Maryland, Pennsylvania
House Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

Maryland

April 26, 2016 — With representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-Montgomery County) and Donna Edwards (D-Prince Georges County) locked in a Senate Democratic nomination battle that is now favoring the former, we take a look at the state’s House primaries that will be decided in today’s election.

Though all but one Maryland House incumbent faces primary opposition, the real action is in the state’s two open seats. No incumbent primary challenge is viewed to be serious including that of former state Delegate Mike Smigiel who, along with two others, is opposing the lone Republican incumbent in the congressional delegation, three-term Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-1).

MD-4: The 4th District, Edwards open seat, features former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who badly lost the 2014 gubernatorial campaign to now-Gov. Larry Hogan (R). He squares off in a multi-candidate contest with former Prince Georges County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey, College Park state Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk, retired Army officer Warren Christopher and psychologist Terence Strait. The winner takes the heavily Democratic seat in the general election. Brown is attempting to resurrect his political career after losing embarrassingly to Hogan even when cast as the early favorite.

MD-8: Van Hollen’s open 8th District is an overwhelmingly Democratic seat anchored in Montgomery County before going all the way to the Pennsylvania border. Today, the multi-million dollar mega-Democratic primary to replace him concludes. Since Maryland has no run-off law, the Democratic nomination, and therefore the seat, will be decided today.

The contest is among three top contenders of the nine running. Total Wine chain store owner David Trone, in spending more than $10 million for the primary campaign, has clearly altered the race. Whether the heavy spending will propel him beyond state Sen. Jamie Raskin and former news anchor and businesswoman Kathleen Matthews remains to be seen, but Trone is an obvious factor in the race. Former state House Majority Leader Kumar Barve is also competitive, but he and former Obama Administration official Will Jawando and state Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez are second-tier candidates. Clearly, this 8th District primary race will be the most interesting non-presidential campaign of the night.

Pennsylvania

Like Maryland, Pennsylvania hosts a major Democratic Senate primary. This race between former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Delaware County) and ex-gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty is coming down to the wire. A Sestak win would translate into a huge loss for the Democratic establishment, who’s “all in” for McGinty. The winner faces Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in November in what will be a close election.

Four House primaries are also significant points on the Keystone State political landscape.

PA-2: In Philadelphia’s 2nd District, indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah (D) could easily fall to state Rep. Dwight Evans (D), a former House Appropriations Committee chairman when the Democrats held the state legislative majority. Two others are also running, Lower Merion Township Commissioner Brian Gordon and 9th Ward Leader Dan Muroff, but Evans appears to be the major contender. Fattah has had virtually nothing in the way of campaign resources since his multiple count indictment was announced, but could still conceivably win if the anti-Fattah vote badly fractures. If the congressman goes down, he will be the first incumbent of the year to be denied re-nomination.

PA-8: Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick’s (R-Bucks County) retirement after four non-consecutive terms opens this marginal district for the 2016 election. The 8th District congressman’s brother, former FBI agent Brian Fitzpatrick, is the leading Republican contender and favored to win the nomination over former Bucks County Commissioner Andy Warren and psychologist Marc Duome. The Democrats are embroiled in a tough campaign between state Rep. Steve Santarsiero, who has performed much better on the campaign trail than expected, and businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton who lost a Democratic primary in 2014 despite being cast as an early favorite. This developing race will bear watching in the general election.

PA-9: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R), after scoring only a 53 percent win in the 2014 primary, has been running an all-out campaign to again defeat retired Coast Guard officer Art Halvorson. The congressman will spend close to $2 million in comparison to Halvorson’s $200,000. The latter has again failed to wage a top-tier campaign. Only an anti-incumbent wave can sweep Shuster out of office, but that is not likely to happen, and the eight-term representative should win again. The Republican nominee wins the seat today because no Democrat filed for the general election.

PA-16: Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Lancaster) retiring after what will be 20 years in office leaves an open Republican-leaning 16th District to a pair of GOP candidates. State Sen. Lloyd Smucker was thought to be the heir apparent here, and still is regarded as the favorite to win today’s primary, but is facing more difficult competition than first expected from businessman and former Lancaster County GOP chairman Chet Beiler. It appears Beiler will spend upwards of $600,000, as compared to Sen. Smucker’s disappointing $450,000. Today’s Republican winner will enjoy a decided advantage in the general election.

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