Ocean City Today

GOP going after Mathias in 2018

By Brian Gilliland | May 18, 2017
Jim Mathias

(May 19, 2017) Maryland Republicans need to pick up five seats in the State Senate in the 2018 election to disrupt a nearly century-old veto proof Democratic majority in the legislature, and the effort, dubbed the “Drive for Five,” leaves Sen. Jim Mathias in familiar territory: in the center of the bull’s-eye.

Mathias is one of six senators being targeted by the GOP in its quest to pick up the five seats.

“Worcester County has generally been a conservative-leaning area. It is currently represented by a Republican congressman and state delegate, and overall, District 38 voted for Gov. Hogan in 2014 70-30 percent,” Patrick O’Keefe, political director of the Maryland GOP, said.

“We believe Sen. Mathias’ votes on taxes and fee increases, and anti-small business votes such as his vote for the paid sick leave bill are not in line or representative of the views of his constituents.”

O’Keefe said the area has become more conservative, and Mathias will be going up against more resources than he has in the past, and thinks more progressive groups may also run their own candidate against Mathias in the primary.

Grant Helvey, chairman of the Worcester GOP, declined to comment.

“The republicans want that seat, and they want it bad,” said Josh Nordstrom, chairman of the Worcester Democratic Central Committee. “It’s going to be a tough fight but we know that were going to have to get out and support Sen. Mathias. Jim is a good man and an excellent public servant. We want to keep him there as long as he’s willing to serve.”

“Sen. Jim Mathias is known throughout the lower shore as a bipartisan, common sense leader focused on working for the community, like assisting veterans, strengthening public schools, tackling the opioid epidemic and supporting small businesses, said Bryan Lesswing, senior communications advisor for the Maryland Democratic Party.

“Sen. Jim Mathias’s record of bipartisan, community-focused leadership is why lower Eastern Shore residents continue to re-elect him and why he is in a strong position heading into 2018,” Lesswing said.

“This appears to be purely partisan in nature, and not about being effective. Every day people tell me I’m the only Democrat they vote for,” Mathias said. “I would think the folks of our area … want someone who is effective, not partisan and works well with others.”

He said he worked with the governor on revising the phosphorus management tool, which was developed to regulate the amount of chicken manure used to fertilize the soil, and on starting schools after Labor Day, but went against him on certain issues, like renewable energy.

“That wasn’t political when I voted for that override,” he said. “I voted for our clean water.”

Mathias said he would run again for state senate in 2018.

A potential Republican challenger to Mathias in the election, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, isn’t sure what she’s going to do yet.

“I have been encouraged by local residents to run and serve as state senator, and I have not made a decision. My decision will be based on how I can best work with Gov. Hogan to advance our shore priorities, strong local support, discussions with family, and prayer,” she said.

She declined to delineate what these priorities were, but said the ability to sustain the governor’s veto is a factor.

The GOP last tried this strategy in 2006, which ended with it losing six seats in the House of Delegates and the governorship, as Martin O’Malley defeated incumbent Robert Ehrlich.

However, Gov. Larry Hogan took District 38 by 41 points, and every state-level election Mathias has competed in has been a close one.

In 2006, as a candidate in a four-way election for the House of Delegates district 38B, Mathias won with 26.6 percent of the vote, Norm Conway, also a Democrat, took second with 25.1 percent. Republican Michael James came in third with 24.6 percent, and Republican Bonnie Luna finished fourth with 23.7 percent.

In 2010, Mathias first ran for the state senate, once again edging out Michael James, and won 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent. In 2014, he faced Mike McDermott and won 51.7 percent to 48.3 percent.

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