Experience counts on election day March 5 primary: Legislative background gives candidates an edge in Congress.

March 02, 1996

CONNIE DEJULIIS remembers the moment. In Annapolis, Del. Elijah E. Cummings was giving a heart-rending speech for gun control. That speech carried the day, but it did not sway Delegate DeJuliis. Although she was deeply touched by Mr. Cummings' painful recollections of crime in urban Baltimore, she still opposed the bill.

This incident illustrates why past legislative experience is so important in congressional elections. Being confronted in Annapolis with tough options that leave you torn as to which path to follow prepares you for Congress.

Mrs. DeJuliis, our choice in the 2nd District Democratic primary Tuesday, went through this soul-searching many times in her four years in Annapolis. Balancing the interests of competing groups or competing ideas is never easy. A legislator learns decisions aren't black or white, but come in subtle shades of grey.

Still, a good legislator sticks by his or her convictions on bedrock issues. Thus, Mrs. DeJuliis remained opposed to gun control just as Mr. Cummings, whom we support in the 7th District Democratic primary, stood steadfast in trying to curb handgun violence. While we agreed with Mr. Cummings' position, we respected Mrs. DeJuliis' thoughtful dissent.

In an earlier editorial, some of Mrs. DeJuliis' positions were misrepresented. We stand corrected. She is a foe of gun control. Her voting record is one of a moderate-to-conservative Democrat, not a liberal. She supported business' position on bills 59 percent of the time, according to one rating group. On balancing the federal budget she feels cuts must be made, but with common sense.

Those with past legislative service are often difficult to categorize. Mrs. DeJuliis, for instance, tried to be helpful to both business and labor in Annapolis. Mr. Cummings, a well-respected member of the House leadership, has learned to balance his urban district's needs with the interests of rural and suburban delegates. Both of them know the endgame is good legislation that benefits Maryland.

Two other candidates we support also have legislative expertise: Del. John S. Morgan, a Republican running in the 5th District, and former Del. Patrick L. McDonough, a Republican running in the 3rd District.

When voters go to the polls, they should look carefully at the backgrounds of congressional candidates. In lawmaking, experience counts.

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