With reluctance, congressional candidate Anthony P. Puca has decidedto swap one uphill battle for another.
In the recent congressional redistricting, Puca's residence in Potomac, Montgomery County, was moved from the 6th District, which includes Carroll, to the 8th District.
The shake-up left Puca, a self-described liberal Democrat, with an unenviable choice:
* Stay in the 6th District for a third straight primary tussle with seven-term U.S. Representative Beverly B. Byron.
* Switch to the 8th District, where popular Republican incumbent Constance A. Morella would await in the general election.
Puca has decided to try for the 8th District seat.
Election laws would have allowed Puca to run in the 6th, as long he moved into the district if elected.
The redrawing of 6th District is more subtle and less controversial than what resulted in other parts of the state.
The parts of Howard and Montgomery that were in the 6th in 1990 have been removed, and the Montgomery portion has been put in the 8th.
The 43-year-old Puca said his decision to switch to the 8th District was not that tough when viewed in terms of which race he would have a better chance of winning.
New boundaries aside, the dynamics of the6th District race changed dramatically when state Delegate Thomas Hattery, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, decided to join the fray.
Though he was beaten soundly by Byron in the past two Democratic primaries, Puca had gained some ground.
He lost by a 2-to-1 margin in 1990, compared with a 3-to-1 difference in 1988, and said he believed his prospects were even better for 1992.
But Hattery's entrance intothe race miffed Puca. He said any splitting of the vote between him and the Mount Airy resident would all but ensure a Byron victory.
"I'm at the point where I could not dedicate another year of my life to coming in second," he said. "A three-time loser -- I can't do thatto myself."
Puca said he repeatedly appealed to Hattery to reconsider, but to no avail.
"I would've preferred to run in the 6th, but Hattery's refusal made it perfectly impossible for me to win," he said.
But the going won't be much easier against Morella, Puca acknowledged.
Yet he sees some advantages to running in the 8th District. Puca is better-known and more popular in Montgomery, and in the 1990 primary, he captured from Byron the portion of the county that has now been shifted to the 8th District.
Also, Puca likely would face less of a test in the primary and wouldn't encounter Morella untilthe general election.
By contrast, the lopsided losses to Byron in the past two primaries snuffed out any chance of gathering momentum.
"The first thing you gain is a win," he said of his prospects inthe 8th District primary.
Puca also will have a smaller territoryto cover.
"In the 6th, you have to be willing to drive four hoursa day and be willing to run yourself ragged," he said.
"(In the 8th), you hop in your car and drive a half-hour and you go from one end of your district to the other."
Campaign strategy and approach also change with a change of district, but only subtly, Puca said.
"I'm going to continue saying what I was saying, but say it in Montgomery County," he said.