State GOP hopes to pit Carozza vs. Mathias

If it happens, it would be a battle of political titans.

On the right, Mary Beth Carozza, 56, first-term delegate in the Maryland General Assembly — smart, polished, energetic, compassionate, serious.

On the left, second-term state senator Jim Mathias, 65 — smart, polished, energetic, compassionate, serious.

Carozza, a moderate Republican, vs. Mathias, a moderate Democrat.

According to a news story in Monday’s Washington Post, the state’s Republican leaders will try in the next election cycle to break the veto-proof majority Democrats have held in the state legislature for nearly a century.

Their hope is to capitalize on the popularity of Gov. Larry Hogan to oust a handful of state Senate incumbents, thereby giving the governor more leverage in the legislature and prevent his vetoes from being overridden.

Republicans are said to be targeting six seats: Mathias’ District 38 perch is among them.

Hogan won the district by a 41-point margin in 2014. Mathias — by just 3.4 points — beat back a challenge by a hard-right opponent, Mike McDermott of Pocomoke City.

Carozza, meanwhile, cruised to a first-term victory, winning 73.4 percent of the vote in District 38C. A former congressional, Defense Department and Governor’s Office staff member, Carozza relied on her deep political experience to run an overwhelming successful campaign, which gained a lot of attention and ultimately landed her a seat in Annapolis on the vaunted House Appropriations Committee.

Mathias, who was once a delegate representing a large chunk of what is now Carozza’s turf, has distinguished himself in Annapolis for an ability to work both sides of the aisle. He preaches constituent service and is known to everyone in the State House. He and Wicomico Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes are the only two Democrats from the mid- and Lower Eastern Shore with seats in the legislature — the local delegation is six Republicans to two Democrats.

An increase of five GOP seats in the 47-person chamber would mean Democrats wouldn’t have the 29 votes needed to override vetoes. With Republicans’ perpetual minority status, veto threats are their best way to influence legislation.

Mathias, who had $162,512 in his campaign coffers as of January, said this week that he will definitely run for re-election.

“This is the people’s office and I am their trustee,” Mathias said. “I’m going to keep serving them and continue offering the committed public service I have demonstrated.”

Mathias said he has worked closely with Hogan on every issue facing the Shore, especially on poultry, agriculture and environmental regulation.

“I’m a bipartisan legislator, and I do that for the people of the district,” he said. “I’ve supported some (of the governor’s) vetoes and I voted to override some others. The governor appreciates that I have earned seniority. We talk, we work together, and there is a mutual respect.”

Carozza, who is repeatedly asked whether she’ll run for Senate, and who has routinely answered that her focus was squarely on the he role in the House of Delegates, opened the door for the first time on a possible bid.

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

Carozza told The Washington Post that being in a role that best backs Hogan is important.

“I believe real and lasting change only comes with two terms for the governor and reinforcement from the House and Senate,” she said.

Carozza had $67,219 in her warchest in January, but the GOP’s targeting of Mathias ensures campaign dollars will flow in her bid’s direction.

By means of comparison, Wicomico Republican Delegate Carl Anderton had $5,209 in campaign cash on hand in January.

 

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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