State Delegate Thomas Hattery, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, said heis confident his nine-year public service record will lead him to victory in the 6th Congressional District race.
"I've beat several incumbents to get where I am and I did it in a crowded field," said Hattery, the latest challenger to Democrat Representative Beverly B. Byron. "So far I've gotten a terrific amount of support -- support frompeople from different walks of life."
Hattery disputed the view of the third opponent, Montgomery County businessman Anthony P. Puca, that a three-person race harms both men's chances of winning the March 3 primary.
"I'm not running against Tony Puca," said Hattery, 37, president of Lomond Publications Inc. and operator of a family farm outside of Mount Airy. "I'm running against Beverly Byron. It's not an issue of game-playing and strategy -- it's an issue of public service."
But Puca argued that by filing for candidacy on Tuesday, Hattery aided the incumbent's campaign.
"Beverly is helped by a three-person race," said Puca, a 43-year-old who has lost to Byron in the last two primaries. "Any votes Hatterygets are votes I would have gotten (because our political views are)basically the same. I believe with Tom Hattery out of the race, I'llwin."
But if Hattery remains a candidate, Puca said, Puca has "almost no chance at all."
"To beat an incumbent in a primary is not a one-year job. It takes three or four cracks at it.
"Tom is a really nice guy and Tom has great politics. I don't want to say anythingbad about him. (But) I don't understand why he's in the race."
Puca, owner of a furniture contract company in Virginia, said he believes Hattery "is hoping redistricting puts me out of the race."
But Hattery, who lost a primary race against Byron in 1980, said he is confident he can win this time, regardless of whether Puca remains in the race.
"(Puca) doesn't know me and can't judge me," Hattery said. "He's not involved in anything I know of."
The 6th District is large and no one knows if it will be affected when the congressional lines are redrawn, Byron said. But the issue will not be addressed in Congress until the fall, she said.
"I understand this district," Byron said, adding her constituents are familiar with her as well.
"I've got a reputation. I've got a record. I got votes that I have cast for the last 13 years in Congress."
Several people have mentioned they might run against the conservative Democrat in the primary, said Byron, who would not name anyone. But the number of opponents will not alter her campaign strategies, she said.
"I know of only oneway to campaign and that is full time," said the incumbent, known for frequent district tours to meet constituents.
Hattery said new leadership is needed to face the challenges of budget problems, the national debt, health care, education, crime, environmental protection "and especially creating good jobs and improving an economy that is squeezing the middle class out of existence."
"It's getting tougherand tougher for working families to afford even the basics of a goodhome, health care and child care," he said. "That's wrong."
Hattery said he will begin a formal campaign in September. Until then, he will meet with people throughout the district to discuss their concerns and priorities.
"Sometimes politicians think they know more than they really do and they forget to listen to people," Hattery said. "Things can be so much better if the public will dream a little and demand a lot more of our leaders."