Morgan thinking about bid to unseat Hoyer in 1996

THE POLITICAL GAME

January 25, 1995|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

Although many pols and political junkies are still recovering from the election year that would not die, some Republicans are already back on the war drums, looking ahead to 1996.

Del. John S. Morgan, the Republican rocket scientist from Howard County, is seriously eyeing a bid against Democrat Steny H. Hoyer for Maryland's 5th District congressional seat.

In fact, encouraged by GOP loyalists, the baby-faced 31-year-old from Laurel is forming an exploratory committee to look at the political reality of trying to topple the eight-term congressman and assess the cost of making such a run.

"We have to start early if we want to get anywhere, especially against somebody as entrenched as Steny Hoyer," said Mr. Morgan, a physicist with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Columbia.

And an early start could boost his chances by allowing him to ride November's GOP tide that has left Capitol Hill awash with Republicans.

The conservative Mr. Morgan will be among them this year, on a congressional fellowship sponsored by the American Physical Society, the professional society for physicists -- a little exposure to the inner workings of the Hill that couldn't hurt.

For Mr. Morgan, a run in 1996 would be a free ride in that he would not have to give up his seat in the House of Delegates. He won that handily in November with 57 percent of the vote over Democratic challenger John Giannetti Jr.

Much of Mr. Morgan's legislative District 13B lies in Mr. Hoyer's home base of Prince George's County and the rest is in Howard County. But less than 10 percent of his state district overlaps the conservative 5th Congressional District, which encompasses all of Calvert, St. Mary's and Charles counties, in addition to parts of Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

Mr. Hoyer, 55, until November the fourth-ranking member of the House leadership, declined to comment on the challenge.

But Jesse L. Jacobs, his press secretary, sniffed that the congressman is "paying attention to the concerns of the constituents in the 5th District, including those up in Laurel," instead of looking ahead to re-election.

"The legislative session just got under way, and it would certainly behoove the freshman delegate to pay attention to the concerns of his legislature," Mr. Jacobs said.

Actually, Mr. Morgan is not a freshman, having first been elected to the Maryland House in 1990.

"Steny's not going to address a possible candidate in a Republican primary" next year, Mr. Jacobs countered.

Mr. Hoyer narrowly escaped defeat in 1992 by Republican Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., taking only 53 percent of the vote in a then-newly drawn district, parts of which were unfamiliar and unfriendly.

Last year, when Mr. Hoyer seemed even more vulnerable, Mr. Hogan surprised Republicans by deciding not to run, though he said he would consider a bid in 1996. So in November Mr. Hoyer bucked the trend toward Republicans by capturing 59 percent of the vote in a contest with Donald J. Devine, a former Reagan personnel director.

Now, the liberal Mr. Hoyer seems to sense the winds of change and has taken a more conservative tack. Last Friday, for instance, he was one of 66 Democrats who endorsed the essentially GOP proposal for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

"He thought we could do it [without the amendment] and then realized we could not," Mr. Jacobs said. "It has been a realization that we cannot continue to spend more than we can pay for."

Is Steny hearing footsteps in Laurel?

"I think my political views . . . play very well in Southern Maryland and Anne Arundel County," Mr. Morgan said. "Obviously, they are very conservative areas."

Obviously.

Tom Marr hits the Hill

Tom Marr, a talk show host on Baltimore's WCBM, will broadcast from the basement of the U.S. Capitol today.

"We're just going to get some news," Mr. Marr said. "The liberal media is preoccupied with the Democrat war on [House Speaker] Newt Gingrich, and we're going to concentrate on what's actually going on."

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