BERLIN — With a clear mandate in the district, Republican challenger Mary Beth Carozza beat previously undefeated Democratic incumbent Jim Mathias for the District 38 State Senate seat in one of the most-watched elections across the state.
When the final votes were tallied, Carozza had collected 24,441 total votes, or 53 percent, in the district, which includes Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset Counties, while Mathias finished with 21,597, or about 47 percent. Carozza carried Worcester and Wicomico handily but lost Somerset by six votes, 3,623 to 3,629 for Mathias.
In Wicomico, Carozza collected 8,488 votes to 7,925 for Mathias, or a difference of just 563 votes. Perhaps most telling was Worcester County, the home base for both Carozza and Mathias. Carozza collected 12,330 votes in Worcester, while Mathias finished with 10,043, or a difference of 1,181 votes. In the months leading up to the election, the Senate District 38 race became largely partisan with Republican Governor Larry Hogan staunchly backing Carozza.
Meanwhile, Mathias was somewhat of an anomaly as a multi-term former delegate and state senator as a Democrat in a district dominated by registered Republicans by a wide margin. In the end, while earning the Senate seat on her impressive resume and her record of public service on behalf of her constituents on the shore, Carozza rode the Republican wave on the shore to victory over the long-time incumbent Mathias. For her part, Carozza was obviously pleased with the outcome.
“I am humbled and grateful to serve as the next state senator from District 38,” she said this week. “Our grassroots campaign has been a total team effort with family, friends, volunteers, and supporters of all ages from all three counties. I thank God, all of those involved with our campaign, and the voters for the opportunity to further serve our home community as state senator to protect our shore way of life.”
Carozza in a pre-election interview with The Dispatch last week outlined why she should be the district’s representative in the State Senate.
“I believe I can be a stronger voice for the shore,” she said last week. “Leading up to the announcement, I spent several months in a low-key way moving around Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties to meet with those who were encouraging me to run for the State Senate. I had meetings with all our constituencies to get a sense of what people wanted from their state senator and what I was hearing was they wanted a strong voice for the shore. They wanted somebody who would not only vote the right way but wouldn’t necessarily have to check those votes with the party leadership.”
That became a key issue during the campaign as the Carozza-Mathias race was one of the highlighted campaigns in the state Republican party’s “Drive for Five” effort to flip five state senate seats in order to provide a veto-proof Senate for the governor. While Carozza held up her end in District 38, the “drive for five” goal came up short with just one other seat flipping among the eight targeted races.
“What it comes down to is the people I represent in all three counties want more of a balance and a true two-party system,” Carozza said in the interview last week. “Right now, in the Maryland General Assembly, when you have a piece of legislation that may negatively affect the shore, not only does the other side have the votes to ramrod it through, they also have the votes when Gov. Hogan tries to stop it to override his veto. With the very makeup of the Maryland General Assembly as it is today, there’s no incentive to work out these tough issues on the front-end.”
For his part, Mathias, who has served in local and state government for three decades and was undefeated in 10 prior elections, appeared to take Tuesday’s loss in stride and borrowed liberally from a popular song to illustrate how he began to see the writing on the wall Tuesday.
“It was not the outcome I was looking for, obviously,” he said. “To borrow from Johnny Cash, I heard the train a-coming and it was a-coming around the bend.”
Mathias said he visited polling places across the district throughout the day on Tuesday and saw the Republican and Democrat turnout numbers posted and knew the writing was on the wall.
“I saw some ratios like two-to-one and three-to-one with the Republican turnout, and I knew there wasn’t going to be a 100-percent turnaround,” he said. “To borrow a sports analogy, I saw points going up on the board all day. I saw the way the headwinds were going.”
When all was said and done, Mathias thanked his followers for their support and left open a question of what is next for the long-time public servant.
“I just want to thank the citizenry across the district for getting out and letting their voice be heard,” he said. “I’m not bitter one bit. It’s just time to start a new chapter and wherever that takes me, it will involve public service.”