Despite the hopes of some Eastern Shore Democrats, Frank M. Kratovil Jr. will not attempt to win back his seat in Congress.
Kratovil, who observers say was the Democrats best hope for a competitive election in the recently redrawn and heavily Republican 1st Congressional District, has mulled the idea of running since losing his seat to Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R-Dist. 1) of Cockeysville last year.
“I have obviously been considering that for quite some time and discussed it with family, with friends and with many people that were active in my campaign,” Kratovil said Thursday. ”Also considering the redistricting, I decided I’m not going to seek it next year.”
The former congressman said he is not sure if he will run for a seat in Washington again, but added that he doesn’t believe his career in public service is over.
He has applied for a judgeship in the Queen Anne’s County District Court.
“The decision not to [run] is a difficult one because I very much disagree...with the far right in Washington,” Kratovil said.
He first told supporters he would not stage another congressional campaign last week at a dinner sponsored by the Wicomico County Democratic Central Committee.
Kratovil was the only candidate who had a chance at beating Harris, who handily won the 2010 race with a roughly 13 point margin, said Laura Mitchell, a Salisbury city councilwoman.
“I would say it’s a disappointment, not a surprise,” Mitchell said. “The way the new district lines have been drawn, it would be coupled with the fact that this is an election that you have to almost [campaign] constantly.”
Other experts and observers agree. While a Democrat’s chances in the new 1st District are a long shot, Kratovil, who served just one term, is probably the only potential candidate with enough name recognition to give Harris a significant challenge, they said.
Kratovil could do well because the 2012 election is expected to be a good year for Democrats and mirror the national trends that brought him into office in 2008, said Todd Eberly, a professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
“If [Democrats] can’t get him to run, it’s going to be a little more difficult for them because they’re going to have to go through the building of name recognition and get over the fact that it is now more of a Republican district than it was before,” Eberly said.
Any Democratic candidates who want to run for the seat would have a big fundraising challenge as the party is focused on taking the 6th Congressional District in Montgomery County and western Maryland out of Republican hands, Eberly said.
“What would happen is somebody would likely file and would seek to run against (Harris) and they would run on a largely self-financed campaign and not so much help from the national party,” Eberly said.
Mitchell and other observers say it’s unclear whether other Democrats are poised to enter the race.
“We don’t really have any idea of who will do that.... Whoever the candidate is will have to be very, very centrist,” Mitchell said. “Very middle of the road. An extreme on either side isn’t going to appeal to the demographic on either end of the [district].”