It is Wendy Rosen versus Andy Harris in this year’s general election for Maryland’s 1st Congressional District seat. Last week, Chestertown physician Dr. John LaFerla conceded his close race with Rosen in the Democratic primary for the 1st district seat in Congress. “The provisional count only gave me a few more votes today,” LaFerla said, “not enough to make me confident that I could possibly win on Friday. There’s still a hundred or so votes out, but it would take an act of unusual probability for me to win.”
Democrat John LaFerla says he is not conceding to apparent nominee Wendy Rosen in the primary election in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District. Rosen led by 126 votes out of more than 24,000 cast in last week’s election. The State Board of Elections said that votes from one precinct with 88 registered Democrats remained to be counted. The board also will start counting absentee ballots. The absentee counting process ends April 13. Rosen declared victory, but LaFerla says he will wait for the final tally. The winner faces Republican incumbent Andy Harris, who was unopposed in the primary.
By MARK MILLER
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – Democrats and Republicans now know who their nominees are in all but one of Maryland’s eight congressional races this year following Tuesday’s primary election. But in the 1st District, it is impossible to call the race between two little-known Democrats vying for the nomination.
Physician John LaFerla of Chestertown trailed American-made crafts advocate Wendy Rosen of Cockeysville by just 126 votes Wednesday with all precincts reporting in the Eastern Shore-based district now represented in Congress by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville. Harris faced no primary contest on Tuesday.
A third candidate in the race, small business owner Kimberly Letke of White Marsh, languished well behind the top two with 13.9 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns on the State Board of Elections website.
The race is too close to call because 1,196 absentee ballots cast in the contest have not yet been counted, and 387 absentee ballots mailed out to Democrats in the 1st District have yet to be returned, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections website. Absentee ballots received by April 13 will be counted, provided they were postmarked on or before Tuesday.
LaFerla said he is not conceding the election until all the absentees are counted.
“The reason I’m hopeful is if you look at the numbers that came in (Tuesday), the early vote showed me winning by a large margin,” LaFerla said. “It’s at least theoretically possible for me to have a definite win, and that’s why I’m not conceding at this point.”
LaFerla won 48.2 percent of ballots cast in early voting, building up a 10-point margin over Rosen heading into Tuesday. He said he hopes absentee ballots will break his way by the same margin, which Capital News Service calculates would reduce LaFerla’s deficit to just four votes even if no more ballots are returned.
“We have to wait and see how they turn out,” said LaFerla. He said he would want the ballots recounted “if the difference is three votes,” for example, though he added, “But if the difference is (a substantial number), I wouldn’t question that.”
While LaFerla has the right to a recount, as would Rosen if the tally of absentee ballots were to put her in second place, Maryland has no provision for an automatic recount.
“The choice to do a recount would be that of the candidates,” said Donna J. Duncan, elections management director at the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Rosen leads by half a percentage point, meaning if LaFerla were to request a recount, his campaign would have to pay for it, unless the new count gives him more votes overall than Rosen.
The state will pay for a recount only if the difference between the two candidates is less than .1 percent of all votes cast.
Poll workers will begin counting absentee ballots Thursday.
Rosen said she is confident she won, and she said she is already looking ahead to November.
“I believe that it’s time for us to pull together and get this entire campaign together and move forward to beat Harris,” Rosen said. “We need party reconciliation and a complete joint front together. If I had lost, I would do that for John.”
Asked whether he would endorse Rosen if she is the nominee, LaFerla hesitated and said, “I expect I will, but I’m a little emotional right now. Let’s just get this election done right now and go from there.”
LaFerla earned late endorsements from moderate former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedysville, and several abortion rights groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile, Rosen had the backing of fellow Cockeysville resident Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the Democratic incumbent in the neighboring 2nd District, who was unopposed for re-nomination on Tuesday.
Rosen has raised $26,606 since she entered the race last November, and she loaned her campaign $75,000 late last month. LaFerla’s campaign reported $70,695.31 raised over the full period, with no personal loans from the candidate.
In other congressional primaries Tuesday, Harris and Ruppersberger were the only candidates to run unopposed, but Maryland’s six other House incumbents won their primaries, as did Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who faced a quixotic challenge from state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s, among others.
The 1st District was represented by Democrat Frank Kratovil of Stevensville for a single term from 2009 to 2011, but it became more Republican-friendly in last year’s redistricting. The eventual Democratic nominee will face an “uphill battle” to unseat Harris, according to St. Mary’s College professor Michael Cain.
“Clearly, the vote has been split, and that puts the Democratic Party in a much more difficult position,” said Cain. “They have to bind up their party and get themselves behind one candidate.”
New congressional lines will be drawn before next April’s primary elections, and there could be some changes coming to the district that includes Maryland’s Eastern Shore. A spokesman for Governor Martin O’Malley said the governor should soon announce who will serve on the special commission faced with taking the 2010 U.S. census data for Maryland and using it to draft new districts for the U.S. House of Representatives and the state legislature. State Senator Richard Colburn, R-37-Mid-Shore, said the congressional redistricting most likely will be presented to the General Assembly in a special session tentatively planned for mid-October. Colburn said those districts must be approved with plenty of lead time before the April primaries.
By RICHARD ABDILL
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – The candidates spent almost $2.5 million in the last month of the hotly contested congressional race in which state Sen. Andy Harris unseated freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil, according to Federal Election Commission reports filed Thursday.
The candidates in Congressional District 1 spent more than $4.9 million total in the contest, a rematch of the 2008 election in which Kratovil bested Harris by a margin so small the race took a week to decide.
When the two met in 2008, Kratovil, D-Stevensville, spent $2.3 million and Harris $1.8 million.
This time around, Kratovil’s spending totaled $2.6 million and Harris $2.3 million — $800,000 more than their last match.
Advertising was by far the campaign’s largest line item — over the past two years, Kratovil spent $1.9 million on advertising, including $515,000 in air time purchased on Oct. 7.
Harris spent $1.4 million on ads, including $675,000 in the final three weeks of the campaign.
And much more television time was paid for by outside groups: according to the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, almost $4 million came into the race via outside spending. The American Society of Anesthesiologists dumped $212,000 into the race for TV and radio ads for Harris, for example, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put up $1.5 million against him.
Kratovil spokesman Kevin Lawlor said the district received so much attention and cash because of close polling that was attractive to both parties.
“Maryland 1 had been near the top of that list since day one,” Lawlor said. Kratovil collected $2.66 million in contributions, with $1.2 million from political action committees.
He also received $62,000 in direct contributions from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of the Democratic Party led by Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington. Van Hollen’s personal campaign committee also donated $4,000. Kratovil received a total of $89,500 from Democratic candidates attempting to shore up his campaign, including $4,000 from outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Donations also came into the First District from across the nation: While Kratovil received the majority of his contributions from Maryland and the District of Columbia, Harris received donations from as far away as Washington state and Puerto Rico.
Harris got $150,000 from Texas, for example, and $95,000 from Florida. In total, Harris received $922,000 in individual donations from Maryland; he received just over $1 million from elsewhere in the country.
The influx of out-of-state money isn’t unusual, said Peter Brusoe, a research analyst with the Campaign Finance Institute: “Even with state and local elections we see a lot of that coming in.”
Ousted Congressman Frank Kratovil says he will consider trying to win his seat back in 2012. Kratovil, a moderate Democrat, was defeated by Republican Andy Harris after just one term representing Maryland’s First District. He tells The Star-Democrat of Easton that his defeat can be traced to anger at President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He says Harris ran against Pelosi, not him, and that if the election had been a referendum on his performance in office, he would have won easily.
The First District was long held by Republicans before Kratovil defeated Harris in 2008, riding a national Democratic wave. Republicans took back the House this year in part thanks to Harris’ victory in the rematch. Kratovil says he has gotten numerous calls from supporters asking him to run again in 2012 and says he has not ruled it out.
By RICHARD ABDILL
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – The state’s most expensive House race got a last-minute rush of cash from across the country, but its full magnitude won’t be clear until financial reports are due next month.
The candidates in Maryland’s Congressional District 1 took in at least $200,000 between Oct. 21 and the Nov. 2 election, according to Federal Election Commission filings. And that number could be higher — campaigns are required to report any donation of $1,000 or more within 48 hours of the donation, but the final contribution tallies, including smaller donations, are not due until Dec. 2.
Republican state Sen. Andy Harris defeated freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Stevensville, in a race that cost them $3.9 million, according to the last reports filed Oct. 21, but outside money that candidates don’t have to report has been pouring into the race, putting the total lavished on the race at more than $8 million, according to The Baltimore Sun.
The last-minute money was split almost down the middle — Harris collected $105,000, while Kratovil raised $95,750 in large donations. The only candidate to raise more was Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen, who took in $118,000 in large donations in the last two weeks of the campaign.
Van Hollen, D-Kensington, announced Friday that he is stepping down as DCCC chairman.
Of Kratovil’s last-minute donations, $60,500 of it came from political action committees and other groups in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Three campaigns gave to Kratovil’s efforts: Rep. Mike Thompson D-Calif., gave $1,000. Thompson and Kratovil were both members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of self-identified conservative and moderate Democrats who say they emphasize fiscal responsibility and bipartisanship over party politics.
New York’s Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley also gave $1,000 and the campaign of Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chipped in $2,000.
Kratovil campaign manager Jessica Klonsky declined to say how the money was used, but said contributions are always important.
“With any campaign, it’s about having what you need to get your message out,” Klonsky said.
Contributions to Harris, an anesthesiologist, reflect his popularity among medical groups: over the course of the campaign, more than $240,000 in donations from physicians as far away as Arizona, Hawaii and Puerto Rico helped Harris collect more than any House candidate in Maryland except Kratovil, Van Hollen and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville.
Harris also received a $5,000 contribution from the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians and another $5,000 from Wellmed Medical Management, a Texas-based insurance provider. Harris did not return calls for comment, but he wrote on his campaign website that he supports health care reform, but not “through government-run or government-mandated insurance, but, instead, common-sense, market-based solutions” including tax credits, medical savings accounts and “meaningful medical malpractice liability reform.”
House candidates in the rest of the state raised a combined $307,877 in last-minute donations that required reporting, the cash going almost exclusively to incumbents. District 5 Republican Charles Lollar was the only challenger other than Harris to file 48-hour reports, declaring $37,000 in large donations in his unsuccessful bid against Hoyer.
By JON AERTS
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – Every member of Maryland’s congressional delegation won re-election Tuesday, except Rep. Frank Kratovil, whose two-year incumbency in the Eastern Shore district was the only one of the state’s seats affected by a nearly universal call for change.
“There was obviously a wave of nationwide change — swapping out incumbents with newcomers — that didn’t materialize in Maryland,” said Eric Wargotz, who lost his bid to unseat Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. “But even though we weren’t victorious, the nation was victorious.”
Republicans won 60 more seats in the House of Representatives, as of late Wednesday, to take over the majority. Democrats lost six seats in the Senate, but retained their hold on the majority.
Wargotz fell to Mikulski by 438,489 votes, or 36 percent, to Mikulski’s 61.8 percent.
Of the seven congressional incumbents who retained their offices, District 4 Democrat Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, enjoyed the largest margin of victory, garnering 149,566 votes, or 83.5 percent, to Robert Broadus’s 29,234, or 16 percent. The district includes portions of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
Longtime incumbent Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, who will soon lose his post as House majority leader after a tide of nationwide Republican triumphs flooded the House chamber Tuesday, beat his tea party challenger by some 30 percent in District 5, which encompasses Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties, as well as portions of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties. While Republican Charles Lollar netted a formidable 79,359 votes, Hoyer won with 145,411 votes.
District 2 Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, routed his GOP opponent, Marcelo Cardarelli, 64 percent to 33 percent of the vote, or 127,110 to 66,382 votes out of 198,485 ballots cast, according to unofficial counts. The 2nd District includes portions of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties, as well as Baltimore City.
Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, trounced Republican Jim Wilhelm, by 24 points. Sarbanes’s district, which gave him 137,058 votes to Wilhelm’s 81,916, includes portions of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties, as well as Baltimore City.
District 6, the only reliably red district in Maryland, returned nine-term Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, to office, rejecting Democrat Andrew Duck’s bid by a comfortable 66,777 votes. The 6th district encompasses Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties, as well as portions of Baltimore, Hartford and Montgomery counties.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, also won handily over his nearest opponent, Republican Frank Mirabile Jr., gathering 142,395 votes to Mirabile’s 43,930 in District 7, which includes portions of Baltimore and Howard counties in addition to Baltimore City.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, who as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee may end up with some of the blame for the huge Democratic losses in the House, will also see another two years. Van Hollen drubbed Republican Michael Lee Philips with nearly 73 percent to 25 percent. Van Hollen collected 137,909 votes this time around and won by about 90,000 votes.
In Maryland’s only real swing district — it’s gone from Republican to Democratic and back again in six years — freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil Jr. conceded to state Sen. Andy Harris shortly after 10 p.m. on Tuesday in a 1st District race that surprised pundits by not being as close as they thought.
“The results tonight … show us that the American Dream is still alive,” Harris told the 200-or-so attendees at his after party at Harris Crab House on Kent Narrows. “We’re going to make sure America remains a land of opportunity.”
As of Wednesday evening, Harris tallied 146,272 to 111,237 votes, or 54 percent to 41 percent of the total votes cast, according to Maryland State Board of Election figures.
Charles Dyes, a 55-year-old businessman at the party, supported Harris because, he said, Kratovil has been largely unresponsive to his constituents. “Where’s (Kratovil) been?” he said. “He’s been a ghost.”
In another crab joint not far from Harris’s election-night jamboree, Kratovil’s supporters were more somber.
“There’s a bad image of the Democratic Party and I think he’s (Kratovil) taken the brunt of it,” Matt Pinder, a 25-year-old Kratovil supporter said.
Official election results will be certified on Dec. 1, after all provisional and absentee ballots are counted.
By RICHARD ABDILL and JON AERTS
Capital News Service
KENT ISLAND – State Sen. Andy Harris made this round look easy — toppling freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in their rematch for Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.
Kratovil spoke to his supporters at the Crab Deck restaurant a little before 11 p.m., saying that he was “consistently overwhelmed” by his supporters and praised the electoral process.
“The battles we have we fight at the ballot box and not on the battlefield.”
With 77 percent of the vote in, Harris was leading Kratovil 54 to 42 percent. The Washington Post called the race for Harris. Last time around, in 2008, it took a week before the race between the two was official.
Frank Kratovil Sr., 77, from the Crab Deck restaurant, said he was “apprehensive” most of the night.
Just a half mile away at Harris Crab House, Kathryn Harris, the candidate’s niece and a nurse, said she was “very confident” that her uncle would pull it off this time.
“He will use his platform as a doctor to affect change in Congress,” she said.
But perhaps the biggest deciding factor in the race may be the mood of the electorate. In 2008, Kratovil was helped by enthusiasm for President Obama, although Sen. John McCain won the district. This time, it’s a rising tide of Republicanism and a call for change that is lifting Harris.
“It’s time to take the trash out,” said Bernie Parkinson, 62, a retired firefighter and registered Democrat who voted for Harris. “Everybody wants change” this year.
That’s the feeling, too, of Charles Dyes, a 55-year-old Dorchester businessman at the Harris party.
“Politicians are playing puppets with us all,” he said. “We need change.” And he said that Kratovil has been unresponsive.
“Where’s (Kratovil) been? He’s been a ghost.”
Even House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer in Maryland’s 5th District got a taste of the mood. Republican Charles Lollar was close enough after early results were in that it was the only other federal race in Maryland not called almost immediately. Hoyer went on to beat Lollar. Marcella Drain, 31, who voted on Kent Island in the 1st District Tuesday, demonstrated the 1st District’s swing nature. She voted for Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Ehrlich, and also for Kratovil.
“What I like about him is he’s local,” she said of Kratovil, the former Queen Anne’s County state’s attorney. “I like his history and track record.”
Kratovil and Harris first butted heads in 2008, when Harris unseated nine-term incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the Republican primary.
That time around, the general election was so close it took a week for Harris to concede. Ultimately, 360,480 votes were cast in District 1 and official results left Kratovil the winner by 2,852 votes, or a .8 percent margin. On election night, however, Kratovil led by just 915 votes.
The lead-up to this year’s race has indicated it could be just as close: an Oct. 6 poll published by The Hill and conducted by Penn Schoen Berland had the candidates statistically tied; another, an automated poll from Monmouth University two weeks later, had Harris ahead 53 percent to 42 percent. On Oct. 25, the Baltimore Sun released yet another poll, this one with the two candidates tied at 40 percent.
The Washington Post and other media outlets already called the U.S. Senate race for Democratic incumbent Barbara Mikulski, and all other congressional incumbents except the 1st District and 5th District, where House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was wrangling with tea party leading light and Republican Charles Lollar.
By far the closest House contest in the state, District 1 had more spending than the rest of the races combined: while final tallies won’t come in until early next month, Federal Election Commission reports show the two candidates spent a combined $1.3 million between Aug. 26 and the end of September. The other House races combined spent less than half a million dollars.
More than $1.1 million of Kratovil and Harris’s spending has gone into several heated television spots in which each accused the other of dishonesty in ways that may have been dishonest themselves.
Kratovil accused Harris in an ad of supporting a 23 percent sales tax, a mischaracterization of a bullet point on Harris’s website saying he “can support either the flat tax or the fair tax.” Harris demanded Kratovil stop running the ad and said Kratovil cited a report that never mentioned the fair tax. The report, compiled by a committee commissioned by President George W. Bush, mentions the fair and flat tax programs more than 30 times.
Harris mirrored the strategy of many Republican challengers nationwide, attacking Kratovil’s association with the current Democratic administration by pointing to his votes in favor of the economic stimulus and the cap-and-trade energy bill. The Harris campaign also put out a statement attacking Kratovil for a recent fundraiser headlined by Vice President Joe Biden.
Kratovil has banked on his independence, a necessity in his deeply Republican district. He pointed to votes against the final version of the health care bill and the 2010 budget, as well as endorsements from Chambers of Commerce and the National Rifle Association, which supported Harris in 2008.
Harris, like Kratovil, did get an A rating from the NRA and said he didn’t get the endorsement because groups tend to support incumbents. Harris did once again get the endorsement of the Gun Owners of America.
The Republican Party also considered Harris a rising star, with National Committee Chairman Michael Steele bringing his “Fire Pelosi” (for getting rid of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) to Harris’ campaign headquarters in the final weekend before the vote.
In 2008, the Obama wave didn’t quite reach the Eastern Shore. Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain won the 1st District by 19 points, but Harris still lost to a Democrat. A win for him this time around would signal just how much discontent there is with Democratic leadership, even with those who have not voted the party line on key votes.
By RICHARD ABDILL
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – District 1 Republican challenger Andy Harris leads 53 percent to 42 percent in the contentious House race against incumbent Rep. Frank Kratovil, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday.
Harris’s 11-point lead represents a huge surge in a race that has been neck-and-neck since the outset. An Oct. 6 poll by Penn Schoen Berland, as reported by The Hill newspaper, showed Harris with a slight numerical lead, but with the margin of error the candidates were essentially tied.
The most recent poll, an automated survey of 637 likely voters by the Monmouth University Polling Institute, was conducted from Oct. 16 – 19 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
But that margin increases when breaking down the results into categories such as political party or gender.
When the two candidates faced each other in the 2008 election, Kratovil won by 2,852 votes – a margin of less than 1 percentage point.
“In that race, Kratovil won a narrow victory by racking up an 11-point margin in his native Eastern Shore to offset Harris’ 12-point advantage in the western part of the district,” the new report said. “That scenario is unlikely to play out this year.”
Kratovil campaign manager Jessica Klonsky said their camp isn’t putting too much weight into the poll’s results. She said internal polling shows Kratovil is still in a “very strong position,” but neither camp has published internal polling results since Kratovil released information on Sept. 17 that showed he was up by six points.
But whatever advantage he had then has disappeared, according to the Monmouth poll, which shows Harris, who has been an anesthesiologist at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital for 26 years, leading the Western Shore by an even wider margin than last time, 56 percent to Kratovil’s 40 percent.
And now, Kratovil’s Eastern Shore may be leaning red too, according to the Monmouth poll.
The poll shows Kratovil’s influence on independents waning as well. In the Oct. 6 poll, he had a slight lead, with 38 percent of independents favoring him, compared to 35 percent for Harris.
In the new poll, Harris had a resounding 24-point advantage, with 58 percent of independents for Harris compared to 34 percent for Kratovil.
There is also notable animosity for the Democratic Party as a whole. While 78 percent of 1st-District Democrats said they had an “unfavorable” opinion of the Republican Party, 91 percent of Republicans said they had an unfavorable view of the Democrats.
Harris released a new commercial Oct. 18 telling voters to “break up the team” of Kratovil, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Obama.
“I think people are upset with Washington as a whole, and Democrats are running Washington,” said Harris spokeswoman Anna Nix. “When things aren’t going well, the voters switch teams.”
Nix said recent polls have given the campaign a new sense of momentum.
“Our internal polls have us up, independent polls have us up,” Nix said. “People are ready to send Frank Kratovil home.”