WASHINGTON – Ann D. Tamlyn said she has no complaints about 1st District Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, and even supports many of his policies.
She just wants him out of office.
The 78-year-old Democratic nominee from Centreville said she has a simple plan for ousting the six-term incumbent — ride the coattails of the Democratic Party and the lingering resentment over the 2000 presidential election straight into office.
“I think people are determined to go to the polls and to show that there is a Democratic majority in this country,” said Tamlyn.
On paper, her strategy makes sense. Democrats outnumber Republicans 46 percent to 41 percent in the conservative 1st District, and Gilchrest is a moderate coming off a primary that left him with little cash for the general election.
But political analysts say it ain’t going to happen.
“It’s a fairly conservative district” where Democrats do not have a problem supporting a Republican like Gilchrest, said Frank DeFilippo, a political analyst for WBAL radio.
“He (Gilchrest) is understated and he fits in pretty well on the Eastern Shore,” DeFilippo said.
Gilchrest himself does not appear concerned. Having survived a primary against a conservative opponent who he said “had more money than brains,” Gilchrest has been campaigning only sporadically for the general election, spending weekdays in Washington and occasionally stumping through the district on weekends.
“We have not gotten fully engaged in campaign activities,” said Gilchrest, who plans to campaign with GOP gubernatorial nominee Robert Ehrlich in the next week or so.
Tamlyn is not deterred.
She views running for office as a way of educating people and sees the election as a chance to do just that. She also sees it as chance to stop Congress from “diverting our attention and our money and our efforts away from the things that are important to the people in this country.”
Tamlyn was not originally planning to run for Gilchrest’s seat. Her job, as a member of the Queen Anne’s County Democratic Central Committee, was to recruit Democrats to challenge Gilchrest. But his past challengers all said no. Unable to find anyone else to fill the slot, she said she decided to run herself.
“I thought somebody should run,” Tamlyn said.
The differences between the two candidates are minuscule.
Tamlyn said Gilchrest did the right thing when he voted to give the president authority to use military force against Iraq, for example, but said President Bush has not provided proof that the situation in Iraq is “different this year than 10 years ago.”
She believes a war would “use up far more money than it should and deprive the nation of things that are far more important to our domestic economy.”
One of those domestic items is the need to repair the country’s aging sewer systems, a major issue that she said Congress is ignoring. In both rural and urban areas “the systems are antique, overused, neglected . . . they all need to be renewed and there’s not enough money in the world to fix all of them,” she said.
She opposes the president’s No Child Left Behind education plan, saying it is underfunded. Gilchrest voted against the plan, not over funding issues but because he thinks it could weaken local control of schools.
Tamlyn said a House-passed prescription drug bill will help drug companies but will do little to lower the cost of prescriptions for seniors. Gilchrest, who voted for the bill, disagreed but also said more needs to be done to bring down health costs.
Tamlyn also quibbles over what she sees as an erosion of Gilchrest’s environmental voting record.
DeFilippo said Gilchrest’s defense of the Chesapeake Bay has allowed him to win the hearts of the district’s voters, and it has marked his tenure as much as any other issue.
But Gilchrest has been slipping lately, said Tamlyn. The League of Conservation Voters appears to agree, lowering his voting scores from 62 percent for the 105th Congress to 57 percent for the 106th Congress and 50 percent for this term.
A league spokesman said the drop probably reflects Gilchrest’s challenge in dealing with an “anti-environmental Republican majority” in Congress.
“He’s been a great environmental leader in Congress,” said Scott Stoermer, the league’s spokesman. “I don’t think you find a stronger advocate for the Chesapeake Bay.”
While the league has endorsed Gilchrest in the past, it chose not to do so this year, only because “he doesn’t have very much of a race,” Stoermer said.
For Tamlyn, the challenge will be spreading her message and getting name recognition in an enormous geographical district that genuinely favors its incumbent, said Harry Basehart, chairman of Salisbury University’s political science department. And she has to do it all without much money.
Basehart a challenger would need a minimum of $500,000 and a political office in one the district’s larger counties to have the name recognition that would give them a realistic shot at Gilchrest.
Tamlyn has neither. She chose to finance her campaign herself. In a report to the Federal Election Commission, she reported having a total of $17, 219 for the campaign, but only $1,956 on hand by the end of August.
Tamlyn said she was not worried and had plenty of money for the election.
Compared to Gilchrest, she might. Because he does not accept campaign contributions from outside his district, Gilchrest has never raised much money, and an expensive primary left him with only $22,291 in the bank as of Sept. 30, according to his most recent FEC filing.
But Gilchrest is helped by high name recognition and the makeup of his district, experts said. The district was made even friendlier to Gilchrest in this year’s redistricting, which packed in more Republicans.
“The Democratic leadership in the legislature has conceded the district to the Republicans,” said Brad Coker, a pollster for Mason-Dixon Polling and Research.
The parts of the district that are new to Gilchrest — sections of Anne Arundel, Hartford and Baltimore counties — have been represented by Ehrlich. The popular outgoing congressman has endorsed Gilchrest, which guarantees him the votes he needs in those new areas, DeFilippo said.
Political experts agree that Tamlyn has not been mounting a strong enough campaign against Gilchrest.
“The primary was the only stumbling block that Gilchrest faced and it wasn’t much of a race,” Coker said.
Though Tamlyn has been campaigning locally with Democratic groups and will begin a radio campaign, Basehart said that will not be enough.
“You have to use the media, which in this case is pretty much paid advertisement in television” and that should have started a while ago, Basehart said.
But Tamlyn is positive that enough people know her from her campaigning, her seat on the central committee and her days as a volunteer lobbying in Annapolis in the 1990s. With that name recognition, Tamlyn said the district’s majority of Democratic voters and the national party’s momentum will get her into office.
“I’m depending on the Democratic majority and I feel the wind at my back,” she said.