WASHINGTON – The campaign styles and fund-raising strategies of Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest and his Democratic challenger differ dramatically.
Steven Eastaugh, a 44-year-old public health professor at George Washington University, frequently launches attacks against “my opponent” while answering questions about his own views. Gilchrest, a 50-year-old former school teacher seeking his fourth term, usually sticks to explaining his own ideas.
About 98 percent of Gilchrest’s campaign treasure chest as of June 30 came from individual contributors, while the bulk of Eastaugh’s stash – about 65 percent – came out of his own pocket, according to Federal Election Commission data.
But when faced with key issues, the 1st District candidates stack up along similar lines. In recent interviews, they took opposite sides of an issue only two times out of 13 questions – on the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and the “partial-birth” abortion ban vetoed this year by President Clinton.
Gilchrest voted to ban the late-term procedure in which the doctor induces a partial vaginal delivery before performing the abortion. The only exception the bill made for allowing the procedure was to save the life of the mother when no other option was possible.
“I am basically pro-choice,” the Republican congressman said. “But there are really limits on everything we do as human beings. … There are other ways of dealing with those kinds of tragic situations through other medical procedures.”
Eastaugh said he would have voted with the abortion-rights advocates in defeating the ban. “I’m old enough to remember an era in which women came in with infections because they had abortions with coat hangers,” the health professor said. “And we never want to return to that era again.”
Gilchrest voted for the constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget by the year 2002.
The proposal, which would have required the government to spend no more money than it raised in revenue each year, passed the House in 1995 but failed in the Senate.
“You don’t need a balanced budget amendment to balance the budget,” Gilchrest said. “But I think human beings wherever they are – whether they’re in Congress or they’re 14-year-olds being told to do their homework – they all need some kind of incentive.”
Eastaugh agreed there is no need for an amendment to balance the budget. But, unlike Gilchrest, he said he wouldn’t have voted for one.
“You cut the waste,” he said, explaining what he called the Perot group’s solution. “You target more of the federal budget as an economic investment and you cut and invest, cut and invest, cut and invest.”
Eastaugh ran for Congress two years ago, but lost the Democratic primary by several hundred votes.
“In fact, it was so much of a squeaker that the early edition of the [Baltimore] Sun listed me as the winner by seven votes,” the Berlin, Md., resident said. “So it was kind of heartbreaking.”
Gilchrest has defeated his Democratic challengers with more than 51 percent of the vote – as much as 67.6 percent in 1994 – during the last three elections, despite the fact that registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district. About 52 percent are registered Democrats and about 38 percent are Republicans, February figures show.
The district – the largest geographically in the state – encloses Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester counties on the Eastern Shore; part of Anne Arundel County, including Annapolis; and a sliver of Baltimore.
It is a diverse region where the urban, suburban and rural needs of 10 counties converge.
Watermen still eke out a living harvesting oysters and crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. Farmers harvest wheat and corn and raise livestock, contributing to the district’s and the state’s largest industry: agriculture. And tourists flock to the beaches and bed and breakfasts for everything from boating and bird-watching to bicycling and hunting.
“Even though we have a wide spectrum – from urban to rural and from chemical factories to chicken factories – people have the same concerns,” Gilchrest said.
The same could be said for the Kennedyville, Md., resident and his challenger. Here’s what the candidates said about other issues of concern to voters in their district:CLEAN WATER:
Gilchrest supported the Safe Drinking Water Act Reauthorization, which President Clinton signed Aug. 6. The law refocused federal regulatory efforts on substances in tap water that pose the most serious health risks rather than on every known contaminant. It authorized billions of dollars to help localities afford the compliance costs.
“I think it included enough safeguards … to insure that when someone turns on their spigot, they’re going to get clean water,” the congressman said.
Eastaugh agreed the overhaul was necessary.
But when it came to overhauling the Clean Water Act, both candidates agreed the proposed legislation did not improve current law.
It “was a piece of hodge-podge legislation that was not well thought out and certainly not based on any available, up-to-date science,” Gilchrest said.
Many environmental groups criticized the House proposal as a rollback of health protections. The bill’s supporters said it provided regulatory “relief” for private and public entities that say they are overburdened by the law’s mandates.
“The Clean Water Act would have left a lot of decisions up to individual sates,” Gilchrest said. “Since water flows across states, I think the Clean Water Act needs to be fairly uniform.”
Eastaugh agreed, calling the proposed legislation an “analysis for paralysis.”
“It was an attempt to get people to not care about the environment,” he said. “One person’s relief is another person being a scoundrel.”TOXIC WASTES:
Another environmental overhaul – the Superfund hazardous waste revision – died in this session of Congress. The bill included a partial repeal of “retroactive liability,” a provision that can hold businesses liable for cleaning up waste dumped legally before Superfund was enacted in 1980.
Proponents of the appeal argued that it was unfair to reach back in time to penalize companies that operated within the law. Opponents asserted that weakening the clause would let polluters off the hook and stick taxpayers with the costly burden of cleaning up.
Rubbing his eyebrows and sighing, Gilchrest explained his support of the unsuccessful revision.
“The Superfund program is screwed up and has been screwed up for 10 or 15 years,” he said. “And it’s messed up because of the propensity for litigation and lawsuits.”
The congressman said the main priority should be cleaning up the Superfund sites. To do that, he said, “blatant polluters need to pay for their share of damage” and Congress needs to get rid of the “peripheral polluters” – the dump truck driver who hauled the toxic waste and the bank owner who loaned the polluter money to purchase the land.
“If the principle polluter gets narrowed down and squeezed sooner, he’ll come to the table [to cooperate] sooner,” Gilchrest said.
Eastaugh said he was undecided about “how far back you afix the blame.”MINIMUM WAGE:
Although Gilchrest is against a flat increase in the minimum wage, he voted for the bill signed by Clinton in August that raised the minimum wage in October from $4.25 an hour to $4.75 and will raise it to $5.15 an hour next September.
“What we did was build in a tax credit to small businesses so they could afford the extra expense of the wage hike,” the congressman said. “I voted against some of the amendments that would have hurt small businesses, but not the whole bill.” Eastaugh, who said he also supported the increase, had accused Gilchrest of changing his vote at the last minute when it became obvious the bill would succeed. -30-