In a race that has split moderate and conservative Republicans, 1st District congressional opponents Wayne T. Gilchrest and David Fischer - along with their supporters in rival GOP organizations - are spending unprecedented amounts for radio and television ads in a last-minute push before Tuesday's primary election.
Gilchrest, a six-term incumbent who has not faced serious opposition in a decade, is setting what his staff calls a "high water" mark for fund-raising in the district .
Much of that money - $275,000 according to the most recent campaign finance reports - has gone for radio and television spots featuring endorsements from President Bush and Maryland gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
One 30-second spot on television stations in Baltimore and Salisbury quotes a letter of endorsement from Bush, then includes a voice-over by Ehrlich, who calls Gilchrest a "thoughtful, reasoned voice on key conservative issues."
Gilchrest, 56, also is getting help from the Republican Main Street Partnership, a coalition of congressional moderates. Independent of the Gilchrest campaign, the group has spent $70,000 on television ads and plans a get-out-the-vote mailing for "one of our own" in the next few days.
One television ad attempts to counter Fischer's charges that Gilchrest is too liberal for the district by emphasizing Gilchrest's background as a Marine infantryman who won a Purple Heart in Vietnam and his support for tax cuts.
Fischer, 32, a lawyer from Baltimore County, has spent more than $250,000 of his own money in his first bid for public office. He is getting help from the conservative Club for Growth, a Washington-based group that says Gilchrest is too liberal.
In a radio and television effort than began Saturday, the group ends each spot with a tag line that characterizes Gilchrest as "shockingly liberal" or a "Bill Clinton Republican." One ad has a Bill Clinton sound-alike.
Stephen Moore, executive director of Club for Growth, said that the organization's polling shows Gilchrest "with a pretty big lead, but that informed voters are more likely to support Fischer. Consequently, the TV and radio campaign is aimed at "informing voters about Gilchrest's voting record."
Fischer will continue radio ads on WBAL in Baltimore, as well as talk radio and Christian stations on the Eastern Shore, said campaign spokesman David Talley.
"We're trying to focus our money on our base - people who are informed on current events, religious people, gun owners," Talley said.
The 1st District includes all nine counties of the Eastern Shore, as well as parts of Anne Arundel, Harford and Baltimore counties.