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Poll station
The polling place for District 45 at Hamilton Elementary- Middle School only had about 100 voters show up by 10 a.m. Anthony F. Mastrocola, 80, didn't have to wait in line at all when coming to place his vote. (The Daily Record/ Maximilian Franz)

What to watch for on Primary Day

Voters across Maryland head to the polls Tuesday to nominate candidates for governor, attorney general, comptroller, Congress and 188 seats in the House of Delegates and Senate. Winners in the primary will move on to the general election in November.

Here are a number of factors to keep in mind as results start to roll in after the polls close at 8 p.m.

Turnout is key

Turnout in the Primary Election is likely to be critical.

“Most of us think that this will be a relatively low-turnout election, but we don’t know,” said Todd Eberly, assistant professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

In fact, some believe that turnout could be historically low.

The state set a record for the number of voters and turnout percentage in early voting. But observers caution that the numbers are bolstered by the fact that voting was extended from six days to eight and that, nationally, early voting has not resulted in more people coming to the polls.

Democrat Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Republican Larry Hogan lead in the polling of their respective primaries, but low turnout could be driven by lack of enthusiasm.

“No one has really caught lightning in a bottle during this campaign,” said Herbert C. Smith, professor of political science at McDaniel College.

Most political observers believe that the front-runners in the primaries will be the likely winners but stressed that exceptionally low turnout could make all those polls soft.

“With a low-turnout election, that’s when upsets can happen,” said Mileah Kromer, who is director of Goucher College’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, which conducts statewide political polling.

Order of finish is not certain

One of the biggest beneficiaries of that low turnout could be Del. Heather R. Mizeur, D-Montgomery.

Mizeur was once seen as a third-place long shot for the Democratic nomination for governor behind Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. Despite low name recognition and a lack of funding compared to her opponents, the buzz around Mizeur’s campaign has grown.

“That really says something about her ability to excite her base,” said Kromer.

And excitement could be the key.

“The people who come out to vote in a low-turnout election are the most determined, most committed,” said Eberly. “If the turnout is low, I’d expect (Mizeur) to over-perform.”

Eberly said the same is true for Republican Charles Lollar, who could finish better than last in a four-way gubernatorial primary that includes Hogan, Harford County Executive David R. Craig and Del. Ronald A. George.

Many observers said that if Brown wins, his margin of victory could be a predictor of what is to come in the general election.

“If Brown wins by a close margin, it could mean he is not the favorite candidate of the majority of Democrats,” said John Bullock, a political science professor at Towson University.

Bullock and others said if Brown wins by a plurality of votes rather than a majority, it could signal a tough general election campaign against a Republican opponent.

Name recognition versus money and endorsements

The Democratic primary will test the theories about the effects of name recognition, money and endorsements in what is seen as a tightening attorney general’s race between Del. Jon S. Cardin, D-Baltimore, and Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery.

Cardin, who is the nephew of long-time U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, has been riding his family’s name in every poll during the campaign.

On the other side, Frosh has outpaced Cardin in money and has the endorsement of most major political figures in the state.

“We know that name recognition does matter,” said Kromer, an assistant professor of political science at Goucher. “But Frosh has been endorsed by nearly every major elected official. It’s been interesting to see Frosh try to sever the Ben Cardin-Jon Cardin link. It will be interesting to see if that resonates with voters.”

Del. Aisha N. Braveboy, D-Prince George’s, has struggled to improve her name recognition outside her home county — an effort hampered by her inability to keep pace with Cardin and Frosh when it comes to fundraising.

The winner of that primary will move on to face Republican Jeffrey N. Pritzker and Libertarian Leo W. Dymowski, both of whom are unopposed.

Name recognition versus money and endorsements

The Democratic primary will test the theories about the effects of name recognition, money and endorsements in what is seen as a tightening attorney general’s  race between Del. Jon S. Cardin, D-Baltimore, and Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery.

Cardin, who is the nephew of long-time U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, has been riding his family’s name in every poll during the campaign.

On the other side, Frosh has outpaced Cardin in money and has the endorsement of most major political figures in the state.

“We know that name recognition does matter,” said Kromer. “But Frosh has been endorsed by nearly every major elected official. It’s been interesting to see Frosh try to sever the Ben Cardin-Jon Cardin link. It will be interesting to see if that resonates with voters.”

Del. Aisha N. Braveboy, D-Prince George’s, has struggled to improve her name recognition outside her home county — an effort hampered by her inability to keep pace with Cardin and Frosh when it comes to fundraising.

The winner of that primary will move on to face Republican Jeffrey N. Pritzker and Libertarian Leo W. Dymowski, both of whom are unopposed.

Other races to watch

And locally, there are some other primary races worth watching.

  • Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. finds himself in a newly drawn two-member district where many don’t know him as the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. This election could be a difficult challenge for the 10-term Democrat and a loss could change the makeup of the committee in ways that directly affect public policy in Maryland.
  • Sen. David R. Brinkley, R-Frederick, is facing a challenge from fellow Republican Del. Michael J. Hough. Brinkley has managed to give Republicans in the Senate a voice on some issues in the General Assembly, which is typically dismissive of the minority party. Hough and others say Brinkley has sold out conservative values and is too comfortable compromising with the state’s majority party.
  • The race between Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden and political strategist turned challenger Julius Henson has the attention of insiders who think Henson could unseat the five-term Baltimore incumbent. Earlier this month, Henson was the target of a campaign by the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and on Monday, Rep. Elijah Cummings was featured in radio commercials supporting McFadden.
  • Former Del. Connie DeJuliis has the support of Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz, Gov. Martin J. O’Malley and a host of unions in her challenge of three-term incumbent Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Baltimore County. Still, DeJuliis will likely have to run to the left of Brochin, a moderate, in a district that now is more favorable to Republicans.

Things to know 

What’s at stake: The top races include primary elections for governor, attorney general, comptroller, congressional and legislative seats.

When to vote: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Who can vote: Registered Democratic or Republican party members; any registered voters in nonpartisan races.

Where to vote: If you don’t know your polling place, go to www.elections.state.md.us for help.