By M. Jane Taylor and Karen Carstens
ROCKVILLE – After Donald Mooers’ win Tuesday night, Montgomery County Democrats are pulling together to take on Republican Rep. Constance Morella in November.
“What unites us is that we’re all Democrats. We’ve gone through this in a clear and forthright manner to ensure that all our talk was about the issues,” said Mooers, 35, a former State Department official from Kensington.
Don Spence, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, said Mooers has made it clear he is committed, “and the Montgomery County Democratic Committee will support him.”
In the Democratic primary election, Mooers took 34.8 percent of the votes. Dennis Ketterer, 40, a corporate executive from Darnestown, came in second with 26.6 percent. Nine Democratic candidates ran in the 8th District.
Ketterer and fellow candidate Ralph K. Shur, a novelist from Germantown, both said Tuesday night at a county Democratic party they were ready to help Mooers get elected.
“This is the first year the Democrats really feel they have a shot at Connie Morella, and if we don’t win this time they may lay down until she decides to retire,” Ketterer said.
Morella, 65, of Bethesda, first elected to Congress in 1986, won her four-way Republican primary Tuesday with 65 percent of the vote.
Mooers said there are no hard feelings between the Democratic candidates. “We don’t tear each other apart and that’s the spirit we’ll take into the race in November,” he said.
He and others said at a Tuesday night election bash that the Democratic Party will be mounting a grassroots, “door-to-door” campaign.
“All the excitement and enthusiasm in the room shows everyone will be working hard for Don Mooers, working hard for [Rep.] Al Wynn and working hard for President Clinton,” said George L. Leventhal, 1996 campaign chairman for the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee.
“You’ve got dozens and dozens and dozens of motivated volunteers,” Leventhal said.
Mooers said he wasn’t concerned about his fund-raising deficit. In campaign reports filed in January with the Federal Election Commission, Morella said she had more than $400,000 in the bank at the end of 1995. Mooers had not raised or spent $5,000 at that time.
“Raising money won’t be too much of a problem here,” he said. He said he had received hundreds of calls of support by Wednesday afternoon.
Mooers said he will tell people Morella is not a Democrat, that she signed the Republicans’ “Contract with America” and that she voted to make Newt Gingrich speaker of the House.
Bill Miller, Morella’s chief of staff, responded, “If that’s all they’ve got going, they’ve got problems.”
Miller said Morella signed the “Contract with America,” a plan that included sweeping social changes, because she supported an open debate of the items. And he said voting for the speaker is “procedural.”
Miller appealed to bipartisanship in Congress. “If you’re a Democrat and you want to change the majority, you want to start with the extremists. Connie Morella is a centrist.”
A Congressional Quarterly review of Morella’s votes showed she voted in support of the contract provisions 68 percent of the time – less than any other House Republican.
In the past, Morella’s moderate-to-liberal Republicanism has won her great support in Montgomery County. She won the 1992 and 1994 general elections with 73 percent and 70 percent of the votes, respectively.
Spence said this election will be different “because we’ve got a Republican in a Republican-controlled Congress.” He said voters are wary of the radical Republicanism exhibited by some GOP freshmen.
Christopher West, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said the GOP believes Morella will beat Mooers by a substantial majority in November. “Connie and the district are a perfect match,” he said.
The Libertarian Party of Maryland, the only legal third party in the state, is also mounting opposition to Morella.
Bob Creager, 46, of Burtonsville, beat Terry Atwood, 45, of Bethesda, in an 8th District Libertarian Party primary held in Rockville. It was the only third-party primary held in the state.
The party plans to submit the results to the State Administrative Board of Election Laws and get Creager’s name on the general election ballot in November.
If SABEL does not accept the results, Creager would still have to collect about 10,000 signatures by August to qualify for the ballot, he said.
But Creager said he has no intention of collecting the signatures. Jesse Markowitz, chairman of the Maryland Libertarian Party, said the party plans to file a federal lawsuit to get Creager on the ballot.
Challenging the state’s ballot access laws was his primary motivation in running, Creager said.
“I’m glad my fellow Libertarians support the idea of the lawsuit and came out to participate,” Creager said. “It’s always nice to win, even if it’s a relatively minor election.”
Creager received 39 votes to Atwood’s 12. Only 27.4 percent of the 192 Libertarians eligible to vote in the district showed up to cast their ballots, Markowitz said.
What are Creager’s chances of ousting Morella?
According to Markowitz, “Our chances of beating Morella are at least as good as the Democrats.” – 30 –