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There will not be a contested Republican primary in the District 33 state Senate race this year after all.
Sen. Ed Reilly (R-Anne Arundel) withdrew from the contest on Monday, just days after Del. Sid A. Saab filed to run against him.
In an interview, Reilly insisted that he made up his mind to leave politics four years ago ago, following a tough 2018 election fight — and not because of Saab.
“He and I reached an agreement six months that he was going to run and I was going to step back,” the lawmaker said. “We consciously waited because — as the incumbent senator — I knew that there would not be a lot of challenges to my re-election and I just withdrew my name today at 2 o’clock.”
“It was a planned process,” he added.
Publicly, the senator and delegate made statements to the contrary as recently as last week. When Saab filed to run for the senate on the last day of the General Assembly session, Reilly said Saab’s decision to run prompted him to consider retiring. Saab had been publicly contemplating a run for county executive until mid-December, when he filed for re-election.
The owner of an insurance firm, the 72-year-old Reilly has served in the Senate since 2009. He was twice elected to the Anne Arundel County Council during the 2000s.
“The last election took a lot out of me,” he said. “I’m an old white male, so I was kind of targeted by many of the progressive women’s groups in the county.”
Reilly survived the ’18 race, two years after Donald Trump took office, defeating Democrat Eve Hurwitz (D) with 54% of the vote.
Reilly said a combination of issues — redistricting, abortion access and marijuana legalization among them — reinforced his decision to leave Annapolis after 13 years.
“I’ll be 73 in January when my term ends,” he said. “Time for young blood to come and carry the load.”
During the recent legislative session, the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics found Reilly improperly used “the prestige of his state position” by telling a constituent he wouldn’t follow through on legislation he’d promised to work with her on after she contributed money to his Democratic challenger. The ethics committee sent a “letter of education and advice” to the senator but did not pursue the complaint further.
Despite the national outlook, which may favor Republicans, Reilly thinks Maryland Democrats have “a good chance of maintaining or growing [seats] because of gerrymandering.”
Saab and Democratic candidate Dawn Gile, a lawyer and nonprofit leader who has been running since last summer, are now uncontested in their party primaries.
Once a conservative stronghold, District 33, which takes in Severna Park, Millersville, Crofton, Davidsonville and parts of the Broadneck peninsula, has turned increasingly purple in recent years, and the Maryland General Assembly made it even more favorable for Democrats in the latest round of redistricting.
Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.