A new campaign mailing on behalf of a Democratic state senator in a key district stresses her support for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
That large glossy mailer that landed in the 8th Legislative District of Baltimore County touts Sen. Kathy Klausmeier as a bipartisan lawmaker who “stood up to the party bosses by teaming up with Governor Hogan.” Photos on the piece prominently feature Klausmeier, a Democrat, with Hogan.
The message in support of Klausmeier highlights the sometimes conflicting objectives of Democratic legislative leaders, such as Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who wish to protect fellow Democrats while also trying to help the party’s nominee for governor.
Klausmeier, a 25-year legislative veteran who’s spent the last 15 years in the Maryland Senate, is locked in a dogfight with Republican Del. Christian Miele, who was first elected in 2014 in the same district that covers Perry Hall and Parkville.
The mailing prominently features a photo of Klausmeier at a bill signing earlier this year in which she substituted for Miller. The governor and Klausmeier can be seen talking to each other.
“Our neighbor, Senator Kathy Klausmeier puts Baltimore County first — no matter what,” reads the mailing. “That’s why Kathy stood up to the party bosses by teaming up with Governor Hogan to help kill Martin O’Malley’s rain tax, voting against O’Malley’s tax increases, supporting the death penalty and opposing in-state tuition and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.”
“She knows that Governor Hogan needs Democrats to help pass his agenda, which is why she worked with the governor to create jobs and pass legislation to help curb the opioid epidemic,” according to the mailing.
The mailing is paid for by the same party bosses Klausmeier is said to have stood up to. The Democratic Senate Caucus Slate is a campaign committee controlled by Miller.
Miller declined to comment for this article.
Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said the mailing suggests Miller has strong concerns about holding on to seats targeted by Hogan in his “drive for five” campaign, a GOP effort to break the Democratic super majority in the Senate and protect the governor from veto overrides by picking up five seats in the chamber.
“First, to me, this flier suggests there is a concern that she could fall in this “drive for five” and, two, they are acknowledging (Hogan) is going to do very well in Baltimore County,” said Eberly. “They’re hoping to encourage people to split-ticket vote.”
Eberly said the mailing could be a sign that Miller is taking nothing for granted after a surprise primary loss in Charles County suffered by veteran Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles. The nature of the ad, including messaging on illegal immigrants and the prominent photos of Hogan, suggest Miller is more focused on retaining super majority control in the Senate.
“I don’t think you do this, this early, if you don’t think she’s in danger,” said Eberly. “Miller wants to retain control of the Senate. If he has control of the Senate he doesn’t care who the governor is.”
Hogan won the 8th District by 36 points in 2014. Miele, Klausmeier’s challenger, was the first to be endorsed by the governor as the campaign season ramped up last year.
“Hers is obviously not a very left-wing district. I think Kathy knows it really well, and saw that Hogan won it by a wide margin in ‘14, while she also did,” said one Democratic Party operative in Baltimore County who spoke on condition of anonymity. “People there like her brand of moderate politics. Probably the quintessential “Hogan Democrat” district. I don’t know if Miller sending it out helps or hurts though. My sense is a mailer with someone like Franchot could have had a bigger impact with keeping those Hogan Democrats in her camp.”
Hogan and Republicans are targeting five districts. Besides Klausmeier’s 8th District, they are District 42 in Baltimore County; Sen. Jim Mathias’ 38th District on the Eastern Shore; District 30 in and around the Annapolis area of Anne Arundel County; and Sen. Ron Young in District 3 in Frederick County. Districts 30 and 42 are represented, respectively, by Sens. John Astle and Jim Brochin, who are not returning.
Brochin’s seat is in a district that leans Republican, and observers expect that will be the easiest of the five to fall to Republicans.
The mailing, Eberly said, also suggests that faith in Jealous’ campaign is in doubt.
Baltimore County is an important battleground in the campaign for both parties.
It is home to the largest number of Republican voters in the state and was key to not only Hogan’s win but Republican former Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr.’s victory in 2002. The county provided essentially the margin of statewide victory for each.
Jealous, as with other Democrats, does not need to win Baltimore County to unseat Hogan, but he has to keep it close. Democratic former Gov. Martin O’Malley unseated Ehrlich in 2006 by losing Baltimore County by just 8,400 votes.
A close loss for Jealous in Baltimore County while winning big in jurisdictions such as Baltimore and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, could be enough to propel the Democrat to Annapolis.
A spokeswoman for the Jealous campaign declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party also did not respond to a request for comment.
Jealous trails in recent surveys — which the candidate has denounced as sloppy and inaccurate polling — and is at a significant disadvantage in terms of money.
“I think this is a sign that the Gonzales poll isn’t a fluke,” said Eberly, a reference to an August survey that had Hogan holding a 16-point lead. “(Democratic leaders) see the dynamic in the race. They are not confident the candidate can win, and they are concerned with themselves.”
In Baltimore County, Brochin has already announced he is endorsing Hogan over Jealous, a move that outraged some partisans. John Olszewksi Jr., the party nominee for Baltimore County executive, is running at arms length from Jealous. At a forum at the Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville, Olszewski declined to directly respond when asked to rate his support for Jealous and instead said he was “a Democrat who supports Democrats.”
“In terms of Jealous supporters: I think most will still show up and vote for (Klausmeier), given that Miele will be a reliable conservative on 90 percent of issues and help sustain vetoes. Additionally, Kathy’s campaigning with a pretty diverse and left-of-center team, including Carl Jackson and Harry Bhandari for delegate,” said the Democratic Party operative.
Last month, Miller joined Jealous at an event in Prince George’s County where he offered a tepid endorsement of the Democratic nominee in a three-minute speech in which he didn’t look at Jealous or shake his hand and referred to him only once, in parting, by just his last name.
Eberly, the political scientist, said the mailer on behalf of Klausmeier raises doubts about the depth of Democratic Party support for Jealous.
“(Miller) is openly doing something that does create the appearance of a wedge between the party or some elements of the party and the party’s nominee,” said Eberly.