Andy Harris Gets NRCC Upgrade, No Endorsement

February 10, 2010

The National Republican Congressional Committee has upgraded Maryland State Sen. Andy Harris, putting him in the first group of ten “Young Guns” in 2010 House races.

NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions, a Texas congressman, said that the committee is not endorsing Harris or any others in the group at this point.

Harris, from Baltimore County, is shooting for a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil of Queen Anne’s County. Harris could still face a primary contest this fall with fellow Maryland state Sen. E. J. Pipkin, who has not yet announced his 2010 election plans.

The NRCC “Young Gun” program provides advice and counseling to Republican congressional candidates. The party committee has also run TV ads against Kratovil, and its support for Harris is a tacit endorsement.

Party strategists in Washington are hoping to avoid a divisive primary fight in the First District, which covers the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Harford, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. A bitter 2008 primary battle, which knocked out moderate Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest and made the more conservative Harris the nominee, is widely blamed for the party’s loss of that seat.

Kratovil has out-raised Harris, but the Republican has been narrowing the gap. He is rated a slight favorite by independent analysts to retake the seat for the Republicans, who had held it since 1990.

However, a contested primary would complicate Harris’ task. Importantly, from the standpoint of national Republican leaders in Washington, it would likely force the party to spend more money in Maryland–and correspondingly less in other, more marginal races in other states. That, in turn, could make it tougher to achieve the overriding Republican goal: retaking majority control of the House from the Democrats.

Republicans lost control in 2006, an election that bears more than superficial similarity to the one taking shape in 2010.

The latest ABC News-Washington Post poll echoes what others have been reporting for months: A restive electorate, battered by a deep recession, is dissatisfied with the job Congress has been doing and looking to make a change.

That has made Republicans increasingly optimistic that the voters will remove incumbent Democrats and turn to Republican candidates in contests for seats being vacated by Democrats who are retiring or running for higher office.

“This year’s going to be a national campaign,” Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, head of the NRCC’s Young Gun effort, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

He announced the first 10 Republican hopefuls to qualify for the program. Harris was mentioned sixth.

The ABC-Post poll showed that the Republicans’ image has improved, but most Americans still view the party unfavorably.

At the same time, almost half of those questioned in the survey described their mood as generally “anti-incumbent.”

Independent voters, who are key in districts like Maryland One, favor Republican candidates when asked which party’s candidate in November they would favor if the mid-term election were held today.

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