New Print Edition: Maryland Senate & Vermont At-Large
June 30, 2006 · 2:47 PM EDT
Maryland Senate: Race Matters
By Nathan L. Gonzales
If national Republicans are looking at reliably Democratic Maryland for one of their best Senate takeover opportunities, you can bet that the national landscape is pretty sparse. But a competitive Democratic primary and an appealing African-American GOP nominee have Republicans holding onto a sliver of hope.
Paul Sarbanes (D) is retiring after almost thirty years in the Senate, and his actions leave a rare open seat opportunity for candidates on both sides of the aisle. Democrats have a crowded primary field, led by Cong. Ben Cardin and including former Cong. Kweisi Mfume, businessman Joshua Rales, and college professor Allan Lichtman.
State Democrats attempted to move up the September primary to June to allow more time for the party to heal from both the Senate and gubernatorial races, but they were unsuccessful. And while the race for governor has cleared up, Democrats will battle it out all summer for the right to take on GOP Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.
The Republican opportunity depends on a fairly simple scenario: Mfume comes out of a brutal primary with the nomination, while Steele is able to capture a larger-than-normal share of the African-American vote along with voters turned off by the Democrat’s personal and political baggage.
But if Democrats nominate Cardin, the GOP opportunity fades quickly and Steele becomes only a long-shot.
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Vermont At-Large: The Scarlet Letter
A little over a year ago, no one in Vermont knew which political party Martha Rainville belonged to. Now, after announcing that she would run for Congress as a Republican, she is fighting to distance herself from the national GOP.
The former National Guard Adjutant General is vying for the open seat being vacated by Cong. Bernie Sanders (I), who is running for the U.S. Senate. Rainville will face state Senate President Pro Tem Peter Welch (D) in a rare Republican takeover opportunity.
President George W. Bush’s job approval in Green Mountain State is in the low 20s and the overall Democratic nature of Vermont certainly works against Rainville’s candidacy. But GOP Gov. Jim Douglas remains popular and is expected to win a third two-year term, and Rainville’s unique profile makes her formidable.
A mid-June Republican survey showed the race tied, but the contest is far from over. Both Rainville and Welch will spend the summer and fall campaigning across a state small enough for retail politics to still matter.
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