Md. delegate launches bid for Congress Conservative Republican Morgan hopes to unseat Hoyer in 5th District

October 07, 1995|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

State Del. John S. Morgan, a conservative Republican from Prince George's County, is officially kicking off his congressional campaign today with a daylong tour of Maryland's 5th District -- a bid for a seat the GOP believes it can capture next year.

Mr. Morgan, 31, a physicist from Laurel, has made no secret of his intentions of running next year against Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a once-powerful Democratic member of the House who is viewed as vulnerable by the Republicans.

"Since I cannot outspend Steny Hoyer, I'm going to outwork him and have an organization that'll outwork him," Mr. Morgan said. He said he has established a grass-roots network in the district, which includes parts of Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Howard counties, and all of Calvert, St. Mary's and Charles counties.

While the second-term legislator may face opposition in the Republican primary March 5, he appears to have done his homework in lining up support among GOP elected officials and activists.

Among his supporters is Del. Robert H. Kittleman, the Maryland House minority leader from Howard County, who believes that Mr. Hoyer is the most vulnerable of the state's four Democratic congressmen -- no matter who walks away with the GOP nomination.

"The last redistricting gave Steny a much tougher district," Mr. Kittleman said. "He lost an awful lot of that solidly Democratic base around Washington, where no Republican had a chance before."

Among party leaders also throwing support behind Mr. Morgan are the Maryland Senate minority leader, state Sen. John A. Cade of Anne Arundel County; Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who ran for governor last year, and former Rep. Marjorie S. Holt, from the state's old 4th District.

Mr. Morgan said he will run on a platform of reducing the size, cost and reach of the U.S. government.

He also plans to make a flat tax proposal one of the key points of his campaign. The elimination of tax deductions -- outside of mortgage interest on primary residences and charitable contributions -- will reduce the influence of special interests on Capitol Hill seeking tax breaks, he said.

Efforts to reach Mr. Hoyer, 56, a Prince George's County member of Congress since 1981 and a former president of the Maryland Senate, were unsuccessful. In the past, Mr. Hoyer has declined to comment on next November's general election until after the GOP nominee emerges.

While many Republicans are betting on Mr. Morgan, one political observer believes that Mr. Hoyer will take nothing for granted because of a close race in 1992 against Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.

"He's had his exposure to political mortality," said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at Western Maryland College. "Steny had his scare in 1992, and he's going to be running his full-court-press campaign.

"The smart money's got to be on the incumbent," Mr. Smith said. Nevertheless, he added, "I think the race is going to be competitive."

Even Morgan supporters, such as Prince George's County Councilwoman Audrey E. Scott, conceded that a race against Mr. Hoyer will be difficult.

"The value of the incumbency is worth millions of dollars," said Ms. Scott, who lost to Mr. Hoyer by 7,000 votes in a 1981 special election for the 5th District seat.

"But if anyone can do it, John can do it," said Ms. Scott.

One Republican who is watching the Morgan candidacy very closely is Mr. Hogan, who has still not ruled out a bid.

Another name being mentioned as possible competition for Mr. Morgan in the GOP primary is Robert B. Ostrom, who ran unsuccessfully for Prince George's County executive last year.

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