WASHINGTON – The primary race for Rep. Kweise Mfume’s seat and the Republican challenge in November for Rep. Steny Hoyer’s seat will be the ones for Marylanders to watch this election season, spokesmen for both major parties said.
“It’s going to be a good-old-fashioned Democratic dogfight,” said David Paulson, communications director for the Maryland Democratic Party, of the 7th District contest for Mfume’s seat. “It’s going to be a very tight race.”
Chris West, executive director of the Maryland Republican party, agreed that the March 5 primaries will be most interesting in the 7th District. They pit 27 Democrats and five Republicans against each other for the seat Mfume is leaving to head the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Brad Coker, president of Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc., said there are three front runners in the 7th District Democratic primary, but several other candidates could take the lead.
State Sen. Delores Kelley, 59, of Randallstown, state Del. Elijah Cummings, 45, of Baltimore, and the Rev. Frank Reid, 44, of Baltimore, are considered the front runners, Coker and others said.
Kelley, who has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park, is chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Federal Relations.
Cummings, a lawyer, is speaker pro tem of the Maryland House of Delegates.
Reid, the stepbrother of Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, got a bachelor’s degree from Yale, a master’s from Harvard, and a Ph.D. from the United Theological Seminary. He is pastor of the 10,000- member Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Both West and Paulson said it would be difficult for a Republican to win the November general election in the 7th District, which includes inner-city Baltimore and part of western Baltimore County. There are about seven times as many registered Democrats in the district as registered Republicans.
In the 5th District, which includes Charles, St. Mary’s and Charles counties and parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, Republicans say Democrat Hoyer may have trouble keeping his seat in November.
“It will be a horse race,” said the GOP’s West. “The 5th District is absolutely do-able. That’s where all the fireworks will be.”
Hoyer, of Mitchellville, is expected to easily win the Democratic primary in March. He faces only one challenger, Thomas Defibaugh Sr., 43, an animal control officer in Anne Arundel County.
Hoyer’s most likely opponent in the general election, Coker said, will be state Del. John Morgan, R-Laurel. Morgan faces three opponents in the Republican primary.
Morgan, 32, said he expects to beat Hoyer, 56, solidly in Southern Maryland and that he plans to win Prince George’s as well.
“The 5th District is a conservative district. Steny Hoyer’s been talking right and voting left, and it’s going to catch up with him,” Morgan said.
The Democratic Party’s Paulson agreed that “Steny’s got a battle on his hands,” but added he is confident Hoyer’s experience and campaigning skills will carry him to victory. Hoyer has been in Congress since 1981.
A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which directs national party funds into close congressional races, said the committee is not worried about the outcome of Hoyer’s race.
Hoyer could not be reached for comment.
Republicans said Hoyer is vulnerable because while there are about 50 percent more registered Democrats than registered Republicans in the 5th District, he is more liberal than his constituents.
In Maryland’s other six congressional districts, the incumbents are expected to have a clear edge, Coker said.
Some party officials disagree.
Paulson said Democrats plan to attack freshman Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Towson, for supporting the `Republican Revolution.’
“If were going to stamp [Newt] Gingrich on anybody’s forehead it’s going to be Bobby Ehrlich,” he said.
“We call him Georgia’s congressman from Maryland,” Paulson said.
The 2nd has a lot of older residents, he said. “Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security threats don’t fly well there, even if it is Bob Ehrlich.”
Ehrlich, 37, said he stands by his record and does not feel threatened.
“Talk is cheap,” he said. “That’s exactly what they said two years ago,” when he beat Democrat Gerry Brewster, 63 percent to 37 percent.
Paulson said he thought 69-year-old Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R- Frederick, was susceptible to defeat in the 6th District. Paulson said Bartlett is too conservative for his Western Maryland district.
The Republicans did not say they thought Bartlett’s position precarious.
Only Bartlett and Democrat Stephen Crawford had raised more than $5,000 for their 6th District bids by the end of 1995, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Bartlett raised $143,481, his report showed. Crawford, a professor on leave from the University of Maryland at College Park’s School of Public Affairs, raised $76,816, his report showed.
Three other Democrats and two other Republicans are running in the 6th District primaries.
Democrats said Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, has alienated extremist Republicans from his base of support in the 1st District by not being conservative enough.
Seven Democrats are running in March for Gilchrest’s seat. Among them are Steven Eastaugh, 43, of Berlin, a professor at George Washington University who had more than twice as much campaign money in the bank as Gilchrest on Dec. 31.
But Democratic admonitions that Gilchrest has alienated the far right by not toeing the House speaker’s line did not worry the representative’s staff.
“Wayne’s always had bipartisan support,” said Tony Caligiuri, Gilchrest’s administrative assistant. “It’s the perfect formula for success in our district because it’s so moderate.”
Six Republicans are challenging Gilchrest in the March primary.
Also running for reelection this year are Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, in the 3rd District; Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, in the 4th District; and Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, in the 8th District.
Cardin, 52, said he doesn’t worry about what his challengers are doing, he just focuses on his own campaign.
“The election will take care of itself,” he said. Two other Democrats and three Republicans are seeking his seat. -30-