Jim Mathias Turns Back The Challenge Once More

Posted on November 3, 2014

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On the Sunday before the 2014 General Election, I’m not about to predict all the outcomes in Maryland, or even all the outcomes in District 38 on the Lower Eastern Shore.

I will, however, venture an opinion regarding the one State Senate contest that’s being watched by political observers all over Maryland because it’s rated the most competitive Senate race in the state. It’s also been an interesting campaign because of the striking contrast between the two candidates.

Long story short, Sen. Jim Mathias has turned back a spirited (and loud) challenge by Del. Mike McDermott. At the outset, many believed that the feisty former sheriff’s deputy, McDermott, might upset the incumbent. Mathias himself was not particularly confident of victory going in.

But over the past two or three weeks, it’s become apparent — to me, at least — that Mathias has gained the high ground. (High ground is not easy to find on the Eastern Shore, which is mostly flat. Hardly a hill in sight, save for Snow Hill. And Snow Hill’s not exactly a ski slope, if you know what I mean.)

The easiest way to understand the difference between Mathias and McDermott is to consider recent legitimate Senate candidates in District 38.

  • Retired Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus of Somerset County, a gentleman farmer who was elected repeatedly and rose to be minority leader in the Senate. He is a conservative Republican.
  • Michael James of West Ocean City, who narrowly lost General Assembly elections in 2006 and 2010, is a gentleman business leader. He is a conservative Republican.
  • Sen. Jim Mathias of Ocean City, the current officeholder, is a gentleman former mayor of Ocean City and a businessman, and a volunteer firefighter. He is a conservative Democrat.

And then there’s Del. Mike McDermott, who has been compared to a “charging rhinoceros” by the district’s only daily newspaper.

McDermott, in his short political career, has become known as someone who shouts on full volume at every opportunity. He is a conservative Republican of the Tea Party variety.

The man’s supporters defend him as “passionate.” Others hear him as extremely loud, not to mention politically extreme.

You can see the problem for candidate McDermott. He makes voters want to cover their ears. One local newspaper, in declining to endorse McDermott, opined that there’s no room for extremism on the Shore.

In fact, all the newspapers in District 38 have endorsed Mathias, unless I’ve missed one. Usually they note that Mathias, the Democrat, and McDermott, the Republican, cast conservative votes in the General Assembly on all the major issues of concern on the Shore.

Voters have taken the measure of the men. Mathias is friendly, polite, experienced, dependable, dignified, respected in Annapolis. He’s a known quantity and people like him. He votes their values. They’ve concluded that Mathias is the right man to represent the Lower Eastern Shore. Case closed.

TWO SIGNS IN FRONT OF WEAVER'S BEER STORE AT THE ENTRANCE TO OCEAN CITY SUPPORT MR. WEAVER'S FAVORITE CANDIDATES, AND PROBABLY GIVE A FAIRLY ACCURATE IDEA OF WHICH WAY THE WIND'S BLOWING ON THE ISLAND.  (John Hayden photo)

TWO SIGNS AT WEAVER’S BEER STORE AT THE ENTRANCE TO OCEAN CITY SUPPORT MR. WEAVER’S FAVORITE CANDIDATES, AND GIVE A FAIRLY ACCURATE FORECAST OF WHICH WAY THE WIND’S BLOWING ON THE ISLAND. (John Hayden photo)

As for the other District 38 contests: I’ll be surprised if Del. Norm Conway does not win easily in District 38B.

Districts 38A and 38C are too close to call. Either or both of them might be decided by the absentee ballots. Many older voters in the Ocean City-Ocean Pines area of the district have already voted by mail.

I’m not close enough to District 38A (Del. Charles Otto vs. Percy Purnell) to make an informed guess; and I’m too close to District 38C (Judy Davis vs. Mary Beth Carozza) to give an objective analysis.

While not objective, I have enough information to believe that Judy Davis has the edge going into the final 48 hours.

— John Hayden

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Posted in: Democracy, Maryland, News