Well, it looks as thought the bid by the Club For Growth to put their man, Andy Harris, into Congress, may have been sidetracked. After the first round of counting absentee ballots, Democrat Frank Kratovil's lead has increased to 2,003 votes. Tomorrow the election boards will look at provisional ballots and then go on to count the remaining absentee ballots. At this point it doesn't appear as though there are enough of these to help Andy Harris overcome Kratovil's lead. Indeed, the Associated Press has called the race for Kratovil.
The First District was designed to be a Republican District. Before this election, the Republicans had held the seat for 18 years. A large majority of state legislative seats in the District are held by Republicans. So how did Kratovil manage to eke out a victory? Everyone has their opinion, of course. Michael Swartz over at Monoblogue has this interesting take on the election. I see four factors that led to Kratovil's apparent victory.
First, of course, is the defeat of Wayne Gilchrest in the primary. Gilchrest was a moderate Republican who was much loved by many on The Shore, Republican and Democrat alike. His defeat in the primary but the more right-wing Andy Harris with substantial out-of-state financial support was disheartening to many Eastern Shore voters and opened the door to a Democratic challenge.
Second is the candidacy of Barrack Obama. While John McCain handily won the Eastern Shore jurisdictions, Obama's candidacy bought a surge of new voters and bought many to the polls that may not have voted otherwise. It appears that a large number of African-American voters, in particular, may have provided the margin to help push Kratovil over the top.
Kratovil was able to compete financially with Harris. With Gilchrest out of the race, Kratovil was able to attract funds from the DCCC and other national sources to offset the resources that Harris was able to get from out of state. If Gilchrest had won the primary, Kratovil would never have gotten that money and it would have been no contest, like many in the past.
Of course, having the Libertarian Candidate, Davis, in the race helped too. If Andy Harris had gotten those votes, he would have been victorious.
Republicans seem to think that Frank Kratovil is going to lay down a liberal voting record in Washington that will help defeat him in two years. I don't think so; Frank seems to me to be a more conservative, 'Blue Dog', Democrat who will build a moderate voting record, splitting with his party when necessary to reflect the temper of his district. In 2010, with two years of incumbency behind him, he will be in a stronger spot to defend his seat, particularly if he couples a moderate voting record with good constituent service and good fundraising.
After 2010, of course, the situation will change. The surge in Democratic registrations this year will provide some flexibility to shift more Democratic voters into the First District when redistricting rolls around.
So, for now, let's keep our fingers crossed that the AP is right and the 2,003 margin holds up. Then we can take some time to relax and hopefully savor a victory before we start to look at 2010.