Say this for the race between Rep. Roy Dyson and Wayne Gilchrest, the Democratic incumbent and his Republican challenger in the First Congressional District: It is robust. Both men are campaigning full tilt, both have money (though as usual the incumbent, Mr. Dyson, has more), and each has a chance to win. This is not the case in any other congressional in the state this year.
Unlike most districts in the nation, the First (Southern Maryland, Eastern Shore, part of Harford County) has a tradition of close races. Half of the general election races for this seat in the past 30 years have been decided by a margin of 6 percent or less. Mr. Dyson has been involved in three, winning two, losing one. Last time he beat Mr. Gilchrest by 429 votes out of 190,000 cast.
This year's contest in the First District looked at first as it if would provide good give-and-take. The candidates debated face to face. Their campaign commercials were mostly positive. When there was criticism it was responsibly done.
Unfortunately, a group of Republicans not affiliated with Mr. Gilchrest's campaign went out on its own and put on unfair and uncalled for anti-Dyson commercials. Then Mr. Dyson's campaign responded with negative broadcast advertising that was even worse, with unfounded allegations, distortions and innuendo that, coming late in a campaign, is the stock in trade of the dirty-tricks campaigner -- and a desperate campaigner.
Negative campaigns works, say political consultants who get rich producing them. Maybe they do sometimes, but we suspect the anti-Dyson commercials also turned a lot of First District voters against the Republicans, and that could taint Mr. Gilchrest. To his credit, he immediately called on the group to stop broadcasting the commercials and disassociated himself vTC from them. Representative Dyson, to his discredit, did not do the same when his campaign began its unfair attacks.
In the few days left in this campaign, it would be in the best interest of the district's voters -- and of the candidates -- if this campaign could get refocused on the issues and the personal characteristics of the candidates upon which voters need and want to base their decisions. We believe that decision should be the election of Mr. Gilchrest. In the state's other congressional races, we endorse:
Rep. Helen Delich Bentley in the Second District (Baltimore and Harford counties); Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin in the Third District (Baltimore and suburbs); Rep. Tom McMillen in the Fourth District (Anne Arundel); Rep. Steny H. Hoyer in the Fifth District (Prince George's); Rep. Beverly B. Byron in the Sixth District (Western Maryland); Rep. Kweisi Mfume in the Seventh District (Baltimore), and Rep. Constance Morella in the Eighth District (Montgomery County).