Congresswoman Byron upset in 6th District race

March 04, 1992|By Tom Bowman and James M. Coram | Tom Bowman and James M. Coram,Staff Writers

Del. Tom Hattery, a farmer and businessman from Mount Airy, soundly defeated Democratic Rep. Beverly B. Byron in a startling upset yesterday, ending the Byron family's dynastic hold on the Western Maryland-based 6th Congressional District.

Mr. Hattery, a progressive Democrat, mounted a harsh attack on the seven-term congresswoman for accepting a $35,000 pay raise and for taking taxpayer-financed trips. He defeated Mrs. Byron by a 56 percent-44 percent margin with 97 percent of the precincts reporting.

"I knew that if we could get the message out, we were going to win in this campaign," Mr. Hattery told cheering supporters in Frederick last night.

The district includes Western Maryland, Carroll County and parts of Howard County.

In the Republican contest in the 6th, Frederick engineer Roscoe Bart edged Mike Downey, a communications consultant from Thurmont.

Some Democrats attributed Mrs. Byron's defeat to conservative views they said were out of touch with the district, pointing to her anti-abortion stand and to her opposition to an increase in the minimum wage.

Mr. Hattery, who carved a more liberal record during his 10 years in Annapolis, picked up strong union backing and blanketed the district with anti-Congress mailings.

A somber Mrs. Byron last night thanked supporters, who tearfully embraced at her headquarters, decorated with photos of her congressional career. She did not concede defeat.

"[Mr. Hattery] pretty much ran a negative campaign," said Henry Hap" Connors, Mrs. Byron's campaign manager, who said the attacks dovetailed with the "frustration" of voters and with an economic downturn to seal her defeat.

Earlier, Mrs. Byron had a quiet dinner with her family at a nearby restaurant.

"I worked hard and talked about the issues and ran a clean, hard campaign," the 59-year-old congresswoman told a reporter. "I'm very satisfied with the work I have done."

She said she was upset with Mr. Hattery's direct-mail campaign. The Frederick congresswoman also said an infusion of union contributions in the last week may have helped turn the campaign in Mr. Hattery's favor.

Mrs. Byron succeeded her late husband, Goodloe, who collapsed and died while jogging in 1978. Mr. Byron's father and mother both held the seat before him.

The last week of the campaign was dominated by competing radio ads, an "air war" that tagged Mrs. Byron for taking foreign trips at taxpayer expense and for supporting the congressional pay raise.

The Frederick congresswoman fought back with her own radio barrage, calling the 38-year-old delegate "Taxing Tom" for his support in Annapolis of tax increases.

Mr. Connors, who said poll results showed the two neck-and-neck last weekend, felt the congresswoman made a mistake in not answering Mr. Hattery's charges earlier.

Mrs. Byron, a member of the Armed Services Committee and the fourth Byron to hold the 6th District seat since 1940, had enjoyed light opposition since coming to Congress in 1979.

This was Mrs. Byron's second run against Mr. Hattery. He and four other challengers tested her in 1980.

That year, Mrs. Byron won every county. Mr. Hattery finished a distant second.

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