By Vandana Sinha
WASHINGTON – Even some Republicans say unseating Rep. Albert Wynn next year will be impossible with a nearly 3-to-1 Democratic advantage and a GOP challenger ridiculed by his own party.
“Somebody may run, but they’ll have no chance of winning in that district,” said Jay Thomas, a special assistant with the Republican National Committee. “Wynn has got that seat.”
The 4th Congressional District, which includes most of Prince George’s County inside the Beltway and a thin shred of Montgomery County, is one of the most Democratic districts in the nation.
With less than one year to go before Election Day 1998, only one candidate has emerged to challenge Wynn.
John Kimble, owner of a Silver Spring paging company, lost to Wynn by a 70 percent margin last year – 85 percent to 15 percent. But he thinks he can beat the congressman in next year’s election if he wins a federal lawsuit he plans to file by next week to redraw district boundaries.
Kimble, who is white, believes racial demographics, not party registration, dictates who will triumph in the 58 percent black minority district.
“Unless I can get the district to be more culturally diverse – with different races, like Hispanics and Asian Americans – along with the blacks, there’s no way I can beat (Wynn) unless I raise $1 million and attack him,” Kimble said.
Kimble said he still subscribes to the “anything to win” policy and does not regret offering to pose nude in Playgirl for $1 million in campaign funds last year.
“I took a lot of heat for the Playgirl stunt. But that’s all it was – a stunt,” he said. “I don’t think that was even an issue. I think people used that as a scapegoat, when I was just trying to raise money to win the election.”
But most local Republican leaders believed Kimble’s campaign – including his proposal to impose a 10-year moratorium on immigration – contradicted the GOP philosophy and refused to endorse his platform last year, calling him a “joke.”
“You certainly cannot talk or promote things of what the last candidate did, because you won’t get support from the Republican Party, let alone from the district,” said Jim Burton, executive director of Maryland Republican Party.
Republican strategists said a GOP victory over the popular third-term incumbent would require a well-financed and well-known candidate who could reap the benefits of the GOP-controlled Congress and voice the district’s concerns.
But Republican leaders said no one has expressed a clear interest in running other than Kimble.
Meanwhile, Wynn already is in strong financial shape heading into the election.
By the end of June, he reported $169,634 in his campaign account, according to Federal Election Commission reports. He spent $343,875 to win re-election last year.
Kimble, meanwhile, had not amassed the $5,000 minimum required to file a commission report, records show.
“People involved in politics probably will not back a candidate running against Wynn. Why give money to someone who will oppose a sure winner?” asked Paul Herrnson, a government and politics professor at the University of Maryland and author of Congressional Elections: Campaigning at Home and in Washington, D.C.
“Some districts are strictly Democratic,” Herrnson said, “and that’s the way they’re going to stay.”
Wynn captured 75 percent of the votes in 1992 and 1994 and a resounding 85 percent in 1996, according to the State Board of Elections.
A Wynn aide said the congressman did not want to talk about his re-election plans, but Wynn’s supporters and Democratic leaders praised his focus on federal workers, minority small businesses and transportation issues.
They said he remains visible and responsive to his district in what state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller called the “safest congressional seat in the country.”
“There’s a deep sense of pride … that Albert has when he speaks for his district,” said George Leventhal, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. “He has a great connection to his constituency.”
But Prince George’s County Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele said Wynn hasn’t made enough of a mark in the 535-member Congress.
“I believe [Wynn’s] positions are pretty much in line with the status quo,” Steele said. “We need someone who does not just deal with the safe, typical black issues. There are other issues out there besides discrimination.”
Steele said the tax code, school vouchers, immigration and foreign relations deserve more attention, but are largely ignored by Wynn.
Kimble said his strategy next year will be less harsh on immigrants and more aggressive on Wynn, attacking the incumbent’s voting record and “ineffectiveness” in Montgomery County.
“I’ve never seen him do anything for the county,” the Silver Spring resident said. “He talks a good game, but he doesn’t do anything.”
Kimble said his main agenda would be to bring money into the district to create more jobs and renovate areas inside the Beltway, widen health care coverage, make credit card interest tax deductible and allow workers’ first $10,000 to be tax free.