- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Republicans are targeting seven seats in the state Senate with the hope of securing filibuster power in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

Senate Republicans, who number 14, need five additional seats to secure a filibuster under rules that raised the threshold from 16 to 19 in 2004.

“If we had the ability to mount filibusters, we would stop the liberal programs which have characterized the General Assembly,” said Senate Minority Whip Andrew P. Harris of Baltimore County.

Democrats say Republicans have few strong candidates and will not win the seats they seek.

“I don’t see how it happens,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel County Democrat. “From the national level on down, people have grown weary of the Republican rhetoric, and the enthusiasm [Republicans] had in ‘94 and ‘98 has waned.”

Maryland Republicans say they have momentum from a surge in interest in the state party that they attribute to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s leadership and the most recent legislative session in which Democrats ran roughshod over their initiatives and the governor’s vetoes.

Democrats, who hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, overrode 20 vetoes during the regular legislative session and a special session to address electricity rates.

In addition, Democratic leaders squelched debate on Republican offers such as a constitutional ban on same-sex “marriage” and limiting funds for stem-cell research.

“It’s apparent that having a moderate governor with a legislature that can override his vetoes at will is not balanced government,” said Delegate Herb McMillan, an Anne Arundel County Republican who is challenging Sen. John C. Astle, a Democrat.

“You must have the threat of a sustained veto. If you don’t, you don’t really have two-party government.”

Republicans, who have formed the state’s minority party for decades, also are seeking to gain 14 seats in the House to sustain a veto.

They currently hold 14 of 47 Senate seats and 43 of 141 House seats.

Even with renewed interest in the party, it appears difficult for Republicans to make significant gains in Maryland, where Democrats outnumber them by a 2-to-1 ratio.

Among the targeted Democratic seats are those held by James E. DeGrange Sr. of Anne Arundel County and George W. Della Jr. of Baltimore, both solid incumbents in their districts.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s County Democrat, said Mr. Astle will “have to work” to beat Mr. McMillan but will retain his seat.

Nonetheless, Republicans are confident Carl G. “Dutch” Holland, a former Republican member of the Anne Arundel County Council, will defeat former Delegate Walter Shandrowsky, a retired manufacturers’ representative. They are competing for the seat being vacated by Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Democrat who is retiring.

However, Democrats are confident Howard County Executive James N. Robey, a Democrat, will succeed in his challenge to Republican Sen. Sandra B. Schrader.

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