Not Yet a Two-Party State

November 09, 1992

After picking up one congressional seat and holding onto another hotly contested one, Maryland's Republican leaders might be satisfied with the election results here. They shouldn't be.

The future of the Republican party in Maryland does not rest on nibbling away at Democratic offices here and there. Not if it is to be a fruitful future. For the GOP to become a serious factor in Maryland politics it needs to win state-wide offices. For it to win state-wide offices it needs credible candidates. It did not have one in Alan Keyes, who was soundly defeated by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, just it has not had one since the retirement of Sen. Charles McC. Mathias in 1986.

For all his admirable qualities -- and he had several, including the potential to raise the average I.Q. of the U.S. Senate significantly -- Mr. Keyes was not a suitable candidate to represent Maryland on Capitol Hill. Neither were Linda Chavez, Senator Mikulski's opponent six years ago, nor William S. Shepard, who ran against Gov. William Donald Schaefer two years ago. Each was a Washingtonian who happened to live in a Maryland suburb, with a national agenda and little experience in Maryland affairs. Certainly Maryland wants to send to Congress legislators who will earn national stature and not just serve the state's narrow, parochial interests. But first they must really understand the state, its people and its needs, and that requires having roots here.

Potential Republican candidates might be forgiven for reluctance to bloody their heads on overwhelming Democratic majorities were it not for recent political history. Several Democrats who might have made strong candidates for the presidency decided to sit out the 1992 election because George Bush looked invincible a year ago. Bill Clinton was not daunted, and he will be inaugurated in January while better known, more experienced Democrats scramble for seats at the ceremony.

On paper many of the issues that continue to roil the political waters are traditionally Republican issues, not Democratic. The GOP simply needs credible candidates with clear programs who know how to communicate with the state's voters to transform Maryland into a two-party state.

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