Democrats eye potential Senate seat pickup
Archconservative Mooney represents District 3, which went for Obama
Of the 14 Maryland senatorial districts held by Republicans, in only one did Barack Obama defeat John McCain in the 2008 presidential race. And it's a district likely to draw lots of attention from state Democrats hopeful for a chance to pick up a seat in the Maryland Senate.
The target District 3 covers Frederick city, the southern half of Frederick County and a section of Washington County, and is now represented by archconservative Sen. Alexander X. Mooney.
"The incumbent they most want to go after is me, because of the numbers and because I am the one who fights back most against the establishment," Mooney (R) said Thursday.
At least five prominent Democrats are trying to plot their party's plans for the 2010 election. Frederick County Commissioners President Jan H. Gardner, former Frederick Mayor Ronald N. Young and former Alderman Marcia Hall are among the ones considering a run for the district seat.
And although Republicans have represented Frederick County for decades, Young said the community is changing.
"I do think that for a long, long time, most of the people who moved here were Republicans, but that's shifting; now there are more Democrats," he said.
The state Board of Elections does not provide voter registration by senatorial district, but the numbers for Frederick County show how the community is changing.
In November 2006, registered Republicans held a comfortable margin over registered Democrats 57,474 to 46,342. Three years later, Republicans still outnumber Democrats, but the difference has been cut in half: 55,962 to 51,115.
Other factoids make the picture less clear. Last month, Frederick voters picked a Republican to be mayor. But the five-member Board of Aldermen, which had three Republicans, now has four Democrats.
"The climate has changed," said Candy Greenway, another potential challenger. "People have watched to see what Sen. Mooney has done for Frederick. It's fine if you want to say no' to everything. Tell us what your plan is if you disagree with the plan that's on the table. That's not what we're getting."
Greenway, a relative unknown in 2006, entered the Senate race that July and came within 4 percentage points of defeating Mooney.
Del. C. Sue Hecht (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick lost her bid to unseat Mooney in 2002.
"For all that I don't agree with Alex, he is a very aggressive campaigner and fundraiser, and he has been very successful in raising money outside of district and outside the state," Hecht said.
In his January 2009 report, Mooney reported more than $260,000 in contributions.
To Hecht, Greenway's near-victory means Mooney is vulnerable.
"I think he realizes that. It's why he's working hard," Hecht said.
Another potential Democratic candidate is Don DeArmon, a former congressional staffer who now lobbies for nonprofits and municipalities on Capitol Hill.
DeArmon said Thursday that he is likely to run.
"It's clear [Mooney] wasn't working for the City of Frederick and Frederick County. I think people should step up and run some campaigns against him," DeArmon said. "We need somebody down there getting Frederick County priorities up to the front of the line where they belong."
Lisa Baugher, a civic activist, also has announced that she is running in District 3.
Young said he would make his decision in January. Sources have said Gardner's decision is imminent. She could not be reached for comment.
Kelly Schulz, chairwoman of the Frederick County Republican Central Committee, said her organization is planning to be proactive in the District 3 election.
"I think it's in our best interest to view every seat held by a Republican as vulnerable, if only because we don't want to be resting on our laurels and take the seat for granted," Schulz said.
Mooney, an Urbana resident who has built a legislative career fighting taxes and government spending, said his strategy is to work hard.
"I've gotten used to that and I'll have to work harder than the others. Knock on more doors, raise more money. I have to make my case to the voters," he said.