- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Maryland’s primaries offer more evidence that the Maryland Democratic Party continues moving leftward. Rep. Ben Cardin defeated former Rep. Kweisi Mfume by three percentage points, earning the Democratic nomination for Senate, where he faces Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Messrs. Cardin and Mfume seemed to be competing over which candidate was more opposed to the war, and who could do the best job expanding the federal government. In the end, Mr. Cardin was able to persuade the Democratic electorate that he would be more effective in fighting President Bush.

The defeat of state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who lost his first election in more than half a century, did not come as a complete surprise. But few expected that Delegate Peter Franchot, a relatively obscure liberal ifrom Montgomery County, would be the candidate who would end Mr. Schaefer’s legendary career in Maryland politics. In recent weeks, Mr. Schaefer and Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens (who did little to suggest that she had any significant philosophical differences with Mr. Schaefer) ran virtually neck and neck in the polls, with Mr. Franchot lagging 10 to 15 points behind.

On Tuesday night, when Washington television stations were posting results from the Maryland comptroller’s race, for hours the results showed Mrs. Owens and Mr. Schaefer with between 34 and 37 percent of the vote each. When results were posted at the bottom of the screen, Mr. Franchot’s name never even appeared — as if it was not worth wasting viewers’ time on such a “fringe” candidate who had no serious chance of winning. So, it probably came as a surprise to many Marylanders who went to sleep before midnight when they awakened to find Mr. Franchot leading Mrs. Owens by 36 percent to 34 percent, with Mr. Schaefer in third place with 30 percent.

As Mr. Schaefer continued to be Mr. Schaefer, Mr. Franchot continued attacking the frontrunners from the left, calling himself the only “real Democrat” in the race and suggesting that he was the only candidate willing to stand up to Gov. Bob Ehrlich. Mr. Franchot also emphasized his opposition to slots (i.e., his support for higher taxes) and his plans for additional state spending for health care, education and virtually anything else that comes to mind.

Seven-term Rep. Albert Wynn appears to have narrowly survived a tough primary challenge from Donna Edwards in the 4th Congressional District, a challenge supported by liberal bloggers and Hollywood types, over his (since-recanted) support for the Iraq war and other deviations from liberal orthodoxy.

But a message has been sent: Maryland Democrats continue marching leftward. The Steele-Cardin matchup is one of the most-anticipated Senate races this season, and the Democrats don’t want to lose the seat, which is being vacated by the liberal Paul Sarbanes. Michael Steele, however, has more crossover appeal that the Cardin camp thinks.

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