Senator Jim Brochin spends five or six evenings a week knocking on doors and making his pitch. Here’s how it went recently on a front porch in the Cub Hill neighborhood of Carney:
“Fiscally, I’m pretty conservative,” Brochin said. “Voted against all the major tax increases. Didn’t support drivers licenses for illegals, didn’t support in state tuition for illegals. But on environment, open space and public education, I’m pretty progressive”
The Democratic incumbent is knocking only on the doors of Republicans and independents.
Here’s why. Brochin finds himself in a very different 42nd Senate district from the one he’s represented the last 12 years. His fellow Democrats in Annapolis redrew the district lines and made it more conservative. Brochin says he ticked them off by voting against many of the governor’s initiatives. In the Democratic primary, Governor Martin O’Malley openly supported Brochin’s opponent, former delegate Connie DeJulius.
Republicans smell blood in the water. First District Congressman Andy Harris says the race is winnable because the newly drawn district has a Republican majority. Harris recruited retired physician Tim Robinson to run against Brochin.
Harris is one of 17 physicians in the Congress. He said it would be good to have a doctor in the state Senate, to help legislators deal with medical issues like Ebola. Harris says, “I think that’s an opportunity for someone with a background like Tim as a physician, lifelong physician, to go to Annapolis and help them make the right decisions.”
Brochin, an insurance broker, says one profession doesn’t trump another. He says the legislature needs brokers, too, along with teachers and social workers. More importantly, Brochin says you need someone who doesn’t always vote the party line. “You don’t need an ideologue,” Brochin says. “And that’s one thing that I’ve, you know, given to this district.”
Robinson is running because, he says, Brochin is a career politician and the district needs a change. “The guy I’m running against, Jim Brochin is the quintessential campaigner,” Robinson says. “He is really good at it. The problem is as his constituent for the past 12 years I didn’t think he was a good legislator.”
Robinson and other Republicans say despite his independent talk, Brochin is really a liberal Democrat who occasionally votes the right way. Robinson points to Brochin’s vote for storm water runoff fees, what opponents call the rain tax. “The people in the state of Maryland are embarrassed by the rain tax. And they’re angry about the rain tax,” Robinson says.
But Brochin says the legislature was reacting to a federal consent decree to upgrade storm water systems. The legislature left it up to the localities to decide how to raise the money. It was Baltimore County’s decision to impose a tax, and Brochin wants it rolled back. “Because people are showing us who own commercial properties that their rain tax bill is bigger than their property taxes,” Brochin says.
Brochin has a more than three to one advantage over Robinson in campaign money. But the 42nd district now stretches from Towson to the Pennsylvania line, and Robinson is counting on a lot of support in north county.