No 'bums' here

November 05, 1992

The earth didn't move. The bums weren't ousted. And changes in the state's congressional delegation weren't as dramatic as they may have seemed in the klieg lights of election night.

Yes, the Republicans did gain a seat. One might even argue they picked up two. Six months ago, after a bitter redistricting fight, the state's Democrats envisioned themselves controlling the delegation by 6-2 rather than their current 5-3. Even though Tom McMillen was being redistricted into the conservative Eastern Shore, the former professional basketball player had a big name and big money. And in Western Maryland, Del. Tom Hattery showed enough political skill to topple Beverly Byron, whose family members had represented that area in Washington for the better part of two generations. Candidates McMillen and Hattery stumbled Tuesday, however, and Maryland Republicans now balance Democrats in Congress, 4-4.

For all intents and purposes, though, the change isn't that dramatic: The 4th District, which Mr. McMillen now represents, was redrawn to give black voters a stronger voice and was won by Democrat state Sen. Albert Wynn, who certainly appears no more conservative than Mr. McMillen.

In the 1st District, the incumbent who beat Mr. McMillen, Republican Wayne Gilchrest, is pro-choice and more pro-environment than the Democrat. The one "ideological gain" for the Republicans came in the 6th District. Mrs. Byron was no liberal, but new Congressman Roscoe E. Bartlett came off as a rock-ribbed conservative in the campaign. His race was so distorted by mud slung from both sides, however, that the depth of his support remains to be seen.

For all the talk of incumbent backlash, the only candidate who came anywhere close to suffering from it was Steny Hoyer, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, who won the 5th District by 53 percent to 44 percent. Democrats Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume won handily in their Baltimore metropolitan districts, as did Republican Constance Morella in Montgomery County. And Helen Delich Bentley, spiritual leader of the state GOP, withstood a pounding over her work on behalf of Serbia in its war in Yugoslavia to win re-election.

As for U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who once feared she might have to run against Ms. Bentley, she breezed to a win. Tuesday may have ushered in a generational change in the presidency, but a watershed election for Maryland's congressional delegation? Hardly.

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