Republicans were unsuccessful in their mission to flip five seats in the state Senate from blue to red on Election Day, but the attempt was far from a misstep, some observers say.
Voters watched the District 3 state Senate race in Frederick County closely, after it was marked by the Republican Party as one of seven seats that could possibly be taken away from an incumbent Democrat. But Sen. Ron Young managed to keep his seat, as did incumbent Sen. Katherine Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County), whose District 8 seat was also targeted.
Dubbed the “Drive for Five,” the state GOP looked to end the veto-proof supermajority in the state Senate.
In total, the party managed to win two of its targeted races, but it may see a net gain of only one seat in the chamber, as Democrat Katie Fry Hester is expected to replace Republican incumbent Sen. Gail H. Bates to represent Carroll and Howard counties. The race was not targeted by the group’s push to add five seats.
The one Democratic incumbent to lose his seat in the “Drive for Five” was Sen. Jim Mathias, who represented Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico counties. He will be replaced by Mary Beth Carozza, a Republican, in January.
Chris West, a Republican, also swung the campaign in the Republicans’ favor by beating Democratic challenger Robbie Leonard in District 42 to represent Baltimore County.
To some, the outcome looked and felt like defeat on election night as results came in.
“I really thought Republicans were going to make great gains in the county, and right now it looks like a whoopin’,” said Sen. Michael Hough (R-District 4) on Tuesday night.
But outside election observers actually had praise for the candidates and party.
“I don’t think they got anything wrong,” Todd Eberly, an associate professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said in an interview on Wednesday.
Had Hillary Clinton succeeded in her 2016 presidential bid, then Republicans could have expected to pick up three or four seats in the state Senate in the midterms, he said. It just happened that 2018 was an election year in which Democrats wanted to send a message.
Goucher Poll political scientist Mileah Kromer said the Republican Party may have not been successful, but it was not a misstep to try to flip the seats.
Tuesday was a really bad night for Republicans, said Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College. But the only way to win seats is to contest races and put forward viable candidates. The party did both in 2018.
For example, Carozza, who unseated incumbent Mathias, is a conservative candidate and a good candidate, she said.
“They have to play to win the game,” Kromer said.
All election results are unofficial until absentee ballots and provisional ballots are counted.