In 1st, Kratovil a household name

Long campaign leads to familiar face

Election 2008

November 03, 2008|By Matthew Hay Brown | Matthew Hay Brown,matthew.brown@baltsun.com

SALISBURY - The campaign for the 1st Congressional District has gone on so long, voters are beginning to see Frank Kratovil coming.

"I know who you are," Abbey Cole said as the Democratic candidate approached her family at the Golden Star Restaurant and Diner yesterday. He got the same reception from Beryl Whaley at the next table.

"We're talking to voters and reminding people to get out and vote on Tuesday," Kratovil, the state's attorney for Queen Anne's County, said of the theme for his final weekend day of campaigning. But to judge from reactions first at the First Baptist Church of Salisbury and later at the Golden Star, the voters need no reminding.

The state's most competitive House race, which pits Kratovil against Baltimore County Republican state Sen. Andy Harris for the seat now held by Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, has been a staple of news coverage on the Eastern Shore. Advertisements for and against the candidates have aired at all hours in the district, which combines the Shore with parts of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

Kratovil traversed the district yesterday, reaching out to voters and reinforcing the themes in advertising that has cost him and his supporters millions.

Cole, an independent, said she was planning to vote for Kratovil even before meeting him.

"He's from here, first of all, rather than somewhere else," the Quantico homemaker said as her husband, Chris, nodded in agreement. "I also support the fact that he is for the environment." Gilchrest expressed both thoughts when he crossed party lines to endorse Kratovil and agreed to appear in television ads for him.

Whaley, a Republican, was friendly to Kratovil. But she said she did not plan to vote for him because she is opposed to abortion rights, which Kratovil supports, and because she is concerned that Kratovil would raise taxes on small businesses.

Her husband, meanwhile, expressed concern about Democrats dominating Washington.

"If one party has the presidency, the House and the Senate, it's not good for government," Peter Whaley said. "We do better if we sometimes have to get along."

Kratovil began the day at a rollicking service at First Baptist, a predominantly black church where he was joined by Rep. Donna Edwards, a Prince George's County Democrat, and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown - and where excitement for presidential candidate Barack Obama was palpable.

In a divided district that tends to vote Republican in state and national elections, Kratovil has run as a moderate who would be an independent voice in Washington. But he visited First Baptist in part to link himself with his party's presidential nominee.

"How many of you are excited about this week?" the Rev. Lewis N. Watson asked his congregation, to cheers and applause. "How many of you are ready to vote?"

Watson didn't name Obama, but predicted, "We are going to see something that we've never seen before - and I just can't wait."

Kratovil didn't speak, but he remained after the service to greet churchgoers. Lloyd and Phyllis Perry said they planned to vote for him.

"We've heard from both sides," said Lloyd Perry, a retired lineman for the Philadelphia Electric Co., who said his greatest concern was crime. "I like what we've heard from [Kratovil]."

After lunch at the Golden Star, Kratovil knocked on doors in Salisbury, visiting Democrats identified by his campaign to urge them to the polls tomorrow. Then he crossed the Bay Bridge for a rally with House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer - a Southern Maryland Democrat whom Kratovil has known since childhood.

Public and private polls show Kratovil trailing slightly in a close race with Harris, and the Democrat declared himself "cautiously optimistic" of victory tomorrow.

At the Golden Star, Carroll and Barbara Mills - he's a Democrat, she's a Republican - said they hadn't decided how they would vote in any of the races. Carroll Mills, a retired plant manager for a concrete company, said meeting Kratovil would have no impact on his choice.

"I usually wait until I get in the booth," he said. "I want the guy who is going to do the best job."

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