Saturday, November 11, 2006

State Legislative Gains

While the results are not yet final, one can get a firmer sense of political shifts in the General Assembly following the 2006 elections. Contrary to election night information, it appears that the Democrats did not gain any more seats in 2006 than they did in 2002.

State Senate

The balance of power remains the same as immediately following the 2002 elections with 33 Democrats and 14 Republicans. Former Del. James Rosapepe defeated incumbent Sen. John Gianetti in the Democratic primary in District 21 (Prince George's and Anne Arundel). Gianetti became a Republican after his primary loss. Rosapepe defeated Gianetti again in the general election with 69% of the vote to take back the seat for the Democrats.

Elsewhere the Democrats and Republicans traded a seat. In District 13 (Howard), Democratic County Executive James Robey defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Sandra Schrader with 56% of the vote. Republican Bryan Simonaire appears to have narrowly won open District 31 (Anne Arundel) with 50.8%. Democrat Walter Shandrowsky received 49.2%.

The partisan stalemate masks ideological changes which should make the ranks of Senate Republicans more conservative. At the same time, the Democratic Caucus should get a bit more liberal. Schrader's defeat represents another death blow to the ranks of moderate Republicans. The replacement of conservative Democrat Jimeno by conservative Republican Simonaire simultaneously renders the Republicans more conservative and the Democrats more liberal. Gianetti was the most conservative Democrat (then briefly the only Republican) from Prince George's so his replacement by Rosapepe should make Senate Democrats more liberal.

House of Delegates
Democrats gained nine seats in the House of Delegates according to the current results from the State Board of Elections. Some the races are very close so I imagine the outcomes in a few seats could change once the final outcome is determined. In District 3A (Frederick), Democrat Sue Hecht edged out incumbent Republican Del. Patrick Hogan for the second seat. Both of the district's seats are now held by Democrats.

Baltimore County was fertile territory for Democrats who undoubtedly benefitted from Ehrlich's weaker showing in the County in 2006 compared to 2002. Democrats picked up two seats in District 8. Democrats Ruth Baisden and Todd Schuler defeated incumbent Republican Dels. Joseph Boteler, III and John Cluster to join incumbent Democratic Del. Eric Bromwell in the House. Democrats Stephen Lafferty and Tracy Miller picked up two seats for their party in District 42 in an extremely tight contest. Incumbent Republican Del. Susan Aumann also won reelection but Republican Del. William Frank will not return to the House.

Democrats went from two to three seats in three state legislative districts. In District 15 (Montgomery), Democrat Craig Rice narrowly beat incumbent Republican Del. Jean Cryor for the third seat rendering Montgomery's delegation free of Republicans. Cryor's defeat is another major loss for moderate Republicans. Democrat newcomer Peter Murphy defeated incumbent Del. W. Daniel Mayer for the third seat in District 28 (Charles). Democrat Pamela Beidle will join two Democratic incumbents in District 32 (Anne Arundel) but Republican Del. Terry Gilleland, Jr. will not return to the House.

In District 34A (Harford and Cecil), Democrat B. Daniel Riley convincingly defeated incumbent Republican Del. Sheryl Davis Kohl for the second seat. The nine seats gained by Democrats raises the majority party to a total of 107 seats, up from 98 immediately following the 2002 elections. Democrats now control just over three-quarters of the seats in the House of Delegates.

One should also note that incumbent Republican Del. Don Dwyer, Jr. went down to defeat in District 31 (Anne Arundel), though he will be replaced by another Republican, newcomer Republican Nicholaus Kipke. Dwyer was specially targeted by supporters of gay rights. Perhaps Kipke will take a more constructive role in the new House. As far as I can tell from a cursory glance at the returns, Dwyer is the only incumbent who lost in a legislative district where the overall partisan composition did not change.