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Monday, March 01, 2004

Congressional Races in Maryland

Tomorrow's Maryland primary while featuring a fairly competitive Presidential race, but Congressional races look set to be incumbent cake walks this fall, Mayor Martin O'Malley should glide to reelection, and other races are generally small local races that we won't cover here. Thus little attention is being paid to primary races to nowhere.

At the top of the ticket, Sen. Barbara Mikulski faces two Democratic challengers trying to run to her left. The Republican primary is dominated by first term state Senator E.J. Pipkin who already has unofficial party backing in his primary against eight other Republicans. A January poll showed Mikulski ahead of Pipkin by a 3:1 margin. Any talk about a Republican realignment in the state seems unlikely to impact her reelection, given Mikulski's overwhelming victories in primaries and general elections in 1998 and 1992. Word is that Pipkin is hoping for an open seat Senate election in 2006 and using this as a chance to build his name recognition, lists, and donor/activist base.

In Maryland's 1st Congressional District, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a moderate Republican is facing an energetic challenge from the right in state Senator Richard Colburn, who has deep roots in the region. Four Democrats are vying for the chance to take the winner on in what Charlie Cook calls a R + 9 district, but surely hoping for a conservative upset on the Republican side.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger has no opposition in the Democratic primary and little in the general:

"You'd need something almost as dramatic as an earthquake to get that race to show up on the radar screen," said Amy Walter, who handicaps House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Little challenge awaits Rep. Ben Cardin in his reelection campaign, though one Democrat and three Republicans are giving it a shot. The 3rd CD seems safe for as long as he wants it.

Al Wynn shouldn’t have any problem with his little known challenger in the 4th district primary, or with whichever Republican wins the all-but-invisible race on that side. That might be why he is already looking ahead to a potential 2006 Senate campaign.

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer is unchallenged in the Democratic primary in the 5th. Three Republicans including the young former Mayor of Berwyn Heights, Brad Jewitt, are interested in taking his place in a district he has repeatedly held by wide margins.

In the 6th CD, Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle has waged an energetic but uphill battle against Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett in the Republican primary. The winner will have a huge advantage in this heavily Republican district against whichever of seven Democrats emerges from the primary. VP Cheney was at a fundraiser for Bartlett recently.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is in little danger in the primary and, given the more than 3:1 Democratic registration of the district, in the general either. That might be why he now has time to campaign for Kerry.

Freshman Rep. Chris Van Hollen has little risk of losing his primary to either of his two Democratic challengers. And, although Robin Ficker and Chuck Floyd are giving voters in the eighth district a surprisingly energetic show, neither of the Republicans is likely to give Van Hollen much of a run for his money for this heavily Democratic seat.