WASHINGTON -- The annual meeting between Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Maryland's congressional delegation, normally an occasion for congeniality and mutual backslapping, this year turned into a wake for outgoing Rep. Beverly B. Byron.
Mr. Schaefer led his staff, delegation members and onlookers in an extended standing ovation yesterday for Mrs. Byron, who lost Tuesday's Democratic primary to state Del. Thomas H. Hattery.
The 6th District Democrat is serving her seventh term and is the senior member of the delegation.
"We owe Beverly Byron a great debt of gratitude," said Mr. Schaefer, citing her work as the chairwoman of the Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel and compensation.
He lauded Mrs. Byron for introducing legislation to retrain Department of Defense personnel who are losing their jobs due to budget cuts.
Rep. Thomas McMillen, D-4th, credited the congresswoman with bringing jobs in the defense industry to Maryland, and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer called her "one of the most effective, committed leaders" on defense issues in Washington.
"She has done an incredible job," said Mr. Hoyer, D-5th.
Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, the delegation leader, mourned the loss of Mrs. Byron as a member of the tightly knit group, which he said works together in a highly effective manner.
Partly because of the close cooperation of all of its delegation, Maryland has been highly successful in competing with other states for federal money, Mr. Sarbanes said.
The most bitter words came from Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-1st, who accused Mrs. Byron's successor of dirty pool.
"Incumbents realize they have to spend their time addressing problems, not engaging in cynical soundbites that oversimplify [the issues]," he said.
Mr. Gilchrest said Mr. Hattery's campaign, which depicted Mrs. Byron as a coddled Washington insider who is out of touch with her constituents, was "an insult to the nation."
"We're gonna see maybe what we can do to get you back in here, because you're a good representative," Mr. Gilchrest promised.
Mrs. Byron didn't take the eulogies lying down.
"As Mark Twain said, reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated," she told her colleagues, reminding them that she isn't leaving office until January.