Maryland's Congressional Shuffle

November 05, 1992

For Maryland's Republican Party, buoyed by registration and election gains in recent years, Nov. 3 wasn't an Election Day to set to poetry.

Bill Clinton won the state with as great a share of the electorate as he received anywhere outside his native Arkansas and liberal DTC Washington, D.C. So when it came time to look for silver linings, Republicans turned to the congressional derby.

The GOP scored big wins in the conservative bookends that frame Maryland: In the 1st District, which covers the fiercely independent Eastern Shore and part of Anne Arundel County, Republican Wayne Gilchrest defeated Democrat Tom McMillen, 52 percent to 48 percent.

It was a nasty campaign, but not nearly as bad as the mud-slinging in Western Maryland's 6th District, where businessman Roscoe Bartlett beat Del. Tom Hattery, 54 to 46 percent.

Due to those two victories, Republicans now fill four seats in Maryland's congressional delegation, same as the Democrats. Technically, the GOP picked up one seat because the Democrats previously led the delegation, 5-3; theoretically, one could argue they gained two seats because last winter the Democrats couldn't imagine losses by the heavily funded Mr. McMillen or by Mr. Hattery, who had mettle enough to oust Beverly Byron, one of the first in Congress tossed out this year. (Ironically, his savaging of Mrs. Byron in March may have cost him the votes of her supporters Tuesday.)

It would be wrong for the GOP to take too much solace in the delegation shuffle, however. After a harshly negative campaign (matched by a similarly vicious one by his opponent), Mr. Bartlett must now demonstrate substance. And even though Rep. Helen Delich Bentley won by a commanding margin, some Democrats wonder if her strident defense of Serbia will become an Achilles heel if she persists in that vein.

Most other Maryland members of Congress proved their support was as solid as expected, from Republican Constance Morella to Democrats Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume. Steny Hoyer, the delegation's most traditional Democrat, won by a narrower margin than expected. Democratic state Sen. Albert Wynn won in a new, majority black district in suburban Washington.

Lastly, the GOP should be embarrassed by Democrat Barbara Mikulski's trouncing of Alan Keyes in the U.S. Senate race. It was a clear signal voters want the GOP to nominate more Maryland-oriented contenders when it comes to statewide office.

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