Harris Favored In New First District Outlook
Seven months before the 2010 election, a new national analysis of House races favors Republican state Sen. Andy Harris to unseat Democratic Congressman Frank Kratovil of Maryland.
Republicans will gain at least two dozen seats across the country this fall, according to the latest Rothenberg Political Report forecast. Maryland's easternmost district, the First, is among the GOP's best opportunities, since its conservative electorate historically favors Republican candidates.
Rothenberg's independent newsletter is now counting the First, represented by Kratovil since last year, in the "lean Republican" category.
That's a shift in Harris' favor from Rothenberg's previous assessment, which counted the race in the Toss-Up/Tilt Republican category.
It also makes Kratovil one of the five most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the country, according to Rothenberg.
Monday's close of the 2010 session of the General Assembly ends Harris' career in Annapolis and opens a new phase in the First District campaign.
"I believe we need a true commitment to fiscal responsibility in Annapolis and in Washington if we are serious about creating and keeping jobs here in Maryland and ensuring that we use taxpayers’ money wisely and efficiently," Harris said in a sine die statement. "I have fought for these principles throughout my 12 years in the State Senate and I plan to do the same if I have the privilege of serving Maryland’s First District in Congress."
The Baltimore County Republican hasn't been a very visible campaigner this year. He can now focus full-time on his race against Kratovil, unless he's forced to fend off a serious primary opponent.
State legislators running for re-election couldn't raise money while the Assembly was in session, but that restriction didn't apply to Harris. He could solicit donations for his congressional race during the session, and did.
How well he performed will be known when first quarter campaign disclosure reports are filed this week.
Kratovil will start out with a financial edge, but he'll need more than money to keep his job.
As Rothenberg put it, in his thumbnail assessment of the First District race in Maryland:
Harris "won a nasty primary last cycle, and Republicans never united behind his candidacy. Kratovil won that contest, but the freshman Democrat will have a hard time retaining his district given the GOP tilt. Harris is running again. A major Democratic problem."
Rothenberg does caution, in his national overview, that Democrats will have a spending advantage and will try to localize House contests. Kratovil is already pushing hard to remind voters of the federal money he's helped direct to his district in his first year and three months in office.
There is also "at least some possibility" that the political landscape can shift or that Democratic attacks on Republican candidates could change the overall equation, Rothenberg cautions.
"Substantial Republican gains are inevitable," he concludes, and gains of more than 40 seats "certainly seem possible."
At the moment, Republicans would need a net pickup of 41 seats to take control of the House from the Democrats in the midterm election.