A mixed bag for incumbents in primaries
Some prevail, others fall; November could claim more victims
ANNAPOLIS Two long-serving incumbent Democratic state senators in adjacent legislative districts faced tough primary challenges Tuesday.
One prevailed barely and the other was ousted.
The opposite results Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr.'s victory and Sen. George W. Della's defeat reflected an anti-incumbent sentiment that resulted in several upsets and narrow escapes.
Incumbent senators fended off difficult challenges in districts 17 and 39 in Montgomery County, while their colleagues in districts 14 and 19 just to the east were upended.
Two more incumbent Democratic senators were toppled in Prince George's County, and the longtime Baltimore city state's attorney appears to have been voted out of office, but a Republican Anne Arundel County senator survived a rough-and-tumble contest.
What does it all mean?
Pollster Patrick Gonzales, speaking after a Wednesday morning fundraiser for Sen. Barry Glassman (R-Dist. 35) of Churchville, believes the mixed bag for incumbents demonstrated that all politics is local, a phrase coined by former U.S. House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill Jr.
Donald E. Murphy, a former Baltimore County delegate, saw a different trend take root on Tuesday.
"Seniors have fallen and they can't get up," he said, mimicking a famous television commercial catchphrase.
Four-term Baltimore County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire (R), 80, was surprisingly unseated by political newcomer Todd Huff. Other losers included seven-term Del. Ruth M. Kirk (D-Dist. 44) of Baltimore, 80, and Sen. Donald F. Munson (R-Dist. 2) of Hagerstown, 72, who has been in the General Assembly for 35 years.
Two other four-term lawmakers, Dels. Nancy R. Stocksdale (R-Dist. 5A) of Westminster, 76, and Paul S. Stull (R-Dist. 4A) of Walkersville, 74, are in danger of losing their seats once absentee ballots are counted.
Incumbents who face tough contests in November should take notice that their status doesn't offer the job security it has in past elections, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said.
"The mood of the electorate is very unsettled," he said. "They're angry, they're lashing out. Many people are going to the polls not to vote for some person, but to vote against something."
Although Stone (D-Dist. 6) of Dundalk prevailed, Miller said he was shocked that a political upstart like Jordan Hadfield reeled in 46 percent of the vote against a 40-year Senate veteran.
"You learn a lesson from each of the losses, but I think the bottom line is that you're a servant of the people and you need to be continually responsive to their problems and needs," Miller said. "The people who fared the best on Election Day are those people who took their cases directly to the people."
Already, the General Assembly will see a major overhaul next year and that's partially because ambitious up-and-comers are no longer following political tradition in waiting their turn, Murphy said.
Youngsters like House Minority Whip Christopher B. Shank and first-time candidate Bill Ferguson bested longtime Sens. Munson and Della (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore.
"People who wait their turn in politics rarely succeed, and the class of 2010 will be a class of people who didn't wait in line," Murphy said. "It will be interesting to see whether they play ball when they get down there or how well they'll follow directions. I don't think they're going to want to wait to effect policy changes."
About 20 percent of the Senate will be new to the chamber next year and that's only if no other incumbents lose in the general election. Miller (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach said he personally called all the winners of tough primary races by Wednesday morning and began meeting with several victors on Thursday.
The House is already guaranteed to have several dozen new members, with lots of seats in play in November. Several Republicans appear to have been upended Tuesday, including Dels. Richard A. Sossi (R-Dist. 36) of Stevensville and Charles A. Jenkins (R-Dist. 3B) of Frederick. Del. B. Daniel Riley (D-Dist. 34A) of Edgewood needs to close a 47-vote gap in the absentee ballot count to stave off defeat.