47.


Ward 6 (map)

Incumbent: Kenneth Kirby (D) – not running for re-election
Candidate: Shaneka Henson (D)

Past Results:
2013: Kenneth Kirby (D) 55.0%, Steven Conn (I) 44.9%
2009: Kenneth Kirby (D) 60.2%, Greg Stiverson (R) 39.6%

This race had an interesting primary, as Shaneka Henson faced DaJuan Kyre Gay. Both are incredibly dedicated to their community, and we feel that while Henson brought more experience to the table this year, Gay would make a stellar alderman down the road. Henson will win unopposed.


Ward 7 (map)

Incumbent: Ian Pfeiffer (D) – not running for re-election
Challengers: David Frankel (R), Rob Savidge (D)

Past Results:
2013: Ian Pfeiffer (D) 60.0%, James T. Clenny (R) 39.3%
2009: Ian Pfeiffer (D) 52.6%, Jennifer J. Monteith (R) 47.1%

This has been a hard-fought race between two well-qualified candidates in an open seat. David Frankel, an attorney, has laid out a vision for the ward, eschewing traditional city talking points and focusing on ultra-local issues, such as traffic and development. His opponent, Rob Savidge, has a well-deserved reputation as a defender of the environment, and started the race with significant name recognition due to his work for the city. While Savidge’s platform emphasizes his opposition to the controversial Crystal Spring and Parkside Preserve developments, it still seems like people know his primarily as an environment-first guy. While this isn’t a bad thing, we’ve heard some people, including Democrats, say that Frankel’s vision is more in-tune with the local issues. Frankel has perhaps campaigned harder than any candidate except Gavin Buckley, and his signs blanket the ward. Savidge has a lot of support, but ultimately enough Democrats will cross over to give Frankel the win by 4 points, 52-48.


Ward 8 (map)

Incumbent: Ross Arnett (D)
Challenger: Julie Mussog (R)

Past Results:
2013: Ross Arnett (D) unopposed
2009: Ross Arnett (D) 54.0%, Rock Toews 45.8%

Ross Arnett is an economist and self-described “fiscal hawk,” running for his third term in the wealthy and close-knit Ward 8 in Eastport. Julie Mussog is the CEO of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, and also has a background in finance. This one is tough because a lot of folks like Mussog personally, but approve of the job Arnett has done representing them. There will be some party line-crossing here, and it will mostly go one way. This will be the closest election Eastport has seen in at least two decades, but Arnett will prevail by 2 points, 51-49.


It’s simple: this election will be won by whoever shows up.

If Democrats can bring a lot of new energized voters to the polls, folks who don’t usually vote in city elections, they could sweep the city council. If it’s another low-turnout election like last time, Republicans could pick up 3-4 seats. (1, 5, 7, 8 and retain 2.) If you live in Annapolis, don’t just go out and vote today – bring two friends with you. Bring somebody who didn’t vote last time. “People power” only works if you actually use it.