Hoyer's recipe for re-election? Fifth District: While challenger likes red meat, incumbent knows pork is healthy.

June 05, 1996

MARYLAND DEMOCRATS apparently believe the Second Congressional District may be their best chance for unseating an incumbent, hoping that dissatisfaction with Newt Gingrich has softened support for one of the House speaker's star pupils, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

State Republicans, however, have long had their eyes on another district that they think is ripe for the taking: the Fifth District seat held for eight terms by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer.

Even before the '94 Republican revolution, GOP leaders sensed that Mr. Hoyer was vulnerable. He had already weathered a couple of tough challenges. Too, his district was becoming more conservative, partly because its boundaries had been redrawn after the '90 Census to encompass less of urban Prince George's, more of rural Southern Maryland.

Moreover, a brash, young ideologue named John S. Morgan, who had made a name for himself representing Prince George's and Howard counties as a Republican in the state House of Delegates, was raring to take Mr. Hoyer on.

A funny thing happened on the way to the upset, however: The radical-right demagogy preached by Mr. Gingrich in Washington and Mr. Morgan in Annapolis doesn't seem the crowd-pleaser it was a year ago. And Mr. Hoyer, whose survival instincts a Navy SEAL would admire, has steered his voting record rightward as he has continued to bring home the bacon for the local defense industry.

Just last month, the state unveiled big plans to expand roads and college programs to feed the growth of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Mary's County. Pax River will add 5,000 jobs for highly skilled workers over the next three years, which could spin off another 7,000 jobs in the private sector, economic development officials estimate. "There is not a community in America that would not kill. . . for these kinds of jobs," Mr. Hoyer crowed at the press conference.

Perhaps Southern Maryland's defense workers, along with their commuter neighbors in what has become another extension of suburban Washington, will be swayed by Mr. Morgan's staunchly conservative philosophy. But red meat rhetoric is going to have a tough time competing at the buffet table in November with the sweet smell of pork.

Pub Date: 6/05/96

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