WASHINGTON – Voters in half of Maryland’s congressional districts may feel a sense of deja vu this fall, after Tuesday’s primary set up November rematches of the 1998 election in four of the state’s eight districts.
Incumbents in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th congressional districts will face the same four challengers they trounced in 1998. And political observers expect the outcome to be about the same.
“It’ll be a replay of the (1998) general elections,” said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. “I don’t think I’d be putting those (races) on my list of possible upsets.”
But the challengers — including one who is mounting his third consecutive bid against the same incumbent — are not deterred.
“In my speeches and campaigning, I went after (Rep. Robert) Ehrlich as far as the fact that he isn’t doing the job in Washington and he was running around the state running for governor,” said Kenneth T. Bosley, the Democratic nominee in the 2nd District.
Bosley is making his second run at Ehrlich, a Timonium Republican who won in 1998 by a 69-31 percent margin. Other rematches include:
— Colin Harby, a Baltimore Republican, who won 22 percent of the 3rd District vote in 1998 from Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Baltimore.
— Kenneth Kondner, another Baltimore Republican, who took 14 percent of the vote from Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, in their 1998 meeting in the 7th District.
— John Kimble, a Beltsville Republican, who is running for a third time in the 4th District against Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo. Repeat runs have not been kind to Kimble so far: Wynn took 85 percent of the vote in their 1996 race and 86 percent when they faced off again in 1998.
“None of these incumbents are in trouble,” said Carol Arscott, a partner in the polling firm of Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications. She said she the only way the margins of victory might change from 1998 is if “the incumbents get stronger and the margins get bigger.”
Coker agreed that the only question will likely be the margin of victory for the incumbents in November.
“Wynn and Cummings, the question there is, ‘Do they break 95 percent?'” Coker asked. “Cardin, will he break 70? Ehrlich … is (in) more of a mixed district … (but) I still think he’ll be over 65 percent.”
With such strong incumbents, some challengers have decided to go on the offensive.
Bosley, who beat three other Democrats with 48 percent of the vote Tuesday, said he began campaigning against Ehrlich about a month ago to get a head start on the general election contest. Bosley, of Sparks, criticized the incumbent for misrepresenting Clinton administration actions on capital gains taxes and other issues.
Ehrlich “has a lot of respect for Mr. Bosley,” said Steve Kreseski, Ehrlich’s chief of staff. “We look forward to debating him.”
Kreseski said the amount of money Ehrlich spends on the race will depend on how much Bosley raises.
Kimble also said his campaign is “going to be an attack,” especially focusing on details of Wynn’s ongoing divorce.
“I’m not surprised at all” that Kimble is making the divorce an issue, said Elena Temple, Wynn’s press secretary. “If Congressman Wynn falls on the right side of all the issues, (Kimble has) got to shoot a hole somewhere. Let the issues speak for themselves.”
Harby said he is taking on Cardin for a second time because the incumbent “has been in office quite awhile and has never done anything positive.” Harby lists education and abolishing taxes on retirement funds as priorities.
A spokeswoman said Cardin will campaign despite being the odds-on favorite in the 3rd District.
“It gives him an opportunity to focus on issues and talk about what he believes is a priority for Congress,” said Susan Sullam.
Neither Kondner nor Cummings could be reached for comment on the 7th District rematch.
Coker said the uphill races mean that all of the challengers “are going to have to hope their incumbent makes a mistake.”
Kimble acknowledges he has an uphill battle, but is taking a fatalistic approach to his third bid against Wynn.
“Last time I got 14 percent,” Kimble said. “I’m either going to win it or I’m going to lose.”