13 February 2008

The Wynn Loss

Along with the Potomac Presidential Primary, there were some surprises in the Maryland Congressional primaries. Two long serving incumbent Congressmen lost their races.

Representative Wayne Gilchrist, a nine-term Republican Congressman from the Maryland’s 1st Congressional (Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Baltimore County), lost to conservative State Senator Andy Harris 43% to 33% in a three person primary race. Gilchrist had many national Republican endorsements, including President Bush. Harris had the backing of former Maryland Governor Ehrlich.

There were two factors that influenced this race. Redistricting in Maryland, changed the Free State’s representation from 4 Ds and 4 Rs to only 2 GOP districts. Granted, the two new seats were safe Republican districts, but it altered the district’s demographics. The squishy centrism that plays well in suburbia does not mesh well with more conservative outlying areas. In addition, Gilchrist had the distinction of voting against his party more often than any other House Republican, so motivated party activists went RINO hunting.

The Wynn loss was more interesting. Representative Albert Wynn, an eight-term Democrat Congressman from the Maryland 4th District (mostly Prince Georges county), lost to Donna Edwards by a wide margin (36% for the incumbent to 60% for the challenger). Wynn had angered progressive activists for joining Republicans on the Iraq War and the bankruptcy bill.

Edwards, who has strong progressive credentials from her work with Public Citizen and the Center for New Democracy, came within 3% of beating Wynn in the 2006 primaries. But this time, she had the strong backing of environmental, labor and liberal activist groups like MoveOn.org, so she have a major media campaign and take the seat. This may be indicative of progressives feeling their oats. Such growing confidence of progressives could influence the Democrat Presidential platform and alienate independents.

I noticed that Wynn held his post-election rally at a union hall. Given that Edwards had the strong support of other labor groups, this might represent a wedge in the labor vote. If manufacturing unions are diverging from service unions, it represents the old “Reagan Democrats” diverging from left-leaning Democrats.

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