Assembly could see major turnover
Incumbents line up for other races
ANNAPOLIS Go ahead and recycle this year's legislative facebook.
When the General Assembly reconvenes in January, the number of freshmen could rival the 45-member class of 2006.
Already, eight delegates have announced plans to seek another office or retire, and at least 10 more are thought to be seriously considering following suit. Two Senate Republicans already have said they are leaving, and more than a dozen senators face potentially serious election challenges.
That doesn't even take into account an anti-incumbent movement that may threaten seemingly safe officeholders, or other unknown factors.
"Things are as unsettled as I've seen them in terms of who's running for what at this point," said a Maryland-based Democratic insider who requested anonymity in order to speak freely. "You've got as many people who are still playing coy as there are people who have come out and said [what they are doing]."
Less than five months until the September primary election, the political landscape is only starting to become clear.
House Minority Whip Christopher B. Shank (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown and Dels. J.B. Jennings (R-Dist. 7) of Phoenix and James J. King have announced bids for the state Senate.
King (R-Dist. 33A) of Gambrills formally declared his intention to run against appointed Sen. Edward R. Reilly (R-Dist. 33) of Crofton on Sine Die. King applied, but was not tapped for the seat, when former Sen. Janet Greenip resigned last year.
Shank is challenging longtime Sen. Donald F. Munson (R-Dist. 2) of Hagerstown, while Jennings is vying for the open seat that will be vacated by Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Dist. 7) of Cockeysville, who is running for Congress.
A half-dozen other delegates are rumored to be considering Senate runs, including Dels. James N. Mathias Jr. (D-Dist. 38B) of Ocean City, Victor R. Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly, Saqib Ali (D-Dist. 39) of Gaithersburg and Joanne C. Benson (D-Dist. 24) of Landover. Del. Roger Manno (D-Dist. 19) of Silver Spring has confirmed he is considering a run.
All but Mathias, who would compete for an open seat, would go up against fellow Democrats.
Multiple sources said this week that Del. Karen S. Montgomery has decided to challenge Sen. Rona E. Kramer (D-Dist. 14) of Olney.
But Montgomery (D-Dist. 14) of Brookeville said Thursday that she is "still in the process of making a final conclusion."
There are certain to be other new faces. Del. Todd Schuler (D-Dist. 8) of Overlea and Del. Gerron Levi (D-Dist. 23A) of Woodmore are giving up their seats to run for Baltimore County Council and Prince George's County executive, respectively. Del. Herman L. Taylor Jr. (D-Dist. 14) of Ashton is expected to kick off his congressional campaign next month for the seat currently held by Rep. Donna S. Edwards (D-Dist. 4) of Fort Washington.
Meanwhile, Del. William A. Bronrott (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda will resign late this month to take a federal transportation job, and Del. Murray D. Levy (D-Dist. 28) of La Plata is retiring after 24 years in elected office at the state and local levels. Del. Henry B. Heller (D-Dist. 19) of Leisure World said Thursday he will not seek re-election to the House, where he served for 24 years. Former Montgomery County teachers' union head Bonnie Cullison said she is running for the House, and five others said they also plan to file.
Across the hall, Harris and Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus (R-Dist. 38) of Westover, who is retiring, are the only known departing members.
More could follow before the July 6 candidate filing deadline.
There could be as many as eight to 10 surprise legislative retirement announcements in the coming weeks, the Democratic source said. The prospect of a volatile political climate, a difficult economy recovery and the uncertainty of gaining leadership positions may lead some incumbents to call it quits, the insider said.
There's significant turnover every four years, said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who plans to seek re-election to a seventh term in office.
And he predicted Democrats will not lose ground in his chamber. Currently, they hold 104 out of 141 seats in the House.
"Our goal is to maintain," said Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis. "We're all in tough races. If the economy improves, the whole [election] could turn."
However, because Democrats picked up a net six seats in the House in 2006, the law of averages favors Republicans.
The GOP sees a fertile political environment for its candidates, given national trends and public dissatisfaction with the Democratic-controlled Congress and State House, said former Republican Del. Donald F. Murphy.
"It's better than it's been in 16 years, and if not now, then when would you run?"
In his mind, it's more important to gain five seats in the Senate, which would give Republicans a veto-proof majority, than it is to win the governor's race.
"I'm about stopping bad stuff, not passing good stuff," Murphy said. "A Republican governor in Maryland can't pass anything without the legislature."
Some Democratic incumbents may find themselves in the cross hairs of liberal groups.
Several progressive organizations will meet in the next several weeks to identify potential Democratic targets for defeat.
"My hope is we discover that there is overlap and we're going to give the Al Wynn treatment to bad-apple Democrats in the primary," said Progressive Maryland Executive Director Sean Dobson.
Several progressive-backed organizations, particularly organized labor, teamed up in 2008 to unseat then-Rep. Albert R. Wynn, who was viewed as too moderate for his district.
"What it taught us was when we work together, we can have a big impact," Dobson said, adding that most of the dissatisfaction toward State House Democrats is concentrated in the Senate.
Staff Writer Margie Hyslop
contributed to this report.