DeJuliis blames loss on power of incumbency Ehrlich says voters in 2nd District simply 'want conservative view'

Election 1996

November 07, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

In the end, Democrat Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis didn't come close in her bid for the 2nd District congressional seat -- not even as close as one of her most vociferous political foes had predicted.

Despite a well-financed, union-backed campaign to unseat Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., she captured less than the 40 percent that Baltimore County Councilman Louis L. DePazzo, a rival Dundalk Democrat and Ehrlich supporter, thought she would.

And despite her Dundalk roots and appeal to workers, she did no better against Ehrlich than former Del. Gerry L. Brewster of Towson did in 1994.

Yesterday, DeJuliis questioned unofficial election board figures showing her with 38 percent of the vote; she thought she had 42 percent. But she says it was ultimately the power of incumbency that did her in.

"It's extraordinarily difficult for a challenger to run against an incumbent. He's got built-in name recognition," she said.

To combat that and compete, she added, "you need money and exposure. It's hard to cut through all the clutter."

Ehrlich had more money to start with and could afford to begin television advertising earlier, she said.

As DeJuliis spent precious months raising money and trying to gain recognition with voters to define her image, Ehrlich threatened to give Maryland's Democratic governor "a [political] bloody nose" and attacked "big labor bosses in Washington, D.C."

Ehrlich and others said the district -- covering Harford, eastern and northern Baltimore County, and a small portion of Anne Arundel -- was designed to fit a Republican and a conservative. Add to that Ehrlich's charm, good looks and polished but folksy, Baltimore-accented speaking style, and he is a formidable opponent, area politicians said.

Despite the results, DeJuliis said, "I would not have done anything differently. We developed a plan, and we carried it out."

She said her issues -- preserving Medicare and advocating for struggling families -- resonated with many voters who spoke with her. "I'm disappointed, but I'm disappointed for the people," she said.

DeJuliis won most Dundalk precincts, but sometimes by narrow margins. She lost in traditionally Democratic areas farther north in Baltimore County, and Ehrlich built a 20,000-vote margin in Harford and took the Anne Arundel section by more than 4,000 votes.

Her largest victories -- by 400 votes each -- in precincts on the North Point peninsula didn't come close to matching Ehrlich's victory margins in his strongholds.

For example, Ehrlich won by a 3-1 ratio -- a margin of 800 votes -- at the Long Green Volunteer Fire Company near Glen Arm, where DeJuliis voted.

Other Baltimore County politicians say DeJuliis should have spent more time last spring and summer knocking on doors, getting publicity to build awareness and excitement.

Meanwhile, they said, she should have pounded her message, which included linking Ehrlich's voting record to that of House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

"He's got a lot going for him," state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, a Democrat, said of Ehrlich. "You can't beat the guy. You have to beat Newt Gingrich."

County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder and state Sen. Michael J. Collins said they thought more aggressive street campaigning might have helped DeJuliis.

"It seemed like after the primary and early in the summer, both campaigns were invisible," said Bartenfelder, a Democrat. "But he's the incumbent."

DeJuliis and Ehrlich dismissed such tactical hindsight.

"We can all do Monday morning quarterbacking," DeJuliis said.

Ehrlich said he felt that tactical changes would not have changed the outcome by more than a percentage point or two.

He gave a simple reason for his convincing victory: "The majority of people in this district want a conservative view."

Polls showed that he was comfortably ahead throughout the race, giving him the freedom to set his own agenda and control more of the campaign's tone, he said.

He ignored conventional wisdom that says a favored incumbent should keep a low profile and avoid mistakes. Being aggressive and seeking frequent debates helped defuse the image of him that DeJuliis and national Democrats were trying to paint, Ehrlich said.

Maryland congressional seats

* denotes incumbent

DISTRICT 1

262 of 262 precincts - 100%

Wayne T. Gilchrest, GOP * -- 124,687 - 61 percent

Steven R. Eastaugh, Dem -- 78,865 - 39 percent

DISTRICT 2

170 of 170 precincts - 100%

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., GOP * -- 137,746 - 62 percent

Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis, Dem -- 85,526 - 38 percent

DISTRICT 3

238 of 238 precincts - 100%

Benjamin L. Cardin, Dem * -- 122,353 - 67 percent

Patrick L. McDonough, GOP -- 60,243 - 33 percent

DISTRICT 4

151 of 151 precincts - 100%

Albert R. Wynn, Dem * -- 137,100 - 85 percent

John Kimble, GOP 23,373 - 15 percent

DISTRICT 5

171 of 171 precincts - 100%

Steny H. Hoyer, Dem * -- 116,611 - 57 percent

John S. Morgan, GOP -- 88,111 - 43 percent

DISTRICT 6

228 of 228 precincts - 100%

Roscoe G. Bartlett, GOP * -- 127,415 - 57 percent

Stephen Crawford, Dem -- 96,592 - 43 percent

DISTRICT 7

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