BERLIN — With the primary election just about one month away and campaign signs suddenly sprouting up all over the region, much has changed on the local political landscape with the redrawing of traditional district lines and the creation of a new House district on the Lower Shore.
The 2014 primary election is set for June 24 and local voters will have much to consider when they head to the polls with multiple candidates for almost all state and local seats. Before voters decide for whom to cast their ballots, however, the first challenge could be determining in what district they should be voting.
Following the 2010 Census, legislative districts across the state were redrawn to reflect population changes in the interest of balance and equal representation. Partisan politics was also considered by state Democratic leaders, all sides acknowledge.
As a result, a new District 38C was created that encompasses Ocean City, much of northern Worcester County and an eastern section Wicomico. The old District 38B, in which local residents voted for years, now includes a densely populated area concentrated around Salisbury and eastern Wicomico.
In what appears to be a redistricting anomaly at best and gerrymandering at worst, the old District 38A includes all of Somerset County and much of the southern end of Worcester County, but a narrow arm of the new district juts into northern Worcester roughly along the Route 113 corridor and takes in pockets of neighborhoods in Berlin. As a result, some voters in Berlin will vote in District 38A, which will likely seem somewhat alien to them with House candidates from Somerset County on their ticket, while their neighbors just across the street will be voting in the new District 38C.
State election officials are keenly aware of the changes and the challenges they will create all across Maryland and have set up a link on their website to allow voters to type in their street address to see just what district in which they will be voting. The maps and specific district information are available at the Maryland Department of Planning’s website under Redistricting. A link to the interactive map is available.
There are also a few important deadlines soon approaching in advance of the June 24 primary that voters should be aware of. For example, the deadline for registering to vote, changing party affiliation, updating an address or requesting an alternate polling place is set for 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 3. In addition, early voting will be open in local jurisdictions from Thursday, June 12 through Thursday, June 19 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. In Worcester County, the early voting location is the Gull Creek Senior Center in Berlin. In Wicomico, early voting will take place at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.
The primary election will winnow down the list of candidates to one from each party in many cases, while in others, just one candidate from each party have filed and those races will go straight to the General Election in November. There are also a few seats up for grabs in which both candidates are from the same party and those races will be decided in the primary. In addition, there are a handful of races in which a single candidate has filed and those are essentially decided.
In the Maryland’s First Congressional District, Republican incumbent Andy Harris will be challenged by Republican Jonathan Goff in the primary. On the other side, Democrats John LaFerla and Bill Tilghman will face off in the primary. In Senate District 38, incumbent Democrat Jim Mathias will be challenged by current Delegate and Republican Mike McDermott in November.
In House District 38A, incumbent Republican Charles Otto will face Democrat Percy Purnell, Jr. in the General Election. Similarly, in District 38B, incumbent Democrat Norm Conway is being challenged by Republican Carl Anderton in the General Election. There will be a primary election in the new District 38C, with Democrats Judy Davis and Mike Hindi squaring off for the right to face Republican Mary Beth Carozza in November.
In the Worcester County Commissioner districts, incumbent Merrill Lockfaw is running unopposed in District 1 and has essentially reclaimed the seat. A similar situation has played out in District 7 where current Ocean City Councilman Joe Mitrecic is running unopposed. Two Worcester County commissioner districts will go straight to the General Election with single party candidates in each. For example, in District 2, Diana Purnell (D) is running against Lorraine Purnell-Ayres (R). In District 3, incumbent Bud Church (R) will face challenger Mike Maykrantz (D) in November.
Worcester County District 6 will essentially be decided during the primary on June 24 with incumbent Madison “Jimmy” Bunting (R) facing challenger Linda Busick (R). In other Worcester districts, the primary will set up races in November. For example, in District 4, Republicans Kathryn Lord-Danko, Ted Elder and Molly Hilligoss will square off in the primary with the winner emerging to face incumbent Democrat Virgil Shockley. Similarly, in District 5, Republicans Chip Bertino, Grant Helvey and Ray Unger fill face each other in the primary for the right to take on the lone Democratic candidate Tom Wilson.
The Worcester County State’s Attorney race will be decided in November with Republic incumbent Beau Oglesby facing Democratic challenger Mike Farlow. However, the Worcester County Sheriff’s race will be decided in June with incumbent Republican Reggie Mason facing Republican challenger George Truitt. There are five candidates for Clerk of Circuit Court in Worcester including Republicans Susan Braniecki, Mary Burgess and Eric Mullins, along with Democrats Marie Bodley and Valerie Gaskill. The list will be winnowed to just two candidates in the primary.
In House District 37B, Republicans Christopher Adams, Rene Desmarais, Johnny Mautz, Allen Nelson and Karen Tilley will square off the primary to see who emerges to face the winner in the Democratic primary between Rodney Benjamin and Keasha Haythe. In House District 37A, current Democratic Wicomico Councilmember Sheree Sample-Hughes is running unopposed after incumbent Democratic Delegate Rudy Cane withdrew his application citing health reasons.
In neighboring Wicomico County, current County Executive Richard Pollitt, Jr. will face Republican challenger and current Wicomico Councilman Bob Culver in November. In the Wicomico Council races, in the At-Large District, Republicans Muir Boda, John Cannon and Matt Holloway will square off in the primary for the right to face Democrat Laura Mitchell in November. Three Democratic candidates have filed for Wicomico Council District 1 including Marvin Ames, Ernest Davis and McKinley Haywood in a race that will be decided in the primary in June. In District 2, Democrat Kirby Travers will face Republican Marc Kilmer in November.
In District 3, Democrat Josh Hastings will not be opposed in the primary and will face whomever emerges on the Republican side between Larry Dodd and Tom Taylor. Incumbent John Hall is running unopposed in District 4. In District 5, incumbent Republican Joe Holloway will face Democratic challenger Ron Pagano in November.