Savoring win, Gilchrest says he has some new wrinkles for life in Washington

November 08, 1990|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Correspondent

CHESTERTOWN -- Wayne T. Gilchrest, who captured the 1st Congressional District seat on Tuesday with a philosophical, laid-back campaign style, was not your average candidate.

Yesterday, he indicated that he won't be your typical congressman, either.

Savoring victory in his modest campaign headquarters here, the Kent County Republican persisted in his maverick ways. Among other things, he revealed:

* He expects to give away the 33 percent pay raise Congress will receive in January.

"I think we could look to the district, somewhere the money could be well-spent," he said, acknowledging that another Republican candidate, Perry Weed, had first suggested the idea during the primary. "I would not give it back to the government, because it would be wasted."

Even without the impending raise, which will elevate congressional salaries to about $125,000 a year, Mr. Gilchrest will be getting a substantial pay increase. For the past year he has been on leave from his Kent County High School teaching job, paying himself $208 each week from his campaign for expenses.

* He will not send any of the districtwide mailings that lawmakers often see as free advertising to boost their re-election efforts.

"I think districtwide mailings are a waste of money," Mr. Gilchrest said. He said that constituents can learn of district concerns through town meetings and the news media and that he would "send only letters to people who write to me."

L * He doesn't want to spend the rest of his life in Congress.

"Anybody that would want to do this for 20 years is nuts," said the 44-year-old Republican. "Let's say 10, 12 years."

Mr. Gilchrest said he plans to commute to Washington from Kennedyville, where he lives with his wife, Barbara, two teen-age sons and an 8-year-old daughter. He said he might consider driving about an hour north to take the train from Wilmington, Del.

Dressed in a flannel shirt and faded jeans and slouched in a folding chair, he acknowledged that he was surprised by his strong victory Tuesday, after losing to Mr. Dyson by a scant 1,500 votes in 1988.

Mr. Gilchrest speculated that the congressman's disclosure about his conscientious-objector status during the Vietnam War might have done irreparable harm among military veterans.

And Mr. Dyson's last-minute negative campaign ads -- including one that called Mr. Gilchrest "crazy" -- worked against the five-term incumbent, Mr. Gilchrest said.

Yet despite the appearance of a folksy Gilchrest campaign of idealistic young volunteers and resolute retirees, his strategy included the key element of political sophistication.

The campaign sent out four targeted mailings during the six-week general election campaign, to Republican and independent voters and to 50,000 Democrats in precincts where Mr. Dyson had fared poorly in the primary.

There also were numerous television and radio ads. On manissues, Mr. Gilchrest's positions tend to be more liberal than those of his political party. He favors abortion rights, some forms of gun control, strong environmental laws and some tax increases. Yet he said, "I'm not going to Congress thinking I'm going to have my way. There's going to be compromise."

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