I live in one of the few congressional districts where there is a competitive race. We are represented by Republican Connie Morella, who lives in my neighborhood. Connie is no John Kline. If she were, she would never have been elected to Congress in our district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by something like 2-1 and liberals outnumber conservatives by an even larger ratio. Connie nearly always votes with the Democrats and spends much of her time on “women’s issues.” On the other hand, she votes for a Republican for Speaker every two years and occasionally casts moderate to conservative votes (she tends to support tax cuts, for example). Connie also excels in constituent services and I have never met anyone who doesn’t like her personally. In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that my daughter worked in her district office.
Morella has represented the district since 1986, if memory serves. The only time she had a race that was even somewhat close occurrred in 2000 when she faced an extremely well-financed opponent who benefitted from a heavy pro-Gore turnout. Even under these circumstances, she won by about 4 percentage points. However, this year the Democrats re-drew the district, removing a semi-Republican enclave and adding some areas with heavy concentrations of African-American voters. Since Connie’s spectacular ability to win over Democratic voters may not extend to black Democratic voters, the expectation has been that she faces a decidely uphill battle this time. However, she may have gotten a break when Mark Shriver (a Kennedy nephew) lost a close primary race to Chris Van Hollen. Shriver is more popular than Van Hollen among African-Americans, so the Republicans hope that Connie won’t lose quite as badly with that group as had initially been feared. In addition, Van Hollen had to spend much of his war-chest in the primary.
I’m not aware of what the polls say about this race. The people I know who follow these things just say it’s a toss-up. In a normal election year, most conservatives probably wouldn’t care who wins. But the way things stand with the House races this year, all conservatives have reason to pull for Connie.
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