Mr. Hoyer, Meet Mr. Morgan

March 31, 1995

There is no rest for Steny Hoyer. In 1992, the veteran Democratic Congressman from Prince George's County had to fight off a stern challenge from Republican Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. Last year, Mr. Hoyer survived another strong GOP contender, but lost his subcommittee chairmanship when Republicans won control of Congress. Next year, he could be in for a third tough race if two things occur: The electorate's mood remains conservative and Republican Del. John S. Morgan of Laurel tries to unseat him.

The former is probable, the latter still just a possibility. Mr. Morgan, a 31-year-old Johns Hopkins physicist, has named a committee to explore his prospects for a run against the Democrat. This is no ordinary collection of Main Street lawyers and bankers, either. It includes Republican Maryland Reps. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Roscoe G. Bartlett; 1994 gubernatorial nominee Ellen R. Sauerbrey; House of Delegates Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman of Howard County, and state Sen. Martin G. Madden of Howard. Such a group should ensure that Mr. Morgan lacks neither advice nor a sizable campaign chest, though he will probably need the cash more than the counsel.

The delegate, who lives in Prince George's but whose district includes part of Howard, could be a formidable candidate for reasons other than friends in high places. He is ambitious and smart. Early in his second term in Annapolis, he is already known as a floor leader for the minority party. Mr. Morgan also is very conservative, which should play well in the new Fifth Congressional District. Redrawn in 1991 so that it is now more rural and less traditionally Democratic, the district embraces the southern portions of Prince George's and Anne Arundel, plus Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties.

By no means, however, should anyone start preparing Steny Hoyer's bunk at the old congressmen's home. He's a relentless and pragmatic campaigner. The 55-year-old Democrat has used the power of incumbency wisely, impressing once skeptical Southern Marylanders with his ability to steer federal dollars to local projects. And when his district became more conservative, he reacted with a rightward tilt on issues such as the balanced budget amendment. He can be expected to broadcast his record of constituent service and certain conservative votes in Congress when the '96 campaign rolls around -- especially if his opponent is someone as ambitious as Mr. Morgan.

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