New Maryland GOP chairwoman Waterman seeks pickups in legislature

April 21, 2013

The newly-elected chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party said Sunday that she anticipates a competitive governor’s race next year and is hopeful that the minority party will make gains in the General Assembly, despite the challenges of redistricting.

Diana Waterman, a political activist from Queen Anne’s County, emerged as the winner Saturday on the second ballot at the state GOP’s spring convention. She was elected to lead the party into the 2014 elections, serving out the term of Alex X. Mooney, a former state senator who announced his plans to resign the chairmanship in February.

Waterman, a bookkeeper with a major real estate firm on the Eastern Shore, had been serving as interim chairwoman.

She said in an interview Sunday that she is committed to making Republicans more competitive statewide. Maryland Democrats hold an advantage of more than 2 to 1 in party registration and control the governorship and both chambers of the legislature by lopsided margins.

“I passionately believe in the value of a two-party state,” Waterman said. “If we do nothing, it doesn’t become a two-party state.”

She said it appears several candidates will seek the GOP nomination next year to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who is term-limited. And she said the odds of one of those candidates prevailing in November 2014 is much greater with an open seat.

“It’s time for another Republican governor,” she said.

In 2010, O’Malley defeated former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) by nearly 15 percentage points. Ehrlich, who was defeated by O'Malley after serving a single term in 2006, is Maryland’s only Republican governor of the past generation.

The party has struggled since then to build registration and raise money on par with Democrats.

Waterman acknowledged that there will be an additional obstacle to picking up seats in the legislature next year. The contests will be the first run after the legislative map was redrawn by a commission overseen by O’Malley.

But Waterman said she believes it is realistic to make gains in both chambers. Republicans currently hold 12 seats in the 47-member Senate and 43 seats in the 141-member House. All 188 seats are on the ballot next year.

The state GOP has long held a goal of winning 19 Senate seats, which would allow the party to block legislature through a filibuster if all members hang together.

While that remains the goal, a pick-up of at least two to three Senate seats next year is realistic, she said.

Waterman said another leading goal of the state GOP is to build on gains from 2010 in the number of offices the party holds at the local level.

She said no decisions have been made about whether the party will participate in petition drives to overturn laws passed during the recently completed legislative session.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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