The Byron Upset

March 04, 1992

Seven-term incumbent Beverly Byron expected that her family name and her long service in the Congress would be enough to provide her with another victory in yesterday's Democratic primary in the 6th Congressional District. She did not figure on the fervor of the anti-incumbent sentiment afoot in Maryland and on the determined efforts of moderate Del. Thomas Hattery, who won surprisingly broad support throughout the district.

Mr. Hattery's startling upset ends, for the moment, the Byron legacy in the 6th, which takes in all of Western Maryland, Carroll County and a good portion of Howard County. Mr. Hattery, a three-term delegate from Mount Airy, ran up impressive margins in most parts of the district. The 6th is no longer as rock-ribbed conservative as the Byron forces had imagined.

For the past two decades, Mrs. Byron and her late husband, Goodloe, represented the 6th, and in the 1940s, both of Mr. Byron's parents served in Congress from the same district. But too much familiarity, especially in a time of public discontent with elected officials, can prove dangerous. That was the case this time. Mr. Hattery, a 38-year-old farmer and book publisher, capitalized on Mrs. Byron's incumbency, her proclivity for overseas travel at government expense and her rigid anti-abortion stance. The changing nature of the fast-growing eastern part of the district - more suburban in character and a tad more moderate in political outlook - gave Mr. Hattery a big boost.

The upset in the 6th was the only one of the night. In the U.S. Senate races, incumbent Democrat Barbara Mikulski and Republican Alan Keyes had little trouble. This sets up a deep ideological divide for the general election between a sharp-tongued conservative Republican and a sharp-tongued liberal Democrat. The fireworks should provide voters with a clearly defined choice.

Democrat Tom McMillen and Republican Wayne Gilchrest survived 1st District challenges to win the right to a November face-off. The clash of two incumbents in a sharply re-drawn district (the Eastern Shore, eastern Anne Arundel County and a sliver of South Baltimore) should lead to a wide-open election.

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