Andy Harris gets a primary foe in First District
Looks like state Sen. Andy Harris, the choice of the Republican establishment for the First District congressional seat in Maryland, will face a primary contest after all.
Rob Fisher, an Eastern Shore businessman and political newcomer, just launched an expensive TV ad buy for his outsider campaign. "Not a career politician" is a theme of the opening spot, which introduces the Eastern Shore native as a conservative Republican who will challenge business as usual in Washington.
Outsider campaigns have been successful in other states this year, and while Fisher won't have an easy time taking on Harris, his candidacy adds an element of uncertainty to the state's most closely watched congressional election.
Harris narrowly lost to Democrat Frank Kratovil in 2008 and is the early-line favorite to regain the conservative Eastern Maryland district for Republicans in this year's mid-terms. The national Republican Party has worked hard to encourage his candidacy and avoid a potentially damaging and divisive fight in the September primary.
For a long time, there were questions about whether Harris' state Senate colleague, E. J. Pipkin, might make another try. A three-way primary battle two years ago ousted longtime moderate Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, but the resulting divisions helped Democrats take the seat for the first time in nearly two decades.
Pipkin hasn't announced any plans for 2010 but Fisher appears serious about competing for the Republican nomination.
Word is he's put $77,000 behind his opening buy. You can watch the ad here
Fisher is pushing his Eastern Shore roots, a potential advantage against Harris, who lives a world away in the suburbs north of Baltimore. Harris, a 12-year veteran of the Maryland legislature, also could be vulnerable to anti-politician sentiment.
Fisher's deep pockets may well force Harris to draw down much of the campaign account that he had hoped to employ in his challenge to Kratovil, one of the most endangered Democratic incumbents in the country. That could end up hurting the Republican effort to retake the House, since national money spent on the Maryland race in the fall will drain resources away from contests in other states.