More incumbent Md. senators lost their primaries than in any other state

By Len Lazarick

More incumbent state senators in Maryland lost their primary elections than in any of the 43 states electing their senates this year, according to a study by Ballotpedia.

Of the 1,167 state senate seats at stake across the country, only 19 incumbent senators lost their primary to a challenger and six of them – nearly a third – were in Maryland. Of those 1,167 seats, only 459 had an opponent challenging an incumbent in the primary, indicating how secure their seats are.

Incumbent senators lost primaries in 11 states, but none of the other states lost more than two incumbents.

The incumbent senators that lost primaries in Maryland, with their challengers winning percentage of the vote, were: Republican Sen. Don Munson to Del. Chris Shank, 57% (District 2); Democrats Sen. Rona Kramer to Del. Karen Montgomery, 50.59% — 116 vote margin (District 14); Sen. Mike Lenett to Del. Roger Manno, 54% (District 19); Sen. Nathaniel Exum to Del. Joanne Benson, 53.7% (District 24); Sen. George Della to newcomer Bill Ferguson, 59% (District 46); and Sen. David Harrington to Del. Victor Ramirez, 63% (District 47).

Term limits

It’s worth noting that 14 of the 43 states with senate elections this year have term limits on their state senators, according to a chart by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Those 14 states have 523 senate seats in play, according to Ballotpedia figures. Since some states elect only a portion of their senators every two years, just three of the 43 states have more senate seats on the ballot than Maryland.

Twelve states with eight-year limits would have kept four of the six veteran Maryland incumbents off the ballot, and only Kramer would have been allowed to run in the two states with 12 year limits, Oklahoma and Nevada.

UPDATED: On Wednesday, a group of 16 candidates for the Maryland General Assembly called the Maryland Term Limits Coalition signed a pledge to support a constitutional amendment that would limit state senators to no more than two consecutive terms in office. All but one are Republicans.

Led by Ed Priola, a Republican candidate for delegate in Howard County’s District 13, most of those signing the pledge were first-time candidates for the House of Delegates. Priola had once been the field director for U.S. Term Limits, an organization that pushed term-limits for state legislatures and Congress around the nation during the 1990s.

He calls his proposal “term out” — a lawmaker could serve more than two four-year terms if he or she sat out one term.

The pledge states that “the proper role of elected officials is to represent their constituents and their communities, serving for a limited period of time and then returning to private life,” but “the primary focus of too many elected officials has become re-election and gaining political power in their respective parties.”

UPDATED: The state Senate candidates (and their districts) signing the pledge are: Dee Hodges, 8; Rick Martel, 12; Kurt Osuch, 18;  and Jay Bala, 28. The House of Delegates candidates (and their districts) are: Jeanne Turnock, 10; Michael Collins, 11; Albert Nalley 12A;  Bob Wheatley, 12B; Ed Priola and Jeff Robinson, 13; Herb McMillan, 30; David Starr, 32; Democrat Joseph Gutierrez, 35A; Dustin Mills, 37A; Michael McDermott, 38B; and Al Phillips, 39.
Fifteen states now have term limits for legislators ranging from 6 to 12 years. Most of those were passed from 1990 to 1996, at the height of the term-limits movement.    

Two states, Idaho and Utah, have repealed the term limits enacted at that time, and in four other states — Massachusetts, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming — they were overturned by the state Supreme Court.

“As term limits begin to take effect, many of their impacts on the legislative institution are negative,” said the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Over half the members of the Maryland legislature would lose their seats if a two-term limit passed.

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