By Andrew Damstedt
Capital News Service
Anne Arundel County could play a pivotal role in the newly aligned 4th Congressional District race, even though no candidate from there has officially entered the race.
So far, the match looks to be between incumbent Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, and former Prince George's County prosecutor Glenn Ivey. Anne Arundel County Councilman G. James Benoit has formed an exploratory bid.
Two other candidates have filed with the state to be in the Democratic primary April 3, George McDermott of Forest Heights and Ian Garner of Suitland. No Republicans have filed.
The race is a hot one because the district was changed to include part of Anne Arundel County and eliminate a section of Montgomery County to form a new 4th District.
Edwards opposed the changes, especially the plan to remove the section of Montgomery County.
After the redistricting plan was approved, Edwards released a statement saying she looked forward to representing the newly formed district even though she still disagreed with the outcome.
But at least one political analyst said that conciliatory statement may have come too late.
"The way she went about protesting the lines, she made it sound as if she didn't want to represent the portion of Anne Arundel County she got," Center Maryland columnist Josh Kurtz said. "And voters may remember that and hold it against her. It's so much an insider game, that it may not have a huge impact when people go to the polls. But, people in Anne Arundel may remember that Donna Edwards wasn't wild about representing them. They may take it out on her come primary day."
Edwards, 53, through her staff, declined to be interviewed for this article.
The new 4th District has more potential voters in Prince George's County than Anne Arundel County. Maryland Legislative Services data shows Anne Arundel's voting age population is 135,520 people, compared to Prince George's 407,440 people. In the 2010 Democratic primary, voter turnout in Anne Arundel was 26 percent whereas Prince George's turnout was 24 percent.
However, former Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee chairman Stephen Thibodeau said not to overlook the voters there.
"It will be an interesting race," he said. "The message I tell any candidate, in particular running in the Democratic primary, is not to ignore Anne Arundel County. The candidate that doesn't look for votes here does so at their own peril."
The campaign issues for Anne Arundel are likely going to be the economy, the environment and how population growth stemming from military base realignment affects the county, Thibodeau said.
Having an Anne Arundel candidate could make a difference, such as Crownsville resident Benoit, 40, who is still mulling an entry into the primary. The dynamics of the election would change if he enters, he said, because he represents most of the Anne Arundel portion of the district.
"If I'm not (in the primary), it will be sort of the traditional Prince George's County primary," Benoit said, indicating he planned to make a decision in the next week.
If he decides to run, Benoit could have a third-candidate effect on the race, which usually favors the incumbent, said Paul Herrnson, Center for American Politics and Citizenship director at the University of Maryland.
But, Ivey also might be an appealing candidate to voters in the newly added portions of the district because of his law enforcement career, Herrnson said. Ivey, 50, of Cheverly, still faces the same hurdles as anyone challenging an incumbent. He just started fundraising, so he hasn't reported any donations to the Federal Election Commission. However, he said the goal was to have "an impressive number" by the Dec. 30 reporting deadline. He declined to share how much he has raised.
FEC filings show Edwards has $67,031 cash-on-hand and has raised $231,380 this year.
Ivey is running on the momentum of the new district boundaries because both he and Edwards will have to introduce themselves to voters there.
"I don't know if this is your typical challenger-incumbent dynamic," he said. "I think for a significant portion of the district, it looks like an open seat."
Incumbents are rarely defeated in primaries, Herrnson said, although that's how Edwards began her route to office.
Before Edwards won the Democratic nomination in 2008 by 29,123 votes, she lost the 2006 primary by 2,731 votes, both times running against Democratic Rep. Albert Wynn.
In the 2008 primary, Edwards had the financial support of the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, the Service Employees International Union and Emily's List, a political action committee that works to elect pro-choice female Democrats. In that campaign, Edwards criticized Wynn on his Iraq War vote and supporting a bankruptcy bill endorsed by former President George W. Bush, the Washington Post reported.
After the 2008 primary, Wynn resigned and Edwards was elected to fill the remainder of his term. She went on to win the general election.
Facing no strong primary opposition in 2010, Edwards won the general election with 84 percent of the vote, elections data shows. She spent $675,840 in that campaign when an average winning 2010 congressional campaign in Maryland cost $1.68 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
A poll released Nov. 17 by Edwards campaign, showed her ahead of any challengers, and beating Ivey 52 percent to 16 percent. The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, surveyed 400 likely primary voters in the 4th District Nov. 10-13 and has a 5 percent margin of error.
In her congressional career, Edwards has supported domestic violence funding, introduced legislation to increase the minimum wage for tipped employees and sponsored a bill to set national safety standards for subway systems.
She serves on three House committees: Transportation and Infrastructure; Science, Space and Technology; and the Committee on Ethics.
Ivey's name has been brought up as a potential candidate for lieutenant governor and Prince George's County executive, and he has considered running for Congress before. He now works as a trial lawyer at a Washington, D.C., firm.
Ivey won races for Prince George's County state's attorney in 2002 and 2006, facing no challengers in either general election or in the 2006 primary. He won the 2002 primary with 60 percent of the vote.
As a state's attorney, Ivey said he addressed critical issues not funded through a government budget, such as helping start programs for at-risk youth. He also hightlighted his involvement with Project Safe Sunday, a domestic violence victims outreach program, and his work helping rehabilitate criminal offenders.
Ivey said he would work to help fix economic problems so many Maryland residents face, such as foreclosures and bringing economic development to the district.
"I think we need more assistance from the federal level, especially to help people stay in their house," Ivey said.
Closer to the primary, political consultant Kevin Igoe said Republicans are likely to get more involved in the race even though the district leans Democratic.
A Republican candidate is most likely to come from Anne Arundel, he said. Anne Arundel has more registered Republicans (120,117) than Prince George's (46,715), the Maryland State Board of Elections October voter registration report shows. However, Democrats outnumber Republicans in both counties.
"The way they've drawn the district it's going to be tough for a Republican," said Alan Rzepkowski, Anne Arundel County Republican State Central Committee chairman, "but it's not impossible."