Quixotic challengers taking on entrenched incumbents They face uphill battles in bids to join U.S. House

November 01, 1998|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- If Maryland voters want to turn away from conventional politicians in this year's elections, they'll have plenty of choices in the congressional races.

Among the contestants who emerged triumphant from the Sept. 15 primaries are a pager salesman who fancies himself a mystery writer, a drug abuse counselor and a farmer with a grudge against developers.

Then there's Colin Felix Harby, a retired design engineer who was quaffing a beer at an Irish pub this summer while watching a political program on television, and decided to run against Baltimore-area Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin.

"I told my boy and a couple of the people, and they got a good chuckle out of it," said Harby, 72, a Republican.

Far outmatched by incumbents in funds and name recognition, these challengers are soldiering on toward Tuesday's election. Most are spending just a few thousand dollars in campaigns given little chance of success. Even Democrat Ralph G. Neas, a civil rights activist who has raised more than $600,000 in hopes of unseating GOP Rep. Constance A. Morella of Montgomery County, is considered a clear underdog.

More established political figures, such as state legislators, have avoided the congressional contests this year.

All four Democrats and four Republicans representing Maryland in the House are seeking additional two-year terms this fall.

No incumbent Maryland representative has been defeated since 1992, when two members of Congress lost. But this year's challengers are undaunted by the odds.

Republican John B. Kimble, who seeks to unseat Democratic Rep. Albert R. Wynn of Prince George's County, said he would consider other states to represent in Congress should he lose: "For 2000, I've been thinking about Virginia and Pennsylvania."

Then there's Kenneth T. Bosley, a retired Air Force officer and farmer who is upset with the way his family's old property has been developed. He said he can beat GOP Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who is a lawyer, because "there's so many people out there who are anti-lawyers."

Here are the races:

1st District. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, 52, a four-term Eastern Shore Republican, is a fiscal conservative who was the first Maryland member of Congress to call for President Clinton's resignation this fall. But he has also supported stronger environmental protection and tighter campaign finance laws, against the wishes of his party's leaders.

Irving Pinder, 48, a state official and former Queenstown town commissioner, argues that Gilchrest has been pulled rightward by the Republican majority, citing votes Gilchrest has cast for GOP tax cut proposals that Pinder says would harm the Social Security trust fund and a health care reform package that would limit how much patients suing their health maintenance organizations could receive in damages.

2nd District. Ehrlich was swept into Congress as part of the new Republican majority elected in 1994. An energetic campaigner, Ehrlich, 40, is expected to have no trouble dispatching Bosley, 68. In fact, Ehrlich is already eyeing a Senate bid in 2000, even as he has joined the House Republican leadership as a junior whip.

3rd District. Cardin, 55, a Baltimore-area Democrat and former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates first elected to Congress in 1986, is prized by colleagues for his thoughtful approach to issues. This term, he has been intensely involved in Democratic efforts to shape health care policy. But he also co-authored, with GOP Rep. Rob Portman of Ohio, the Internal Revenue Service reform bill signed into law earlier this year.

Opponent Harby, who favors term limits, argues that the nation would be better served without career politicians.

4th District. Kimble, 38, has a rematch against Wynn, 47, a Democrat. In 1996, Wynn won 85 percent of the vote in his majority black district, which includes most of Prince George's and part of Montgomery County. Kimble, who has sold pagers and telephone equipment, said he is at work on a murder mystery novel.

5th District. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, 59, a nine-term Democrat from Southern Maryland, has won fans in his conservative-leaning district by the aggressive pursuit of federal spending for military facilities and other projects. He has also raised more than $800,000 to ward off the challenge of GOP candidate Robert B. Ostrom, 54, formerly the chief attorney for the Prince George's County government.

6th District. Three-term GOP Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Frederick, 72, the most conservative Marylander in Congress, is a champion of the military who wrote a law to ban pornographic material from being sold at bases. His opponent, Timothy D. McCown, 48, a drug abuse counselor, has raised less than $5,000 to unseat Bartlett, who took 56 percent of the vote in his last re-election bid.

7th District. Baltimore Democrat Elijah E. Cummings, 47, won his seat in a special election to succeed Kweisi Mfume in 1996 over GOP candidate Kenneth Kondner, 56, a dental technician who is again challenging Cummings. A consistent liberal vote, Cummings was a member of the House committee that shaped a controversial $200 million transportation bill, allowing him to claim $31 million worth of pet projects for his district.

8th District. Morella, 67, a six-term representative who is one of the most liberal Republicans in Congress, finds a lively opponent in Neas, 52, a former Senate aide. Yet Neas faces the risk of being seen as a Washington insider who happens to live in the Maryland suburbs. A well-liked advocate of federal employees, Morella has also become a lead congressional figure in addressing the year 2000 computer problem.

Pub Date: 11/01/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.