Byron Not Relaxing Yet

'90 VOTE

November 04, 1990

You're a six-term incumbent in the U.S. House of Representatives, which completed a historic deficit-reduction package days before the election.

Your opponent is a virtual unknown who has collected and spent less than 5 percent of what's in your war chest.

Now it's a week before the election and you're coasting, right?

Well, not exactly.

Beverly B. Byron, D-Dist. 6, remains in the driver's seat in the race against Christopher P. Fiotes Jr., a real estate company owner from Gaithersburg, Montgomery County.

Yet Byron said Wednesday she's not taking lightly the final days of the campaign, which culminates with Tuesday's election.

For one, she finds herself confronting voter discontent over tax increases in the budget package.

"It's a very difficult burden," Byron said during a break in her daylong Carroll sojourn.

In addition to potential budget fallout, Byron, 58, also is wary of a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment that has risen in parts of the nation during this election season.

"It's a very difficult thing to put your finger on," said Byron, whose Carroll visit included stops at Francis Scott Key High School and the Westminster Senior Center.

Byron faces the added burden of having to remain in Washington for budget deliberations during the heart of the campaign season.

"We're trying to pick up the pieces," she said. "It's frustrating having to cancel things at the last minute."

However, during several stops on an abbreviated campaign schedule last week, Byron said she's faced less voter disgruntlement than she expected.

"I haven't seen it that much, which surprises me," the Frederick resident said.

The 56-year-old Fiotes, meanwhile, has had quite a hill to climb in taking on Byron. But he's hoping voter rancor over tax increases, coupled with the rising tide of anti-incumbency, will improve his chances of upseting Byron, said his wife and campaign manager, Stella Fiotes.

"It would be difficult any time, but it may be a little closer to possible this time," she said Wednesday from Gaithersburg.

To distance himself from the political establishment, Fiotes has refused to accept contributions from political-action committees, and has collected almost no money from anyone outside his immediate family.

Still, the mood of anti-incumbency triggered by the Congress's protracted budget battle may be less of a coup for challengers than it seems, Stella Fiotes said.

"There is a tendency to blame Congress but not your congressperson," she said.

But a tax hike so close to an election is a political windfall no matter how you look at it, she said.

"Almost everyone (on the campaign trail) is complaining," she said.

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