Front-Runners for Bentley's Seat

November 11, 1993

With Rep. Helen D. Bentley's decision yesterday to run for governor instead of reelection to Congress, a clash between two old friends looms in the upcoming Second District congressional campaign.

Robert Ehrlich and Gerry Brewster were classmates at Baltimore's Gilman School and then Princeton University. Both earned law degrees. Both represent Baltimore County in the House of Delegates, Republican Ehrlich since 1987 and Democrat Brewster since 1991. Both serve on the House Judiciary Committee. Both are young and loaded with the personal charms that often spell success in modern politics. And both have made no secret of their desire to run for Congress.

These prep school chums have been preparing for the day when Mrs. Bentley would step aside. At this early stage, they are the front-runners in their respective parties. They have long been charting plans, financially and otherwise, and can be expected to get off to aggressive starts.

For his part, Mr. Brewster can bank on the name, the counsel and the deep pockets of his father, former Sen. Daniel Brewster. Mr. Ehrlich may be less well-known, but he can point to a legislative record as a Judiciary Committee member noted for his sharp mind and his effort at forging compromises on complex issues.

Ironically, the Second District was redrawn under the direction of Gov. William Donald Schaefer for the benefit of his pal Mrs. Bentley. Tailor-made for her, it is staunchly Republican, with a Republican voting history and demographics that shout out Republicanism: a 92 percent white population, a median household income of $40,120, a median house value of $110,500.

Advantage, Mr. Ehrlich? It looks that way. No doubt the make-up of the district -- which includes Harford County, northern and eastern Baltimore County and the affluent part of northern Anne Arundel County -- explains why Mr. Brewster is touting such rock-ribbed conservative credentials as his membership in Ross Perot's United We Stand America and his friendship with tennis star and prominent Republican Pam Shriver.

Among other potential bidders for the district seat are previously unsuccessful congressional candidates Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Barbara O. Kreamer on the Democratic side, and Del. Martha Klima and Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, two Baltimore County Republican legislators. If any of them enter the race, they'll probably be aiming at a pair of front-runners named Ehrlich and Brewster.

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