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Senator Switches Parties

Two weeks after a stinging Democratic primary defeat, Maryland state Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr. announced last night that he had switched parties and would seek reelection as a Republican.

"This is going to be a real opportunity to appeal to the electorate as a whole," Giannetti (Prince George's) told reporters outside an annual statewide Republican dinner in Baltimore, where he was introduced as the party's newest member.

"I think it's definitely a winnable race. There is room for a moderate in the Republican Party," he added.

Giannetti's challenger, James C. Rosapepe, won about 59 percent of the vote in the Sept. 12 primary in District 21, which stretches across Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

In an interview, Rosapepe, a former delegate and U.S. ambassador, said he remained confident of his chances in November in a district in which Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1, and he said voters would recognize Giannetti's political opportunism.

"Evidently, [Giannetti] found a loophole in the state sore-loser law,'' Rosapepe said, referring to a Maryland law that generally bars candidates who lose a primary from running again in the general election.

GOP officials said the law makes an exception when a party's nominee withdraws after the primary. John Stafford, the winner of the Republican primary in the district, stepped aside this week.

Giannetti was heavily recruited to switch parties by leaders of the Republican Senate Caucus, as well as party Chairman John Kane. With Giannetti's change, Maryland's GOP Senate Caucus grew yesterday, at least temporarily, from 14 members to 15 in the 47-member chamber.

"He's so much in line with a lot of what we believe in," Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Harford) said of her new colleague.

Giannetti said he remained undecided about whether to make the leap until late yesterday.

"It was really a tough decision," he said.

Maryland Democratic Party Executive Director Derek Walker offered no sympathy, branding Giannetti "a quintessential sore loser."

John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  September 27, 2006; 6:26 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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