Gies must try to topple Gilchrest with no help from party bigwigs CAMPAIGN 1994 CONGRESS 1ST DISTRICT

September 24, 1994|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Eastern Shore Bureau of The Sun

EASTON -- Ralph T. Gies, the ultraconservative who surprised party regulars with a victory in the 1st Congressional District's Democratic primary, won't be getting any help from party brass in the general election.

Arguing that the 69-year-old accountant's views aren't consistent with party positions, top Democrats say they'll stay out of his campaign to unseat incumbent Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest.

"This man's on his own," said Ralph Gervasio, acting executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party. "We can't support him because of his views, and we're not going to make any overtures to him."

Mr. Gies, who has strong conservative positions on such issues as abortion and school prayer, yesterday said he was disappointed with the decision. But the political neophyte, who has never held an elec- tive office, quickly tried to turn the party's rejection to his advantage.

"We're more conservative in the 1st District than they are in Baltimore," he said in a prepared statement aimed at the party's headquarters in the city. "Do they worry that the people of the 1st District might soon be represented in Congress by someone who actually reflects their views and not the views of the Baltimore political establishment?"

Mr. Gies won the Sept. 13 primary with 39 percent of the vote, beating Steven R. Eastaugh, the favorite, by more than 1,000 votes.

Mr. Gies, who lives in Anne Arundel County, conceded that his surprise victory may have been due to voters' geographical loyalty. Among the three candidates, the Anne Arundel County resident was the only one from the Western Shore. The 1st District covers the entire Eastern Shore, part of Anne Arundel County and a small area of Baltimore City.

Gies campaigners said they are trying to assemble grass-roots support among the district's voters. Caught unprepared for a general election campaign, Mr. Gies has been traveling on the Eastern Shore to familiarize himself with voters' concerns, said campaign spokesman Mark Conroy.

Without a candidate whom they are willing to back in the election, Mr. Gervasio said, party officials may have to wait until the 1996 elections to capture the office Mr. Gilchrest has held for two terms.

"We'd love to have a Democrat in that seat, but a real Democrat," he said. "It may be that Mr. Gilchrest will be the winner this time."

Mr. Gervasio said the Democratic Party routinely embraces conservative members, but Mr. Gies is "an anomaly" whose "extreme" views and lack of participation in local party efforts have made him unattractive.

James Brown, a Caroline County Democrat who finished last in the congressional primary, said yesterday he is backing Mr. Gies. "I don't have any problem with him," he said. "The party's been too damn liberal for too damn long.

Mr. Brown said he is not pleased that party leadership is snubbing the nominee. "Pretty undemocratic, don't you think?" he asked.

Over in the Gilchrest campaign, workers were keeping a straight face about the infighting.

"We're just watching this unfold," said campaign manager Tony Caligiuri. "We don't take anyone for granted, even if the Democratic Party [leadership] doesn't support him."

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