By Shannon Hoffman
ANNAPOLIS (November 3, 2010)Republicans are projected to pick up six seats in the Maryland House of Delegates after Tuesday's election, resulting from two fallen incumbents and four open seats, but it's unclear how much the slight shift will affect the upcoming legislative session.
For one, the House majority still belongs to Democrats 98 to 43. Second, Democrats managed to pick up one, maybe two seats, in the state Senate, making it more difficult for Republican legislation to pass.
Outgoing Delegate Virginia Clagett, D-Anne Arundel, doesn't expect six new Republican seats to greatly affect the upcoming session.
"I don't think that'll make much of a difference if Democrats still have the majority," she said.
Clagett was one of two defeated House incumbents, both of them Democrats, but she was upbeat during an interview Wednesday evening about her party's successes in the election.
"I'm delighted that (House) Speaker (Michael) Busch and that Gov. (Martin) O'Malley won ... I think where Maryland is headed is out of the recession," she said.
Delegate Ron George, R-Anne Arundel, agreed that because Democrats still hold a majority, the mild shift shouldn't have a major impact, but still, "Six is a big pickup," he said.
"It's a big step in the right direction of a two party system," George said.
George said the new seats could sway close votes in the House and allow his party to form stronger coalitions to oppose "extreme" issues proposed by Democrats. Specifically, he expects House Republicans to be better prepared to resist tax increases.
"I really think those six Republicans are going to help quite a deal," he said.
The mild changes fit predictions made by political observers before the election.
Few in the state expected many legislators to fall victim to the national anti-incumbency surge, in part because there are twice as many registered Democrats in the state than Republicans.
Senate President Mike Miller wasn't surprised that Maryland Democrats largely escaped the conservative wave that swept the rest of the country Tuesday night.
"It's what I expected, but it's unlike any other state in the union," he said. "Maryland has managed to keep its constituents relatively happy."
Currently, Sen. Alex Mooney, R-Frederick, is the only vulnerable Senate incumbent, as Democratic challenger Ron Young, a former Frederick mayor, leads by 665 votes. The Frederick News-Post reports that Mooney will not concede until the absentee ballots are counted.
Miller said the votes will be tallied Wednesday.
Not counting Mooney, six Senate incumbents lost their seats during the primary elections. All were Democrats except for Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington, who lost his primary race against House Minority Leader Christopher Shank, R-Washington.
Democrats picked up a Senate spot in District 38 with Jim Mathias, a seat currently held by Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Somerset, who did not run for re-election.
In addition to Clagett, Delegate Sue Kullen, D-Calvert, was the only House incumbent to lose her race in the general election, falling to Republican Mark Fisher by 863 votes. Republicans picked up the remaining House seats left open in Frederick County's District 3A, Baltimore County's District 8, Cecil and Harford counties' District 34A and Wicomico and Worcester counties' District 38B.