The first district Congressional race has been an interesting one and a cliff hanger this year. Republican State Senator Andy Harris defeated eight term Congressman Wayne Gilchrest in the primary, running as a more conservative candidate. This opened the race to a serious challenge from the Democrats who nominated Queen Anne’s County prosecutor Frank Kratovil to run for the seat.
The first district was designed to be a Republican district in the redistricting after the 2000 census. Areas of Baltimore city were removed from the district, so that it included the Republican leaning Eastern Shore counties and some more Republican suburbs in Ann Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties. This was done, by the State Legislature, to insure the easy reelection of incumbent Democrats in the surrounding districts.
The campaign was marked by negative ads from both sides. Kratovil was portrayed as a tax and spend liberal by the Harris camp, although, as a prosecutor, it was hard to find his voting record on budget issues, while, to listen to the Kratovil ads, you would think that Andy Harris was opposed to motherhood, apple pie and the forty hour work week.
The vote was too close to call on election night with Kratovil holding a lead of less than 1,000 votes when all polling places were counted, leaving the election to be decided by absentee and provisional ballots. It was expected that Harris would be able to close that lead, on the conventional wisdom that absentee ballots tend to lean more Republican. At last report Kratovil’s lead had grown to more than 2,000 in the absentee count.
The Associated Press has called the first district race in Maryland for Frank Kratovil. There are some provisional ballots yet to count and neither Kratovil of Republican Andy Harris has yet claimed victory or conceded defeat.
Frank Kratovil can thank Barack Obama for giving him a ride on his coat tails this year. The first district is still the Republican district it was designed to be and he will be facing a strong challenge in 2010.