As results continued to trickle into a campaign watch party in downtown Frederick on Tuesday night, U.S. Rep David Trone acknowledged that his bid for reelection was close, but he was also holding out hope as ballots will continue to be tallied.
In a speech around 10:30 p.m., Trone said he expected Democrats to lose their majority in the U.S. House but he remained optimistic about his own race — noting that a majority of yet-to-be-tallied ballots were from Montgomery and Frederick counties, the heart of the Democratic vote in the newly drawn 6th Congressional District.
“We always knew this race was going to be close. The district is different,” the two-term congressman told supporters.
Maryland’s 6th District congressional race presented one of many opportunities across the country for Republicans to flip Democratic-controlled House seats.
Republican state Del. Neil Parrott, who represents a portion of Washington County, challenged Trone again this year, even after the congressman defeated Parrott in 2020 with a double-digit margin.
Parrott said the newly redrawn district gave his campaign a boost in confidence heading into Election Day.
“Redistricting was a big game changer in this race,” Parrott said.
During the congressional redistricting process earlier this year, the contours of the 6th were dramatically altered to create a more condensed district, which also meant adding a significant chunk of conservative territory to the district’s new boundaries.
Heading into Election Day, the contest was rated as a “toss up” by Real Clear Politics, and “likely Democrat” by the Cook Political Report. Last month, pollster and former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway released a partisan poll that showed Trone leading the race by 5 percentage points.
With all Election Day results tallied, as well as some mail-in ballots from four of five counties in the district, Trone trailed by 4,547 votes early Wednesday morning.
More than 29,000 mail ballots that had been returned by voters were not yet included in Tuesday’s results. And another 28,000 mail ballots had been sent to but not yet returned by district voters, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.
County boards will resume canvassing mail ballots on Thursday. The deadline for local boards of elections to receive absentee and mail-in ballots by mail is Nov. 18 and will be counted as long as they are postmarked before election day, Nov. 8.
On election night, Parrott led — and appeared to have won — in Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties. He retained a slim election-night lead in Frederick County, while Trone had more than 20,000 more supporters in Montgomery County.
Even so, Trone staffers said the campaign was energized by a strong performance in Republican-dominated Western Maryland, which they credited to Trone’s bipartisan brand.
“This is a much more Republican district [than 2020] but I do very well in Republican areas,” Trone said. “I’ve got a lot of supporters in conservative areas.”
Trone spent Election Day traveling to polling stations across the 6th District from Garrett County to Montgomery County.
Voters in Frederick and Montgomery counties identified inflation, education, democratic norms and abortion access as motivating issues in the race.
Trone said he had expected to hear more from voters on the issue of abortion.
“Sad to say, I think we should have heard a lot, but I haven’t heard one comment — not one single comment — today on abortion,” Trone said.
Stella Tackie canvassed for Trone alongside two of her children — Brianna, 14, and Farhan, 16 — in Montgomery County. Despite not being able to vote, both children said abortion access was among their top concerns and an important reason they chose to support Trone with their mother.
“I’m worried about women’s rights with abortion being banned,” Brianna Tackie said.
Becky Willard is an independent Parrott supporter from Hagerstown. Willard said she left the Republican party after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but supports Parrott, who she met personally through church, because she thinks he can correct the Republican Party drift towards extremism.
“I think he’s a good man to lead our country because right now, our country is a mess,” Willard said.
Dirk Fitzpatrick, from Takoma Park, canvassed for Trone and other local Democrats on election day in Damascus. Fitzpatrick said he was supporting Democrats because he was alarmed by the Republican party’s shift towards anti-democratic rhetoric.
“I feel like we’re really headed in the wrong direction,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m a child of World War II and my family suffered a lot in that war. I feel like we’ve forgotten those values that are worth fighting for and that’s why I’m here.”
Across the state
Republicans had high hopes for two of their nominees who were challenging entrenched Democratic incumbents, and while they wound up finishing stronger than most GOP nominees through years past in those districts, they appear to have fallen short.
In the 2nd District, 10-term Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) held off Republican National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose. The Associated Press called the race for Ruppersberger at 11:41 p.m. Tuesday.
As of 1 a.m. Wednesday, with 220 of 231 Election Day precincts reporting, Rupperberger had 53.43% to 46.44% for Ambrose. An number of mail-in ballots are also uncounted.
If the results hold, it could be Ruppersberger’s slimmest general election margin since he first won the seat in 2002 over the late U.S. Rep. Helen Bentley (R).
But Ambrose was not prepared to concede late Tuesday night; her campaign released a statement saying she was “encouraged to see stronger-than-expected performance in many different regions throughout the 2nd Congressional District and vowed that she would remain “in this fight until the very end and until every last vote is counted.”
Meanwhile in the 3rd District, eight-term Rep. John Sarbanes (D) defeated former WBAL Radio host Yuripzy Morgan (R), 54.98% to 46.44%. The AP called the race at 12:16 a.m. Wednesday.
Depending on how the count of mail-in ballots go, it could be Sarbanes’ smallest winning percentage since he was elected in 2006.
Three other Democratic incumbents — Rep. Steny Hoyer in the 5th District, Rep. Kweisi Mfume in the 7th District and Rep. Jamie Raskin in the 8th District — easily won new terms. And in another Democratic stronghold, District 4, Glenn Ivey (D), the former Prince George’s County state’s attorney, easily won the seat now held by Rep. Anthony Brown (D), who was elected attorney general Tuesday.
On the Eastern Shore, some Democrats were hopeful that former Del. Heather Mizeur could oust six-term Republican incumbent Rep. Andy Harris, who is currently the only Republican member of Maryland’s congressional delegation.
But Harris appeared to have a commanding lead in the district and the Associated Press called the race in his favor just before 11 p.m.
Mizeur, whose campaign attracted widespread financial support, conceded at a party of her supporters on Kent Island.
“We gave Andy Harris the challenge of his lifetime in this race,” she said, according to the Washington Blade.
Early in the congressional redistricting process, Democratic state legislators crafted a 1st District that would have become more favorable to the party. But, as legal challenges loomed, lawmakers passed a final version of the district’s boundaries that remained solidly Republican.
“It is an incredible honor and privilege to once again be chosen by the people of the 1st Congressional District to serve as their voice in Congress,” Harris in a statement.
With nearly all Election Day results tallied early Wednesday morning, Harris led the race 60% to 37%.
“I look forward to our efforts in the Republican majority to cut spending, reduce inflation, rein in our Southern border, restore law and order, and serve as a check on the rogue and out-of-touch Biden administration,” his statement continued.
Even though he won his 21st full term Tuesday, Hoyer faces great uncertainty due to the uncertain status of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) now that Democrats may lose the majority in the House. Hoyer, the House majority leader, could be pushed out of leadership in a generational purge.
Also winning reelection Tuesday was Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D), who crushed his Republican challenger, Chris Chafee, 60.64% to 39.21%. Van Hollen is one of the few members of the U.S. Senate who have served in their state House and Senate, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.