Lived in Maryland's 1st District, your choice would...


September 26, 1992

IF YOU lived in Maryland's 1st District, your choice would be between a congressman who gets campaign money from places like Perryville, Still Pond and Nanjemoy and a congressman whosesupporters live in Beverly Hills, New Orleans and Forest Hills, N.Y.

Republican Wayne Gilchrest, the former house painter and teacher from Kent County's Kennedyville, is betting that the average voter will not be impressed with his opponent's list of far-flung contributors. This week, Mr. Gilchrest began running a half-page advertisement highlighting the difference between where his contributors live versus those who have donated money to Democrat Tom McMillen.

The ad lists 112 hometowns of contributors to each candidate. The Gilchrest list is labeled, "Wayne -- Our Congressman"; the McMillen list is labelled, "McMillen -- Their Congressman."

Every town on Mr. Gilchrest's list either is in his current district (Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland, and part of Harford County) or in his new district (Eastern Shore, parts of Anne Arundel County and south Baltimore). The McMillen list does not include a single town in Maryland, much less the 1st District.

The ad is effective. It shows that Mr. Gilchrest, a freshman representative with a reputation for wide-eyed naivete, knows the value of the contrast between his "smalltownishness" and Mr. McMillen's sophistication. Ordinarily, politicians like Mr. McMillen, who has tons of money in his campaign chest and connections to people in high places, have a tremendous advantage. But this is no ordinary political year. People are disenchanted with the politician's politician; Mr. Gilchrest's unworldly innocence could be a weapon, if he is shrewd enough to use it.

Of course, like most political ads, this one doesn't tell the whole story. Though Mr. McMillen does get contributions from people across the country, he gets plenty of money -- two-thirds of all donations, his campaign says -- from the 1st District. And some of the hometowns listed in the ad belong to people who aren't cosmopolitan movers and shakers -- like Mr. McMillen's brother, who lives in Camp Hill, Pa., and his girlfriend, who lives in New York.

* * *

WHAT'S GOING ON, across the country, is only a stall, a slide, a slump -- a recession. In the familiar phrase, thoughts are things, so let's not have anybody utter the dread word depression. Especially not anybody who's running for president.

In economics, a depression is "a major downturn in the business cycle." There hasn't been a depression since the 1930s, supposedly. Even so, Bill C. and George B. had better not try selling that to the many, many Americans who try and try but cannot find work.

Is it perhaps, this time, really a depression? Mess around if you must with family values. But do not futz with word values.

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