Van Hollen maintains lead over Szeliga in polls
— Down in the polls and running for a Senate seat in a blue state, Republican Kathy Szeliga is hoping Maryland’s perceived shift toward her party can give her a boost in the general election against Democrat Chris Van Hollen.
Szeliga, a Maryland Delegate who represents portions of Baltimore and Harford counties, and Van
Hollen, a congressman representing Maryland’s eighth district, are running for U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s seat, which will be vacant when the longtime Democratic senator retires at the end of her term.
Mikulski, who has served 30 years in the senate, has endorsed Van Hollen, who has represented the state in Congress since 2002.
A recent poll from OpinionWorks, an Annapolisbased pollster, showed that Van Hollen was leading with 55 percent of probable voters compared to Szeliga’s 26 percent. Nineteen percent of polled voters were unsure of their pick.
A new poll from Goucher College shows Van Hollen receiving 54 percent and Szeliga receiving 24 percent.
The Goucher poll indicates that Marylanders were more certain of their views on Van Hollen than Szeliga. Only 30 percent of respondents were unsure of their thoughts on Van Hollen, but 56 percent of respondents were unsure of their view on Szeliga.
Fifty percent of poll respondents have a favorable view of Van Hollen, and 19 percent had an unfavorable view. Twenty-eight percent of respondents had a favorable view of Szeliga, while 15 percent had an unfavorable view.
Van Hollen said in an interview that he plans to “run even harder, right though the finish line and work even harder” to win more votes for the election.
On the other hand, Szeliga and her press secretary, Leslie Sheed, questioned the poll’s results, saying that the poll can’t be valid because it “undersampled registered Republicans.”
However, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a 2-1 ratio in Maryland. The blue state is home to around 2 million registered Democrats and around 1 million registered Republicans.
Steve Raabe, the pollster’s director, said the criticism is the “typical refrain from candidates who don’t like the results of the poll.”
Szeliga argues that the state is “turning purple,” evidenced by the widespread popularity of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, as well as the Republican Party’s 2014 sweep of Maryland’s sixth legislative district, formerly a Democratic stronghold. Szeliga hopes that what her campaign calls “the purpling of Maryland” gives her campaign a boost as the general election approaches.
Hogan has endorsed Szeliga, a former teacher and businesswoman who currently serves as the minority whip in Maryland’s House of Delegates.
“She’s been a great leader in the state legislature,” he said in July. “She’s tough. She’s a fighter. She’s a businesswoman. She understands the issues of everyday Marylanders. And I believe she’ll make an outstanding United States senator.”
She hopes that his endorsement — and his popularity — will help her chances in November.
Hogan has high favorability ratings, even among Democrats. According to OpinionWorks, 71 percent of Marylanders approve of Hogan’s performance, and only 14 percent disapprove. Fifteen percent are unsure.
Raabe explained that Hogan’s appeal comes from his image as a nonpartisan figure.
“Gov. Hogan — who we all know is very popular — has not yet shifted his popularity onto [Szeliga] yet,” Raabe said. “That hasn’t connected for voters yet.”
Neither Hogan nor Szeliga has officially endorsed Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s nominee for president, but Szeliga did say that she would “support the party’s nominee.”
Szeliga received 35 percent of the vote in Maryland’s Republican Primary, receiving 135,337 votes. Van Hollen received over 50 percent of the vote in Maryland’s Democratic Primary, receiving 470,320 total votes, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Senators serve six-year terms that are staggered by three years, meaning that senate elections occur every three years. U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D), who will become Maryland’s senior senator after Mikulski’s retirement, was re-elected to his Senate seat in 2012 and will face re-election against in 2018.
The U.S. general election will take place Tuesday, Nov. 8.