Byron's Sour Grapes The Fruit Of Complacency


March 08, 1992|By Edward H. Shur

"Veni, vidi vici ('I came, I saw, I conquered')," Del. Thomas H. Hattery, D-Frederick, said Tuesday.

Well, actually that quote was uttered by Gaius Julius Caesar.

But it certainly fit the mood of the 38-year-old Mount Airy farmer and businessman after his upset victory over seven-term incumbent Rep. Beverly B. Byron.

Hattery's stunning victory over what had become a dynasty in the 6th District was decisive. While the conservative Byron lost by 38 percent to 34 percent in Carroll, the margin was 56 percent to 44 percent districtwide.

(Interestingly enough, 3,349Carroll voters -- 28 percent -- didn't even bother to make a choice in the race.)

The challenger, who had failed to oust Byron in 1980, waged a relentless campaign. He constantly went on the offensive, challenging her votes in favor of congressional pay raises, her opposition to abortion and an increase in the minimum wage, and her numerous overseas trips.

At my Westminster home, I must have received at least a half-dozen slick brochures from the challenger. All repeatedly attacked her record. I also kept hearing his now-famous radio ad featuring a Robin Leach-style announcer offering voters a "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" tour of the exotic ports Byron had visited at taxpayers' expense.

Hattery and his campaign staff knew what issues to hit. And economics, especially in these recessionary times, makebells go off in most voters' heads.

But the incumbent didn't change the campaign tactics that had served her well since she succeeded her late husband, Goodloe, who died in 1978. She continued to campaign on her record, even when attacked at debates.

I received only one brochure at home and can't remember hearing any radio or TV spots.

She and her advisers had become too complacent. They misread the signs, including the growing voter discontent.

She waited until theend of the campaign to respond to Hattery's ads, labeling him "Taxing Tom," for supporting state tax increases and charging that his accusations about overseas junkets were exaggerated. Clearly, that was her downfall.

Even her handlers made some errors. Witness her showing up 24 minutes late for an hour-long live debate on Prestige Cablevision.

True, she was delayed by an unfortunate accident on the Beltway. But Byron, who is known for running late, never informed viewerswhy she was late, nor did any of her aides slip her a note remindingher to do so.

Even when it was all over Wednesday, Byron wasn't agracious loser. She took parting shots at those who voted her out.

And she won't even say she'll support her fellow Democrat in November against Republican challenger Roscoe Bartlett, a college professorand inventor.

A word of advice to the congresswoman: The voters have spoken. Enough sour grapes.

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