On my own island

I said before that I have not endorsed, nor will I be endorsing any candidate in the 1st Congressional District scrum. But from the perspective of being an observer, am I the only person who does not think Andy Harris is going to beat Wayne Gilchrest?

The Numbers Game
The numbers are just not adding up for the Harris campaign. The lowest percentage Gilchrest ever received during a primary as an incumbent was 47 percent of the vote, back in 1992 when the district had a larger slice of Anne Arundel County. With the current composition of the District, he beat Dave Fischer 60-36 in 2002, and Richard Colburn 62-38 in 2004. It’s hard to imagine that such a large slice of the electorate would defect after two contested elections.

The Others
Also complicating the issue for the Harris team is the fact that there are three other candidates in the race: Joe Arminio, Robert Joseph Banks, and John Leo Walter. Arminio and Walter have been in the race for some time and have both campaign extensively across the district. One would have to almost assume that those three candidates will split around 10 percent of the anti-Gilchrest vote.

District Geography
Senator Harris represents only two precincts that vote in CD-1. He does not start off with the name ID that one would usually expect from a State Senator challenging and incumbent Congressman, and certainly at more of a disadvantage than Senator Colburn (who represented a large chunk of the Shore) did in 2004.

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Additionally, it seems that a lot of Eastern Shore Republicans prefer their Congressman to be one of them, living on the eastern shore. That, from the people I have talked to, seems to be as much of a determining factor as ideology. This also plays into the Walter factor, since Walter is a resident of Centreville. On top of that, Arminio lives in Arnold, Anne Arundel County. That may peel a few extra votes away from Harris than might happen otherwise.

The Kratovil Factor
Some Republicans I have spoken with are fearful of Frank Kratovil, Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney and current Democratic frontrunner. There is a fear in some that a Harris win will make it more likely that Kratovil, not Harris, will be elected in November. They point to Kratovil being, like Walter, from the Shore and being somewhat of a moderate yet popular elected Democrat. It may mean that a lot of moderate Democrats who may otherwise pull the lever for Gilchrest (or most Republicans in most years) would switch to Kratovil.

To his credit, Senator Harris has been running a textbook campaign, one that has been more effective than any of the previous primary challengers. But he needs to run a perfect campaign and cross his fingers for luck in order to win this race. Missteps like his awkward new TV spot that mixes messages do not help his campaign any.

There is a long way to go between now and February 12th, but if the election were held today I would say that Wayne Gilchrest is going to win the primary by between five and eight percent…


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