Wayne Gilchrest, having parlayed his outsider status into a decisive victory over U.S. Rep. Roy Dyson, now has to figure out how to go on being an outsider.
In other words, can Wayne Gilchrest, congressman-elect, be the same Wayne Gilchrest, schoolteacher and itinerant house painter, who won the voters of the 1st District?
"I don't know how to be anyone else," Gilchrest says. "I don't like suits, fancy cars or big buildings. I just want to leave something for my children. Ten, 12 years and I'm out."
His Washington game plan includes a strong environmental agenda and a commitment to working with state elected officials. One of Gilchrest's more interesting ideas is cutting farm subsidies, which he says would encourage farmers to grow crops for alternative fuel sources. The ultimate result, Gilchrest says, would be a lower trade deficit and less reliance on foreign oil.
Gilchrest hedged at declaring victory until Dyson conceded shortly after 11 p.m., with 94 percent of the vote in from the sprawling 1st District. Gilchrest had wanted to wait at his Chestertown headquarters until 100 percent of the vote was in, a worrywart legacy from his narrow loss against Dyson in 1988.
Yet Gilchrest stood to collect $6 from an office pool, in which he had confidently predicted he would win by about 10 points.
"The number just popped into my head," he said early this morning.
While Gilchrest and his campaign manager, 22-year-old Tony Caligiuri, concede Gilchrest's victory owed something to the nationwide discontent with incumbents, both said the race ultimately transcended the throw-the-rascal-out mentality.
Gilchrest said he thought Dyson's negative ads, used heavily toward the end of the campaign, backfired. And Caligiuri said the voters who liked Gilchrest were people who were sick of "professional politicians [and] politics as a spectator sport."
A last-minute flow of money to Gilchrest's campaign also helped. Caligiuri said $100,000 came in after Oct. 22 and as a result the campaign saturated the Salisbury television market, placing 45 commercials on two channels from 4 p.m. to midnight Monday.
"It was just sort of an intimate moment with Wayne," Caligiuri said of the last commercial.
And while the campaign had been bitter at times it ended on a graceful note, delivered by Dyson in his concession speech.
Dyson arrived at his campaign party at Fager's Island in Ocean City at 11:20 last night.
He was composed and for the most part upbeat in the statement he made to a few dozen supporters and relatives. Although he didn't congratulate his opponent, he said he tried to call Gilchrest and promised to help him.
"God Bless Wayne Gilchrest," he said, his voice hoarse. "He needs it. But we are going to help him, we really are, because what's important is this district. And it's more important than me."
Gilchrest seemed genuinely moved by Dyson's concession speech.
Dyson expressed no bitterness and offered no opinion as to why he had lost. But he refused to be interviewed and sought to keep the news media -- who he believed to be antagonistic -- at a distance.
Dyson's aides said that while they thought the race would be close they didn't expect defeat. Dyson had easily beaten Del. Barbara O. Kreamer, D-Harford, in the Democratic primary, surviving controversy over the disclosure in August that despite his hawkish stance on defense he had been a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War.
Chris Robinson, Dyson's campaign manager, said Dyson apparently couldn't escape the controversies that dogged him since 1988, especially the suicide that year of his top aide and mentor, Tom Pappas.