GOP's Bartlett credits part of his win to Byron's tacit support in 6th District ELECTION '92

November 05, 1992|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Unofficial results from election boardsStaff Writer Staff writer Tom Keyser contributed to this article.

It was one of the best moments of Roscoe Bartlett's life. At 66, having never held public office, the retired teacher and farmer had just won the 6th District congressional seat.

But instead of heading straight to his campaign headquarters in Frederick on Tuesday night, the Republican stopped off to thank the woman he would succeed -- Democratic incumbent Beverly B. Byron. Representative Byron lost a bitter primary battle to state Del. Thomas H. Hattery, who then fought a nasty campaign with Mr. Bartlett.

Mr. Bartlett attributed part of his victory to support from Mrs. Byron's followers and had kind words for the incumbent.

"The voters saw we represented more of the legacy she created here than our opponent did," he said.

Mr. Bartlett's decision to pay homage helps explain how he was able to win 54 percent of the vote and beat Mr. Hattery, 38, a three-term state delegate. Mr. Bartlett won the district -- which includes Carroll County, most of Howard County and all of Western Maryland -- with an unofficial vote of 119,684 to 100,753.

Mrs. Byron is a conservative Democrat whose family has held the 6th District seat since 1970. While she never came out publicly for Mr. Bartlett, she left little doubt as to where her sympathies lay. During the fall campaign, she criticized Mr. Hattery and at one point accused him of "scum-bag" tactics.

"Needless to say, all those things were very helpful," said Jim Lafferty, spokesman for Mr. Bartlett's campaign.

While watching election returns at Erni's Italian Kitchen in Frederick on Tuesday night, some Hattery supporters attributed their candidate's defeat to his failure to make amends with the incumbent.

"I didn't see a concerted effort to get those Byron Democrats on board," said Thomas Slater, chairman of the Frederick County Democratic Central Committee.

Mr. Hattery disagreed. He said that, after the primary, he publicly praised Mrs. Byron's contributions to the district. He said he did not directly contact her until August, because her colleagues told him she was still angry with him. When he finally spoke with her, she refused to meet.

"I did everything I knew to do," he said.

Mrs. Byron summed up the episode yesterday in one sentence: "It took him five months to call and ask to talk with me."

Other Hattery supporters said the back-to-back negative campaigns left voters with the impression that their candidate was a nastier campaigner than Mr. Bartlett.

"I think Tom lost his voice when he had to respond in kind to Bartlett's charges," said Robert J. Kresslein, a Frederick lawyer active in the county Democratic Party. "He didn't reach the people who were looking for change."

Mr. Hattery had tried to focus on the issue of job creation to appeal to Western Maryland counties with double-digit unemployment rates. The candidates, however, spent much of the fall campaign going after each other. The charges included failing to pay workers' compensation insurance coverage for employees; cheating on legislative expense accounts, lying about a World War II draft record; and trying to avoid cleaning up contaminated water.

Mr. Bartlett launched the first attack of the campaign, but with the legacy of the primary, Mr. Hattery admitted: "It still made it difficult for the perception to be anything but, 'Hattery's a negative campaigner.' "

Mr. Hattery attributed his loss to several other factors. The 6th District is the only one in Maryland where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats, if only by a few hundred. He also thought President Bush's coattails -- the president won the district 132,916 to 108,621 -- might have hurt him.

Mr. Bartlett said a coalition of Byron Democrats, pro-life voters and Ross Perot supporters was a key to his victory. His status as a political outsider who preached less government and fiscal conservatism may have also boosted him in a year when many sought new faces.

Mr. Bartlett said his opponent tried unsuccessfully to portray himself as a born-again conservative.

6TH DISTRICT TALLY

County.. .. .. .. ..Hattery.. .. .. .. ..Bartlett

Allegany.. .. .. ...11,297.. .. .. .. .. ..11,279

Carroll.. .. .. .. .22,015.. .. .. .. .. ..26,438

Frederick.. .. .. ..24,234.. .. .. .. .. ..34,763

Garrett.. .. .. .. ..2,934.. .. .. .. .. ...5,147

Howard.. .. .. .. ..25,097.. .. .. .. .. ..21,455

Wash... .. .. .. .. 15,176.. .. .. .. .. ..20,612

Totals.. .. .. .. .100,753.. .. .. .. .. .119,694

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