ANALYSIS — Using redistricting to knock out a Republican incumbent is practically a decennial tradition for Maryland Democrats. This time around, however, GOP Rep. Andy Harris has a chance to survive — at least in 2022.
Prior to the 2002 elections, Democrats targeted GOP Rep. Constance A. Morella. She won reelection in 2000 while Vice President Al Gore carried the district by 24 points. Then Democrats redrew her 8th District to a seat that Gore would have won by 35 points, and Democrat Chris Van Hollen defeated Morella by 4 points in 2002.
Prior to the 2012 elections, Democrats targeted GOP Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett. They redrew his 6th District to couple his rural western Maryland territory, which has more in common with neighboring West Virginia, with Democrats in Montgomery County in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. It went from a seat that John McCain won by 18 points to a district that Barack Obama would have won by 14 points in 2008. And Obama won it by 12 points in 2012 as Democrat John Delaney defeated Bartlett easily.
That’s left Harris as the only Republican in the eight-member delegation for the past 10 years.
It’s the result of decades of Democratic effort. In 2014, The Washington Post declared that Maryland was tied for the honor of most gerrymandered state and Maryland's 3rd District, dubbed "The Praying Mantis" because of its odd shape, was identified as one of the 10 most gerrymandered districts in the country.
Since Republicans are essentially at the mercy of Democrats in Maryland, GOP Gov. Larry Hogan tried to put public pressure on them by creating a redistricting commission to propose new lines. But the commission never had any authority and the overwhelmingly Democratic majorities in the legislature drew their own maps, as usual.
While the shapes of the districts aren’t as ridiculous in the new map, the impact is the same. Democrats are likely to control at least seven of Maryland’s eight seats throughout the next decade. President Donald Trump received just short of one-third of the vote in 2020 and received slightly more than a third of the vote in 2016, but Republicans control just 12.5 percent of the House seats. Yet the situation could have been worse for the GOP.
Clinging to a narrow House majority, Democrats need to maximize their opportunities in places where they control the redistricting process. But they didn’t go as far as they could have in the Old Line State. Here’s how the races this year shape up:
1st District (Andy Harris, R)
For the past 60 years, at least one member of the House delegation has been a Republican, but that streak could be at risk later in the decade. Democrats redrew the congressman’s Eastern Shore district and dramatically changed its partisan performance. But Harris still has a decent chance of winning this cycle.
Trump won the old 1st District by 20 points, but Joe Biden would have won the newly drawn 1st very narrowly, 48.9 percent to 48.5 percent. That’s winnable terrain for Republicans in the current political environment, but it could become problematic for Harris in future cycles if the tide turns toward Democrats. Harris will also have to introduce himself to the approximately 40 percent of the population that is new, including in some areas near Annapolis.
Former state delegate Heather Mizeur, who finished third in the 2014 gubernatorial primary, is the Democratic front-runner in this newly drawn seat. She had $890,000 in the bank on Dec. 31, compared with $77,000 for retired diplomat Dave Harden, whose Carroll County home was drawn into another district. Harris had $1.5 million in the bank and starts with the advantage. Initial rating: Lean Republican.
Races rated Solid Democratic
- 2nd District (C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D)
- 3rd District (John Sarbanes, D)
- 4th District (Open; Anthony G. Brown, D)
- 5th District (Steny H. Hoyer, D)
- 6th District (David Trone, D)
- 7th District (Kweisi Mfume, D)
- 8th District (Jamie Raskin, D)
Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.