State's incumbents leading challengers Md. race for Congress easier for those who live in district all year

Campaign 1996

November 04, 1996|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

Maryland congressmen have one of the great home-court advantages in U.S. politics. Living just an hour or two from Washington, they can commute home each night and remind constituents that they are in touch with their everyday concerns.

"It's really hard to beat a Maryland incumbent because they are always in the district," said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at Western Maryland College.

Geography is just one of many disadvantages challengers must overcome tomorrow if they hope to win a seat in Congress. Maryland's House members are generally running competent, well-financed campaigns, leaving opponents with uphill battles. Facing tough odds, Democratic hopefuls are praying for a Clinton landslide to sweep them into office.

This year, the field of aspiring lawmakers includes one current and two former state legislators, a pair of college teachers, a former adviser for the State Department, a dental technician and a fringe candidate who has offered to pose for Playgirl in an attempt to raise campaign money.

The contest that has attracted the most attention this fall has been for Maryland's 2nd District, which includes most of Baltimore County, Harford County and a small part of Anne Arundel County. Former state Del. Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis, a Democrat from Glen Arm, is trying to unseat freshman Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Timonium, who is regarded as a rising star in the state GOP.

The race mirrors many around the country. DeJuliis, 50, who is heavily backed by labor money, has tried to portray Ehrlich, a 38-year-old former state delegate, as a disciple of unpopular House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Beyond their rhetoric, the two have significant disagreements on issues. DeJuliis, who is married to a local labor leader, says she supported raising the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.15. Ehrlich, an attorney who has compiled a conservative record in Washington, voted against the increase, arguing that it would force small businesses to cut jobs.

Ehrlich has gained fame in the district by vigorously opposing the settlement of a federal lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union that will move thousands of poor minorities from public housing in Baltimore to more affluent, largely white suburbs.

"You should not have federal housing policy made by judges and unelected groups like the American Civil Liberties Union," Ehrlich said recently.

DeJuliis has also opposed the settlement.

In Southern Maryland, one of Ehrlich's former State House colleagues, GOP Del. John S. Morgan, has run an aggressive campaign to oust eight-term Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, who represents Maryland's 5th District.

Morgan, a boyish-looking, 32-year-old engineer from Laurel, is an ideological conservative who opposes abortion and gun control while supporting term limits, tax cuts and smaller government.

Hoyer, 57, of Mechanicsville is a polished, pragmatic Democratic leader on Capitol Hill who favors abortion rights and gun control while opposing term limits.

Hoyer's position on abortion could hurt him in conservative Southern Maryland. However, he has a huge fund-raising advantage over Morgan and has won constituents' loyalty by helping to bring thousands of federal jobs to the district, which includes most of Prince George's County and southern Anne Arundel County.

Western Maryland, like Southern Maryland, is conservative, only more so. And that is one of the major challenges Democrat Stephen Crawford faces as he tries to knock off Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett and take the state's 6th District seat.

Crawford, 53, of Frederick is a lecturer in public policy at the University of Maryland College Park and a self-described "centrist." He supported raising the minimum wage and backs ** abortion rights.

Bartlett, 70, a farmer, former scientist and inventor also from Frederick, is one of the most conservative members of the House. He opposes abortion, supported a repeal of the federal assault-weapons ban and helped pass a bill this term to ban adult magazines such as Penthouse from military exchanges.

Bartlett won a second term in 1994 with 66 percent of the vote.

In liberal Montgomery County, Democratic candidate Donald L. Mooers Jr. of Kensington is asking residents to reject popular Republican Constance A. Morella in order to get rid of Gingrich. Mooers, 36, a former senior adviser in the State Department, argues that in a tight race for control of the House, every seat will count.

"If you want Newt Gingrich, vote for my opponent," Mooers said.

He makes much of the fact that Morella signed the GOP's "Contract with America." But Morella, a 65-year-old political independent from Bethesda, opposed more measures in the contract than any other Maryland Republican representative.

Moreover, her pleasant personality has helped make her one of the state's most beloved politicians. She has won with 70 percent of the vote or more in the past two elections.

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