7 Incumbents Fend Off Challenges; Harris, Kratovil in Tight Race

Frank Kratovil (D), above, is running against Andrew Harris (R) to succeed nine-term Republican Wayne Gilchrest in the 1st District.
Frank Kratovil (D), above, is running against Andrew Harris (R) to succeed nine-term Republican Wayne Gilchrest in the 1st District. (By Matthew S. Gunby -- Associated Press)
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By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 5, 2008

All of Maryland's incumbent members of Congress easily won reelection yesterday, including Washington area Democrats Steny H. Hoyer, Chris Van Hollen and Donna F. Edwards, but the state's most hotly contested race remained too close to call.

In District 1, Republican Andrew P. Harris and Democrat Frank M. Kratovil Jr. were running neck and neck with more than four-fifths of the votes counted in a race that was viewed as a test of national Democratic momentum. The outcome is likely to be decided by the counting of absentee ballots, expected to last through the week.

Harris, an anesthesiologist and conservative three-term state senator from Baltimore County, won the GOP nomination after a stunning knockout of nine-term Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest in a bitter February primary. That prompted Gilchrest, a GOP moderate, to cross party lines and endorse Kratovil, a county prosecutor on the Eastern Shore.

Harris was an early leader in fundraising and name recognition in the district that includes the Eastern Shore, parts of Anne Arundel County and the exurbs of Baltimore. But the boost from Gilchrest and $1.8 million from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put Kratovil in the running.

Voters in the 1st District have typically backed Republicans in presidential and gubernatorial elections, although Democrats hold a slight edge in voter registration.

Kratovil, the Queen Anne's County state's attorney, tried to win over moderate Republicans and independents by campaigning as a law-and-order prosecutor and pro-environment candidate. He featured Gilchrest in his commercials, and the DCCC painted Harris as having close ties to insurance and utility industry lobbyists.

Harris ran to the right of Gilchrest, seeking to appeal to the more conservative and populous communities on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay. He advertised his support from former GOP governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Adam Hoffman, a political science professor at Salisbury University, said the outcome would depend on turnout and whether the "Obama effect" and the economic crisis would motivate independents and minority voters on the Eastern Shore to back Kratovil.

"Democrats have realized if there is any time they can steal this seat, now is the time to do it," Hoffman said.

In Maryland's other House races, one Republican and six Democratic incumbents were up for reelection. Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, the oldest member of the state's delegation at 82, successfully defended his seat from a challenge by former Frederick mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty (D). Libertarian Gary W. Hoover Sr. also was competing to represent the 6th District, which includes parts of northern Montgomery County.

Even though Republicans outnumber Democrats in voter registration in the district, the race was more competitive than usual because of the economic crisis. Bartlett, a dairy farmer who has held the seat since 1992, said he was running as if he were 20 points behind.

Edwards won a rematch of a June special election in the 4th District against Republican Peter James and Libertarian Thibeaux Lincecum. She ousted eight-term incumbent Albert R. Wynn in the February Democratic primary before being sworn in to office in June.

In District 8, Van Hollen defeated Republican Steven J. Hudson and Green Party candidate Gordon Clark in his bid for a fourth term. Van Hollen, who represents much of Montgomery and parts of Prince George's County, is head of the DCCC. Van Hollen's opponents criticized him for backing the financial rescue plan, which he said was flawed but necessary.

Hoyer was up against Republican challenger Collins Bailey in his bid for a 13th term. Hoyer's 5th District includes Southern Maryland and part of Prince George's and Anne Arundel. Bailey campaigned against Hoyer's leadership on the financial bailout package.

In the heavily Democratic 3rd District, which includes parts of Anne Arundel and Howard County, Rep. John Sarbanes (D) won a second term, beating Thomas E. "Pinkston" Harris (R), a Baltimore teacher. Sarbanes is the son of former senator Paul S. Sarbanes.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) defeated Republican Richard Pryce Matthews and Libertarian Lorenzo Gaztanaga in the 2nd District, which includes Baltimore County and part of Anne Arundel.

In District 7, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D) bested Republican Michael T. Hargadon and Libertarian Ronald M. Owens-Bey for a ninth term.

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