In the department of “not exactly unexpected” this morning:
Caroline County Commissioner Jeff Ghrist today ended his campaign for Maryland’s First Congressional District and has endorsed Andy Harris for the seat. Ghrist, a lifelong Eastern Shore resident, has pledged to actively campaign to elect Andy Harris as the next Congressman for the district. Harris and Ghrist released the following joint statement:
“These are very serious times for our state and our nation. With unemployment nationally at 10 percent and in Maryland at a 26-year high, we cannot afford to take the focus off what the people of the First District want and need: a strong economy, the ability to find and keep a job, and a representative in Congress that will fight against Washington’s out-of-control spending and racking up of trillion dollar deficits that will be a burden on our children and grandchildren,” Ghrist and Harris said.
Ghrist added, “I am pleased to announce that I am strongly supporting Andy Harris as our next Congressman from the First District. We can no longer have a representative that thinks citizens will sign a blank check for spending that does nothing to improve our economy or allow the creation of good paying jobs. Andy is the right person to lead the district back to prosperity. I entered the race because I was concerned about the direction our nation was headed. I am exiting knowing that Andy Harris is the person to get us back on the right track where our economy can grow, jobs are created, and the unchecked spending sprees in Washington are a thing of the past. I am proud to offer my enthusiastic support to Andy and will work hard to see that he is our next Congressman from the First District.”
Harris said, “Jeff Ghrist is a person of integrity, a friend, and someone who cares deeply about improving our communities. I am grateful to have his support as our campaign moves forward. I will not take any vote for granted and will continue to build the strong coalitions that we need to ensure that the citizens of the First District get a representative that shares their values, not be a loyal servant to Nancy Pelosi and her far-left agenda.”
Last week, the Harris for Congress campaign announced the endorsements of 26 Republican members of the Maryland General Assembly. The Ghrist endorsement offers another strong sign of support for Harris among Republican leaders in the First District.
It was probable that the Ghrist campaign was in trouble when they cancelled a fundraiser earlier this fall, planning to reschedule in the spring. I thought that would be too late because I knew Harris would have a nearly insurmountable fundraising advantage by then.
It’s again worth mentioning (since Harris brought it up in the joint statement) that of those 26 General Assembly Republicans from the First District endorsing Andy, none are from District 36 – E.J. Pipkin’s Senate district. At this point, it’s likely that only Pipkin would be able to command the resources to challenge Harris. And while part of Harris’s original release talks about Ghrist being “the only other Republican candidate in the Congressional race” there is one other announced candidate, Grady Romblad, who to the best of my knowledge is also running as a Republican.
As the campaign season will take a break for the holidays, look for a burst of activity out of Harris after the New Year begins because the 90 days of terror known as the Maryland General Assembly session (beginning January 13) will pretty much take him off the campaign trail temporarily – unless he decides to resign his seat and run full-time. Personally I doubt that happens since he’s not losing a lot of meaningful time during the session, which – barring the need for a Special Session – will run its course in mid-April, about 5 1/2 months before the election. Obviously opponent Frank Kratovil is also handcuffed by his position so there’s no real advantage for Andy to leave early.
The next move on the GOP side, then, is apparently up to Pipkin. But he’d already jumped into the 2008 race by this stage and with his Senate seat up in 2010 I’m not sure this is the year for a Pipkin challenge. The field now seems pretty clear for Harris to train his guns on opponent Frank Kratovil, and the Democrats are probably cowering. It’s making for some politically difficult votes for the freshman legislator.