With attention focused on three open statewide offices – governor, comptroller and attorney general – the race for a six-year term in U.S. Senate and for Maryland’s eight congressional seats registers barely a blip.
Not only are 10 Republicans vying for the chance to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, another 28 Republicans and 13 Democrats are running to defeat Maryland’s six incumbent Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In the 4th Congressional District, mostly Prince George’s County, with Rep. Anthony Brown running for attorney general, nine Democrats are campaigning for the open seat, including Donna Edwards, the former congresswoman seeking to reclaim the office.
(For the full list with photos and websites see Maryland Reporter’s Voters Guide for Congress.)
The challengers and hopefuls share things in common.
Only one of the 41 Republican hopefuls has ever been elected to state or local office. That’s Del. Neil Parrott running again in the 6th Congressional District. Only three of the 23 Democrats running for the House have served in office, and those three are all vying for the 4th District seat, including Edwards, former Del. Angela Angel and former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glen Ivey.
Not only do most of the hopefuls have no elected experience for voters to judge, but according to figures compiled by Ballotpedia from the Federal Election Commission campaign finance website, most have raised little or no money as of the March 31 report. Some do not even have a website or any signs of an active campaign.
Easy ballot access
This number of candidates with limited resources and campaigns reflects how easy it is to get on the ballot in Maryland. Many states require potential candidates to collect signatures from voters to support their filing. Maryland has none. Some states require a bond. Other state’s have high filing fees.
The requirements in Virginia are particularly onerous. For governor or U.S. Senate, the candidate needs to collect 10,000 signatures and pay a $3,480 filing fee. For House, it requires 1,000 signatures.
All a candidate in Maryland for a major party nomination for U.S. Senate needs is to be 30 years old, a U.S. citizen for nine years and pay a filing fee of $290.
For the U.S. House in Maryland, a candidate must be 25 years old, a citizen for seven years and pay a filing fee of only $100.
So for just $100 or $290, a candidate gets his/her name on thousands or millions of ballots, he or she gets invited to debates and forums and they are sent questionnaires for voters guides and interest groups.
What are their chances of unseating incumbents this year?
According to three independent groups that rank congressional seats, their chances are slim to none.
The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate all the seats in Congress based on polling, past elections, the candidates, fundraising, partisan make up of the district and other objective factors. These groups make their living by being accurate forecasters for paid subscribers, not for wishful thinking.
All the Maryland incumbents are considered safe or solid for reelection except for Rep. David Trone in the 6th Congressional District, which has now been moved to “Lean Democratic” by Cook and Sabato, and “Likely Democratic” by Gonzales after district lines were redrawn this spring, adding Republican voters.
UPDATE 7/9/2022: According to the June 29 federal filings, Trone has lent his campaign another $10 million. Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters has a full rundown of the latest fundraising for the congressional races.
In the Senate race, the numbers look particularly daunting. The best funded and most visible Republican candidate, James Tarantin, is a thirties-something Israeli immigrant who made himself into a multi-millionaire business owner in international trade. He has loaned his campaign $100,000 and has $95,000 in the bank.
Chris Van Hollen is almost the definition of the kind of career politician Tarantin wants to unseat. Starting in 1991, Van Hollen has served in the Maryland House of Delegates, the State Senate, the U.S. House and now for six years in the U.S. Senate. He had $5.4 million cash on hand on March 31. UPDATE : On June 29, Van Hollen had $4 million in his account and has begun spending on TV ads.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to get Gov. Larry Hogan to run against him. Hogan declined.
Other groups which rate Senate races – Politico, Real Clear Politics, Fox News and FiveThirtyEight – also rate the seat as safe for Van Hollen.
Even the 1st Congressional District, where Democrats would love to unseat the Trump-supporting Rep. Andy Harris, his seat is rated safe/solid for the incumbent by Cook, Gonzales and Sabato. This is despite that Democrat Heather Mizeur, a former delegate who ran for governor, has raised $1.7 million. She had $1.1 million cash on hand as of March 31, but Harris raised $1.8 million.