Many candidates but few fireworks in Maryland's congressional primaries

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) speaks to William H. Cox, Jr., during a ceremony opening the U.S. military's first center for sustained high-speed vehicle testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground on Sept. 8, 2010.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) speaks to William H. Cox, Jr., during a ceremony opening the U.S. military's first center for sustained high-speed vehicle testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground on Sept. 8, 2010. (Associated Press)

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By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2010; 11:43 AM

Maryland plays host to a full but mostly quiet slate of congressional primaries Tuesday, as the state's lawmakers appear likely to escape the anti-incumbent fervor that has claimed casualties in primaries elsewhere.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is expected to secure the Democratic nomination with ease against six opponents. On the Republican side, 11 candidates are jousting for the right to face the heavily favored Mikulski in the fall.

Queen Anne's County Commissioner Eric Wargotz is the best-funded and most visible GOP candidate, having aired a buzz-generating television ad comparing Mikulski to a dinosaur -- "insidersaurus." Lawyer Jim Rutledge has also stirred some enthusiasm for his campaign among conservative activists.

The marquee congressional primary Tuesday will take place in the 1st District, where Republicans are battling for the right to face endangered freshman Rep. Frank M. Kratovil Jr. (D) in November.

"The 1st District race is high on everybody's priority list," said Ryan Mahoney, political director for the Maryland Republican Party. "It's a top targeted race nationally."

State Sen. Andrew P. Harris won the GOP nomination in 2008 -- losing to Kratovil by less than 3,000 votes -- and he is favored in the primary again this time, though he faces a challenge from businessman Rob Fisher.

Fisher has poured more than $400,000 of his own money into his campaign, much of it for television ads, but he has been outspent by Harris and is not well known in the 1st, which includes the entire Eastern Shore and several counties on the Western Shore.

The winner of their contest will get help from the national GOP in trying to oust Kratovil from a district that favored Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by 19 points in the 2008 presidential election.

"Regardless of who wins the Republican primary, we are confident voters will agree that the only way to fix Washington is to elect representatives with the independence to make decisions based on facts and common sense, not on politics," said Kratovil campaign manager Jessica Klonsky.

Kratovil and Maryland's other seven U.S. House members are all expected to win their respective nominations with ease Tuesday. All of them, except for Kratovil, are heavily favored for reelection in November.

Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D), whose 4th District includes part of Montgomery and most of Prince George's County, faces a challenge Tuesday from state Del. Herman L. Taylor II (D-Montgomery).

Taylor contends that Edwards has accumulated a skimpy legislative record and become a classic insider -- fueled by the political action committee money she once decried -- since she ran as an outsider in her successful 2008 primary campaign against Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D).


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