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December 8, 2009

Andy Harris campaign manager is out

When Republican congressional candidate Andy Harris hired a well-regarded campaign veteran to manage his 2010 run, party officials in Washington touted the move as a propitious sign.

It was evidence, they said, that next time would be different. Harris lost narrowly to Democrat Frank Kratovil in 2008, while Republican nominee John McCain was carrying the conservative First District by 20 points.

This year, on the advice of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Harris moved early to upgrade his campaign operation and field a more professional team. Campaign manager Mike Spellings was a prime exhibit in the Harris upgrade.

Now, Spellings has quietly left the campaign.

Spellings, who has helped run Republican campaigns in Minnesota, Virginia and Texas, says he wanted to pursue "other opportunities," which have yet to fully materialize.

Another Republican operative, speaking anonymously to discuss internal campaign dynamics, blamed a personality clash. Spellings and Harris were just a bad fit, this insider said.

The departure of his campaign manager is likely to put renewed focus on Harris's ability to run a first-class operation.

He has yet to hire a replacement. The Baltimore County state senator says he is "in the final stages" of making a choice and expects to bring on a new manager "in the beginning of the year."

Unless he gets tripped up in next September's primary, Harris could end up being favored to unseat Kratovil, one of the most endangered House Democrats in the country. But Republican state Sen. E. J. Pipkin, who lost a multi-candidate primary against Harris and incumbent Republican Wayne Gilchrest last year, has yet to say whether he'll try again.

The wealthy Pipkin has spurned an entreaty from former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich, a Harris backer, to stay out of the race. Harris says if Pipkin had made up his mind to run, "he'd be in the race."

Earlier today, Harris released a list of endorsements from 26 Republican members of the General Assembly who represent portions of the First District. Missing were the names of three Pipkin supporters from last year, Mary Roe Walkup, Michael Smigiel and Richard Sossi.

Some might take that as a clue that prominent Republicans are keeping their options open. Harris says he never asked Walkup, Smigiel and Sossi for endorsements. "I didn't really want to put them on the spot," he says.

Harris, a 52-year-old anesthesiologist from Cockeysville, says he's focused on a general election matchup against Kratovil and the issues of jobs, the economy, government spending and the federal budget deficit.

He's says he's resigned to being outspent but that his fund-raising is improving, with each calendar quarter yielding more than the last.

On Monday evening, Harris reports, Ehrlich helped him collect $20,000 at a Hunt Valley reception prior to the Ravens-Packers football game.

At least one person from Baltimore had something to cheer about when the night was over.

Posted by Paul West at 5:34 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010
        

Comments

According to federal election finance reports, Andy's ex campaign manager should not be able to collect unemployment benefits. Andy does not seem to pay unemployment taxes! Go figure that one out. Yeah, politicians evading the rules the rest of us must follow. Thanks for nothing Andy!

Really Sue, you want campaigns ran like companies with permanent employees and permanent campaigning? You must be a liberal. Good for Andy in running a lean campaign machine and not wasting money on the most temporary of temporary employees.

Bottom line is Frank Kratovil has taken some horrible votes despite promising to be a moderate. So the question of the day is will first district voters hold Kratovil accountable?

Before long, Harris is going to drop out of this race in favor of running for his State Senate seat one more time. The GOP only gets bold when their own seats are not on thie line (Pipkin in 2004,8 and Harris in 2008). My guess, Harris is going to take a pass until 2012.

Harris would be stupid to drop out of the race for one simple reason. Most people in the district barely know who Kratovil is yet and its going to be a mid-term bloodbath given the current economic crisis that will affect many incumbents, both Republican & Democrat. Kratovil is definitely a weak link and the Republican party knows it. Kratovil is not that well known, and he's got some votes that make for easy attack ads. Harris would be a complete idiot to drop out this time. If not for George W. Bush, Harris would have won last time around. Bush is gone now, the voters will be venting their frustration in a different direction this time around.

This looks to be one of the most highly contested Congressional contests throughout Maryland, the other being the eighth district. However for one Senator Harris may try something very simple yet innovative for most in this State, hire a campaign taht reflects that of your district/State. Far too many unsuccessful campaigns tend to bring in "outside experts" unfamiliar with the political terrain of Maryland and wonder why they are consistently playing catch up? Do yourself and your constituents a favor and "keep it in the family!"

Prediction: Barring any unforseeable set-backs or Primary challengers, Senator Harris will prevail with 55-57% of the vote in the First!

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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