November’s general election could give Frederick County and the state a chance to see one of the biggest shifts of power in favor of Republicans in recent memory, one state senator said.
But first, the party needs to present a unified front.
Voters have a chance to re-elect a Republican governor for the first time since 1954, end a Democratic supermajority in the state Senate and flip power in the county government, Sen. Michael Hough (R-District 4) said.
“This is the best chance in our lifetime to do that,” Hough said. “This election couldn’t be more impactful.”
But some Republicans may not be so quick to jump on board. Kirby Delauter, an outgoing county councilman who lost his bid for county executive, said that in the general election, he would not support Kathy Afzali, who won the primary for the county’s top seat.
Instead, Delauter said he would support third-party candidate Earl Robbins, adding he felt Robbins’ intentions for running were with the county’s best interests in mind.
“I made up my mind weeks ago that if I lost, I’d support Earl,” Delauter said. “I like that he’s laid-back, and he sees things that need to be addressed and wants to address them. I think he has Frederick County’s best interests in mind.”
The party has not done a good job of presenting a unified front locally, or at the federal level, Delauter said. He pointed to President Donald Trump “doing everything he said he would do,” but still not getting full support among Republicans as an example of that.
“That’s the one thing Democrats have always done a really good job of that the Republican Party really hasn’t,” he said. “If the Democrats had someone like Trump, who came through on everything he said he’d do, they’d be totally behind them. I don’t know why Republicans haven’t.”
Meanwhile, the Maryland Democratic Party started turning an eye to unity well before election day.
In early June, the party announced a “unity pledge” among gubernatorial candidates and a unity party to be held in Baltimore this weekend with former Vice President Joe Biden as the guest of honor. Other regional unity events took place in Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Howard counties, western Maryland and the Eastern Shore.
Several Republicans who made it through the primary already see a unified front forming. Hough formed a “Frederick County Victory Slate” made up of Afzali, Phil Dacey and Craig Giangrande — all of whom were successful in primaries against candidates largely deemed more conservative.
Hough said he chose to build a slate of candidates he deemed to be in the mold of Gov. Larry Hogan, who enjoys bipartisan support and was the second most popular governor in the country as of April, according to Morning Consult’s Governor Approval Rankings.
“All of these candidates really ran issue-based campaigns with specific issues on local platforms,” Hough said. “We wanted candidates who could be competitive and win in districts that Democrats have an edge in terms of voters.”
Even before results came in Tuesday, Hough pledged support for whoever emerged victorious in the Republican primary, even if they were not his candidates of choice.
“We are a small majority” in terms of registered voters in the county, Hough said. “We don’t have any room for infighting.”
Others echoed his call for party unity in their victory speeches, including Delegate Barrie Ciliberti (R-District 4), who was one of three Republicans vying for the three seats in the Maryland House of Delegates who automatically advanced to the general election.
“There is no such thing as a perfect candidate,” Ciliberti reminded supporters and candidates. “But a united front is critical so that when Governor Hogan wins re-election, and he will win, this redistricting will give us our four seats in Congress.”
Amie Hoeber, who won handily against her Republican challengers in the 6th Congressional District primary, acknowledged the factions threaten both the Republican and Democratic parties. However, Hoeber emphasized the common values that united candidates across the Republican spectrum.
“We need to remember that there are lots of values that Republican candidates share,” Hoeber said. “Working together is critical.”
Dacey, who secured the most votes in the Republican primary for County Council at-large, also noted that local elections were less subject to partisan politics.
“At the local level, people just want folks to deliver services and people to be responsive to them,” Dacey said. “I think, across the board, voters are tired of the status quo and they are ready for someone who will actually focus on delivering services to them.”
Several local GOP officials and candidates showed their support for Giangrande, a local businessman who secured the Republican nomination for Senate in District 3, at a watch party on Tuesday night at Brewer’s Alley.
In Giangrande’s victory speech, he gave a notable shoutout to Republican Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who ran unopposed in the primary. With a friendly embrace, Giangrande told the roomful of supporters that he received early support from Jenkins and has come to call him his friend throughout the primary campaign.
“He was very kind to me, and there’s a whole backstory that I’m not getting into. ... But he was very generous, introducing me to new Frederick, old Frederick,” Giangrande said of Jenkins.
Delegate William Folden also attended Giangrande’s watch party and offered support, as well as James Dvorak, who is running for House District 3A along with Mike Bowersox.
Giangrande said he looks forward to running as a slate in the general election.
“I’m really looking forward to taking the next step in November and bringing home some victories,” he said.
Candidates for County Council agreed Tuesday also that the Republican Party needs to come together in order to flip the balance of power on the council.
Republican County Council candidates Danny Farrar (at-large) and Steve McKay (District 2) — who aren’t entirely in lock step ideologically — nevertheless had a positive conversation about party unity outside the Centerville Elementary School polling place early on primary election day.
“I think party unity is not just really important, but it’s paramount,” Farrar said. “The perception that the Republicans are X, Y and Z and that they’re only for one side or one type of people, that’s got to be changed. ... It’s going to take all the candidates getting out there and making an actual concerted effort to go out and talk to everybody from all sides of the aisle and make people see that it’s not what you think.”
McKay said he thought it was important for the party to embrace a wider conservative ideology — and not listen simply to the loudest or angriest voices.
He said there’s a real difference between vocal activists and “the bulk of people that you talk to.”
“That might be the view of a thin layer of the Republican Party, but it’s not the bulk,” McKay said.
But the challenge for Republicans still remains to get voters to the polls. Despite Republicans having 4,000 more registered voters than Democrats, about 2,000 more Democrats than Republicans turned out for the primary election.
Speaking to his supporters Tuesday night, Farrar noted the importance of getting Republicans to turn out to vote.
“We got molly-whopped at the polls [Tuesday],” Farrar said. “You know why? Angry people vote. ... If you don’t want to be angry four years from now, then get angry now.”
Staff writers Danielle E. Gaines, Nancy Lavin and Mallory Panuska contributed to this report.