Republicans in deep-blue Maryland are hoping to pull off an upset in this year's Senate race like GOP Gov. Larry Hogan did in 2014, according to InsideSources.
Republicans are hoping to build on Hogan’s success by electing the first GOP U.S. senator from Maryland since 1987, in the contest to fill the open seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
Maryland House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga is one of six GOP Senate candidates looking to duplicate the Hogan miracle in the party’s April 26 primary.
As the highest-ranking Republican woman in the state Legislature, she’s the perceived front-runner and boasts significant support from the political establishment.
Szeliga told InsideSources that “the tide is changing” in Marylan and that voters want a senator focused on jobs, national security and education.
As the only woman in the Republican field, Szeliga also argued she’s a good fit for an electorate that’s 60 percent female.
It’s an uphill climb during a presidential election, especially in a state with more than twice as many registered Democrats as registered Republicans.
In addition, the Democratic candidate in the general election will likely either be Maryland Reps. Chris Van Hollen or Donna Edwards, who each have strong name recognition, though no strong connections to Baltimore's Democratic machine.
Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings said last week that he will not seek Mikulski’s seat. Cummings has strong ties to Baltimore and would have become the instant frontrunner, according to some early polling.
Szeliga is facing several other candidates the the party primary including Chrys Kefalas, the 36-year-old vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers who thinks he’s the candidate to replicate Hogan’s win.
A former legal counsel to Maryland’s previous GOP governor, Bob Ehrlich, Kefalas played up the fact that, as was the case with Hogan, he’s never held public office.
"The people of Maryland, whether they’re Democrat, independent or Republican, are not looking for a politician,” he said.
Szeliga touts her three decades of business experience -- including at a construction company she founded with her husband.
Kefalas said Republicans also need to compete in places like Baltimore, and in fact the entire campaign will turn on whether his party appeals to voters beyond its conservative base.
“It’s going to be very hard to get more Republican voters to the polls [than Hogan did in 2014],” he said. “The key to this election, with 250,000 or 300,000 more Democratic voters turning out in a presidential year, is doing better than Gov. Hogan did in predominantly Democratic and independent jurisdictions.”
Kefalas, who is openly gay, plans to tout his advocacy for marriage equality and service as a speechwriter to former Attorney General Eric Holder.