GOP sees rare pick up opportunity in Maryland, with open seat in purplish district

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Throughout the country next year, Democrats running for Congress will try to tie every Republican they can find to President Trump.

But Republicans in Maryland’s 6th District believe they have a not-so-secret coat of armor to protect them from those attacks: Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has repeatedly distanced himself from the president and maintains high approval ratings across party lines.

For the first time in a half­-­
century, there will be no incumbent seeking reelection to the seat that Rep. John Delaney (D) is giving up to run for president in 2020.

That gives Republicans surveying a potentially dismal electoral map a rare chance to compete for an open seat in one of the more purple parts of Maryland, a mostly Democratic state whose eight-member congressional delegation includes only one Republican, Rep. Andy Harris.

At least three GOP candidates are running in the 6th District, while five Democrats are in the hunt for their party’s nomination.

The Republicans are Amie Hoeber, a defense contractor who challenged Delaney in 2016; Matt Mossburg, a former state delegate; and Lisa Lloyd, a nurse practitioner from Potomac. The Democrats are Andrew Duck, a retired intelligence officer; Nadia Hashimi, a pediatrician and novelist; state Sen. Roger Manno (D-Montgomery); Del. Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery); and wine magnate David J. Trone, who spent an eye-popping $13.4 million of his own money last year on a losing House primary campaign in a neighboring district.

The serpentine 6th District stretches from the affluent — and more liberal — Washington suburbs in Montgomery County to more conservative counties reaching into Appalachia. Hillary Clinton won the district last year, while Hogan cleaned up three years ago with about 58 percent of the vote.

In 2012, Delaney ousted longtime congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R) with an assist from a map redrawn to favor a Democrat — now the subject of a gerrymandering lawsuit that is on hold until the Supreme Court decides a similar case from Wisconsin.

Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathleen Matthews said the party is determined to hold onto the 6th District seat and is working to convince voters that Trump’s policies hurt western counties that rely on Medicaid expansion and rural aid programs, which he has stripped from his budget.

“This is a president who, in large numbers, they voted for and he betrayed them,” she said.

But Republican candidates say recent turnout models in the 6th District — plus the opportunity to link themselves to Hogan rather than Trump — give them a chance.

The 2012 presidential election drove Maryland Democrats to the polls, helping Delaney unseat Bartlett by double digits. Delaney won reelection by a slim margin two years later, an off-year election with a governor’s race that featured a lackluster Democratic candidate and generated a wave of Republican enthusiasm.

The 2018 contest again comes in a gubernatorial year, with Hogan on the ballot and no White House race. The National Republican Congressional Committee has put the 6th District on its list of targets.

“Given the district’s performance in past off-year election cycles, a strong Republican candidate can certainly put it in play,” NRCC spokesman Chris Martin said.

Before national funders would consider making an investment in the district, however, they will look for candidates who have an effective campaign team and fundraising network.

Hoeber raised $1.17 million last year, including $550,000 of her money, and garnered 40 percent of the vote against Delaney. (In a Federal Election Commission complaint last year, Delaney accused her of illegally coordinating with a super PAC funded mostly by her husband.)

She has not reported fundraising for the 2018 race, campaign finance reports show. She plans to kick off her campaign Tuesday afternoon at a restaurant in Potomac.

Mossburg, who served in the General Assembly from 1994 to 1998, has raised $5,501 and loaned himself $5,038, with $4,171 in cash available, reports show. The Frederick resident is presenting himself as the conservative voice and an underdog in a race in which Hoeber and several Democrats are able to tap their personal wealth for campaign resources.

He said he has been in recovery from opioid addiction for about four years, making him uniquely qualified to tackle a crisis gripping the state.

“It really does take someone who’s going through recovery to bring that wisdom of addiction from a firsthand experience,” Mossburg said.

Lloyd, whose campaign finance report was not online as of Friday, said she is concerned about federal government overreach into education at all levels and worried about Maryland schools failing to prepare children for life after graduation.

Hogan expects to stay out of the GOP primary in the 6th District, his spokesman said, but Hoeber is reminding voters that the governor backed her over Delaney in the 2016 general election.

Hoeber said she plans to focus her campaign on economic development, transportation and the opioid crisis. And she took a jab at Trone, whose deep pockets and 2016 run for Congress have garnered him considerable attention at this early stage.

“I’m not like Trone where I’m just shopping for a seat,” Hoeber said. “I’m running because I understand this district well. And I think I can do the best job for it.”

Trone spokesman Alex Koren criticized Hoeber for accepting donations from lobbyists and super PACs last year and said, “David is flattered that Amie Hoeber is focused on him rather than winning her own primary.”

Koren said Trone will follow Delaney’s model of focusing on “policy over politics and bringing Democrats and Republicans together to get things done.”

Trone has given his campaign $748,939 so far, but he also raised $43,076 from donors, more than in the entire primary last year. He is spending at a fast clip as well.

Miller raised $559,879 over two quarters, leaving her with $525,176 in cash — the most of any Democrat at this point. She is backed by Emily’s List, which funds female candidates who support abortion rights.

In an interview, Miller said she wants to create jobs in alternative energy industries to make up for losses from the fracking ban, which she co-sponsored in the legislature. She is working on a bill to provide funding and training to make computer science and coding classes available in schools.

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