November 7, 2018
By: Sara Swann & Rose Velazquez
Republican Mary Beth Carozza wiped away tears as she stared at the election results on the television screen.
With 53 percent of the vote, she had unseated Democratic incumbent Jim Mathias in the Maryland State Senate District 38 race.
Carozza supporters at West Ocean City’s Mad Fish Bar & Grill erupted into cheers when the race was called in Carozza’s favor.
When the results came in, Carozza addressed the crowd of energized supporters and thanked God for guiding her through this campaign.
“Our campaign has been a true grassroots campaign for all ages from the very beginning,” she said. “You think about what we've done together. This is a victory for all of us. This is our win together.”
The Republican candidate — recruited by Gov. Larry Hogan to challenge Mathias — campaigned right until the very end, making stops at various polling locations on Election Day before ending her night in West Ocean City.
Throughout her campaign for the State Senate, Carozza said she could feel her support base growing, but there was always a sliver of doubt. With the votes counted, her uncertainty has been replaced by gratitude, she said.
By about 10:30 p.m., the race had been called with Carozza winning 53 percent of the vote.
Going door-to-door and hearing the priorities of voters on the Lower Eastern Shore gave Carozza the direction and support to lead a successful campaign, she said.
“I really believe that at this point in time with this district that I am just more representative of this district,” Carozza said. “We put it all out there. We worked our hearts out, and I knew that there would be no regrets, that we worked as hard as we could.”
Though the victory celebration for his challenger had already begun, Mathias joined a crowd of supporters at Tall Tales Brewing Company in Parsonsburg to an eruption of applause.
Despite the loss, the two-term state senator, state delegate and former Ocean City mayor said the race and his legacy as a Shore lawmaker have always been about “inspiring the next generation.”
With bills like the one that provided funding support for the building of a new Coastal Hospice facility in his portfolio, Mathias said his work isn’t over yet because those are the gifts that keep on giving.
“But I do want to offer my congratulations to the senator-elect because I know there’s a lot of work to do, and it’s the work but it also is the people that look for your support and your leadership for them and for their needs,” he said. “I know that the senator-elect is going to be very busy.”
What Carozza's win means beyond the Shore
From the beginning, Carozza has had the support of Hogan, who endorsed her for State Senate.
Carozza closely aligned herself with the popular governor in the hopes of bolstering support among voters on the Lower Eastern Shore. This tactic proved to be successful Tuesday night.
Hogan secured his re-election as governor of Maryland with 56.2 percent of the vote. Among voters on the Lower Eastern Shore, he was even more popular, garnering on average 71.5 percent in the three counties.
For Wicomico and Worcester counties, Carozza carried more than 50 percent of the vote. In Somerset County, she fell short of Mathias by a mere 10 votes.
As the newly elected senator, Carozza is looking forward to being a larger voice for the Shore. Winning the seat also puts her in a better position to support Hogan, she said.
“Hogan has a lot planned for the second term, and I plan to be right with it all, making sure that we move forward with our Shore priorities,” Carozza said.
Overall, Maryland Republicans won one additional seat in the State Senate to bring their party total up to 15 out of 47 seats. Mathias was previously the sole Democrat on the Eastern Shore, but now that part of Maryland is solidly red.
State Republicans were trying to gain five additional seats to get a total of 19 senators to sustain Hogan’s veto against a Democratic override, but were not successful.
This Democratic supermajority will keep Hogan in check, ensuring he stays more moderate and bipartisan as he moves into his second term as governor, said Stella Rouse, an associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland.
“I suspect the fact that Hogan was going to have a check in the Maryland legislature was something that comforted a lot of Democrats and made them more comfortable voting for Hogan rather than if he had higher Republican numbers in the legislature,” Rouse said.
Having a majority Democrat legislature in Maryland will also be key when the 2020 Census comes around, Rouse said. Democrats will have more power over redistricting so it will be interesting to see how that plays out, she said.
Who is taking over Carozza's House District 38C?
Taking over Carozza’s old House of Delegates District 38C seat is Republican Wayne Hartman, who previously served as a council member on the Ocean City Town Council.
Hartman had campaigned for the delegate seat alongside Carozza as she strove for the senate. Carozza was the first person to hold the District 38C seat in the Maryland House of Delegates after it was created in 2013.
For the most part, Hartman ran unopposed in the general election as there was no Democratic candidate. Ed Tinus did run as a write-in candidate, but Hartman had an overwhelming victory with 95.4 percent of the vote.
“I want to thank everyone who helped with my campaign,” Hartman said at Carozza’s watch party after the results had been announced. “Like Mary Beth says, it takes a team.”
On the issues: What sets Mathias and Carozza apart?
Mathias ran on a campaign that centered around his ability to navigate partisan politics, especially as a rare Democratic voice on the Eastern Shore.
“The goodness of my accomplishments and leadership was bringing all those folks together,” he said on election night.
He currently has eight committee assignments, including the Finance Committee, Joint Committee on Ending Homeless and Maryland Veterans Caucus.
In the 2018 session, he sponsored a total of 162 pieces of legislation, with more than 80 ultimately enacted.
However, the opioid crisis, a priority that in 2017 the Hogan administration declared a state of emergency, proved to be among the most controversial issues for Mathias.
A Maryland Republican Party-sponsored flyer mailed to Lower Shore voters attacked him for his stance on a bill intended to allow for the establishment of a supervised drug consumption facility program.
Championed by a Baltimore Democrat in the House of Delegates since 2016, Mathias co-sponsored the Senate version of the measure this year, but it received an unfavorable report from the Finance Committee.
The flyer alleged Mathias favored allowing Marylanders to “legally shoot up heroin,” claiming “Jim Mathias is making it easier to get heroin than ice cream.” He described the attack as a distortion of the bill’s intent.
In an interview with Delmarva Now ahead of election day, Mathias instead focused on his support for other initiatives that established tools in the fight against opioids, particularly the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and HOPE and Treatment Act of 2017.
He voted in favor of the PDMP’s establishment in 2011 and earlier this year co-sponsored a bill in the Senate meant to revise the program, though the legislation eventually failed because the House and Senate versions could not be reconciled.
He was also one of the 14 sponsors in the Senate for the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort and Treatment Act of 2017, which addressed behavioral health in a variety of ways, including through treatment access and crisis hotlines.
Campaign materials for Carozza show she prioritizes the work of “local opioid intervention teams,” but underscored her opposition to “taxpayer-funded heroin injection sites.”
Rather, in an interview with Delmarva Now, she said she's listened and advocated for the needs identified at the local level as having the potential to make a “positive impact.”
“My point is that Gov. Hogan has recognized with his leadership at the state level and what I have recognized at the local level is to work closely with those local teams so we can determine best solutions for our limited state resources and that is a contrast with the incumbent,” she said in a previous interview.
In her first House term, Carozza sat on seven committees, including the Appropriations Committee, Maryland Veterans Caucus and Women Legislators of Maryland. Of the 111 total bills she sponsored during the 2018 session, 23 were successfully enacted.
On the House Appropriations Committee, Carozza touted her collaboration on Hogan’s $44.4 billion budget in her 2018 End of Session Review, stressing the “historic” and “unprecedented” $6.5 billion included for K-12 education.
But a Maryland Democratic Senate Caucus flyer took aim at her education voting record by claiming she voted no to increasing state education funding for the shore, access to higher education and modernizing school construction.
Carozza responded to these attacks with a statement on her campaign website that dubbed the tactic “misleading.”
“Unlike Jim Mathias, who voted for every wasteful budget that Martin O’Malley put forward with no questions asked, I’m willing to vote ‘NO’ on a budget when wasteful spending is added late in the game, and that’s why I ran for office in the first place, to hold the line on excessive spending,” she said in her campaign statement.
Her end of session review also explained her opposition to the 21st Century School Facilities Commission bill that included an amendment stripping oversight authority from the Board of Public Works and giving it to an appointed board.
Hogan vetoed the bill, a move Carozza voted to sustain. But the veto was overridden with support from Mathias.
Even though the election is over, Carozza will still be keeping busy until the legislative session starts in January.
The senator-elect said she will be spending the days following the election going around District 38 and thanking all of the voters who supported her campaign.
When she gets to the State Senate next year, Carozza said she wants to build upon the work Hogan has been doing with regard to job growth and economic development. She added that she’s very passionate about career trade technology education as well.
“These are ways we can keep our young people here on the Shore, so not only that they have an opportunity of a good education, but also once they graduate, they have career opportunities right here on the Shore,” Carozza said.
After a long and hard fought campaign, Mathias said he’s going to take some time for family and rest.
Even though Mathias said he and Hogan get along well, it has been hard to run as a Democrat in a rural district while a popular Republican governor is also running for re-election.
“The victim is not me. The victim is our politics and the integrity of our politics,” Mathias said. “It’s one thing you take exception with how somebody votes on a certain bill. It’s another thing when you unfortunately malign them and say that they vote with the bad guys and Baltimore liberals.”
Working successfully with Republicans and more progressive Democrats in Maryland during his tenure in the State Senate is an accomplishment Mathias is proud of. Over the past two terms, Mathias said he’s been able to make a case in Annapolis for the Shore’s needs.
“That’s really what you’re supposed to do, not drive people away and polarize people and exclude people,” Mathias said. “I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had, and stay tuned.”