EASTON -- If Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-1st, felt a shudder of deja vu yesterday, it's understandable.
When the Republican upstart was trying to unseat the district's incumbent congressman in 1990, he signed a pledge opposing any increase in taxes and challenged his opponent to do the same.
Mr. Gilchrest went on to win a heated contest against former Rep. Roy P. Dyson, a Democrat from Southern Maryland who dismissed the no-new-tax pledge as an underdog publicity stunt.
In a near re-creation of the rumpus, Mr. Gilchrest yesterday found himself holding a new, but almost identical, anti-tax pledge. Only this time he was the one being challenged to sign it by another Republican upstart who wants his congressional seat.
Lisa Renshaw, a parking garage owner from Anne Arundel County and political neophyte who is one of five candidates seeking the GOP primary nomination March 3, personally delivered the single-page pledge to Mr. Gilchrest in his Washington office.
In a statement released afterward, Ms. Renshaw accused Mr. Gilchrest of supporting tax increases. And, in a bold dig that has become the signature of her campaign ads, she said the incumbent "probably couldn't be trusted to keep his word even if he signed the pledge."
Within minutes after the Renshaw challenge was made public, a news release from Mr. Gilchrest's office announced that the incumbent opposes tax increases and had joined 148 House Republicans who signed a letter promising President Bush they would support a veto of any new tax bills in Congress.
Aides to both Mr. Gilchrest and Ms. Renshaw said their news releases were intended to show an advance endorsement of President Bush's State of the Union speech last night.
Mr. Gilchrest's chief aide, Tony Caligiuri, said that while the congressman has never voted for a tax increase and doesn't plan to do so, he isn't sure whether the congressman would sign his name to Ms. Renshaw's pledge.
"He's got the pledge on his desk," Mr. Caligiuri said.
"I don't know what he'll decide to do with it. As he left the office, he said this is the biggest issue in the country today, and he doesn't want to play politics with it."