Tougher primary in second district

April 29, 1994

The road to the U.S. Congress just got bumpier for Gerry L. Brewster with the announced candidacy of Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis.

Mr. Brewster, a freshman state delegate from Towson, has generally been viewed as the front-runner in the Democratic primary for Maryland's Second Congressional District seat. The post became open when Republican Helen D. Bentley decided to run for governor this year.

Mr. Brewster had been expected -- by many observers and no doubt by himself -- to coast through the primary and then engage in a general-election war with the anticipated Republican nominee, second-term Del. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Cockeysville. A face-off between Mr. Brewster and Mr. Ehrlich, the thirtysomething legislators who went through the Gilman School and Princeton University together, is still likely. However, Mrs. DeJuliis' entry in the primary will force Mr. Brewster to spend more energy, money and political capital than he would have used against former Del. Barbara O. Kreamer of Aberdeen and other less-known Democratic hopefuls.

Mrs. DeJuliis, a first-term delegate from Dundalk, has noteworthy strengths. She can claim favorite daughter status on the vote-rich east side of Baltimore County. Her recent marriage to union official James R. "Ron" DeJuliis should help her, too, as she bids for the support of organized labor.

She will be a smart, aggressive opponent. In the process, she could nudge Mr. Brewster into a more centrist stance than might be advisable in this conservative district. The upshot might be that he would win the primary but emerge vulnerable to Republican Ehrlich, a true-blue conservative who should feel right at home on Mrs. Bentley's Baltimore County-Harford County turf.

On the plus side for Mr. Brewster, a rugged primary could make him stronger for the general campaign. His beliefs and his personality would be clearly defined, and his skin toughened, by a steady give-and-take with Mrs. DeJuliis. Winning a tough primary could send him toward November with momentum and enthusiasm, perhaps in contrast to an Ehrlich campaign that will be on cruise control through this summer.

As for voters, they can only benefit from having more of a choice in a primary runoff. The number of Democrats vying for the Second District seat is already at a healthy half-dozen, and the latest entry promises to make this a far more interesting contest than it was shaping up to be.

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