By Len Lazarick
In a state already dominated by Democrats, Maryland voters further consolidated the party’s power Tuesday.
The voters defeated the longest serving Republican congressman, clobbered congressional challengers to six Democratic incumbents, and approved all the ballot measures the great majority of Republican legislators had opposed, including same-sex marriage and expanded gambling.
As expected, President Barack Obama carried the state with 62% of the vote. But that victory – the same margin he won in 2008 – was again won in six big jurisdictions, with Mitt Romney carrying the 18 other rural and suburban counties.
Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin easily won reelection with 55% of the vote -- the same margin as in his 2006 victory – and Republican Dan
Bongino got just 27% of the vote due to the presence of independent Rob Sobhani who spent more than $6 million of his own money to get 17% of the vote.
Voters affirm laws, Delaney wins
For the first time in 20 years, opponents of the legislature’s actions petitioned three laws to referendum. But in each case, voters approved the measures passed by the Democrat-dominated General Assembly and signed by the Democratic governor.
The congressional redistricting map designed to eliminate one of two remaining Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives was overwhelming approved by 62%, with only Carroll County voters rejecting the gerrymandered map.
That map in the 6th Congressional District helped Democratic challenger John Delaney beat 10-term Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett 59% to 38%, with Bartlett carrying only small Allegany and Garrett counties. Delaney overwhelmed Bartlett with most of his 58,000-vote margin coming from the large chunk of Democratic Montgomery County that was added to Bartlett’s district to help engineer his defeat.
Bartlett, 86, who had been urged by fellow Republicans to retire, wound up conducting a lackluster and oftentimes invisible campaign in the face of his most serious challenge in his 20-year career.
“Although the election did not have the outcome we had hoped for, we can hold our heads high knowing that we have fought for the principles and values we care about,” Bartlett said in a statement.
Six big jurisdictions give winning majorities
The collection of six big jurisdictions that carried Obama to victory – Baltimore City, Baltimore, Charles, Howard, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties – were also the ones that gave the winning margins to Question 4, in-state tuition for immigrant children, and Question 6, gay marriage. Maryland became the first state to approve same-sex marriage in referendum, and both victories will help burnish the national image of Gov. Martin O’Malley, who actively campaigned for both measures that he had signed into law.
The victories on gay marriage and expanded gambling, which O’Malley also campaigned for, had the narrowest margins, 52% to 48% for both.
The petition drives to put the tuition, marriage and redistricting laws on the ballot had been seen as a way for the Republican and conservative minority to balance the power of the Democratic progressives in the legislature. But they failed to do that.
There could not have been a larger contrast between the election night parties organized by the Democratic and Republican parties. There were hugs and tears at both, but for the Republicans at the Westin hotel at BWI airport, there were tears of disappointment and hugs of consolation, particularly for Dan Bongino, the ex-Secret Service Agent who campaigned for 18 months and choked up at his early concession speech.
“I never thought I’d be here,” Bongino said as he struggled to finish his speech, recalling that he had grown up “above a bar” in Brooklyn.
Bongino had started his campaign highly critical of Cardin and his 46 years in elective office, but he wound up an admirer on a personal level.
“He’s been a gentleman,” Bongino told the crowd. “He’s a good man, folks. He was a class act.”
The senator used the same words for Bongino. “He’s a class act,” Cardin said.
Harris is the only Republican left
Left standing for the GOP is Rep. Andy Harris, now the lone Republican in the 10-member Maryland congressional delegation. His district was redrawn to pack the most Republican voters in and he now represents all or parts of 12 counties.
Like the Democratic incumbents, Harris got a huge majority Tuesday, with 67% of the vote. But Harris was running against Democrat Wendy Rosen, whose name was still on the ballot after she formally withdrew from the race over allegations she had voted twice in some elections.
Harris, a strong social and fiscal conservative, was still upbeat about the party’s prospects, though he was speaking about 9:15 p.m. before the full extent of the GOP defeats were known.
“I believe Maryland is one of those states which can move from blue to red,” Harris said. “I believe we can take back our state and our country.”
Diversity is an issue
That was not the only color differences between the two parties. The GOP gathering at the Westin was largely white and had only a sprinkling of African Americans and Hispanics. The jubilant Democratic Party at M&T Stadium was multiracial to the hilt, and the crowd jumped for joy when MSNBC became the first network to announce the re-election of the first black president.
The crowd might have been ethnically diverse, but some party officials decided that their TV viewing was not going to be. The dozens of TV screens in the bar lounge that had been turned into multiple networks were all switched to the left-leaning MSNBC after the Obama victory was announced.
At the Westin, the Republicans also had only one channel available on a single screen, the right-leaning Fox News.