WASHINGTON – Experts believe Rep. Wayne Gilchrest will cruise throughthe 1st District Republican primary, with one pollster predicting thatGilchrest “is going to cream” challenger David Fischer.
But the actions of the Gilchrest campaign are showing signs of cautionin the waning days of the primary.
President Bush has been called in to make phone calls to a few key Republicans in the district, said Tony Caligiuri, Gilchrest’s spokesman.The campaign is also mailing letters signed by the president in supportof Gilchrest.
And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which rarely gets involved in congressional primaries, endorsed Gilchrest on Aug. 30 because of concernsabout his opponent’s strength, said Bill Miller, the chamber’s vicepresident and political director.
The normally sleepy 1st District campaign began heating up three weeks ago, when the Club for Growth — a group of conservatives devoted toousting moderate Republicans in Congress — announced its support forFischer.
It has raised about $150,000 for Fischer’s campaign from people acrossthe country, said club President Stephen Moore. The club also launched a$100,000 radio and television ad campaign that attacks Gilchrest’s votingrecord.
Moore said the club sees the race as a chance to replace “one of the10 or 15 most liberal Republicans in Congress.”
The Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of GOP moderates inthe House of Representatives, responded by saying it would supportGilchrest’s re- election campaign.
Executive Director Sarah Chamberlain said the partnership has spentmore than $100,000 on a television ad and mailing campaign thathighlights Gilchrest’s accomplishments, in an attempt to protect one ofits own.
She said it is the first time the partnership has mounted a TV adcampaign and the first time it has stepped in to help Gilchrest, alongtime member. The partnership is running the campaign becauseGilchrest refuses to take money from sources outside his district or frompolitical action committees, Chamberlain said.
Caligiuri said he is not worried about the newfound money for Fischer because he “fully expected to be outspent dramatically and we always havebeen” in other elections.
Other analysts are confident about Gilchrest’s chances as well.
Frank A. DeFilippo, a political analyst for WBAL Radio, and Salisbury University political science professor Michael O’Loughlin said they do not believe Gilchrest needs outside help to win the primary.
Fischer’s radio ads and mailings attacking Gilchrest turn off Eastern Shore voters, who dislike negative campaigns, DeFilippo said. Gilchrest is popular in the district and “in most Republicans’ eyes, he’s been asteady steadfast member,” said O’Loughlin.
DeFilippo said that in those parts of the district where Gilchrest isnot as well known — the counties that were added in redistricting — heis being helped by Rep. Robert Ehrlich, who currently represents thoseareas.
Abby Jones shares that optimism.
Jones is the spokeswoman for the League of Conservation Voters, anavid supporter of Gilchrest’s in the past. But the league is so confidentin the 12- year incumbent’s re-election that it chose not to endorse orgive him money this year, Jones said.