A member of the U.S. House of Representatives has to be able to deal with a basic contradiction. Public sentiment may occasionally rise against incumbents, but the whole internal House system of committee assignments is based on seniority that assumes political longevity.
The end result in Maryland, as elsewhere, is that any talented politician, after having won initially, tends to become a Washington fixture and gain power.
The story of Wayne T. Gilchrest is a splendid illustration. In 1980, the house painter and sometime teacher defeated Democratic incumbent Rep. Roy Dyson. Two years later, he beat Rep. Tom McMillen, a popular Democrat who had been redistricted out of his initial power base. Thus solidified, Mr. Gilchrest seems well-positioned for a long career.
Certainly the choice Nov. 8 is clear. Mr. Gilchrest, a moderate Republican, is far superior to Ralph T. Gies, an Anne Arundel County accountant and a Democrat so conservative that his own party's state leadership refuses to support him.
In a Congress where debate frequently degenerates into partisan sniping, Mr. Gilchrest has exuded pragmatism. He overcame partisanship to vote for a compromise on President Clinton's crime bill, voted for lobbyist reforms and joined with Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski to fight construction of an incinerator to burn Aberdeen Proving Ground's stockpile of mustard agent.
He resides on the Eastern Shore, but he has not neglected the rest of his First District. Mr. Gilchrest is our strong choice.
In the Third District, our equally hearty endorsement goes to Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who is seeking re-election to the fifth term.
At 51, Mr. Cardin has established an impressive career, first in the Maryland General Assembly and since 1986 in Congress. His membership on the influential House Ways and Means Committee and deep personal interest in health-care matters make him a most valuable player.
Rep. Kweisi Mfume, also first elected in 1986, is another Washington success story.
The 46-year-old one-time radio disk jockey and Baltimore City Council member has steadily grown in national stature to chair the Congressional Black Caucus. He merits re-election in the Seventh District, which is based in Baltimore City but now also includes much of western Baltimore County.