WASHINGTON – John Kimble sighs and says that he expects to lose badly in the race for Maryland’s 4th District congressional seat. Just like he did in 1996.
“It is easier for me to go into this race thinking that I am going to get the tar beat out of me,” said Kimble, who lost to Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, by more than 100,000 votes in their 1996 race.
But Kimble, who has little name recognition and only $746 to Wynn’s $565,066, thinks he has an ace up his sleeve: A headline-grabbing lawsuit he said he will file on the eve of the election, challenging the constitutionality of the district he seeks to represent.
“That will definitely give me some press,” said Kimble, who offered in 1996 to pose nude for Playgirl magazine if radio shock-jock Howard Stern could raise $1 million for his campaign.
“I am asking for actual damages that equal four years of a congressman’s salary or about $576,000,” said Kimble.
He said his suit will claim that the 4th District, created in 1992 as a black-majority district, is unconstitutional. The lawsuit does have some merit, said Blair Lee IV, a political commentator, but it will not help Kimble’s campaign.
“He can win the battle and lose the war on that one. Al Wynn is still going to win,” said Lee.
Lee — and Kimble — aren’t the only ones who think that. State and local party officials expect Wynn to be re-elected and Campaign and Elections Magazine made Kimble a 20-to-1 shot, the highest odds in the state.
Wynn is one of the few who seem to be giving Kimble’s campaign any credence.
“When candidates file, I take them seriously,” said Wynn. “I do not think that I should laugh it off.”
Kimble does have one group behind him: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals supports his proposal to keep felons from owning any animal.
“Animal cruelty will now be a felony,” said Kimble, whose plan calls for jail terms of five years or more.
“The animals need a defender like this,” said Lisa Lange, a spokeswoman for PETA. “I love the strong language of his proposal.”
But Kimble’s strong language has led his own party to keep him at arm’s length.
“If we have uneducated black voters that come out, who vote Democrat anyway, I will get trounced like last time,” said Kimble, who believes he could have won in 1996 and that he still might have a chance Nov. 3 if “the blacks stay away.”
That drew a sharp response from Mike Steele, chairman of the Prince George’s County Republican Central Committee.
“That type of rhetoric is ignorant,” said Steele, who is black. “It is unfortunate that he is a nominee for our party with that attitude.”
Steele said he was sorry to see Kimble squeak out a 38-36 percent win over John Wrightson in the Sept. 15 Republican primary.
“We definitely wish Wrightson were the candidate,” said Steele. “Kimble won because he had a little name ID.”
Wynn, by contrast, did not have a primary challenger this year and has not faced a serious challenge since 1992, when the district was created.
“I was one of 13 Democrats in the  primary,” said Wynn, who won that race with 28 percent of the vote.
He went on to win the 1992 general election with 75 percent of the vote and has not received less than that margin of victory in the two elections since.
The district, much of which lies inside the Capital Beltway, is overwhelmingly Democratic: 85.6 percent of the 4th District’s registered voters are Democrats, state elections officials said.
The 4th District hugs the Washington, D.C., border from Silver Spring in the north down to the Potomac River, and extends east toward Upper Marlboro. It is home to the highest percentage of federal workers of any congressional district in the country.
Wynn has made federal workers issues a central issue of his tenure. As a member of the House Commerce Committee, Wynn said another of his chief concerns is small business development.
“We need to make sure that the small companies get a piece of the federal contracts so we can create more jobs,” he said.
He supported President Clinton’s plan, recently passed by Congress, to hire 100,000 more teachers.
“We have got to invest more in public education and we [the Democrats] are going to stand up for it,” he said.
Wynn’s voting record in 1996 earned a score of 90 from the Americans for Democratic Action. In 1998, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gave him a 95 percent approval rating and donated $4,000 to his campaign.
By contrast, Wynn got a zero from the American Conservative Union and a score of seven from the Christian Coalition.
Wynn, a Georgetown University Law School graduate, served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1982-1987 and in the Maryland Senate from 1987-1992. He said he has loved politics since he was in junior high school, where he served on the seventh-grade student council.
“I enjoy being involved in decision- making, whether it is the seventh-grade dance or funding for the country,” he said.
Kimble’s interest in politics dates to 1992 when he was watching the presidential race between George Bush and Bill Clinton. In 1994, he ran for state Senate but says now that that campaign was a mistake.
“I should never have run for the state Senate,” he said. “Congress is where it is at.”
As a candidate for Congress, Kimble is focusing on education and health care.
“I propose having a $6,000-per-year deduction from a person’s income taxes for education expenses,” he said. “If a person is going to school to be a teacher, we shall pay for all expenses if the person agrees to be a teacher for two years for each year of education.”
He said he would like to make all health care costs “deductible from a person’s income taxes.”
When asked how he would pay for his plans, Kimble said that the “United States government has billions of dollars that are not being used wisely.”
Kimble said he graduated from the University of Maryland in 1982 with a journalism degree and is in his third year at the University of Baltimore Law School. But employees at the University of Maryland alumni office and the office of records at the University of Baltimore Law School said they showed no records of Kimble.
Kimble said the reason he is not on record was because the employees at the alumni office were “morons.” He said he was only attending some classes at the law school.
He said he now works as a behavioral researcher, studying the similarities between wolves and humans.
“It is amazing how similar we are to the wolves,” said Kimble.
His studies are not likely to be interrupted by a congressional career. Wynn’s seat is “very, very safe,” said John Kohut, the senior editor for the Rothenberg Political Report.
“Besides the 8th District [in Montgomery County], the opposition parties have not put out top-tier challengers this year,” said Geoff Earle, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly.
But, while he expects defeat, Kimble hopes there’s one more ace up his sleeve.
“We are hoping for divine intervention this year,” he said.