Open Seat Watch: Maryland’s 6th District

Last week, Rep. John Delaney (D) of Maryland’s 6th Congressional District made a somewhat curious announcement about his future plans: he’ll be forgoing reelection to pursue a 2020 Presidential bid. Delaney, a wealthy businessman, is currently serving his third term, and is considered a relatively centrist Democrat. We’ll dig further into the 2020 Presidential race as it gets closer, but for now, let’s look at the seat Delaney leaves behind.

MD-06 has historically been located in westsern Maryland. Prior to 2011, it hugged much of the border with Pennsylvania, and was solidly Republican. In fact, Maryland’s most recent Republican Senator, moderate Charles Mathias, represented this seat before his Senate tenure.

As Democrats controlled redistricting in 2011, they targeted it’s incumbent, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R). Red areas, closer to Baltimore, were excised and replaced with a healthy chunk of blue Montgomery County. The result was the current, more Washington D.C.-oriented, MD-06:

The Appalachian counties, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett, are all red-leaning, with the intensity increasing as one moves west. On the other extreme, the precincts in Montgomery County are heavily Democratic; MD-06 contains the cities of Gaithersburg and Germantown. In the middle, both geographically and electorally, is Frederick County. It’s moderately blue, and is the bellwether county; MD-06 eschews most of the county’s rural precincts, so the city of Frederick makes up most of its holdings here.

Half of MD-06’s voters are in Montgomery County. Next is Washington County, which contains Hagerstown, and 20% of the district’s registered voters; a close third is Frederick County, with 17%. The remaining 13% is split between Allegany and Garrett Counties.

In 2012, with the new lines in place, the Democrats’ gerrymander worked. Though public polling showed a close race, John Delaney unseated Bartlett by a wider than-expected 21%:

Delaney, as a non-incumbent, actually performed almost 10% better than President Obama. Maryland, as a whole, was one of the few states that Obama improved in compared to 2008. In the 6th District, his performance was on par with 2008. If the new lines were in place for 2008, he would have carried the district by 14%; in 2012, Obama won it by just over 12%:

One point of note here was that Delaney narrowly carried Washington County while the President lost it by 17%.

While the remap worked well for Democrats in 2012, in 2014, the gerrymander nearly buckled. With no Presidential or Senate race that year to drive up turnout, Maryland was not immune from the national red wave. Republicans ran former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino. Bongino is a frequent commentator, and host, on talk radio, so was relatively well-known in the area. Delaney pulled out a narrow win that year; after doing some hefty self-funding, it seems questionable whether a Democrat without his personal wealth would have held on:

Down the ballot, the Gubernatorial race was perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire cycle. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who was criticized for his management of the state’s ACA exchange, ran a poor campaign. This helped enable Republican Larry Hogan pull a 51/47 upset win. Hogan would have carried four of the state’s eight districts, and took almost 57% in the 6th:

For 2016, the district (and state), essentially reverted back to its typical character. In the Presidential race, Secretary Clinton carried it by 15%, which was a slight improvement on President Obama’s 12%:

At the Congressional level, Bongino’s narrow loss in 2014 drew several more Republicans to consider running. While Bongino moved to Florida to run for Congress, eight Republicans ran in the primary to challenge Delaney. The GOP nominated national security consultant Amie Hoeber; like Delaney, she had deep pockets. However, despite the close call in 2014, Delaney rebounded, and was easily reelected:

While Delaney performed marginally better than Clinton overall, he held up better in Appalachian parts of the district. Clinton ran ahead in the counties closer to Washington D.C., as Trump was especially toxic there:

This mirrors the overall pattern of the area at the Presidential level, as well. Compared to 2012, Clinton improved on Obama in Montgomery and Frederick counties, while losing ground in the rest of the district:

With a Republican in the White House and a Senate race up the ballot, 2018 should be a more favorable midterm for Maryland Democrats than 2014 was. Given MD-06’s decidedly, but not overwhelmingly, blue fundamentals, we’d probably start it off as Likely Democratic.

Sticking to our theme of self-funding multimillionaires, a formidable candidate who could run is Total Wine & More CEO Dave Trone, of Potomac. Though a resident of MD-06, in 2016, Trone ran in the Democratic primary for the adjacent MD-08. Then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen left it open, as he ran for Senate. In a field on nine candidates, the frontrunners were Trone, State Sen. Jamie Raskin, and former Marriott hotels executive Kathleen Matthews (wife of the MSNBC host). Raskin’s solid base in Takoma Park gave him a win, but Trone easily carried the district’s northern, but less dense, precincts:

Trone cleared 50% in both Carroll and Frederick Counties, but only a scant 18% of MD-08’s registered Democrats live there. The remaining 82% came from Montgomery County; he finished third there, with 22%, compared to 38% for Raskin and 24% for Matthews.

One advantage Trone would have in MD-06 is that its a less urban district. In MD-06, 40% of registered Democrats are from outside of Montgomery County; if Trone could reproduce his 2016 strength in the northern counties, he’d have twice as large a base to work with – helpful in a potentially crowded primary. If he passes on a second Congressional bid, he is also considering a run for Montgomery County executive.

Any number of Democratic state legislators could, and also likely will, look at running. Delegates Bill Frick and Aruna Miller, from southwestern Montgomery County, and Delegate Andrew Platt, of Gaithersburg, may run. Delegates Carol Krimm and Karen Young would have a base in the Frederick County portion of the district. State Senator Roger Manno seems likely to run. State Attorney General Brian Frosh is from Montgomery County, though would have to forgo trying for reelection. Defense contractor Andrew Duck, who ran for the seat three times last decade, may try again.

On the Republican side, Amie Hoeber is considering another run. Washington County Commissioner Terry Baker finished second to her in the 2016 primary, so may run again. State Senators George Edwards and Andrew Serafini represent districts in the west, and Sen. Michael Hough is from Frederick County. Delegates Jason Buckel and Mike McKay, of Cumberland, and Neil Parrott, of Hagerstown, and David Voigt, of Frederick County, may look at running.

We expect this district to ultimately remain in Democratic hands. However, Governor Hogan is very likely to carry the district (assuming he’s not clearly losing re-election), so we’re interested to see the extent of ballot splitting between the federal and Gubernatorial races.