Surprises in MD Primary

By Barry Rascovar

June 26, 2014 — Statewide favorites won in Maryland’s June 24 Democratic and Republican primaries. Most incumbents in lower-level primaries won, too. Yet there were more than a few surprises after the votes were counted:

1. New Baltimore state’s attorney

Incumbent Baltimore city state’s attorney, Greg Bernstein, had all the money and endorsements. He had a solid four-year record in office, too.

Yet he got blown away by an inexperienced, 34-year-old lawyer for an insurance company, Marilyn Mosby.

Marilyn Mosby

Marilyn Mosby

She capitalized on the popularity of her husband, Councilman Nick Mosby, and his ongoing campaign apparatus.

She was aided by former State’s Attorney Pat Jessamy and her followers, who are still angry at her defeat at the hands of Bernstein four years ago.

But more than anything, Mosby capitalized on Baltimore’s continuing crime wave.

For every Page One murder story, Mosby made sure to sound off, blaming it on the current state’s attorney for not being tough enough on criminals.

Baltimoreans are fed up with constant spates of brutal criminal activity. They can’t vote out the police commissioner; the mayor isn’t up for reelection this year. Mosby urged them to take out their anger on the state’s attorney.

But Mosby’s strategy could make her a sitting duck for a similar round of negative campaign assertions — “it’s the state’s attorney’s fault” — in four years.

This key criminal justice office could become a revolving door unless crime starts to moderate in Baltimore. That’s something the state’s attorney can’t control.

2. Great day for M.D.s and R.N.s.  

Only one physician serves in the General Assembly, “Dr. Dan” Morhaim, an emergency room specialist from Baltimore County. There used to be two before state Sen. Andy Harris, a Hopkins anesthesiologist from Baltimore County, was elected to Congress.

Decades ago, a pair of docs, Torrey Brown of Baltimore and Aris Allen of Anne Arundel County, saved the life of Worcester County Del. Russell Hickman after he suffered a heart attack during a House debate.

After November, Maryland’s legislature will be in even better medical hands.

Three more docs are safely through the House of Delegates primary and seem sure shots in November.

Terri Hill and Clarence Lam won open seats in the Baltimore County-Howard County split district.

Lam is a preventive medicine physician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He once staffed Morhaim’s legislative office in Annapolis.

Clarence Lam

Clarence Lam

Hill is a board-certified plastic surgeon with a private practice in Columbia. She ran in the Democratic primary with endorsements from all three retiring district delegates — liberal Liz Bobo, conservative Steve DeBoy and conservative  Jimmy Malone — a rare feat in this era of hyper-ideological extremes.

Terri Hill

Terri Hill

Hasan “Jay” Jalisi ran a strong race in the Randallstown-Owings Mills-Reisterstown district of western Baltimore County. The Democrat is virtually assured of election in the fall.

Jalisi is a non-practicing head-and-neck surgeon who now runs a property management company, among other ventures.

Hasan "Jay" Jalisi

Hasan “Jay” Jalisi

Meanwhile on the Senate side of the State House, two nurses are in good shape to join that chamber. Both are jumping over from the House after long careers there.

Addie Eckardt of Cambridge is a retired psychiatric-mental health clinical nurse. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam has been a quality assurance and head nurse and owns two health care companies providing home care and adult daycare services.

Given the complexity of health care delivery, having more members with “inside” information and direct experience with the realities of medicine’s challenges should prove a huge benefit to lawmakers.

3, Growing “rainbow” in Annapolis

In January, it looks like the House will welcome its first Korean-born delegate (Mark Chang of Glen Burnie ) and its first native Pakistani-Muslim delegate (Jalisi).

Mark Chang

Mark Chang

The Senate will swear in its first Jamaican-born legislator (Nathan-Pulliam) and its first Chinese-American (Susan Lee, now a delegate from Montgomery County).

In Anne Arundel County’s District 33, the November outcome could lead to the Maryland legislature’s first Lebanese-born delegate (Republican Sid Saab of Crownsville) as well as its first Greek-born delegate (Democrat Kostas Alexakis of Arnold).

The times, they are a-changin’.

4. Council/commission shake-ups

Baltimore County will see three of its seven councilmanic seats in new hands.

Incumbent Todd Huff, ethically challenged and dogged by zoning decisions, lost decisively to 40-year Annapolis veteran Del. Wade Kach, who is a heavy favorite in November.

Wade Kach

Wade Kach

Another ethically challenged councilman, Ken Oliver, lost to firefighter Julian Jones, who nearly beat Oliver four years ago.

In Dundalk, business development expert Joe DiCara won a crowded primary. He is the likely winner in November, succeeding the retiring John Olszewski Sr.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Carroll County three of  its five commissioners will be new to the job.

Among the more interesting results was the loss of the divisive Robin Bartlett Frazier. She was beaten handily by retired firefighter Steve Wantz, who told voters he had “no personal agendas” and criticized Frazier’s “lack of common sense.”

Carroll also lost its 20-year state’s attorney, Jerry Barnes, who was snowed under by Brian DeLeonardo. Sometimes you can stay in office too long to satisfy voters.

5. Rout in A.G.’s race

Despite misleading early polls based on name recognition, it was clear in recent weeks momentum was on Brian Frosh’s side in the race for attorney general. He’s now a shoo-in in November.

Brian Frosh

Brian Frosh

In the end, state Senator Frosh walloped Del. Jon Cardin, despite the popularity of Jon’s Uncle Ben, the U.S. Senator.

How bad was it?

Cardin lost by nearly 20 percentage points statewide.

He lost his district and the rest of Baltimore County by nearly 21 points. Frosh pounded Cardin in the state senator’s home subdivision, populous Montgomery County, 70-20 percent.

In Baltimore, Frosh’s name was on the local state senators’ tickets. This helped him gain 49 percent of the vote, though he was largely unknown to city voters.

Cardin, despite his familiar, local name, got just 32 percent in Baltimore. African-American Del. Aisha Braveboy of Prince George’s County, who had counted on winning a big vote in this heavily majority-black jurisdiction, won a scant 18 percent.

Frosh was the most experienced and accomplished candidate running statewide in this year’s primaries. Voters recognized that in the end.

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