Marylanders crowded into polling places across the state yesterday to make Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton their choice for president.
Voters in near record-breaking numbers were drawn by economic worries, a battle over abortion, bruising congressional contests and a rambunctious three-way race for the White House.
Mr. Clinton easily defeated President George Bush and Independent Ross Perot, who ran third.
Maryland's new abortion rights law was approved easily, ending a three-year struggle that cost a total of $3 million.
In the tightest of the congressional races, pitting two incumbents against each other in the cross-bay 1st District battle, Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest defeated Democrat Tom McMillen.
The two faced each other after the state's eight congressional districts were redrawn, using 1990 census figures.
Republicans scored a victory in the 6th District. Roscoe Bartlett beat state Democratic Del. Thomas H. Hattery, who had unseated longtime incumbent, Beverly B. Byron, in the March primary.
In the 5th District, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, one of the highest-ranking Democrats in the House, appeared to be holding off a strong bid from Larry Hogan Jr., a newcomer seeking to capitalize on anti-incumbent fervor.
The race for United States Senate, never close, went to incumbent Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski, who soundly defeated her Republican challenger, Alan L. Keyes.
The fiery Mr. Keyes appeared to damage his chances early when it was disclosed he was paying himself $8,500 a month from his campaign treasury. Mr. Keyes said he needed the money to sustain himself against a well-financed incumbent. Pollsters said his standing suffered.
The abortion question was thought to be a major draw in yesterday's strong turnout. Clear, balmy weather that held throughout the day gave the voters yet another incentive.
"These machines have been filled with people since five after seven this morning," said Virginia Coyle, an election judge at the Ateaze Senior Center in Dundalk. "When one was out, another was in."
Similar reports came from polls across Maryland.
Many Marylanders were clearly determined to cast their votes this year, though some expressed frustrations with the process and their choices.
Elizabeth Nead, 43, a teacher at the Maryland Institute of Art, said she voted "out of desperation.
"I think this country is in a terrible state, and I think the economy is collapsing. I'm concerned. I voted for Clinton reluctantly. I think he's a smarmy politician, but I don't see another choice," she said.
Constance Bishop, 68, a retired government agency employee and registered Democrat, was more positive. She voted for Bill Clinton, seeing in him hope for a troubled time.
"I felt we needed change. The current administration doesn't understand what's happening to the average person," she said. As for President Bush's declaration that Mr. Clinton couldn't be trusted, she said:
"I didn't even consider that issue. This is not about one person's behavior, but what he'll bring to the office."
Marcus Tonti, 22, a waiter in a pizza parlor who voted at Chris Lutheran Church in Bethesda, also picked Mr. Clinton.
"I vote party line. I think Governor Clinton has better ideas in terms of health care and jobs. Republicans in general and President Bush in particular seem to be out of touch with Americans."
Ed DeYoung, 38, pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in #i Baltimore, took his 4-year-old son, Taylor, with him to the polls.
"I voted for Bush. I'm a little frightened of Bill Clinton because his experience is limited," he said. The minister said he considered Mr. Perot but was concerned about the Independent's running mate, Admiral James Stockdale, and about Mr. Perot's standing with foreign leaders.
Robert Rosin, a 41-year-old home builder from Bethesda and a registered Republican who voted for Mr. Bush in 1988, said he was undecided up to the last few days. He finally picked Mr. Clinton because of the Democrat's support of abortion rights and because of what he described as the president's ineffectiveness.
"I feel like Bush can't get anything done. I'd rather see something happen than nothing. I was so mixed up. I could have gone either direction. I don't believe in the Democratic ticket in general."
Mr. Rosin said the candidates' positions on abortion mattered to him in the presidential contest.
"It influenced my choice for president only because there was nothing else to hold on to."
A "Happy Days Are Here Again" crowd filled the Clinton campaign's headquarters at the Omni Hotel in downtown Baltimore. Each time another state was declared in the win column for Mr. Clinton, a roar erupted. The ballroom was filled with beer-drinking, chicken-eating revelers, elated that their party's candidate had won in Maryland after two losses in presidential elections.
"I knew it all the time, I had no doubts because of the turnout I saw. Democrats are for people, not an autocrat like Bush," said Shirley Robinson, 61, who worked the polls yesterday in College Park.