By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf
In a legislature where the GOP is already drowned out by the majority Democrats, Senate Republicans are in danger of losing a voice many Democrats have come to respect in Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley.
Brinkley, 54, faces a younger, energized challenger in Del. Michael Hough, 20 years his junior, who insists that Brinkley’s conservative record just isn’t conservative enough for the constituents of District 4 in Frederick and Carroll counties. Hough has argued that Brinkley has sided with Gov. Martin O’Malley on budget decisions and voted in favor of at least 46 separate tax increases.
“This race is very important for the future of the party,” Hough said. “We’re in the mindset that we should go ahead and vote O’Malley’s out-of-control spending, or it’s OK to vote for taxes every once in awhile. But we’re in danger of running residents out of the state.”
“We have to have someone to go down to Annapolis and have the unpopular decision of saying no.”
Brinkley acknowledges he will need to campaign hard to win the seat he’s held since 2003. Defending his status as staunch Republican, Brinkley too pointed to his voting record, but also his willingness to work across the aisle.
Brinkley has also won endorsements from Maryland Right to Life, Protect Marriage Maryland, and a high rating from the Maryland Business for Responsive Government. Brinkley first served as Minority Leader from 2007-2008, and then again beginning last year.
Brinkley supported by most other senators
Eight of the 12 GOP senators are backing Brinkley, according to Minority Whip Joseph Getty, R-Carroll County, but voters seem on the fence.
Only one senator, Sen. Christopher Shank of Washington County, has endorsed Hough.
Brinkley said Hough had the opportunity to help secure seats for the Republicans but instead chose to run against him.
“Hough is carrying on [Senate President] Mike Miller’s and [House Speaker] Mike Busch’s desire for Republicans to duke it out among each other,” Brinkley said.
Hough takes shot at Brinkley over marijuana bill
Most recently, Hough slammed Brinkley in a press release for accepting a $1,000 donation from the Marijuana Policy Project PAC and his vote in favor of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana this legislative session. The press release contains a quote from Hough that indicates Brinkley “clearly supports full legalization of Marijuana.”
Brinkley said in a phone interview that Hough “had his head in the sand” and said that the court system couldn’t handle the existing marijuana laws — he supports decriminalization, but not legalization.
Brinkley’s campaign finance account contains more than $104,000, according to the most recent filing, including a loan of $100,000. Hough’s records show he has roughly $73,000 on hand.
Voters have already started casting ballots
Diane Herndon, an early voter in District 4, said she voted for Hough because he ran into her on his canvassing tour. She admits she’s not politically savvy, but appreciated the tete-a-tete she and the Senate contender shared.
But John Anzalone, another early voter, said he went with Hough because he was seeking a change.
“Brinkley’s votes were a little too liberal for me,” he said.
As a staff member working in agricultural for the Frederick County government, Sherry Albaugh said she appreciated Brinkley’s support of county farms. Brinkley has been endorsed by the Maryland Farm Bureau.
“I know of his record,” she said.
While the votes seemed split at Frederick County’s three early polling stations, some said they weren’t pleased with either candidate. Carol Hochhauser said she couldn’t even remember which candidate she selected because neither left an impression.
“I’ve been disappointed with how low-key the election has been,” she said.
Seniority would go with Brinkley
Sen. Getty, Brinkley’s Senate floor seat mate, said that if Hough were elected, the GOP caucus would be weaker because of it. Getty said that Brinkley also represents a portion of Carroll County, a sliver of District 4, and is knowledgeable of both jurisdictions’ issues.
“In Carroll County, we have no Democrats in the Senate or in the House. Very few areas are like that, and if you’re a Republican, it’s easy to stand outside the fortifications and lob in grenades all the time, if you’ve got other people voting and protecting you — like Democrats — in the budget process,” Getty said as a jab at Hough.
If Hough won the race, Sen. Ronald Young, a Democrat in District 3 could become the senior senator of the county that is primarily conservative. (Young faces Republican Corey Stottlemeyer in the general election.)
Shank said he picked Hough because they have collaborated on multiple pieces of legislation together — he wasn’t initially taking a stand for either candidate, but found some of Brinkley’s negative tactics against Hough “below the belt.”
Shank said Hough’s campaign mirrors his own election when in 2010 he was the young up-and-comer who grabbed the District 2 seat from former Sen. Donald Munson, a long-time Republican lawmaker.
“I think that [Hough] is part of younger, aggressive generation of conservative leadership,” he said.
Diana Waterman, chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party, said leadership does not favor any candidate in any race.
“It’s a matter for the voters to decide,” she said. “We try to elect as many Republicans to as many seats as possible.”
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