“There is a tension in the Democratic Party between the establishment wing and more progressive forces,” said Todd Eberly, a political-science professor at St. Mary’s College. “Some folks who wouldn’t have thought to take on an entrenched candidate are now in part inspired by Donald Trump and saying we can’t wait.”
A similar tension is evident in the governor’s race, where progressive groups and unions have lined up to support former NAACP president Ben Jealous over Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D).
Every seat in the House and Senate is up for reelection. There are 12 open Senate seats and 30 open House seats. Fourteen of the 35 incumbent senators seeking reelection are facing primary challengers, as are 91 of the 111 delegates running for another term. The winners of primaries in Democratic strongholds such as Baltimore City and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties are expected to win in the general election in November.
In one of the most closely watched races, Del. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City), 35, a first-term legislator, seeks to wrest the nomination from longtime Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-Baltimore City), 71, who serves as president pro tem.
McCray, who had brushes with the law as a teenager and was investigated last year by the legislative ethics committee for an expletive-filled interaction with a female advocate, has run a scrappy campaign, knocking on 30,000 doors — half of them on his own.
He said McFadden is not doing enough to help their impoverished East Baltimore district and has slowed the impact of progressive legislation, including a compromise to reduce the hours that employees receive in paid sick leave.
“I went to Annapolis to make a difference for my community,” McCray said. “The people in my district know we have been losing out.”
McFadden said some of his colleagues think McCray’s run is “disrespectful. But I tell them, ‘We were young once, and we wanted the revolution to happen today.’ ”
At the same time, McFadden said ousting him or other longtime senators — especially those in the Baltimore City delegation — would hurt the city’s ability to have a seat at the table on key discussions about resources and policy. He argues that he would put his record of voting for progressive policies “against anyone.”
Several progressive groups and unions, some of which have backed McCray and other challengers, also have criticized McFadden and others in leadership as not doing enough to help working families.
“The Senate has long been an obstacle to progress in Maryland,” said Larry Stafford, executive director of Progressive Maryland. He specifically faulted lawmakers for failed attempts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The activists say their real target is Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who has led the chamber for 31 years, making him the longest-serving Senate president in the country. They endorsed Tommi Makila, the political newcomer who is challenging Miller in the primary, but they acknowledge that he is not expected to win.
They are focusing their efforts on boosting McCray and other candidates challenging Miller’s top lieutenants. Toppling them, they say, is the best way to dilute Miller’s power.
Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, is facing his first challenge in 12 years, squaring off against attorney Sheldon Laskin.
In addition, Del. Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City), who has served since 2011, is challenging Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore City), who chairs the powerful Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
Conway and Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), who normally run on a slate with longtime Del. Curtis S. Anderson (D-Baltimore City), have split from their legislative partner. Anderson asked them to remove him from their slate, according to the Baltimore Sun, which recently reported that Anderson is being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.
Another competitive race in Baltimore involves Del. Antonio L. Hayes (D), 40, who is battling Sen. Barbara A. Robinson (D), 75, who has served in the legislature since 2006 and was appointed to the Senate in 2016.
In Prince George’s County, Melony G. Griffith, a former delegate from Prince George’s with support from the establishment, is in a tight race with Del. Angela M. Angel (D) to fill a seat being vacated by longtime Sen. Ulysses Currie (D). Angel went toe-to-toe with Senate committee leadership over a domestic violence bill in 2016 and is considered part of the progressive bloc.
Currie, who spent more than two decades in the legislature, is one of a dozen senators who will not return to Annapolis in January due to retirement or a decision to run for another office.
Among the House races, Julian Ivey, 22, is one of three Democrats vying for two House seats in a Prince George’s district that includes Cheverly, Bladensburg and Mount Rainier. The challenge from Ivey, a city council member in Cheverly and student organizer, could leave first-term Dels. Jimmy Tarlau (D) and Diana M. Fennell (D) vulnerable.
Ivey, the son of veteran Prince George’s politicians Jolene and Glenn Ivey, recently accused Tarlau of trying to keep him off the ballot by asking Jealous to encourage him to stay out of the race.
Also in Prince George’s, longtime Dels. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D) and Marvin E. Holmes Jr. (D) are facing five primary challengers for their seats.
Frick represents District 16 along with Dels. Ariana B. Kelly (D) and Marc A. Korman (D). They are both running for reelection, and six newcomers are also competing in the district’s Democratic primary.
Three-time Del. Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery) is competing with Dana Beyer and Michelle Carhart for the nomination to succeed Madaleno in the Senate. Beyer, who is transgender, has run two times unsuccessfully for delegate. If she wins Madaleno’s seat, she would be the second openly transgender state lawmaker elected in the Washington region in the past year, after Virginia Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William).
The marquee Republican primary contest is taking place in St. Mary’s County. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is backing Jack Bailey, a newcomer, over first-term Sen. Steven M. Waugh (Calvert). Hogan has criticized Waugh for breaking with Republicans and joining Democrats to override the governor’s veto of a bill that bars colleges from asking prospective students about their criminal histories.
“Jack Bailey is not going to be a lap dog for Mike Miller and the far-left folks in Annapolis,” Hogan said during an event for Bailey in April. “He’s going to be a bulldog fighting on behalf of the people in Southern Maryland.”
Teo Armus contributed to this report.